My Story: Complaint Letters

by Dee

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Recently, my son found a bit of yucky stuff in his can of Coke. I emailed Coke and received coupons for twelve 12-packs of Coke products! I gave five of them to the store that sold the can to me, in case they had complaints. They, in turn, forgave three late movie rentals.

It's all in the attitude. You may get nothing but a better product. However, you may get much more for your constructive criticism.

I've had good response in the past from various companies, including Hormel. Here are my tips for optimum response (maybe not freebies but at least they listen)

1. Be helpful, not angry.
Address the problem (quality control, customer service, packaging, etc.) and make constructive suggestions in the first paragraph of your letter.

2. Leave your feelings out of it.
If it won't enhance product sales, nobody cares but you. If it tastes bad, isolate the flavor. If the package grossly offends you or misrepresents itself, be specific and point out the offense backed by statistics you can get off the net. If the flavor is supposed to be orange but tastes lime, let them know instead of just telling them it's awful.

3. Be sure to make your intentions clear!
Your intentions should be to improve the product and not just get a freebie. Companies know when a consumer is looking for an excuse to sue or get free stuff.

Sample complaint letter:

Dear Hormel (or Company name here):
I recently bought a can of Hormel Spam. Although it was delicious (as always), I think your quality control department should know that there were bits of bone in the product. Then, specify the product code number if known as well as the expiration date.

My family has enjoyed Spam since I was a child and my children love it. I know that my particular can was probably an isolated case, but I thought you would like to know that your inspection process might need a bit of fine-tuning.
Thanks for your time!

Related: When Big Purchases Go Bad

Letter #2:

Dear Coca Cola (or other company):
We have enjoyed your product for many years and have shared it with our friends. However, I think you should know that we found an unidentifiable bit of yuck in my son's can of Coke. (Product number bearing the expiration date should be included.) It didn't hurt him, but you may want to alert your quality control to be a bit more vigilant.

Thanks for many years of quality and good service. I'm sure this is an isolated incident, but I thought that you would appreciate knowing of our experience.

Be sure to include your contact information. Most companies appreciate your continued patronage.

With regards to offensive packaging, if the packaging offends your morals for yourself or your children, fine. They'll listen. If it offends your political agenda, don't expect a reply. Sincere complaints are appreciated and valued. Politically correct complaints will devalue any future input you may want to contribute.

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Be polite, criticize constructively, and be sure that you don't imply that you expect any monetary response. Most reputable companies will bend over backwards to keep you as a customer. If you're satisfied with the response to your complaint, tell everyone you can and try to get a couple of friends to email them about your good experience! This ensures that any future complaint will be treated in the most positive manner for both the consumer (you and your friends!) and the company (which will continue to thrive and contribute to a robust economy).

editor's note: Be careful not to give away rights if you've been injured by a bad product.

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it to

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