Don't let travel problems undo you. Here's how to voice your concerns and get results.
The flight was two hours late—again. You reserved a minivan but got a compact. The motel shower was ice-cold. Anyone can rage, but there's an art to crafting a complaint that gets results. Some tips:
MAKE YOUR CASE IN PERSON The heater in your room doesn't work? Go straight to the front desk. You are more apt to get a repair or a new room—or a reduced bill—if you speak with a manager face-to-face.
PROPOSE A WORKABLE SOLUTION Ron Rosenberg, founder of the consumer empowerment Web site www.drive-you-nuts.com, likes to ask, "What are we going to do to make this right?" Be friendly but firm. If you request compensation, be reasonable: Don't ask for a $200 refund if you paid only $100 for the room.
WRITE TO THE POINT Complaint letters should be sent by registered mail and run no longer than one typewritten page. Avoid email—it seems less serious than a letter—and skip multiple exclamation points or words like idiot and swindle.
LEAVE A PAPER TRAIL File copies of all letters and keep notes of each phone conversation, including dates. Always ask employees for their last names or company ID numbers; such details lend credibility.
CALL IN BACKUP Phone your local Better Business Bureau (listed in the telephone book) or get tips and the bureau's online complaint form at www.bbb.org .
Illustration by William Duke
This article was first published in November 2004. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.