How to Effectively Address Complaints to Large Corporations

Be comprehensive, have perseverance and follow these simple tips to get your complaint addressed by even the largest of corporations.

Large companies weather the storm of their poor service because they realize that humans are creatures of habit. The two biggest habits that benefit these corporations are our reluctance to change and our willingness to take poor service because we don’t want to spend the energy to do something about it. We’ll keep going to the same Starbucks because it’s convenient and we’re used to it. We won’t write the simple, but comprehensive letter of complaint because, honestly, who has time?

These corporations also hide behind their sheer size, insulated from us little guys by layers of bureaucracy. It takes initiative to navigate a complaint and get it to the person who cares, or, at least, can do something about it. A lot of us don’t have the time or energy to spend figuring out the system and steering a complaint through it. I want to change that with a few helpful tips.

One letter can go a long way. If you spend time writing a letter to a company about poor service or a defective product you received, make sure you distribute the letter widely. Send a copy of the letter to everyone in the chain of command you can locate and make sure you put each person/position on the “cc” line at the bottom of your letter. Showing that others are receiving the letter generates accountability. Odds are someone on that list is going to care about your problem, or, at least, be concerned about the complaint. Realize that if you spend time to write a letter, it will be time well spent. Someone on your list will read it. If you aren’t sure where to get names and addresses, make a single phone call to the reference department of your local library. Reference librarians are geniuses at digging up information like this and, more often than not, more than willing to help.

Also, consider turning your letter into a letter to the editor to your local paper. If it’s printed in the paper, clip it and send the newsclip along with another copy of your letter to the same contacts, if you haven’t received a response. In fact, let the company know you plan on doing this in your original letter and follow through. Also consider submitting your complaint to online review sites such as

You can match the power of the corporation by enlisting other organizations for your side. That single letter you wrote can easily be turned into a complaint to the Better Business Bureau (just make sure the company is a member, because the BBB can’t do anything if the company isn’t). Visit for more information on how they can help and to see if your company is a member.

If the company is a utility (i.e. telephone, gas, electric, cable), consider filing a complaint with the state public utilities commission. Again, the lone letter you wrote to the company can be used with minor alterations to form the basis of your puc complaint. Simply type in “public utilities commission” and the name of your state into a search engine and the appropriate website will appear. I usually get a telephone call from the company within 72 hours of filing a puc complaint.

Filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission is also an option. The FTC regulates many aspects of consumer relations. Check out their website at They have a straightforward online complaint form you can fill out.

In your letter, be reasonable, but don’t eliminate the passion. The company made you mad, your anger affected your day. Let them know it. The more personal you make the letter, the more compelling your complaint.

Finally, tell the company how they can make it better, if they can. Would a free cup of coffee for you and your carpool mates do the trick? How about an airline voucher for that rude person at the ticket counter? Tell them how they can make it better and avoid your wrath and the threat of taking your complaint further. Don’t just complain, solve their problem for them.