How to Complain with Grace Believe it or not, there is a method when making a compliant. Here are 10 simple tricks. BY DIANE GOTTSMAN
There's a right way and a wrong way to complain.
Has a well-planned romantic dinner for two ever turned into a bad date night and an argument because your husband (or wife) seems to always find something to complain about at the restaurant? Consider giving him the benefit of the doubt that his fish really is too "fishy" or her steak is too salty, but also give your spouse a quick tutorial on how to complaining with grace.
1. If you must complain, do it with conviction. Don't start off your complaint with "Maybe it's just me, but…" or "It might be my imagination…" or "I am sorry I have to tell you this…" Simply call the server over and state the problem. "My chicken is not completely cooked, would you please ask the chef to take care of it? Thank you so much (with a big smile) is a better solution than an apology before your request.
2. Complain to the right person. If the valet slightly scratched your car door, screaming at the waiter will not get you very far. Instead, ask to speak to the manager at once. Again, calmly state your complaint. Do not threaten, yell or make any kind of scene.
3. Have a realistic idea of what you anticipate the outcome should look like. If you complain to the server about a bad steak, be ready to either accept another menu option, a credit to your bill or a free dessert—"comping" your entire table is an overzealous expectation.
4. Don't go to the top… yet. If you are unhappy with service at the restaurant, first ask to speak to the general manager. Writing a letter to the corporate headquarters over an issue that could have been easily resolved locally is a waste of everyone’s time.
5. Speaking of letters, if your issue is not resolved, by all means put your complaint in writing. However, "To Whom It May Concern" is not a person so don't send a letter out with that term as your opening line. It is not difficult to find the name of the person "in charge." Spend some time researching and use the appropriate name and title in your greeting.
6. Give the recipient of your letter some time to respond. Before sending a copy to the newspaper, the better business bureau, bloggers, your neighbors, your family, strangers and all media outlets wait a bit. The most obnoxious thing you can do is to send out an initial letter of grievance, CC-ing an entire community, without giving the establishment an appropriate amount of time to reconcile your complaint. How foolish will you feel when, within a few days, you receive a sincere apology and a generous gift certificate and you have managed to besmirch the restaurant and your own good name with your aggressive slur tactic? It's almost as bad as ending the letter with "Regretfully". Really, lose the drama and stick to the point.
7. When writing a letter, don't forget to use the spell and grammar check. Also, if you handwrite the letter, make sure your writing is legible. Don't send the first draft out without your husband or wife reviewing it. Constructive criticism is what a spouse does best.
8. "Complain" is not synonymous with "whine." Watch your tone of voice, your body language and your facial expressions. A whiney complainer is apt to be more readily dismissed than a person who seems to be in control, concise and clear about their unpleasant experience. Other people, including your spouse, appreciate a strong statement of concern versus a mousy, whiney complaint.
9. A threat will get you nowhere, fast. "Unless you do something right now, I am going to tell all my friends that you have the worst French fries and the soggiest bread pudding in the world!" A better approach would be "I planned to recommend your restaurant to some clients but I am hesitant based on the amount of time it took to get our food order correct". Allow the restaurant an opportunity to improve their service and praise their effort when they get it right.
10. Don't spend your entire date night complaining about the food, the service, the kids, your energy bill or the weather. Focus on your spouse and positive stories, and you probably won't even notice that the chocolate cake you ordered was really crème brulee.
Diane Gottsman, a nationally recognized etiquette expert, is the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in etiquette training for corporations, universities and individuals, striving to polish their interpersonal skills. You can reach Diane at 877-490-1077 or www.protocolschooloftexas.com.