/ Shopping

Complain for change: reaping the rewards with compensation

For all you doubting Thomases out there, I thought I’d showcase some great examples of why complaining is really worth it – from free Olympic tickets to big bucks off your maintenance bill.

I won’t lie. Complaining can be a time consuming, frustrating process and is often a hassle we could all do without.

But standing firm and making your case can really pay off in the end. Here are some great examples of people who have complained successfully…

Don’t ask, don’t get

Don’t let a slow postal delivery be a valid excuse for missing a deadline, as Linda told us on a previous Conversation:

‘I was recently sent an opportunity to enter a prize draw by a well-known department store. Unfortunately my “unique entry number” was received after the closing date for entries so I emailed them suggesting politely that they look into their post room and also said it was not the service I expected from them, they replied that they would submit an entry in my name.

‘I won two £420 tickets to the last athletics session of the Games, a meal for two and a night in a hotel. I think there is a lesson in this!’

No complaint is too small, even when it comes to a jar of jam, as my colleague Jenny Driscoll found out:

‘When I opened a jar of jam, I found some kind of insect crawling around the top. I went back to the supermarket and was told that I couldn’t take it back as I didn’t have the receipt. The name of the supermarket was on the label, as it was a home-brand. I complained to the CEO and later got £40 worth of vouchers and an apology.’

Why you should take a stand

My husband’s brother Josh found there’s a limit to what you should stand for:

‘My wife and I missed our Eurostar train to Paris a few years ago due to a huge and disorganised backlog at the automatic ticket machines (despite arriving an hour and half early).

‘We complained (asking to speak to a senior manager straight away) and were upgraded to first class on the next available train – including a free meal and Champagne. We were also given two free open return tickets to Paris. Not bad, especially as we only arrived at our destination three hours later than planned!’

My sister Clemency found that refusing to settle for poor workmanship paid off in the end:

‘I complained to Southwark Council – who own the leasehold to my flat – about the really poor quality of workmanship after my windows were replaced. After a long and unpleasant complaints process, the work was re-done to a good standard and my bill was reduced from £14,000 to £4,000. Was it worth it? Yes, despite the battle.’

So there you have it. Hopefully that’s enough evidence to persuade you that it’s worth complaining! Have you had any positive experiences of complaining? Do you have any advice to share on how to complain successfully?


I complained to Danone when they switched from zero added sugar to low fat. In fact I’ve complained twice and still haven’t had a reply.

On the plus side I complained to kelloggs about showing grapes on their boxes of optivita ( the box contains raisins and not the grapes advertised). The boxes are still the same one year on, but I did like the £5 gift voucher.

I’ve complained to the TPS on numerous occasions and now won’t bother doing that again.

Ooh, I’ve got a good story about this. A few years ago I was on holiday in Spain and had one of the worst meals ever. The waiter was rude, didn’t take our order for 45 minutes, then we had to wait an extra hour for food, and when it came it was not only wrong, but they’d forgotten one person’s order. When we were told it’d take another hour for them to cook hers we got annoyed and I complained. In Spain restaurants have to have a complaints book (am not sure if this is still the case) which people write in to record their complaints. These are inspected regularly and restaurants hate having to accept complaints. The manager was profusely apologetic and tore up our bill (we’d drunk quite a lot on the time it took them to bring us food), and offered us a free meal the following night. We didn’t go back for the free meal, as we didn’t have the four hours we thought it’d take to go through the palaver again, but we did get our drinks free, which was quite good.

Gordon P says:
17 August 2012

How do I complain about your endless complaining. For goodness sake get a life. Whinging Pommies, Bellyaching Limeys, nonstop bitching. We have a national reputation for moaining. Only complain when its serious – safety or big money.
Perhaps the magazine sould be renamed ‘B***h’.

Yes, there are some people who will complain about trivial matters, which is just a waste of time and money. For every one of them, there are many who put up with terrible products, services and treatment, and fair complaints often get nowhere.

You must be lucky or tolerant if you have nothing to complain about, Gordon.

If we have more posts like yours, we could have something new to complain about. 🙂

I take your point Gordon – we don’t all want to turn into Victor Meldrews – that would be hellish! But Wavechange makes an excellent point. For every person who just moans about everything for the sake of it, there are many, many more who have legitimate complaints about terrible services or products who feel as though they shouldn’t ‘make a fuss’ or that complaining will get them nowhere.

Here on the Consumer Rights team we’re using some light-hearted examples to raise awareness of a serious issue – if we all decided not to bother alerting companies to our displeasure (no matter how trivial) how are businesses ever going to improve and meet the needs of their customers? We think it’s good for consumers and good for business to flag up when you’re not happy with something.

Of course there are ways and means of doing this and just being a curmudgeon for the sake of it is not the way to go about it. But, if you are paying for something then you should get what you pay for – even if you’ve only paid a small amount of money. One person’s £10 could feel as much as someone else’s £100.

I am strongly opposed to trivial complaints and when I first heard about using Twitter as a route to contact companies I looked at some examples of how Twitter has been used by unhappy customers.

My conclusion is that Twitter often encourages people to complain about trivial matters. If there is an issue worthy of a complaint, it would be better for a smaller number of people to submit concise, well reasoned arguments than having many 140 character tweets that convey little useful information.

Mark Hammond says:
17 August 2012

I once complained about and sent them a stale packet of crisps that were well within the ‘best before’ date. Thought nothing of it but two weeks later they sent an apology letter inside two box (12 x 2 = 24 packs) of crisps!