How to complain

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shadows arguingTobias Hohenacker/DPA/Press Association Images

Some people always seem to get great service. If things don't go their way, then a quiet word in the right ear soon sorts everything out. Meanwhile, the rest of us struggle by with shoddy service and people who turn a blind eye and a deaf ear if ever we try to demand our rights.

The fact is that those who get satisfaction know the secrets of complaining.

There are five key steps to ensure you succeed when you launch a complaint.

1) Get your paperwork together.

If you are complaining about something you bought or a contract, then you will have far more luck if you have all the relevant documents. It pays to hang onto these things for up to two years after any major purchase.

2) Know your rights.

There is a particularly useful bit of legislation here. The Sale of Goods Act 1979 states that what you buy should be of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose. There is a fair chunk of grey area in the legislation about what satisfactory means and what constitutes being fit for purpose, but if you quote the act and how you feel the goods fall short, then you are already on the front foot.

3) Work out what you want.

You need to know the grounds on which you are complaining, and you need to know exactly what you want them to do in order to put it right for you. There's no point charging in with all guns blazing if you don't have an objective.

4) Be prepared to take it further.

You may have to withdraw and take it up in writing with the manager or the customer services department. If it's in a regulated industry you may need to take it to the ombudsman, and if not, you may have to consider the small claims court. Be prepared to stick with it if you want satisfaction.

5) Stay calm.

You are far more likely to get what you want if you ask nicely and stay polite. They'll work harder to help you, rather than getting sick of the sight of you and trying to shoehorn you out of their shop.

How about you? Are you a veteran complainer? What works for you? Let us know in the comments.

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