Ingrid Stone, a 40 year old writer and blogger from North London, has been called 'Britain's Biggest Moaner', and 'The Queen of Complaints". She prefers to go by the name on her blog 'The Dissatisfied Woman'. However, she is happy to accept that she has written an impressive number of letters of complaint, with exceptionally good results.
So just how successful is her complaining, and what is the secret to getting companies to take action?
SuccessStone has been speaking to the press to promote a book she has written about her complaints, which will be published later this year. It's based on her blog, Letters of a Dissatisfied Woman.
Stone's first ever letter of complaint is on her blog, which she wrote at the age of eight to the operators of the funfair who had palmed her granddad off with a dirty old doll rather than the teddy bear they'd assumed they were playing for. Sadly the fair left town before she got a chance to deliver it, but it gave her a taste for complaint.
In the intervening years she has sent hundreds of letters of complaint, and in December last year she published a list of the freebies she has received in return. These include:
£300 Selfridges vouchers
Six return British Airways Club Europe tickets
£350 to cover a Sony repair bill.
She has also celebrated smaller victories, such as the £4 Weetabix vouchers, 20p token for Mars confectionery, replacement fly papers, and a pack of lagers.
So what is her secret?1. First and foremost she takes the time to write a letter. So many of us complain about poor goods or services, but to get a result you do need to take action.
2. She makes them personal. She writes to a named chief executive or senior company member, and she writes the letters by hand to make them more personal.
3. She acts fast. She told the Daily Mail that she writes the letters within 60 minutes of the problem, so the events are clear in her mind.
4. She's always polite. As she told the Sunday People, you don't get anywhere by being rude. In fact the letters on her blog show that she makes an effort to flatter the company and the product before raising her complaint.
5. She takes an educated tone, and uses phrases such as 'I felt compelled to put pen to paper', which she says on her blog encourages people to take her more seriously.
6. She includes an relevant evidence, such as a photo of the product, or in some cases the product itself. When five of a packet of 25 balloons exploded as they were being blown up, she included the balloons in her complaint - and received £35 in vouchers.
7. She only complains where there is good reason. Her successes have not been based on a scatter-gun approach, but genuine complaints where products fell particularly short of expectations.
8. She peppers her letters with humour. However, she sticks to the point. While people will be happy reading about the circumstances in which the product failed, this should be brief and colourful.
9. The experts add that as well as Stone's tips, it's worth being specific about what you expect in order to put things right, rather than just complaining and leaving it there. If you want a refund, make that clear.
10. They also say that if you don't get a response, you can consider taking it further. There may be an ombudsman you can turn to, or you may need to go to the small claims court - which is no-where near as daunting as it sounds. It is designed to be manageable without a solicitor, so it doesn't have to be expensive either.