You've been wronged. The goods you ordered arrived intact, but the craftsmanship is shoddy. You've been handed a bill, but you haven't received satisfactory customer service. You may be tempted to rant and rave, or worse, silently walk away dissatisfied. Neither response is the best way to resolve the situation. Your complaint can get proper attention. Here's how.

Don't take a "no" from someone who is not empowered to give you a "yes." Voice your complaint to the person with authority to make things happen. The top decision maker will either personally handle your complaint or pass it down with a directive for immediate resolution.

Stick to the facts. Calmly and rationally state the problem. Substantiate your compliant with as many details as possible, including times, dates, invoice numbers, copies of receipts, serial numbers, and related correspondence.

State your terms. Ask for specific action. Be clear about how and when you expect the situation to be resolved. State your position: "I'd like your company to reimburse me for all the charges incurred within the next 30 days."

Describe your next step. State what your next course of action will be if your complaint is ignored. Your options could include taking your business elsewhere, writing the Better Business Bureau or another agency, or contacting an attorney.

Solicit help from media programs. Many local television or radio shows and newspapers have consumer advocate programs to help resolve complaints. Tired of getting the runaround from an air conditioner contractor, the owner of Salon 21 in Los Angeles contacted the Bogey's Corner show at KCBS radio. Within days of receiving a letter from Bogey, the company repaired the equipment.

Take some notes. Study how your complaint is handled. You may pick up some new tactics to use in your own business.

Helpful resource: The new 2001 Consumer Action Handbook (formerly the Consumer's Resource Handbook) is full of helpful consumer tips and lists thousands of companies, organizations, and agencies to contact if you have a consumer problem or question. Order a free copy online at or call 800-688-9889.

Copyright © 2000 Kimberly Stansé ll. All Rights Reserved.