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Getting started with the complaint and adjustment letter assignment

by Steve Krause on September 29th, 2014

Lots going on here already! While you’re working on your email assignment peer review work, I also wanted to introduce the letter of complaint and adjustment letter assignment.  Basically, this is a two part assignment: you will first write a letter of complaint and then you will provide answers to one of your classmates’ letters of complaint (that’s the “adjustment” letter.).

Read over the assignment for yourself, but one of the things I want to emphasize here is these need to be real complaints! You can’t make something up! That message didn’t get across last semester for some reason, and it caused some problems when some students made up some kind of ridiculous complaints. I take it as a given that everyone has had some kind of experience worth complaining about, but if you really can’t think of such an experience (lucky you), let me know and I’ll help you come up with something.

Let me also share with you a couple of examples, one closer to the sort of thing you’ll probably do and one more for inspiration:

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  1. LeeAnne Baumdraher permalink

    I’m a little torn on this McDonald’s complaint. On one hand, I applaud the insistence on gender neutrality. It’s great that a boy can ask for a MLP toy, while a girl can ask for a Skylander toy. I think it’s absolutely fantastic that we’re not pigeon-holing children and forcing them to conform to gender-specific roles.

    On the other hand, though…what the heck is an 11-year-old kid doing stirring up trouble? And I don’t mean that it’s not a worthy cause, but I hope she was keeping up on her studies during this period. Real life learning is important, but so are academics.

    • Melanie Waller permalink

      I bet this girl becomes an attorney or something along the lines of advocating for justice when she grows up.

    • Natasha Wickenheiser permalink

      I imagine that anyone who is ambitious enough to tackle such a civil rights issue at the age of 11 is capable of keeping up with their studies while managing time for primary research.

      I am so incredibly pressed that this individual had the courage to write to the CEO. Furthermore, the persistence they had is extremely admirable. How many of us would have received the initial criticism and just gave up because they wouldn’t listen to our argument? I know that I probably would have let it go–especially at such a young age.

      • Steve Krause permalink

        That’s kind of how I see it too, Natasha. I also shared this because I thought it was kind of an interesting example of how effectively complaining can really impact a major corporation.

      • LeeAnne Baumdraher permalink

        I TOTALLY would’ve let it go. I was too busy playing Puppy In My Pocket and TMNT to care about discrimination.

        But I DO like how employees are now being trained to refer to the name of the toy rather than the associated gender. That is a forward step 🙂

  2. LeeAnne Baumdraher permalink

    Wow. Dr. Wannamaker’s complaint letter was flawless. It was cordial, but was very clear on the problem, as well as clear on what she wanted. People often forget that ASKING for what you want is a crucial part of GETTING what you want.

    I’m currently reading “The Aladdin Factor,” written by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, and being specific in what you want is a common theme of the book.

    • Steve Krause permalink

      I also want to add that one of the things about my wife’s complaint letter that is useful here is that she was complaining about a specific problem and seeking a specific solution. Sometimes, students write complaints that sort of lack both: that is, it’s not exactly clear what the complaint is about, and, more often and a bigger problem, the solution isn’t clear.

      For example, if you want to complain about a restaurant’s service or food but you never intend to go back there and there’s nothing you expect them to do about it, then you’re just venting. On the other hand, if you expect and/or want to continue going back to that restaurant or if there is something tangible they can do, then you have a valid complaint.

      Which reminds me: I have to draft a complaint of my own to Comcast….

  3. Kourtney Lovett permalink

    While I enjoyed both examples, I found Dr. Wannamaker’s to be more compelling. I loved the fact that she actually did research on the person that she was writing her letter of complaint to. I’m sure that made her letter a memorable one. She was straightforward without coming off as “angry” or “rude.” I haven’t read many letters of complaint but, I’m sure that was the best one I’ve read.

    On the other hand, it was a little bit harder for me to resonate with the McDonald’s complaint. I believe this is the case because at 11 years old I wasn’t concerned about this issue. I’m pretty sure I just wanted a toy. However, I do understand the perspective of the writer. I agree with her stance for equality but it just doesn’t seem like the most realistic battle.

    • Steve Krause permalink

      I’m glad you noticed these things about my wife’s letter, Kourtney. These are all things you will want to do four your letters of complaint: that is, you don’t want to write to “whom it may concern” or some anonymous entity; you want to write to a person. You will need to do some basic research on you to do you complaining, and you will need to find a way to be strong and forceful without being angry.

  4. Melanie Waller permalink

    I have a complaint about finding ink cartridges at the nearest Wal Mart. They didn’t seem at all interested in helping me get what I needed and the service was bad. I had to go to Kmart and get generic. I would still like to go to Wal Mart (cause they have more selection) but if I have to change I will. They are the ones losing my money. Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do and not feel bad about it (especially if the company can’t or won’t help you find the product needed.)

    • LeeAnne Baumdraher permalink

      I was in customer service for over 10 years, and boy does it irk me when I experience poor service. And you know what’s terrible? Your Wal Mart story is just one of many common occurrences today. People don’t know what good customer service is anymore because there are no standards.

  5. Jessica Kane permalink

    Can the complaint be about something that happened some time ago or does it have to be fairly current? Two years ago, I bought a peach from a farmer’s market during Michigan peach season (I live in MI)that had a bar code sticker on it…I traced it back to California…

    • Jessica Kane permalink

      Question answered by reviewing assignment. Whoops! Sorry about that…

  6. Natasha Wickenheiser permalink

    I really enjoyed reading Dr. Wannamaker’s letter of complaint. As already mentioned by a few of my peers, she was assertive. However, she wasn’t aggressive in a way that would make a reader think, “This woman is crazy. She’s just angry about something stupid, and she won’t listen to reason.” She presented her reasons for writing, and what she expected to get in return. One thing that jumped out to me was her use of words like “grumpy,” which helped take away some of the tension of a complaint letter, too.

    As for the McDonald’s article. I just need to say that this woman is an absolute inspiration. I know some of us mentioned that at age 11, we weren’t that concerned about the type of toy we were being given. However, I think about all of the gender nonconforming individuals in our society, and how it must feel for them to be denied a toy of choice just because of their sex or perceived gender. It has to suck, and its something we could never understand unless we’ve experienced the ostracism that tends to be associated with gender nonconformity. Major props to this young woman for standing up for what she believes to be fair and right. I’m incredibly impressed that her assertiveness and perseverance led to a policy change that requires toys to be identified by their brand, rather their perceived gender.

  7. Chelsea Idzior permalink

    Dr. Wannamaker’s complaint letter was spot on! She spells out all of the issues and explains the situation thoroughly, then details what she would like done as a resolution. I have been not-so-happy with Comcast recently so I am looking forward to this assignment and will definitely be using her letter as a reference point.

  8. Jessica Kane permalink

    I tend to agree that the McDonald’s complaint was more of a sociological issue than having anything to do with corporate policy. However, I think the corporation should have been more receptive and reactive to any criticism as soon as it was brought to their attention, even if it was from an eleven-year old.

  9. AshleighSwinehart permalink

    The McDonald’s article was an interesting piece to read – for the simple fact of one person’s determination gaining a simple, yet rewarding, feat as a policy change in one store. Sure it may seem like a petty argument from a young girl, who seemingly achieved so little of an outcome, however, I can see how it might empower some to critically think about gender roles in the United States and question what we have been doing for so long. Oddly enough, I was just discussing gender roles and sex in my Linguistics class this morning.

    As for the complaint letter by Dr. Wannamaker, I quite enjoyed how she “stuck it” to the chairman of DTE Energy for the errors his company made in regards to her bill (and potential credit score). I especially appreciated how she did not just storm the man in a hot-headed, fly-off-the-handle fashion that a lot of people resort to, but rather calmly stated her issues with the company’s recent errors and demanded (without being rude) solutions.

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