Writing effective letters of complaint is an essential skill.

Need advice on how to write the perfect complaint letter?

Subscribe to USA TODAY

There are a few pointers to follow. Number One: stay calm! You may be furious, but don't let them know it through your tone, express it in words and you'll get results! We at Centsible.net have developed a list of "to do's" for your complaint letter writing arsenal.

Finally, check out the Complaint Expert for more advice on how to handle every type of complaint you may have.

View the following complaint letter a Centsible.net editor is preparing for Travelocity

Obviously, we've omitted personal information. We also ask that you not use this letter as a boiler-plate document for your letter. If you really want to get results, personalize your complaint. Feel free to use the following letter for ideas on how to implement the above advice.


Results of this complaint: Before mailing the letter, United Airlines was phoned to verify the correctness of everything stated in the letter. During the conversation, $380 of voucher for future travel on United Airlines were granted as compensation for the credit not applied to this purchase. The vouchers arrived in the mail the first week of May, 2007. This letter was mailed on May 7, 2007. No response has yet been received.

Update: May 30, 2007
An email has been received from Travelocity, saying that they were assigning the case to the appropriate representative, who may be contacting me by telephone or email. I should also expect that my travel issue will be resolved within the next 3 to 4 weeks.

Update: August 10, 2007
No response has been received from Travelocity since the email from customer service on 7 May. Centsible.net was unable to find any further options for customer support, so have emailed Vollmer PR, who has Travelocity as a client (we believe). Stay tuned for the resolution!

page 1

Travelocity
11603 Crosswinds Way
Ste. 125
San Antonio, TX 78233
Attn: Consumer Relations

April 20, 2007
To Whom It May Concern:

I was originally writing this letter in request of a refund in the amount of $381.20 from Travelocity. This figure represents the total amount of credit from a cancelled airfare reservation ($581.20 original purchase price for 2 tickets, $190.60 credit each after a $100 fee is applied to each ticket). On March 30 of this year, I made a qualifying purchase, but was unable to apply my credit to this purchase. On April 24, 2007, I was granted travel vouchers valid for future travel on United Airlines by the Customer Service department at United Airlines in the amount of $380 to make up for my credit not being applied to our recent airfare, however, this does not address the fact that the expense of our vacation was more than I thought and our reason for taking it (to use the credit I had before it expired) was negated when that credit was not applied to the cost of the airfare. I also was not credited with United MileagePlus miles for both my son and my accounts (numbers ************ and ************). I would like to ensure that both accounts are updated correctly with mileage posted and also whatever you can do to ease the strain that the extra unexpected cost of our most recent vacation incurred would be most appreciated..

Although the $380 of vouchers from United Airlines are a fair return for the credit I was not able to use, it does not solve the original problem that I had. That problem is that I was working within a budget for our recent vacation, and was expecting the cost of the airfare to be $380 cheaper than it actually was (because of the credit that I was in possession of). This would have still been a loss of $200 due to fees, and a loss of $31.90 for the Travel Protection Plan I purchased which denied my claim. I was willing to eat that loss. Had I known, however, that I wouldn't be able to use my credit on the airfare I purchased, I would have forfeited the credit as well and planned for a budget holiday over the summer with a cheap package provider. Or maybe I would've forfeited the airfare credit and bought a cheaper package deal that would've included more convenient travel and still saved money. At any rate, I wouldn't have made impromptu plans in an effort to make use of this credit that I didn't get to use anyways!


page 2

As it stands, I've gone way over what we could afford on this vacation trying to take advantage of a credit owed to me that wasn't applied to our recent purchase. We also tolerated connecting flights in and out of a city 400 miles from our destination (getting us to our hotel at midnight on our arrival night, and requiring us to head to the airport at 10:00pm the night before our final day of the vacation!). Again, I felt it was worth it to purchase air-only with United and struggle with this itinerary in order to save nearly $400. Unfortunately though, we didn't save anything. To make up for this, the airline carrier is just reissuing / extending my original credit after fees towards a future vacation in the upcoming year. I received 2 vouchers from United Airlines in the amount of $190 each as compensation. All the while, Travelocity has conveniently washed their hands of the matter and has passed me over entirely to United Airlines.

In addition to explaining why I was unable to apply my credit, this letter summarizes my experience with: canceling my original Travelocity trip; processing an insurance claim for a trip cancellation due to medical reasons (complications with pregnancy); having the claim subsequently denied; rebooking a trip with Travelocity to make use of the credit given me for the cancelled trip; finalizing the rebooking with United Airlines; not being allowed to use my credit for this rebooked trip; the numerous phone calls made to contact consumer relations regarding these problems; and the discovery that our MileagePlus accounts had not had any mileage credited for these flights.

I am hoping that you will streamline the process of redeeming credit for cancelled travel, so that it would actually be financially advantageous to the customer to make use of credits, instead of the other way around. As things stand, the hassle of rebooking the trip, not getting the credit applied anyways and the buck-passing that went on by handing me over to deal strictly with the air carrier for all matters, and then United blaming USAirways for our reward mileage not being credited to our accounts will definitely stick in my mind when thinking of making travel arrangements through Travelocity again. I will use United in order to take advantage of the travel vouchers I received, although this puts me in an unplanned shortage of funds at the moment. Although this matter is not directly stated in the "Travelocity Guarantee", it is definitely in the spirit of it.

Normally, I would've booked hotel, airfare, and car together to save. I did not do this however in order to receive the credit (only applicable towards air only on United Airlines per my cancelled purchase from last year). I spent way more than I had to, honoring the conditions of the credit I was due, yet I did not receive this credit. And, in fact, if I want to receive this credit at all, I'll have to spend even MORE money...

On April 24, 2007, I phoned Travelocity to double-check the information in this letter before sending it to you. I spoke with ***** Miller who referred me to Travelocity consumer relations, and also suggested that I phone United Airlines and speak with their customer support. This was because he was unable to find any records of my travel details when checking by name, ticket number, and trip ID. When



page 3

asked, Mr. Miller said that the consumer relations department has no phone number and no postal address. He gave me the email address of consumer.relations@travelocity.com"

I phoned United Airlines to speak with their customer service, and at first was unable to find anything about my cancelled flight. I had to refer to my credit card statement for the tickets that I purchased in March 2007 to get the proper ticket numbers for the trip that I am looking to get reimbursed for. I was waiting on hold for a lengthy period of time before speaking to *****. During this time on hold, I went through my documentation and came across the revised ticket numbers that a man named *** with United Airlines had given me on the evening of March 29. I began to use these numbers in further communication with success. I recounted my story to ***** and asked to verify the exact refund amount due to me for the cancelled reservations from 2006. He again placed me on hold while he researched this. He eventually came back to verify what is stated in this letter and offered to send vouchers to me in the amount of the original credit. These vouchers (2 valued at $190 each) arrived in the post last week. Upon double-checking the mileage balances for both my son and I on 7 May, 2007, it appears that neither of us were credited mileage through United's Mileage Plus program, although I gave my number at the time of reservation, and also enrolled my son and then gave his number after creating his account to a United representative. I am currently requesting this mileage be correctly applied.

I phoned Travelocity again and spoke with a different gentleman named *****, who transferred me after a hold time of several minutes to Travelocity's business office. I spoke with *****, who put me on hold for several minutes again while he got contact information for me for the Travelocity San Antonio customer relations department. ***** was able to give me the address where I am writing to you today, as well as a phone number of ***-***-**** for the customer relations department.

Following please find the details of my difficulties in booking travel through Travelocity/United Airlines.


  • On 3 May, 2006 I purchased 2 round-trip tickets on United Airlines from Chicago to Los Angeles from Travelocity. These tickets were for my son and myself. I additionally purchased the Flight Protection Plan as I would be in my 5th month of pregnancy when the trip was to occur, and realized there could be situations preventing my ability to fly. The flight departed on July 31, 2006 and returned on August 7, 2006. The total Travelocity charges were $581.20, with $10.00 in fees and $31.90 for the Flight Protection Insurance, coming to a total price of $623.10. The Travelocity Trip ID was ************, for ticket numbers ********* and ******* .
  • I cancelled the flight on the weekend of July 29th, at least 24 hours before the flight by both sending a fax and phoning in my cancellation. The reason for this cancellation was abnormalities with my unborn child suggesting Down's syndrome or other chromosomal problems. A Level 2 ultrasound was scheduled to be performed on July 31, 2006, which was also our scheduled date of travel. A possibility existed that more testing would need to be done. This was obviously a very stressful situation for me. I got a doctor's note stating I was unable to travel due to "complications with pregnancy". She felt that I needed to be tested as soon as possible (so could not delay it for a vacation) and also that I was under too much anxiety to travel at the time. I further had a history of premature delivery, which was notable when considering my stress levels from this possible diagnosis.


page 4
  • I proceeded to file a claim with BerkelyCare (the providers of the Flight Protection Insurance, claim ID ******. On January 9, 2007, I received a letter from BerkelyCare stating, "While we sympathize with you regarding the circumstances that forced you to cancel your trip, your reason is not covered under this travel protection plan. The travel protection plan that was purchased does not cover any loss caused by or resulting from...pregnancy, unless hospitalized." The Level 2 ultrasound that I had on July 31 was performed in a hospital, so my husband argued the reason should be covered, as I was hospitalized for testing, just not overnight. I chose to avoid the hassle of pursuing the matter and would just use the credits owed from Travelocity towards a later trip.
  • February of 2007, I phoned Travelocity to double check the deadline for arranging travel with this credit. I was told I must complete travel by 3 May 2007 in order to receive my credit, and that when I was ready to rebook I should phone Travelocity.
  • On March 29, 2007, I phoned Travelocity to rebook our travel. I was told to phone the airline direct. I explained that just the previous month I was told I had until 3 May to rebook with Travelocity. The person I spoke with confirmed the validity of my credit, explaining that after 11 months Travelocity releases the account back to the carrier and arrangements must be made with them.
  • That evening, I spent 5 hours on the phone with United Airlines trying to rebook my travel. I had been disconnected several times and spent various amounts of time on hold probably totaling several hours. At one point, I was so angry at waiting on hold and being disconnected that my husband took over. He spoke with a woman named ***** at a call center in India and found acceptable flights. She transferred him, where he was put to an automated reservations agent. One of our children shouted in the background at some point, confusing the automated system during the ticketing process. We couldn't find a way to correct the mistake, my husband finally got frustrated, and I took over again. It was at this point that I began taking down the names of people I spoke with.


page 5

  • I spoke with *** at 8:30pm (CST) who gave me new ticket numbers to refer to when I was going to speak with the person he would transfer me to (he preceded the old ticket numbers with a 016). I spoke with ******* at 8:57pm and gave him our desired travel details. ******* put me on hold, and I was eventually disconnected. At 9:11pm I spoke with *****. By 9:18, I was transferred to *****. I was going to book some flights with ***** eventually, but was disconnected before I could do so. I went to bed very angry that night, thinking we would end up forfeiting the credit from last year's cancelled trip.
  • The next afternoon, March 30, I decided to try to book flights again and see if I could get better luck. I found a deal on a hotel, and looked at United's website to see if they had affordable fares near our destination. They did
  • I phoned United back to rebook. The agent, **** ******, was unable to find the fare I found online ($865.22 for both my son and I). The best he could find was around $1800 each. I gave him the exact flight details for the fare I found online. He suggested that he didn't have access to those seats. He also suggested I put a courtesy hold on the flights, then phone back to complete the purchase. I asked him if I could just purchase the airfare online and phone back to get our credits applied. I was told yes, I could do that.
  • I went back to the website and tried unsuccessfully to hold the flights. All of our information was taken, but no option to put the flights on hold was given. Perhaps this was because the departure flight was scheduled to leave in less than 24 hours. I went ahead and purchased the airfare.
  • I then phoned United again to have my credits applied. I spoke with ********* ***** who told me that I should not have booked the tickets online if I wanted to use my credit towards their purchase. When I explained the situation, she put me on hold while she spoke to her manager. After several minutes, she returned to the line. She said that she could cancel the airfare that I had purchased, then rebook the same flights and apply the credits.
  • There were only 2 seats left on the flight at this time, and Ms. ***** explained that between the time she would cancel my flights and rebook them, those seats may disappear. I told her that when I spoke with **** ******, he could not find the fares that I had found online. I asked her if I might encounter the same situation if she cancelled and rebooked my flights. Her answer to this question was yes. I said that I wasn't willing to risk losing my entire flight in order to claim $380 of airfare credit (what was owed to me after fees of $100 per ticket from my original $581.20 purchase were applied) on tickets that would very likely cost more for each ticket than my current total bill of $865.22.


page 6
  • I told Ms. Adams I understood she personally had nothing to do with the situation and I wouldn't blame her, although I was very angry. She gave me the phone number for United customer service. It was through them that I received the address to copy this letter to for United Airlines.
  • On May 7, 2007, I checked online at United.com to see that the Mileage Plus accounts for my son and I had been properly credited. Neither my account nor my son's had received credit for this trip. I phoned United customer service again to request that the mileage be applied to the accounts. As the flight was operated by USAirways, I was told that I should wait up to two weeks after travel for US Airways to send United Airlines the information of our travel so our accounts may be properly credited. As this amount of time has elapsed, I was told that I must send copies of the tickets and boarding passes to the Mileage Plus office in South Dakota, so they may contact US Airways and credit the accounts with the mileage owed. I was unable to find the boarding passes for the outbound leg of the trip, so phoned MileagePlus again to see if this would be alright. At that point, the representative said that she did see my account had been credited with mileage for this trip, however, my son's had not. When I explained that I did not have the boarding passes for the first 2 travel segments, the representative said that I should just send in what I have and be sure to reference my son's MileagePlus number. She said they must be originals. When I asked if I could send in a copy, as I wanted to keep the originals for a scrap book, she said no, they must be the originals. I am thus additionally copying MileagePlus, as well as USAirways, requesting that my son's, **** ****** ********* MileagePlus #********** be properly credited for these flights. I would also like to verify that my, ***** * ********* MileagePlus #**********, MileagePlus account is also correctly credited.

For your convenience, I will list the particulars of our travel details again. Again, I hope you streamline the process of redeeming credit for cancelled flights, and that perhaps you make situations such as this become a part of your "Travelocity Guarantee". Although, our actual trip was fantastic, booking it was an absolute nightmare.

The hotel that I booked through SkyAuction.com was fabulous, directly on the beach, and a great deal - I found and booked it in less than half an hour. I booked a rental car at thrifty.com and got another great deal. This was done at midnight, online, 7 hours before we left for the airport. A car was waiting for us when we arrived. The same price that I was quoted online is what was charged to my card upon return of the vehicle. The cruise we booked direct from the cruise line (Discovery Cruise Lines) was great and my son's favorite part of the trip: we'll definitely sail with them again. The only thing that left a bad taste in my mouth was trying to book travel through Travelocity and United Airlines in order to use the credit from my cancelled trip last year. I hope that you can correct that impression for us.



Both passenger names and ticket numbers were placed in the footer of each page, as well as contact information. This way, if a page was misplaced (which DOES happen) the company can still contact the plaintiff. Additionally, photocopies were sent of the vouchers received, used boarding passes, original travel documents, letter from the insurance denying the submitted claim, current printouts of mileage accounts for both passengers and the actual completed itinerary. The letter was sent to Travelocity, with United Airlines, United MileagePlus and US Airways all being courtesy copied. All of these steps lend credibility to the complaint, and allow it to be documented. Remember - DO NOT EMBELLISH, stick to the facts and be able to prove them!

Upon receipt of Travelocity/United Airlines response to this letter we will post it here.

General Information Sources for Writing

Whether you're writing a complaint letter or a book, this directory of writer's free references is an excellent starting point. Included are links to literary agent email addresses, grammar, help for writers, writing contests, teachers resources, publishing, journalism and more.

Centsible.net recommends the following texts for advice on how to write complaint letters

Shocked, Appalled, and Dismayed! How to Write Letters of Complaint That Get Results.

shocked, appalled and dismayed
Ellen Phillips ISBN: 0375701206, Paperback - 9.60 BUY

Rarely does a day go by when most of us do not have to deal with surly salespeople, cheaply made products, or vast and indifferent bureaucracies. Most of us endure this with a stoicism worthy of Seneca himself. After all, what's the use of complaining? It all seems to fall on deaf ears, anyway.

But the world needn't be like this, according to Ellen Phillips, consumer consultant and founder of Ellen's Poison Pen, Inc. Since 1988, Phillips has been helping frustrated consumers to get refunds and apologies from everyone from the corner druggist to massive insurance agencies. In her book, Shocked, Appalled, and Dismayed!, Phillips shares the secrets of writing letters of complaint that get results. The first few chapters cover the general dos and don'ts of writing effective letters of complaint (remain calm, use polite language), along with useful advice from legal experts (don't embellish, stick to the facts).

The chapters that follow target specific problems we all face at some time in our lives, ranging from getting bumped from a flight to the secrets of successfully dealing with your HMO. Each chapter contains bullet points, illustrative anecdotes, and a number of example letters, most of which were based on actual letters sent on behalf of Phillips's clients. On top of all this, Phillips also provides an appendix listing the names and addresses of over 600 major companies, government agencies, and consumer organizations. Phillips believes that we should get what we pay for, and after reading her book, you'll be able to stand up for your rights with confidence.



101 Complaint Letters That Get Results: An Attorney Writes the Choice Words That Say What You Mean and Get the Satisfaction You Deserve

101 complaint letters that get 

results
Janet Rubel ISBN: 1572483636, Paperback - 13.27 BUY

If you have ever tried to write a complaint letter and did not receive satisfaction or even a recognition of your complaint you know the importance of getting it worded correctly the first time. Now attorney Janet Rubel has put together a collection of the standard complaint letters she uses. To make it even more convenient all the letters are also on the included CD. No matter what your need, if you want to write a complaint letter then you will find one in here that will give you the format that gets results. 101 Complaint Letters that Get Results is a recommended resource for everyone.