It pays to complain

Don’t let bad service leave you out of pocket. 

Obviously no one wants to complain. It’s far better that things go right rather than wrong and we get the service or products we expect. And most of the time that’s what happens.

But sometimes things don’t go right and it leaves me out of pocket. And me being me, that’s rarely something I accept.

I’ll make a judgement call based on how much it’s cost me and how much time it could take me to get it sorted. There’s no point taking hours to resolve something where my loss is just a few quid. But if it should be easy to resolve or if it’s a fair whack of cash then I will take it up with customer service.

As it happens there have been half a dozen times I’ve chosen to complain in just the last few weeks, and I’ve also helped out some readers and friends too. So I thought I’d quickly share some of those with you and how I went about getting each sorted.

Make a call – the American Express credit that didn’t appear

Sometimes it’s really easy and sorting things can just take a phone call.

Something I love about American Express is you can add some really good extra offers to your card. Though most of them aren’t ones for shops I’ll use, I’ll normally take advantage of a dozen or so over a year. 

A recent one was for somewhere we were going to shop, so we made the purchase online. But the £30 credit didn’t apply. So a quick call to Amex got it sorted in just a few minutes. I tend to make these calls when I’m walking somewhere so they don’t waste time.

Go online – the delayed train compensation

Northern Rail is an awful train company, and I’m often delayed or find trains cancelled. And the other week not only was my planned train cancelled, but so where the next four! So I got onto the delay repay form of the Northern Rail website and submitted my claim. Since it was more than an hour late I got the full amount refunded. Still I’d rather have been able to go on my journey on time! (A quick tip on train delays – keep your ticket!)

Use social – the exploding beer

The exploded beer can!

One of the products I’ll generally pay more for is craft beer. Yes I’ll try to pick them up on special offer or via other hacks and tricks, but it’s still pricier than getting a pack of Carling from the supermarket. 

Well I opened up my kitchen cupboard the other day to find one posh beer which cost a fiver (yep, for a beer), had exploded! There was vanilla chocolate stout all over the place.

For this I simply got on Twitter. Social media can be a good place to complain about stuff like this. I did have to chase, but I’m getting a replacement from North Brewing Co delivered this week.

Make it official – the missing Natwest bank switching reward

A bigger one now. You’ll know I’m a regular bank switcher. My wife Becky less so. But earlier this year she chose to move an account over to Natwest to take advantage of the then £150 bonus.

Because we have a joint account, and I’d already had a bonus for switching into this account I wasn’t sure if she’d be eligible. So I called up the bank’s switching team and was told it’s ok for her to do the same. Great.

Becky switched and was due the cash around Easter. It didn’t arrive so she chased. She was told that it’s likely just delayed because of the Bank Holidays. More waiting. Still no money. She called again and this time was told she wasn’t eligible because I’d had the bonus.

So I got on the phone myself to explain that’s exactly why I’d originally queried it. I had to put in an official complaint. This is often when you’re likely to get results and the next day I got a call back apologising and the £150 paid into our account. 

Since we’d spent a combined hour on the phone trying to sort it out I asked for a little extra compensation too. Yes it was only a tenner, but it’s always worth asking for this if you’ve been inconvenienced.

Keep at it – the Airline double booking

Sometimes the biggest loses take more time to get sorted. Last week I secured $100 credit from Delta Airlines. This one wasn’t as easy as just making a single call. First I went on webchat. I was told to call up. Then I was told to submit a complaint. Then I heard nothing, so chased it up. Until finally I got a call offering $50 compensation. I asked for double and got it! Win!

But I’ve got a better example of keeping going from the last few weeks. I’ve been helping out a reader with some guidance after she got charged twice for a pair of tickets to Mexico via Go To Gate – leaving her out of pocket by £885! 

Essentially the first transaction looked like it had failed, so she waited for a confirmation email and since there hadn’t been one in 15 minutes she booked again. However, both transactions did go through, but I assume down to dynamic pricing they were at slightly different prices.

Frustratingly she got no help from her credit card company – M&S Bank – who said it was a duplicate purchase as the prices weren’t the same, nor Mexican Airlines who said the fault was with the booking agency. And you’ve guessed it, Go To Gate didn’t want to take any responsibility either.

We exchanged a number of emails and I shared a few things to try and places she could go to get more help, and after two months of badgering Go To Gate she eventually got the resolution she wanted – a full refund on the second booking. 

It wasn’t easy for her, but this is a great example of how persistence can pay off. Of course it was stressful for her, and some people would have given up. But even when it looked like there was no way to get the money back, she kept going and eventually got the right result.

More articles on complaining 

My customer service nightmares (and how to complain)

3 thoughts on “It pays to complain

  1. Complaining about anything covered by the financial ombudsman has the best chance of success, because if you don’t like the business’s decision and take it to the ombudsman, it costs the business something like £500 EVEN IF THEY WIN! So they like to give you an offer it would be hard to refuse.

    Perhaps the best example of persistence paying off was when I complained to Sky about their treatment of my aged mother. She had been sold a sky contract – half price for 12 months, and when they came to “install”, they didn’t bother with the broadband – just gave my mum the box and the phone socket adapter.
    When I visited (she lives a distance away), she had limited functionality on the TV because of the lack of broadband, which she’d plugged in as instructed, but it didn’t work. I tried with no joy. Phoned sky, who sent out another adapter. Didn’t work – next phone call, another router. Still didn’t work. I suspected the problem was at the telephone exchange and requested an engineer, but was told that would cost £75.

    To make matters worse, I looked at her bills, and noticed that she’d only got the half price deal for 3 months – not 12.

    So I also complained about this – to be told, she was sold the contract by a 3rd party salesperson and the deal was invalid. I tried to point out that the ONLY contract my mum had signed between sky and herself was the one given to her by this salesperson, but they didn’t want to know.

    So finally, I sent the entire story to the Guardian who also gave me the contact details for the CEO of Sky’s office. Shortly afterwards, I was dealing with a lovely lady who not only repaid all that my mum had been overcharged, but also removed all historic charges for the broadband service (that had never been used), sent out an engineer FOC to fix things, and gave my mum an extra £20/month of for 6 months.

    From start to end, it took about 3 months, but well worth the effort.

  2. I complained to my insurance company because the flooring company they hired were taking so long to fit a carpet and they gave me £200 compensation, no arguments! But even if you don’t get anything, complaining should result in improving products and services – not bothering to complain has the opposite effect!

  3. Well, yet again I need to express my distaste at a bank handing out £310 to you just for being lucky to have enough money in the first place, and think that any customer of the bank who has been hit with punitive charges for being overdrawn will be delighted to know where their money is going.


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