Anatomy of the Complaint Letter

Jan 29, 2009 3:45am

By ESTHER YOUNG, ABC News London By now, you are perhaps one of about 1 million lucky viewers who have gazed upon this complaint letter to Virgin’s Richard Branson, detailing one passenger’s severe disappointment with the airline’s food.  This letter transcends the usual tips for writing effective grievances, which traditionally lean toward concise and to the point. No. This is an entertaining letter, one of the few and the proud to make it big as an Internet sensation and forwarded e-mail, garnering cult fame and even a job offer from Branson. But be  forewarned, future gripers: Snippy comments and sheer anger do not an entertaining complaint letter make. One needs something extra. Nuance. Finesse. For future reference, here are some tips: Include Pictures: It is funnier because it is true, and the irrefutable visual proof provides a journalistic wallop to your claim. The picture of the dessert is a favorite, an effective combo of green-pea horror and blurriness that recalls the Loch Ness monster, or at least this famous picture of Big Foot. Make it Personal: Please note the number of times the letter refers to Mr. Branson (12 times). This implicates the media-savvy tycoon as directly responsible for the passenger’s pain. Providing a PR-friendly opportunity to the ultimate opportunist cannot hurt. Use Effective Imagery, Exhibit A: "The potato masher had obviously broken,  and so it was decided the next best thing would be to pass the potatoes through the digestive tract of a bird. Once it was regurgitated it was clearly then blended and mixed with a bit of mustard." Although many have not personally seen sparrow-processed spuds, many can imagine that it would look like this man’s meal.  Use Effective Imagery, Exhibit B: "Imagine being a twelve year old boy Richard. Now imagine it’s Christmas morning and you’re sat their with your final present to open…only you open the present and it’s not in there. It’s your hamster Richard. It’s your hamster in the box and it’s not breathing. That’s how I felt when I peeled back the foil and saw this…." Anyone who has seen a dead hamster can commiserate. Emotional manipulation is always a good tool. Happy grumbling, dissatisfied customers. P.S. Tips not 100 percent money-back guaranteed. Read more blogs by Esther Young Read more blogs by ABC News staff

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