Writing a letter of complaint is an art form and, as any dedicated complainer knows, there are several important elements that must be included to guarantee a result. What is it complainers want? Public Recognition Of Their Grievance. Why? Because it will allow them to take up residence on The Moral High Ground, the most sought after of post codes.
The Holy Grail for the complainer is a place in the hallowed Letter to The Editor pages of a highly respected newspaper. Having a letter selected for publication not only guarantees a wide readership but allows the complainer to achieve their secondary goal: Legitimacy. Once publication is achieved, the complainer can no longer be dismissed as a grumpy old coot with nothing better to do. He (and invariably it is a man) is now a valued contributor to the ongoing debate on The State Of Things.
So, how can the occasionally disgruntled novice complainer transform themselves into a permanently dissatisfied master? It’s not easy. Becoming a Level V complainer (Jedi Master) takes an inordinate amount of time and will likely not be achievable before you reach retirement age. You will write many letters that will just get thrown into the bin by their ungrateful recipients. Less discerning people will accuse you of being irrational, petulant, narrow-minded and stubborn. Ignore them. Mastering the 6 Components Of A Winning Complaint Letter must be your first priority.
Our exemplar for this lesson is: “Why Coughing Brought Down The Curtain On Our NSO Years” by Richard Gould. In a nutshell, Mr Gould cancelled his subscription to the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington DC after 10 years due to a sudden surfeit of laryngeal spasms among audience members.
- Choose an issue for which it is impossible to find a solution–Audience coughing
- Imply that this wasn’t an issue in those golden years known as “when I was a child” or “X years ago” — “Yes, coughing has become so pervasive at Kennedy Center performances that one wonders why people should even go out to listen to live music or theater.”
- Base your control situation on a snapshot episode. Extra points if it taps into any sort of post-colonial insecurity — “During a recent trip to Europe, I heard little if any coughing during symphonic concerts in the gilded, glittering concert halls of Prague, Vienna and Budapest.”
- Make highly idiosyncratic and impractical suggestions for improvement — “In my first letter I suggested that the NSO and the Kennedy Center do some research into the cause of this excessive, disruptive, mood-breaking hacking. How have other concert halls dealt with this problem? Do they issue edicts? Do they make cough drops available in the lobby?”
- Complain that no one is listening to/taking seriously/implementing the aforementioned suggestions.“Several letters of complaint later, with no response from the Kennedy Center or the NSO…”
- Take irrational action— “my only recourse is to decline to renew our long-held subscription.”
With any luck, you might just get in the paper.