Complaining Made Easy

Sandy Berger

Are you aggravated by security holes in operating systems, buggy software and cheaply made hardware? Donít feel helpless. There is something you can do. You can complain!

One voice multiplied over and over can, and will, be heard. Last year Intuit introduced a controversial product activation scheme in their popular TurboTax software program. The company said they were preventing software piracy, but the activation made it more difficult for TurboTax users to use the program. TurboTax users complained by the thousands. Intuit heard their cries and removed the activation, proving that complaining can produce results even with a large company.

How you complain, however, makes a big difference. In our complex high tech world, writing a letter to the company is no longer the preferred method. As a matter of fact, with so many large companies with different divisions and locations, a letter may never get to the proper person or department.

The best way to reach a company today is by using your computer. Thatís right. Fire up your PC and start a little complaint campaign! Start with the Web site of the manufacturer. Look for an e-mail address for feedback or support. Some companies have feedback pages that are not easy to find, so it takes a little patience and a lot of clicking. If you donít find a feedback or support area, send a message to the Web master whose address is usually webmaster@ the name of the company. These e-mail have a better chance of reaching the proper person within the company.  But to harness the true power of your computer, you still need to go a little further.

Message boards are excellent places to voice opinions. Post your complaint on as many message boards as you can. General computer-related message boards like those found on the Compu-KISS Web site and the AARP Computers & Technology Web site are perfect mediums. Message board posts remain on the Web site for long periods of time, so a post with a complaint will get a lot of exposure as future visitors read and re-read the complaint posts. Manufacturers donít want to see bad posts about their products. Also, often when others read your complaint, they are prompted to add their own complaints, so one post can move others who have the same complaint to voice their opinions as well.

Another great way to make your views noticed is by posting product reviews at sites like Amazon, Epinions.com and FatWallet.com. You simply find the product or a similar product by the same manufacturer and post your comments.

When you post your complaint on message boards or opinion sites it is not only seen by other computer users, it is seen by the proper person within the manufacturerís company. Just about every company has a person(s) who regularly check these Web areas. They also use a method called Web clipping to see the comments that have been posted about their products. A Web clipping service is set up to notify them every time the name of their company or product is mentioned on the Web. So this is an excellent way to get to the proper person to get your complaints heard.

If you want your complaints heard you should always log into the message board that you are posting to. If you have not visited the message board before, sign up to get a user name and password. Although many discussion sites will allow you to post anonymously, it is much better to have a name attached to your complaint. Occasionally a Microsoft-basher or disgruntled employee will log onto boards anonymously and post complaints about a company or product. So your complaint has more weight if you are a logged-in user.

Also be sure to give the name of the company, the name of the product and the model and/or version that you are complaining about.  It also helps to say that because of the problems that you have encountered you are switching to a competitors product. When many of the TurboTax complainers said that they were going to switch to H&R Blockís TuxCut program, they really got Intuitís attention.

Remember the power in numbers. Talk to others. E-mail friends and acquaintances. See if they have similar complaints. Encourage them to use their computers to complain. If your mother told you not to be a complainer, this is one time you ignore her advice. If we can get enough people to complain about inadequate and imperfect products, we can get the manufacturers to improve their products.

Last but not least, donít forget to send kudos when you find something you really like about a product as well. Use the same methods to praise a company that does a good job. Let them know what you like so they will continue to create products that fit the needs and wants of the consumers. 

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