How To Complain Online (& Get Free Stuff)

Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Complaining today is much easier than it used to be. Lost luggage, bad service, extra charges, broken products — you used to have to put a letter in the mail to voice your dissatisfaction. Before that (way before that) unhappy customers would even inscribe their complaint on a clay tablet. That's dedication.

While it's tempting to immediately fire off an angry tweet or write a bad online review, there’s a right way and a wrong way to effectively complain online. The best outcome is a satisfying resolution — a refund, a replaced product, a complimentary meal — while the worst (thankfully rare) scenario is getting sued.

“As the saying goes: ‘A happy customer tells a friend; an unhappy customer tells the world,’” says Natascha Thomson, a social media and marketing consultant and CEO at MarketingXLerator.

Not all companies are responsive to complaints. In fact, one study showed that responding to Twitter complaints triggered more complaints. Some companies are even outsourcing complaint resolution and charging customers to complain (several U.K. airlines, including British Airways and easyJet, may charge you as much as $33 to file a complaint).

Luckily, most major brands want to address issues quickly and peacefully. Here’s our guide to getting online complaints resolved — and getting the results YOU want.