The ultimate guide to complaining

Us Brits are great at queueing, talking about the weather and drinking (amongst other things) but we’re rarely comfortable making a fuss if something goes wrong. This is due a combination of us feeling awkward, not wanting to be rude and not knowing how.

So, for those of you asking how to complain properly when something has actually gone wrong – here are our top tips:

1 – Be polite – This is SO important. Firstly, if you’ve ever worked in a customer facing role (we both have), you’ll know how horrible it can be on the receiving end of a tirade about something that wasn’t your fault – especially when you’re just trying to help. You do not have to be rude to complain and it’s almost certain to not get you what you want. Be polite all the way through.

2 – Be specific – When raising an issue, make sure you know exactly what you’re flagging. Be clear about the expectation you had, and why this wasn’t met.

3 – Know what you want – Have an idea of how the business can make it up to you. Side note – be realistic about this (a cold soup as a starter does not mean you deserve a meal for free – see our [LINK: How to know when you’ve crossed the line]). Your expectation should be consummate with the problem – poor service could lead to a free round of drinks, rubbish food could lead to a free course, a product that broke should lead to a refund

4 – Be determined – This goes hand in hand with rule number one. The real secret to successfully complaining is to perfectly balance politeness with determination. Keep reiterating the point and show with your body language that you are not going anywhere until the issue is resolved.

5 – Speak to the right person – Don’t shout at the person in the buffet car if the train is running late. The general rule here is to either find a customer service person or, preferably, a manager. You need to complain to someone who cares and who has the power to give you what you want

6 – NEVER NEVER NEVER say any of the following: I know my rights / do you know who I am / my best friend works for x. Just, you know, don’t.

This ultimate guide to complaining should give you a great headstart when you next experience awful service or a shoddy product. If you’ve got ideas on what else works then let us know. Equally, feel free to share your stories. We’d love to hear from you.

How to get free hotel upgrades

Admit it, you check into a hotel, you know there are better rooms than the one you paid for (and even some suites) and you want that upgrade – you just don’t want to pay for it. Well good news, here are our tried-and-tested top-tips on how to get free hotel upgrades.

  1. Special occasion – Are you staying somewhere special for a honeymoon / anniversary / birthday? Well let the hotel know. The best way to do this is by dropping them an email in advance, although just letting reception know at check in can yield some great results. Don’t expect a presidential suite, but a corner room or bigger room with robes can be a nice treat. As an aside, it’s up to you if you want make this special occasion up, I personally don’t but I know people that do (no names – you know who you are!)
  2. Spend points – Travel points are a whole article in and of themselves but, it’s fair to say, almost all of them can you used to buy premium hotel rooms in some way shape or form. Whether you’re using Amex points (which can be transferred to pretty much anything), hotel points themselves or even Avios (yup, you can use airmiles to buy hotel rooms), this is a great way to get this upgrade for free.
  3. Loyalty schemes – all major hotel brands have loyalty schemes. These are designed with two goals in mind: firstly to reward loyalty and secondly to skew people’s purchase decisions to stay at these brands. That being said, they are always free to join and hotels will usually offer some perks even to free members. What’s more, they’re more likely to look at you favourably when using any of the other tips. Finally, if you’ve booked directly, you’ll probably get points for your stay. This is free money. Why wouldn’t you do this!?
  4. Status – Not only do loyalty schemes allow you to join for free and collect points but, the more you stay, the more you work your way up the tiers – silver, gold etc (it’s a bit like the Olympics although with less sports, and it’s not every four years, and it’s not thousands of years old – ok it’s not much like the olympics). Anyway, the higher tiers in these schemes often give you room upgrades for free, sometimes guaranteed! If you don’t stay enough to earn status then there is a fantastic secret to getting status at hotel chains – this is included as a perk with several credit cards.
  5. Negotiate – ok, I’ll admit that this one isn’t technically a ‘free’ upgrade but it sure as hell can be a deal. Hotels often have premium rooms un-sold, which means they’re going to sit there unused and empty. A hotel would much rather make some money from these rooms than none, so it’s always worth asking for the upgrade price and then making an offer. In my experience, this works in over 90% of instances and we’ve secured crazy deals like a £400 per night five-star suite for only £20!
  6. Complain – specifically when or if something goes wrong. Everyone hates the dude shouting at some poor receptionist for nothing – don’t be that guy! That being said, if you’ve been looking forward to an awesome holiday or your annual trip abroad and the air conditioning doesn’t work / bathroom tap is broken / minibar is missing / there are holes in the wall (all of these things have happened to me) then tell someone. Follow our how to complain rules and be specific that you’d like to move rooms and would appreciate an upgrade
  7. Flirt – Like most things in life, rightly or wrongly, this really can work. I personally have had varying degrees of success here but I know people where this works a lot. If you’re out of option and wondering how to get that free upgrade when walking to check in, don your best fake smile and cheeky wink (or whatever your thing is)

Got your own thoughts on how to get free hotel upgrades? Do you have a secret trick up your sleeve? Let us know by getting in touch and we’ll get your top tips added to the list