How to Complain like a Boss

Blood in your eyes – that’s how you can tell if you have complained properly. Here’s how I got bloody eyes writing a £300 email complaint to exactly the right people.


Before becoming a copywriter, I worked in retail for seven years and saw plenty of customers in my time choking on their own rage at the help desk to no avail. Moaning through pure anger and bad breath gets you nowhere. Would you go the extra mile for somebody who didn’t even go the extra mint before screaming at you for help?

Below, are the five stages I took to get £300 from my car dealership,,

Temporarily adopt the mind of a mentalist

As soon as your natural human layer of toleration is punctured by the negligence of a company, start writing things down. The dates and times of each phone call with your new enemy from this point on need to be recorded – they will be used in your ultimate email as evidence. Still, this isn’t a courtroom drama and not much evidence is required,,but at least it makes your email seem like the work of a true psychopath.

Go all CIA on this shit


So, everything you want to say is already in your cocked-shotgun of a mind and all you want to do is pull the trigger at the complaints department. Wait.

Why bother wasting ammo on somebody who is paid to get metaphorically shot at every day? Aim higher at the MDs and CEOs of your target company. Their contact details may not be published on the official website but they can always be found.

“It just comes to you. This stuff just flies through the air. They send this information out, I mean it’s just beamed out all over the fuckin’ place. You just gotta know how to grab it.”  – Tom Noonan, Heat (1995)

Try using a few simple Google searches within quotations:

“best person to complain to at [company name]”
“CEO for [company name] is called”
“I complained to [company name] using this email”
“email address for [CEO name] at [company name]”

Sneaky queries like this will likely provide some forum results – digging deeper into these is your best chance of acquiring the email address you’re after, usually leaked by some bitter ex-employee or a fellow complainer.

Write like a pro

Once you have about three high-ranking people to copy in on the email, go ahead and CC in the complaints department too for a laugh. Click that oh-so-satisfying red exclamation mark and it’s time to write a see-sawing subject line.

By ‘see-sawing’, I mean five words max that include both a positive and negative message, intriguing enough for a busy chairperson to click:

My example: “Congratulations from a disappointed customer.”

This sets the tone for the rest of the complaint. Chronologically explain everything about your poor experience with this company, including timestamps for each incident – taken from your pre-draft psycho notes mentioned earlier.

Say some good stuff about the company – the attitude of a staff member maybe. Then let the negatives bleed into the content and shock through pure quantity (if you don’t have enough negatives to do this, then you probably don’t have the right to complain,,be thankful for that).

Rainbow it up

Highlight any seriously bad points in red – CEOs can be notorious for skim-reading and the colours seem to help.

Break the text up with subheadings and if it’s getting a bit thick – put a halfway checkpoint in:

My example: “Apologies if this notice is sapping too much of your time, I don’t enjoy spending my night writing about it all either”

I coloured this part in green,,another contributor to the all-important psycho element.

In regards to things like appearance, spelling and punctuation – approach the email like you would a personal statement on an application to Oxford. Nobody is going to read a 2000 word critique of their business written in plain font.

Try to adopt the tone of a disappointed mother in your sign-off and be sure to say thanks.


This is the point where you should have a network of blood lines in your eyes. Cool them down with some cucumber slices or if you don’t have any cucumber, use the corner of a standard milk bottle (sounds weird but it works).

Give them a beer

That’s what I decided to do.

My email to the big cheeses at the auto trader worked. I received phone calls and emails almost immediately from several different people associated with the brand’s head office.

One of these was kind enough to invite me into my local branch for further discussion. I took a craft beer for the guy because I figured I did not hate this man and he had at least read my enormous email. I also thought that this gift would stick in his memory through randomness alone, therefore if I encountered any further problems, he would remember the psycho with the pale ale.

I received £50 for my expenses and £250 as a goodwill gesture. I did not raise my voice or my blood pressure once.

Next time you have an issue to raise with a company, don’t fire from the hip. Complain like a boss with bloodshot eyes.

Everyday’s a school day:

Eyes are amongst the most rapidly healing organs in the body. With the right treatment, it only takes about two days to recover from a scratch on the cornea.

Rob Philbin



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