Complaining With Tact


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For business people who travel, things to complain about can appear around every corner. From dirty hotel rooms to less than stellar rental cars, from late airplane flights to cold bowls of soup served in crowded all-night diners, business trips provide the opportunity to get an awful lot off your chest. Complaining, after all, is sometimes the traveler’s favorite pastime.

Yet, there is a right way and a wrong way to mumble and grumble. Criticizing things or people too often, or without any tact, may worsen your trip dramatically, giving yourself something to really complain about.

Know that Less is More: There is nothing that will take away the validity of a complaint faster than a person who complains all the time. If you maintain “the boy who cried wolf" complex - and find a need to complain where it isn’t warranted - you will never have your complaints taken seriously. Instead, you will simply be written off with the label of “complainer, " a label that labels you worthy of being ignored.

Remember Timing is Everything: As a traveler, you may find something you feel warrants complaining: you may have paid for a king sized bed but given a double. When this sort of thing happens, complain right away instead of waiting till later. Waiting too long gives you time to stew, leaving you to go up in temper and down in tact for a situation that may be very easily fixed. It also leaves the staff wondering why you didn’t say anything right away: if you don’t speak up immediately, and wait too long, they might assume your complaint isn’t that big of a deal. If it was, you would have said something sooner.

Don’t Go Over Heads: “Can I speak to your supervisor" is often the complainer’s personal mantra; after all, getting to the person in charge may be what it takes to get things remedied. Occasionally, speaking to a supervisor or manager may be needed, but most of the time, people who are lower on the corporate ladder can help you just the same. Instead of going over their heads, and possibly getting them in trouble, try going to the person at the source of the problem. If they can’t or won’t help you, then ask for someone else.

Be Reasonable: When you complain, you either want your problem fixed or you want to be compensated for your inconvenience. Whatever it is you’re seeking, keep in mind that being reasonable is the key. Not only do you need to be reasonable with what you choose to complain about - complaining about rough weather on a flight will get you nowhere - but you also need to be reasonable in what you expect someone to do in return. If you complain about something that is relatively minimal, then assume that the remedy - or the reimbursement - will be relatively minimal as well.

Be Honest: Sometimes people may look for reasons to complain, hoping that they can use their complaint to get a better hotel room or a free airline ticket. Looking for things to complain about, however, is really just looking for trouble. If you have nothing to justifiably criticize - or need to look through a proverbial microscope to find something - then your complaint may be bordering on dishonesty. Instead of filing a non-existent complaint, try something else and offer a compliment. The staff might react just as favorably.

Jennifer Jordan is a senior editor for . A professional business traveler, she aims to make business trips feel less like work. She also has a healthy collection of hotel shampoos…. and a shower cap or two.


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