Teresa McUsic

How to complain and get results from Uncle Sam, businesses

The U.S. Postal Service has a toll-free phone number to take your complaints, as well as an online complaint form.
The U.S. Postal Service has a toll-free phone number to take your complaints, as well as an online complaint form. AP

Not getting good mail delivery? Had a bad experience with security at the airport? Frustrated with your electric company?

These are all good reasons to complain. But don’t just vent to your friends and family. Take a few minutes to let your voice be heard to people who take complaints as part of their job. You may be surprised with the results.

“We take our customer complaints very seriously,” said Arlene Sanchez, spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service for North Texas. “But we can’t fix it if we don’t know about it.”

Like all government entities and most companies, the postal service has a toll-free phone number (800-275-8777) to take your complaints, as well as an online complaint form (at www.usps.gov.)

From there, the complaints are pushed down to your local post office, Sanchez said.

“If you’re not getting the right mail, they can’t address that at headquarters,” she said. “That complaint gets routed to the local office.”

Problems such as not getting your mail, or getting the wrong mail, often result from sorting issues before they reach your carrier, Sanchez said. In these cases, the electronic sorters may need a software fix to correct deliveries.

“When the letter carrier gets the mail in the morning, it’s already in sequence,” she said. “If the first piece of mail is the correct address, but some of the bundled pieces behind it aren’t, it will get delivered to that first address.”

Sending a complaint can address this problem, she said.

Your complaint is monitored, and if the local office can’t resolve the issue, it will be moved up to the post office’s consumer affairs office, Sanchez said.

“The whole reason we’re in business is to deliver mail,” she said. “But we’re enormous. We don’t always get it right. Complaining on NextDoor to your neighbors will not solve the problem, however. We do want to know.”

Toll-free numbers and online complaint forms for all federal agencies can be found at www.usa.gov/complaints-against-government.

The website recommends that you first go to the agency you’re complaining about. It also provides information on how to reach all federal and many state agencies.

If you don’t feel your complaint has been addressed, USA.gov recommends going to the agency’s Inspector General, independent units within each agency charged with combating waste, fraud and abuse. Further outreach can be made to your state’s senator or representative, which the website also provides.

Three other good resources for complaints:

Consumer Action Handbook. This free guide, available in English and Spanish, is put together annually by the General Services Administration (GSA). It’s available online and in hard copy for free at www.GSA.gov and includes an extensive listing of corporate consumer contacts.

Better Business Bureau. The local bureau will contact the business on your behalf for free, as well as offer mediation and arbitration services for unresolved complaints. Last year, the local bureau handled almost 7,500 complaints. Nationally, 870,000 were received. Contact the bureau online at www.fwbbb.org or call 800-621-8566.

GetHuman.com. This service offers help resolving consumer issues through two avenues — a do-it-yourself model for free or a paid service where a company service representative does the complaining for you.

So instead of just griping to friends or family, use this column to find someone who can do actually do more than lend a sympathetic ear.

Teresa McUsic’s column. TMcUsic@SavvyConsumer.net

Complaining effectively

  • Avoid blame. Work to build alliances instead of starting off negatively.
  • Talk to a human. Find out who has authority for your specific case and talk directly to them. If you can’t find a person or need strategies on how to resolve your issue, try www.GetHuman.com or the local Better Business Bureau at www.fwbbb.org.
  • Don’t exaggerate. Write down and communicate specific details about your complaint. Don’t speak in generalities or stretch the truth. Keep good notes, including names, and take photos. Offer to send material to support your complaint.
  • Focus on what you want. Instead of making the complaint the main focus, decide ahead what you want as a remedy and ask for it.
  • Use social media. If you have already tried customer service and managers without resolution, consider voicing your complaint on Twitter. Companies regularly monitor their social media.
  • Write the company president. If you still can’t get results, write or email the company president or CEO. Find his or her name and address online through a search engine.
  • If it’s minor, let it go. Not all complaints are worth your time and energy.

Source: AARP September Bulletin and Savvy Consumer