Ever had a bad experience at a restaurant–a waiter who was rude, food that arrived late, fire alarms that went off through the night in a hotel or an expensive steak that was not cooked as requested? I am that person who always lets the manager know if there is a problem with any product or service, and I almost always get satisfaction.
First, remain calm. Getting agitated, using abusive language or waving your arms around in front of other patrons will not get you far. It might make you feel good to see someone else acting that way, but it will rarely achieve the result you desired.
I observed this once in the Addis Ababa airport, 3am, when people were shouting in at least five different languages and gesturing angrily at the person behind the ticket window who was calmly shuffling papers and doing absolutely nothing to rebook tickets from our canceled flight. I remained calm, thinking others were getting plenty upset on my behalf. The only flight to Europe that was leaving any time within the next 12 hours was departing in 15 minutes. In this particular case, a couple of French nationals managed, by some miracle, to get to the ticket window. (Three people had been helped in three hours.) The couple and I had been chatting in line about how we both hoped to make the last flight to Paris. After getting their seats on the near-empty jumbo-jet, they pointed at me, six places back in the line and yelled, “She needs that flight too.” The counter person yelled for me to throw our passports to the front of the line. She quickly stamped our tickets and we ran through the airport, luggage in tow. We were the last persons on the plane before the door closed. This didn’t happen because I yelled, but because I made friends in the line.
Second, remain firm. Keep asking until you get what you think is an appropriate remedy for your problem. If they offer free dessert, but you don’t want dessert because you are on a diet or are full, ask for a complimentary entree or gift certificate for a return visit. If they offer you $50 off your hotel room, but you got no sleep because the fire alarms went off every hour, keep asking for them to take the night off your bill. If the counter person says they are not authorized to help in that way, tell them you will wait while they find a manager. Even in snooty Boston hotels, this will work.
Third, if all else fails, be prepared to leave the restaurant or hotel. Even if I am at the number-three stage, I am persistent. I follow up, after an uncorrected bad experience, with a note to the corporate office or owner. Except when dealing with bad airlines, this has always gotten a response.
I have a great track record of getting free meals, free nights in hotels and other complimentary items because I complain when things are not to my satisfaction or expectation. The business wins because, rather than becoming the victim of an internet troll or losing a customer irretrievably, they redeem the opportunity to win me back. If I get a satisfactory customer experience, I tell lots of other people about it.
My family knows this is my specialty. When the food doesn’t come within 30 minutes, they look my way. I always win.