2.4. How to complain

 Imagen de marksdk de flickr
con licencia Creative Commons

Imagine you are going to Malta on holidays, and the following situations take place.
Which of the following complaints are more serious for you?

 1. Unbearably long delays at the airport.
 2. Polluted beach.
 3. Last minute change to the date of departure.
 4. Unexpected additional fees.
 5. Poor customer service at the hotel.
 6. Cancellation of pre-booked excursions.
 7. Inedible food.

Go to the forum and explain to your partners why you have chosen your first three more serious complaints.



There are a number of formulas used when complaining in English. It’s important to remember that a direct complaint or criticism in English can sound rude or aggressive. It’s better to mention a problem in an indirect manner.

How to complain in a polite way
 a. I’m sorry to have to say this but…
 b. I’m sorry to bother you, but…
 c. Maybe you forgot to…
 d. I think you might have forgotten to…
 e. Excuse me if I’m out of line, but…
 f. There may have been a misunderstanding about…
 g. Don’t get me wrong, but I think we should…
 h. Excuse me, but there’s a problem with…
 i. I’m afraid I have to make a complaint. …
 j. I’m afraid there’s a slight problem with…

Adapted from : http://esl.about.com/od/grammarstructures/a/f_complaints.htm

 How to accept, delay and reject a complaint
 a. Oh dear, I’m sorry about that.
 b. I wish it never happened.
 c. I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize.
 d. I just don’t know what to say.
 e. I suggest you leave it with us and we’ll see what we can do.
 f. I’m afraid we can’t help you at the moment. Could you leave your contact phone number? We’ll contact you soon
 g. Well, I’m afraid there isn’t much we can do about it actually.
Now you’re ready for the complaint quiz, click here and check if you understood how to complain:

Go to the forum and look for a partner to work in pairs. One of you has to complain about situations 1-3, the other one about situations 4-6:

1. You arrive in Malta for an important business meeting. You take a taxi from the airport to the hotel and the taxi driver charges you 50 euros. You think he’s cheating you.
2. You are in Malta on July 20th. You arrive at the hotel and when you go to your room you realize that the air conditioning doesn’t work properly. Go to the reception to complain.
3. Two days later at the same hotel. You have a very important meeting, but the hotel laundry has ruined your favourite shirt. Go again to complain to the receptionist.
4. You are on a plane looking for your aisle seat. When you find it, you discover that it is already occupied. Talk to this person and complain because you don’t want a window seat, but your aisle seat.
5. After solving the problem with the seats, the person next to you falls asleep on your shoulder. Try to wake him/her up and complain about this situation.
6. You want to complain to your travel agent because the airport shuttle was one hour late and you were about to miss your flight.

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