HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Do you email companies if you have a complaint or compliment?

A recent thread about product satisfaction got me thinking about this...
When I purchase a product that is not to my liking, (not damaged goods) I email the manufacturer and tell them my experience with their product. Usually they are more than courteous, and send coupons for alternate products.

Here are some recent examples;
One of the yogurt companies came out with a couple of new flavors. One was Red Velvet Cake flavor. I bought 2 containers of it and was not happy with it at all. It was inedible. I emailed Yoplait and told them how I felt about the product, and that it was not up to the same standards as their other flavors. They sent me 2 coupons for any Yoplait product free.

I purchased a can of Baker's Joy spray a few weeks ago, and was very interested to see how it worked on my bundt pan. The first time I used it, the lid was so difficult to put back on that it slipped sideways and broke off the spray head. I emailed the company and told them what had happened, and that I had really wanted to try their product. A few days later I got a coupon for a free can in the mail with an apology letter telling that they are trying to rework that lid style to be more user friendly.

Now and then I'll email a company just to tell them how much I like their product. Usually they send coupons in response. That's good customer service.

The best example of great customer service isn't about food, but it's a nice story. Some years back I had this great pair of red leather ankle high lace up boots from Orvis. I'd spent about $160 on them and loved them. Long story short, I ended up in the midst of a divorce and my ex felt that the boots belonged to him because "he had paid for them". I wore them every day just to be sure he didn't go in the house and get them. Then during all that mess, my golden retriever ate a third of one of the boots in the middle of the night!
I emailed Orvis (subj. "the dog ate my boot") to ask if they were going to carry that boot again the next fall because I loved them so much that I wanted to order another pair as soon as they were available. In the letter, I told them the whole story about the divorce, the dog, and the boots. Just when the world was looking very unkind to me, this company sent me a brand new pair of red boots for free. Yep, for free.
That's good customer service.
My faith in mankind was renewed.
And since then, I do make a point of telling a company how much I like their product. We all need a pat on the back now and then.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I've recently started doing this myself. So far it has gotten me discounts from chain restaurants (Boston Pizza gave us a gift card that meant a free night out - bad service the first time round), free frozen entrees for liking their products, and some great contacts at smaller companies where I now get better service because they know who I am.

    It also feels good to do it - we all appreciate feedback and it's nice to be rewarded for taking the time to do it.

    1. I've only done it with complaints and inquiries (typically regarding replacement parts), never compliments.

      I complained to Fra'mani once about the sparseness of meat in one of their Costco products. They sent a replacement in a very nice insulated styrofoam cooler with frozen gel packs. I still use the cooler and the gel packs (for other things), but the replacement proved that I shouldn't buy the product again, since it had the same issues. I did thank them, and complimented them on their other products though, which I still buy.

      Otherwise, I don't usually e-mail compliments only. That reminds me too much of the pennypincher stories they used to do about people who spent a ridiculous amount of time writing to manufacturers to try to score free stuff.

      1. ALWAYS!! The food industry is a dog-eat-dog world, & I think every company wants to know where they stand, as well as ensuring customer satisfaction.

        Normally I just contact a company when there's been a problem, but always preface it with a compliment (if true) about their products in general, etc., etc. However, if something is truly outstanding, I will shoot them an e-mail compliment, if only to help ensure that they continue to produce that particular product.

        1. I was able to locate Nathan's natural casing hot dogs in my area by e-mailing the company. No coupons but was glad to find the product

          I also reached Coffeemate the same way because we love our Nespresso electric frother but found that certain Coffeemate flavors would not froth all the time. They told me that they make the product in two different plants and that the issue was probably that OR that PLUS differing fat contents in the milk at different times of the year. They sent some coupons, but I'd rather have the product perform the same way all the time.

          Non-food related, I emailed The Charlie Rose TV show when our local PBS station went independent and the show disappeared. I got an immediate response, but they were still 'in the bushes' about what was happening. Thankfully, another PBs affiliate here took on all or most of the shows they were not carrying before and all's well.

          I've tried contacting other companies by email with no success. Conclusion: it's worth a try if you really want some help.

          1. I email companies when I am looking for products, or to make statements. Sometimes I get responses, sometimes I don't.

            1. Oh, yes, I sure do! I feel it is kind of like thank you cards, you send them because it makes a difference.

              One place had misleading search results and I thought it was a little confusing and could even be harmful:
              I ordered a box of nuts from Harry and David for my father and he loved them. When I went online and did a search for "sugar free", and "diabetic", I found that listed in the results were TONS of sugar filled items. My father found out he was diabetic after a stroke and although he is still a smart cookie, he could be not-quick-enough to know that the items recommended for diabetics were not at all safe for diabetics, at least not safe for the kind who cannot eat sugars. My father is totally capable of using his credit card to buy things online and he does buy diabetic safe candies online so I was worried that I'd opened the door for him to an unsafe place to purchase treats from.

              I wrote the company, heard back and realized they did not take me seriously. I tried again, this time spelling out the worst case scenarios. They did not respond to that email so I sent one more. I let them know that this was a serious mistake that could be easily remedied and that if they fixed the problem by such and such date, I would not feel the need to bring the matter to the (I can't remember what it is called) American Diabetic Association or the Better Business Bureau. I wasn't threatening them, I really meant it.

              Well, they fixed it and sent me some coupons. I gotta say, I've bought more items from them since the correction.

              I personally believe that consumer to business communication is a great way to get your point across, share unknown's with businesses and to just plain be honest. I don't view it as complaining so much as sharing. They need to know why we do or do not buy from them in order to keep us satisfied and to stay in business.

              And, when I am surprised by outstanding service, I make the extra effort to offer praise. Not food related but when ordering products at work, I encounter about fifteen to twenty customer service rep.s. When one is outstanding, I call back or email about how good they were and how it affected my ordering process such as 'took less time', 'felt my order was taken correctly' etc.

              Gotta say, that is a good story about Orvis!

              Well, that is my two cents.

              1. I tend to send compliments rather than complaints although I have done both. Many years ago, I was a lonesome, homesick 17 year old American girl living in Paris, with a French family, lusting after a Snickers candy bar. I wrote a love letter to the Mars candy company extolling the virtues of Snickers in the land of Valhrona et al. The Mars Co responded with a HUGE box - a gross of each of their products - at my doorstep within the month. 144 Snickers, 144 Mars bars, 144 Three Musketeers, etc. That has been my standard of customer service ever since.

                When a linen pillow slip expired after a mere ten years of wear, I complained and was gifted with a new monagrammed pair. To my mind, both Orvis and LL Bean excell in customer service in (mostly) non-food areas. Trader Joes does a good job of satisfying customers' complaints.

                Years ago, when I bought a can of blueberries (??? the reason is lost to the mists of time ???) I was unhappy to find blueberries the size of BBs. I wrote to the company and received a letter by return mail explaining that the season had been particularly harsh, this was a family business and they were barely hanging on by their fingernails, etc. I almost cried as I read of their plaight and felt small indeed to complain when there were such dire issues facing the company. Today, something must be really bad for me to write a letter of complaint. I prefer to praise.

                1. Mostly these days I email animal welfare queries, and rarely get a satisfactory response or free goodies.

                  I did get a ton of free coupons when I emailed Mountain High Yogurt to see if the clear plastic liner on their large tubs can be recycled (it can't, jfyi).

                  1. It takes a bit to make me complain. I recently got a take out burrito at a local chain, since it was late and I didn't want to cook. First, I waited 15 minutes, only to find out they'd accidentally placed my order in a bag with someone else's. Then, when they "remade" my order, I got home to find that it was luke warm, and missing two or six ingredients. No cheese, or sour cream -- despite that they charge extra for sour cream. Thankfully, the chain owner and chief of operations got right back to me and followed up on the complaint. So I get a free burrito next time I go in.

                    1. If I think it's something the company might be interested in, I'll e-mail. If it's a company I like and I think is responsive, I think it's helpful for them to hear from their customers, positive and negative. And, if an employee goes out of his/her way to help me, I always write/e-mail.

                      1. I emailed a large grocery chain here on the East coast (that I will not name lest anyone be tempted to copycat me, but suffice it to say that they have a legion of loyal fans) because I couldn't find what I wanted -- they had it, but it was not in a logical place.

                        In return I got an apology from corporate, an apology from the store manager, and a $20 gift card that I did not ask for and did not expect for so minor a complaint. The response went way above what was required. I was a fanboy before, and I'm even more of one now.

                        1. To be honest, I've never emailed compliments to a company...but I may start!

                          My most recent example is with Ben and Jerry's. I spent some ridiculous amount of money on a pint of my all time favorite - Coffee Heath Bar Crunch. Well, at the end of the pint there had not been 1 piece/shard/bite of Heath Bar. They were extremely apologetic and sent me a bunch of free coupons.

                          My husband emailed Panera Bread once and got a horrible response. We had gone in there for a quick sandwich and he asked for his panini without any condiments. Even though Panera is supposed to pride themselves on made-to-order products, apparently this one was not and they would not accomodate him. He sent a polite email to them inquiring about this absurdity and he got the nastiest return email telling him, "if he didn't like it, he could eat elsewhere".

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: krisrishere

                            That is just rude! I ate there once and was surprised to find that my bagel came with a tiny tub of "cream spread". Really? I knew there was a reason I ate at locally owned, smaller shops and avoided franchises but this was a little weird. I didn't bother to complain but we did not like our bagels enough to finish them.

                            I forgot to mention in my earlier post that I found a thin, sharp, metal wire in a seed bar (like a granola bar made with sesame seeds). I called the company to let them know because it seemed like a piece of the manufacturing equipment might be falling apart. I told them what happened, that I was fine and that I hoped they found the problem because I loved their bars. They insisted on sending me something so I gave them my address expecting a bunch of coupons and they sent me an entire box of the bars! Wheeee....

                            1. re: MinkeyMonkey

                              Williams Sonoma has lobster pot pies around the Christmas season. I'd been getting them for my parents for a few years, as it's the perfect gift. Set of four, in ramekins, about 70 bucks. My mom hesitantly mentioned that the first two were superb, but the second pair were very light on the lobster, and the sauce bubbled over, leaving them with a lousy end result. I got on the phone with WS, and they were grateful for the feedback. A few days later, my folks received four new ones. They were the best they ever had! That was five years ago. Mom (again mentioned hesitantly) that this year's gift was less than the quality they were used to from WS. Mom knows they are expensive, and mentioned not to spend $$ for them next year. Would you call WS and mention this? I did notice they did not use the 'Cundy's Harbor, ME' in the catalogue, as they did in the past. Thanks.

                              1. re: chefdaddyo

                                Well, personally, I would mention it. Only because A: mom's are very important and B: they've already told you that they appreciate the feedback. You could even consider mentioning just the way you did above, letting them know that your mom would prefer you not spend the money and that you are hesitant to complain.

                                Little things can make a big difference. A new employee, a change in management, an issue that can be traced back to a supplier etc. can make all the difference in the outcome of a product. Even the weather can take out a crop making a less desirable ingredient the only one available.

                                I think they'd like to know. And, if you feel it is too much, you can always let them know you do not need a replacement product if they offer it. I think that WS is a big company that prides itself on customer service and high quality products and foods. Can't hurt...

                            2. re: krisrishere

                              Was that the local franchisee he e-mailed or the company itself?? It's almost impossible to believe any business owner would be stupid enough to respond that way.

                              1. re: Midlife

                                No, it was actually the corporate website "contact us" link!

                              2. re: krisrishere

                                Wow. That's so different from my one experience at Panera. The first and last time I went, I was treated, for I don't know what reason, like royalty by one of the greeters. He latched on to me and I got better service than I've gotten at really nice restaurants! Maybe he's just a treasure of an employee, but it made my "dining" (soup and sandwich for lunch) experience so pleasant that I wrote them a nice e-mail and got on in return. I haven't been back because I'm never near one, but i just learned that a Panera is opening near my house and I can't wait to get that warm glow back . . .

                                1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                  It's funny but we all have such different experiences. Sounds like you had a great time and really enjoyed Panera. Me, I'll probably not bother going back.

                                  I have a chain that I like too. I've posted about it on another board here and been ever so slightly told-off for it. That's okay, I still really like it! the food, the service and the price all work out in my favour so I'll go back. again.

                                  I hope your trip back to Panera is absolutely wonderful!


                              3. I got $10 in Gatorade coupons when I e-mailed them to complain that a bottle redesign made them more difficult to open.

                                1. It's a bit hit or miss for me but I do tend to contact places when something really strikes me, and I try to do so when it's something positive as well as negative. True of some environments more than others, but if you really want to be noticed often the best route is to send a paper letter as opposed to email. Works best for a restaurant or store location, I would think. If contacting a larger company that has a dedicated path to customer relations, it probably doesn't matter if it's a real letter, but still if you want to reach a specific store location of large chain it's not a bad idea to send a letter in the mail. I'd like to think if you send a manager a letter of praise about a specific employee it might help that employee's career. Should be true in a well-run company, anyway.

                                  1. Call, email & snail mail especially to praise an employee. Customer service is really an art form (imvho) and dying on the vine. When I come across that super helpful employee I ask for their ID info and compose a letter to the corp office. As for product issues, I typically go the route of local complaint/compliment and have received free items, tasting invites, coupons and specials working directly with store Managers...which leads me right back to composing letters to corporate about valuable customer service.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: HillJ

                                      I too make a point of praising for great service. The only problem is that chances are good that the employee will be elevated beyond a customer-serving position and you'll never actually encounter him/her again.

                                      1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                        And, good for them if that's what they want to do! However, I have found that many people working in the food biz who go above and beyond the job description, find the sweet spot to their work, are often very happy staying in the job for as long as the company treats them well. Not all jobs require a level promotion to rec' an increase in pay. In this day and age loyalty is a two-way street; and loving ones job shouldn't mean departure.

                                        1. re: HillJ

                                          plus, upon a bit more reflection, I wouldn't reserve the right and pleasure to praise a good employee to their superiors for fear that they would be promoted and possibly leave the position. Today criticism flies like breathing, but we hesitate to praise....I'd rather not behave that way.

                                    2. It is very interesting to me that one of the company's that you contacted was Yoplait.

                                      Two weeks ago I wrote to them to rave about two of their flavored yogurts. I explained that the cherry flavor was especially good lately because there were more chunks of cherries in it. I also said that my favorite was the strawberry bannana and I wish that I could buy more of the flavor but unfortunately I usually make it to the store right before another delivery.

                                      Now, If I said that I wasn't hoping for a few coupons as a bonus I would be lying. But the truth is, I do not usually write to a company about a product and my main reason for writing was to bring to their attention that the cherry flavor was the best that I have had due to an increased amount of cherries in this particular batch/ # in hopes that they had millions of other like compliments like mine and might change the formula to include more cherries! lol

                                      Well, They wrote back and told me that they have quality control in place and each yogurt cup is the same. They also said that they do not have any control regarding what a retailer stocks and I should go to their website to see if the product is on the shelf before I go to the store.

                                      As I said, I have never wrote to a co. concerning a product. Good, bad, or otherwise. I think I will stick to what I was/was't doing. Especially considering the non answer I recieved. Heh..

                                      TC, Robin

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Robinez

                                        I often find that working with the Manager of a market is easier than working with the large corporation. Recently I bought some premade macaroni salad for an office party. Tasted beforehand and found it to be extremely salty; as in made poorly. I returned it directly to the deli Manager and was given a free sample of a fresh batch and a free pound of the salad immediately. That is going above and beyond customer satisfaction and I made a friend of the deli Mgr. in the process. If it's worth it to you, even the dairy aisle Mgr. is worth knowing!

                                      2. I will complain. I had a problem with Salad Works. I went with some friends and we all ordered the Nicoise Salad. When we sat down and started to eat, we noticed the salads were mostly pasta with a miniscule amount of lettuce and tuna on top. We complained to the manager and were told that's the way they are made. He was not willing to do anything. We dumped our lunch in the trash and went to the place next door.

                                        This wasn't my first visit, although it was the first in a year or so. I've been ordering Nicoise Salads from them for years. I know how they've looked in the past. I was surprised at the complete lack of customer service.

                                        When I got home, I tried to eMail the company through their website. No luck. It was impossible to submit a comment. Even the website gave poor service.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Whinerdiner

                                          Whinerdiner, there are a number of ways to contact this company. Recently rated one of the top franchises in their market, I have no doubt a well written letter would be helpful to the main office on your recent experience at one of their franchised locations.

                                          1. re: HillJ

                                            Thanks. I'd been going there off and on for years. This recent visit was out of the norm. I'll try to contact them again. I don't want coupons or anything, because honestly, I'll never go back. But they should know that there is at least one location which does not reflect well on the brand.

                                        2. Yes, both to complain and to compliment. Ben & Jerry's came out with a wonderful new flavor last year, Boston Cream Pie. I've never been a B&J fan because of the carageenan and guar gum, but this flavor made me forget about those things completely. I simply had to e-mail them to say "Good job, B&J. Excellent new flavor." IIRC, they sent me a coupon for a free pint.

                                          I e-mailed Haagen-Dazs recently, to complain about the zest in the lemon ice cream on their Five label. It *tastes* wonderful, but the lemon zest ruins the texture. It's like eating little tiny bits of hair, hundreds in each spoonful. I know lemon zest provides a lot of flavor, but I'm able to make lemon curd without it being perceptible on the tongue. If I can do that, why can't H-D.

                                          I sent Muir Glen Tomatoes an e-mail when I bought a can that smelled of chlorine bleach. Diluted chlorine bleach, but still. They were very glad to hear from me, and sent me back a fistful of coupons.

                                          1. I e-mail the CEO of companies all the time and my goal is not to get free product but to let the big dogs know that things are not right and you need to address the problem...good or bad.
                                            The latest complaints was with Tiffany & Co...received a lovely glass fruit bowl and when I washed it, it broke a perfect ring around the bowl..they were very kind and sent me a replacement, which was extremely sweet and much appreciated.

                                            I was hosed on an Expedia blind buy that stated spa on site but the spa was off site and you had to call..wrote the CEO and they agreed that it was misleading and paid for another high end resort..
                                            Just wrote to Duke's Mayonnaise to ask where I could buy their mayo since I read about it on Chowhound...they were so kind to send me a couple of samples...wooo hooo, stuff is awesome!
                                            In and Out Burger has a great customer service dept. and I called that a bathroom was dirty and not up to the standards and they sent me a couple of burger, fries and drink coupon!

                                            I love to give props to employees that are nice and send an e-mail to the CEO..I like going to the top of any organization and find that the Fortune 500 CEO's are the easiest to get a hold of and they delegate well and get the job done.

                                            A lot of people don't let companies know a bad product, bad employee or a really good product/employee.
                                            There needs to be more accountability and customer service is a dying art form.

                                            1. From your post, it almost seems like you're fishing for free stuff and coupons!

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: spinachandchocolate

                                                I don't think that's the point, though, even if it is a side benefit. Of course high sales are the definitive way for a company to know that the public likes its products, but praise or complaints are appreciated as well, to let them know if they are on the right track or if the product needs improving.
                                                As far as fishing for freebies, nobody is forcing manufacturers to send out coupons, samples or replacement products. A good company knows the best way to make more sales is to have customers who love their products. I learned during training at a national big-box store years ago, that every unhappy consumer tells 6 of their acquaintances about their negative experience with a company. At that particular chain, this translated into $60,000 in potential lost lifetime sales for those 6 people.
                                                I personally was flabbergasted when Orvis sent me boots, and had no idea that companies even did things like that. And since then, I don't know how many people I have sung their praises to. Like Beach Chick says, customer service is what it's all about.

                                                And don't forget, we don't have to buy their products at all. Seems like a pretty good trade to me; sell multi-millions of dollars worth of yogurt, give out a few thousand in coupons. Win-win.

                                              2. I've worked in customer service -- and you spend about 99% of your time with duties ranging from simple problem resolution to being told about your questionable parenthood to how it was that you must be descended from some evil union of Attila the Hun and Adolf Hitler. And those are the ones that can be repeated in polite company.

                                                So the one in a hundred phone call that comes to tell you that someone actually LIKES you and your company is worth solid gold...and your letter or email to tell my boss that I was friendly and helpful? Not only makes me feel good, but makes me look good to my boss...which is a great thing when it comes time to make a decision about raises or bonuses...or layoffs.

                                                Don't do it to fish for freebies (csa's can smell that a mile away)...but be "hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise" (in Dale Carnegie's words) -- be quick to catch people doing something *right*...and they'll be quick to do more for you.

                                                (and when you call with a problem? Please just describe the problem as completely as possible and tell the person on the phone *rationally* what you need for them to do...always recognize that the person on the phone didn't make the product, didn't create the marketing campaign --they're just someone working for their paycheck who is being paid to try to make things right.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                  sunshine, you are one of my heroes. Anyone who can work in customer service and come out unscathed and with a sense of humor intact is a special person.
                                                  Kudos to you!

                                                  1. re: jmcarthur8

                                                    I don't any more (thankfully) -- but there are days that just having someone recognize you as a fellow human being feels like finding money in the street!

                                                  2. re: sunshine842

                                                    Haha, you hit the nail on the head, Sunshine! I used to work customer service and, wow. what a tough job. It never ceased to amaze me that people would complain about a product's slightly different shade of colour in such a way that I could have sworn that they were crying or that they hated little ol' me. And, the ones who complimented were so very polite that it was a relief to hear their words versus the angry, sobbing complainers. Not that I think complaining is wrong, just that, wow, it shouldn't be such an emotional experience.

                                                    I think that is why it is such a big deal to me to call or write with a compliment, because it doesn't happen that often.

                                                    Glad you're not in CS anymore, glad I'm not either!

                                                  3. I email about small problems. With specifics as to 'run numbers' on cans and boxes.

                                                    I telephone about potential safety issues (and when I'm really p.o.ed.) Several years ago an ad on TV really got to me and I called and told them how it nullified the spirit of Christmas. (I got a huge coupon in return.) But the real pleasure was noticing a week later that the wording on the nationwide ad had been changed.

                                                    For compliments, I will write a letter. I probably mail two atta-boys a year. I will call managers as well when someone does something unexpectedly well.

                                                    Letters are so scarce that a letter has a huge impact nowadays.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. I've e-mailed small and large business from national chain supermarkets or condiment manufacturers to a popular local restaurant to a mom and pop convenience store. Almost every time I have received at least some sort of response, more often than not I get a pleasant thanks and an explanation or apology, and in many cases some sort of coupon or gift certificate. At the very least I have the satisfaction of knowing that someone took the time to read my message.

                                                      1. I think I once mentioned it in another topic but we've called and emailed because certain flavors of Coffeemate Liquid Creamer will not foam up in our beloved Nespresso Aerrocino. We've gotten answers that swing from seasonal milk fat content variations to suggestions that it depends on which of their plants the flavor is made in at that time. We've received coupons for discount product, but we'd really just rather have a consistant product. In this specific situation the communication doesn't seem to help because the product varies in relation to what we use it for, ;o(((((

                                                        1. A well known catalog retailer from whom I have ordered many times advertised that their sheets were larger than the competition's. It has been a few years now, so I don't remember all the details, but I called to ask a question about the sheet length or width.

                                                          Their phone customer service is excellent; if the person answering the phone can't help, she (almost always a she) finds someone else who can. In this case, nobody could actually confirm the details of the catalog copy.

                                                          In the next catalog, the description was changed.