The Delicate Art of Complaining.

Position:Travelers can file complaints

The Delicate Art of Complaining

How to complain is a great social skill (as is its mirror-image, how to express appreciation). Get it right through what you might call "constructive complaining" and you can expect service beyond the call of duty, at least the next time.

The best thing that can happen to you with an airline or a hotel is to have some kind of problem: It gives you the excuse to build a relationship with the folks on the front line. This could be the fast track to surprise upgrades and a better class of junk mail. If you have a complaint, complaints experts in the travel trade want to hear from you. Whether they`ll listen is another matter. The axiom is that of all people who have a reason to complain only one third do. And they each will tell 10 more people whose complaints are answered will be more loyal than those who have never had a problem.

People respond to "problems" depending on their mood ( or mode) or how crucial the consequences. Flying back from a successful meeting, I`m going to be fairly relaxed at the prospect of a two-hour delay at Frankfurt, the same glitch on the way out might send me ballistic. Many problems should never become " complaints," and vice versa. Most can be solved on the spot with a modicum of grace and complicity. " Could you ask the pilot to turn up the air-conditioning?" Or "Do you have a quieter room?" Sending back a steak or a corked bottle of wine is an art form that can deliver dividends.

But for serious complaints -- flight cancellations, lost luggage, overcharging or hours spent stranded on runway without food or drink- - it is often tough and time-consuming to get redress.

Help is at hand at, where travelers can file complaints directly to such official organizations as the Department of transportation in United States, airlines, hotels, car rental companies, cruise lines, tour operators, even individuals. files complaints direct to selected parties and e-mail the traveler with a receipt once their message has been forwarded. The site enables you to research your rights and gives advice on how to articulate a complaint. The site claims to have processed more than one million complaints since it was born in April 1999. The transportation Department admits that the site was responsible for a third of the complaints filed in September last year.

Arduous Process

Pamela Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Web site in Maitland, Florida, says: "DOT...

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