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Complaining Your Way to a Refund

by Susan Finch

Sep 16, 2019

© Finallast | Dreamstime

Tips / Other

When everything goes wrong on vacation, it’s tempting to just complain about it on social media and ruminate over the details for a few weeks. But when high emotions give way to the daily routine, you’re left with bitter travel memories. Venting to friends and family might earn some sympathy, but complaining is only effective if you turn it into a strategy leading to a resolution.


Hotels and airlines are surprisingly open to offering discounts, vouchers and full refunds, but only if you move up the customer service chain. Emailing a general customer service account usually works best to kick off your strategy. If that doesn’t yield results, look for supervisors on LinkedIn or do some Google sleuthing to find contact information.


Complaining on social media isn’t usually effective, as they’re likely to respond and ask you to send your details over or call them to resolve the matter. Of course, if your travel issue has gone viral, they’re likely to respond to anything you say over social media. Contact the airline or hotel, and describe in detail what happened in as calm a manner possible. Keep your emotions under wraps and stick to the facts and explain why the mistake impacted your vacation. Then ask for some kind of compensation for your troubles. I’ve gotten $100 Amazon gift cards, airport meal vouchers, complete refunds and discounts when flights and service have gone sour.


In my personal experience, car rentals are more reluctant and stingier about any refunds or discounts. On a particular trip to Cleveland, a rental car company sent me off with a busted tail light that I should have noticed before we left the parking lot. But the tags on the plates were also expired and we were pulled over by the police; who were nice enough to let us go without a citation. But the ordeal required returning the car to the airport to get another one. I asked for a full refund but only expected them to trim a day off of my bill. That’s ultimately what I received, and I accepted it graciously.


Tours, restaurants and other hospitality businesses are usually open to some kind of compensation or refund as well. Just like any complaint, you should detail it in writing and stay calm and specific. I’m also a big believer that complaining should be done with integrity. I don’t look for any reason to complain about my way to a refund. I only employ these strategies when my travels were significantly impacted by someone else’s mistake, and I ask for what I feel is reasonable.




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