Complaining


Complaining
Phrases for Complaining
Ideally we aim to be polite in English even when we are complaining. This is especially true because unlike other languages we do not have a formal version of "YOU", 2nd person singular/plural.

I think...
Using "I think..." means you are presenting just an opinion not a fact. Allowing room for both you and them to be wrong.
  • Oh, I think you gave me the wrong change.
  • I am sorry, I think I ordered the pasta without the tomato sauce.
I am pretty sure...
Using phrases like "I am pretty sure..." allow you to express facts without being too direct.
  • I am pretty sure we booked a double room with a balcony.
  • If I remember correctly we were told at the time of booking that...
  • I believe I gave you a 20 pound note, not a 10 pound note.
Excuse me...
We often try to introduce the complaint with an apology or an 'excuse me' or both!
Apologising before a complaint may seem illogical, but it is considered standard and not 'weak'.
  • I'm sorry, we ordered the meat well done.
  • Excuse me, we have been waiting for half an hour now.
  • Hello, excuse me, I am afraid the car you rented us has a problem with the lights.
There is a problem with...
We often use 'a problem' to introduce the complaint.
  • Sorry? We have a problem with our order.
  • Excuse me, there is a problem with our room.
  • I am afraid there is a problem with this...
    • This allows the staff to give your their attention and then you can explain more calmly the problem in detail.
Oh I am terribly sorry...
When replying to a complaint it is customary to automatically apologise, even if the customer is not correct.
  • I'm terribly sorry, I will speak to the kitchen staff immediately.
  • I apologise, I will send someone to your room as soon as possible.
  • I am sorry for your inconvenience, I will see what I can do about it.
  • I am awfully sorry, however as it says in our terms and conditions we cannot/do not...
  • That is a shame, I apologise. Unfortunately, however, we are unable to change it. I am very sorry, it is part of our rules.
Perhaps you might have...
Both sides of the discussion may present ideas with modals to not seem too direct and also to add a touch of formality.
  • I am sorry, I think you may have misheard our order.
  • I apologise for your delay, however you could have informed us you were coming earlier.
  • Excuse me, I think you might have put us in the wrong room.