My godfather lived most of his life alone in a small apartment in San Rafael. As a young man, he had been a champion 6-day bicycle racer. At some point he married but the marriage didn't last long. As a devout catholic, he never re-married. I don't know if the couple ever divorced or not.
By the time I was born, he was past middle age and was kind of the Willie Loman of the family. He had been selling Electrolux vacuum cleaners for all the time I knew him, a door to door salesman.
Because he had no family but us, he always joined our family for every holiday. He would make the trip over from Marin County, and always bought a two pound box of See's candy, which we would pass around after dinner.
I remember he smoked cigars and liked his bourbon, but drinking was not a problem for him. I can still picture him with his ever-present bow tie and crisp white shirt.
(Yes, the gorgeous one in green is yours truly)
As a traveling salesman, Fred had a host of jokes at his disposal. Jokes and wise sayings. Problem was they were always the same jokes and same wise sayings--he didn't update his repertoire all that often. But I loved listening to him tell the same stories over and over again. I really loved that man.
One of his pieces of advice has served me well throughout my life. He was fond of saying "Don't go to the foot when the head can be had," meaning that it does no good to complain to someone who has very little authority and thus probably doesn't really care about customer relations. Instead take your complaint to the highest ranking person and you will get better service.
Over the years I have found this to be true. If you complain to the clerk or the janitor you aren't going to get much satisfaction, but if you complain to the manager and, if possible, go above his/her head to the president of the company, chances are you will get a much better response.
My recent complaint about iced mocha at McDonald's is a good example. The girl had prepared it all wrong -- gave me caramel instead of chocolate, forgot the chocolate syrup in the mix, and flattened the whipped cream down so it looked like a pancake -- and I was disappointed, so I went to the McDonald's web site and filled out their complaint form. Within a week I had an apology from McDonald's Int'l and an assurance that they had conferred with the manager of the location I mentioned. I had a letter of apology from the location, and then a call from the manager, letting me know that my name was at their counter and if I came back I could have a free iced mocha plus any other item on the menu. They also said they were going to make sure that all of their employees were trained in how to properly make an iced mocha (of course now they have replaced them with mocha frappe, but the thought was there!)
My experience has generally been that if you are polite, but honest in your complaint, the manager or president or whatever is going to do whatever s/he can do to regain your confidence as a customer (and more importantly keep your business!).
Back in the early 1970s, I had problem with a Hartz Mountain product--a flea spray that lost its ability to spray after 3 spritzes. A replacement bottle did the same thing. So I wrote to the company and a representative from Hartz Mountain turned up on our doorstep with an apology and a box of all the products Hartz Mountain made. I was very impressed. (Of course THAT spray bottle didn't work any better than the other two, but it was the thought that counted!)
But my finest hour was dinner at John Q's, a fancy restaurant which used to be on top of the Holiday Inn in Sacramento (gone many years now). We took Char there for dinner and everything went wrong. Though we had a reservation, they didn't call us to the table for 45 minutes, our table was at the intersection station of Waiter A and Waiter B and each thought it belonged to the other, so they let us sit there, with no menu as the sun went down. Nobody lit the candle on our table and we sat there in the dark until we were finally able to flag down a waiter. After that, it was one other thing after another that went wrong.
I went home and wrote to the manager of the restaurant. It was my finest hour and I made it funny, but also made sure to list all of the things that had gone wrong. I received a reply from the head chef who said it was the best complaint letter he had ever received and he gave us a $100 gift certificate, which got us dinner for 3 and we even paid a bit out of pocket for wine and dessert, because the meal itself was paid for.
I have always been grateful to Uncle Fred for his wisdom and his bit of advice that I still follow today, though, sadly, in this day and age there are many businesses which just don't seem to care any more and I don't have spectacular success all the time any more. (On restaurant in Davis, for example, had no response to my complaint after not one, but two disasterous experiences--we have not returned there since).
But I do try...and to offset my diligence at writing complaint letters, I am always very careful to write complimentary letters when they are warranted as well. My favorite was a letter to the Denver airport about a girl working in a coffee shop during a time when the airport was closed down because of snow and all the grumpy people whose flights had been delayed came filing into the tiny coffee shop. She was working alone and had a smile and a cheery word for everyone but got them all through efficiently and most of them left with a smile on their face. I was so incredibly impressed. I hope that she knew that someone had thought enough to write a letter on her behalf.
So just remember -- when you are justifiably unsatisfied by something, don't complain to the person who can't (and probably doesn't want to) help you, don't go to the foot when the head can be had.