Assignment Eight: Business Letters
Read Gerson & Gerson, chapter 6 for the important basics of business letters. Pay special attention to essential components, bad-news letters, adjustment letters and complaint letters. Then write an indirect claim letter.
We write claim letters (sometimes called a complaint or adjustment letter) when a product or service doesn't please us. If you've paid the exterminator $350. and your house still has fleas, you might want to write a claim letter. Your assignment calls for you to write an INDIRECT CLAIM letter, as well as a refusal to that claim.
A SAMPLE CLAIM LETTER
Dear Capt. Hollingsworth:
This letter is being written to inform you that I am making a claim against you. If I do not receive complete and immediate satisfaction, I shall take out full page advertisements in the New York and London newspapers warning passengers of your gross ineptitude.
Your idiocy has cost me the following items: 5 suits of clothes $184.39 1 Rolex watch $934.97 1 cardboard shoe box $ .15 1 pair prescription glasses $123.55 1 bottle Old Mariner scotch $ 47.99.
In addition, I have suffered grave mental anguish (therapy bills for $4,877), and you caused me to miss sales meetings in which I expected to earn $9,329. I have enclosed receipts for all of the items listed above, and also included are sworn affidavits from my business associates and my psychiatrists. Testimony is given therein as to the extent of my internal malaise and financial loss.
You will remember that on the night of April 15 of this year your ship, the Titanic, struck an iceberg and sank; it was in this accident that I was so grievously wronged. At the time of the accident, I was playing roulette in the Starboard Lounge, and I was doing quite well, I might add. Black 16 has always been kind to me. Anyway, when the accident occurred, I was forced to run nearly the length of the ship to secure a place on a lifeboat. In that frantic dash, I turned my ankle while kicking slow-moving children out of my way, and in my haste, I more than once spilled my drink. So I am adding a claim of $53.83 to my bill, the cost of an ankle brace and a new martini.
P. L. Otter
We write a refusal letter when we believe that a claim should not be honored. Some claims are simply without merit, and some ask for more than we're willing to give. The refusal is tricky; it should say NO, but it should also be friendly, positive, helpful, and it should leave readers feeling as though they've been treated fairly.
A SAMPLE REFUSAL LETTER
Dear Mr. Otter:
Claims such as yours deserve our swiftest attention, and when we received your letter, our investigators were summoned immediately. According to your letter, our negligence deprived you of personal effects, mental and physical health and business success. Our goal is for all of our passengers to enjoy a relaxing and pleasant voyage, and we were deeply saddened and embarrassed by the incident involving the Titanic.
Our agents in England have examined the ship's manifest on file in Southampton, and there is no record of you ever boarding the Titanic, and when our Stateside agents met with one Mrs. Camillia Philby, proprietress of the Breevoort Hotel on Bleeker St. in New York, it was discovered that you have been constantly housed there since January of this year. Mrs. Philby also supplied us with a weekly guest register with your signature. It appears to us unlikely that you could have been aboard the Titanic, and our belief is that trickery for profit is being conducted.
While we are forced to dismiss your claim as fraudulent, let me remind you that White Star Shipping has a fleet of over 70 ships (including 23 passenger vessels), all of which are at your service. Because a gentleman of your occupation may find it necessary to import or export sensitive cargo or make a hasty withdrawal from the country, I have enclosed for your convenience a detailed schedule of shipping dates and times. If I may assist you with reservations or be of further service to you, please write.
Yours Truly,Ernie Hollingsworth
Capt. Ernest Hollingsworth
Write an indirect claim letter in which you ask for something: a new product, a discount on a new one, a repair. You should argue from a weak position; you've contributed to the problem or the warranty is expired, or something, but you do believe the company bears some responsibility. Be specific about what you want. Then write a refusal to your own claim, educating and persuading the reader. Remember that you may still want his or her business. Both letters must be in full block format.
Please compose both letters in the same word processing file, and please send them in a single attachment.
Skill of the Week: The "You-Attitude"
People are selfish. To succeed and prosper, we consider issues and make decisions based on our own points of view, our own interests, our own beliefs, our own ideals. And at the same time we're selfishly looking after our own interests, everyone else is being selfish too.
In business writing, always keep the readers' needs in mind. Be sensitive and respectful as you consider their situations. In the long run, your readers will return your respect, and you'll be able to accomplish much more.
When you write the claim and refusal letters, think about what readers want. Complaint officers may get 100 abusive letters and calls every day. A polite letter will get a much fairer hearing. And if you look like a promising customer, the company will have an interest in helping you.
The writer of a good refusal letter keeps in mind the fact that a disappointed reader probably won't be a repeat customer, and if you can make readers believe they were given fair hearing and give sound reasons for the refusal, you'll do better.
As my grandmother would say, "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar!
Comments on the claim letter:
Letter should contain addresses and date. See p. 150 Gerson & Gerson for examples.
Author is stating the obvious: of course he's writing a letter.
Never begin with threats or insults: they just alienate your audience.
The itemized list is good, but a column (with total) would be better.
Don't add more information! This should be in the list.
And we don't yet know any of the
details of the claim.
Finally we understand what happened! Too much incidental detail here though.
No action ending! Make a specific request and name a date: "Send me $3295 by May 15."
Comments on the refusal:
Proper placement of addresses and date for full block format.
The author took immediate and positive action to investigate the claim. Regardless of outcome, the reader will believe s/he was treated fairly.
The steps of the investigation are described thoroughly and actively, but this is an awfully long sentence.
"It was discovered" and "trickery is being conducted" are in passive voice; usually avoid the passive, but when assigning blame (in this case making accusations) passive voice is a good idea.
The refusal itself is almost hidden. The reasons speak for themselves.
The letter ends with something helpful: information which could help Otter (and which could lead to business for Hollingsworth).
Signature is present.