Beat Bureaucracy

Case Study 3 Writing an effective letter                                    30 minutes

In order to be persuasive (Rule 2), you often have to write a detailed, compelling letter. Read this sample letter first.


Scenario: You lose half a day's pay due to an airline's mistake

You have to fly from Vancouver to Toronto as soon as possible on urgent personal business. On the phone an airline ticket agent tells you that all flights today are fully booked but, if there are no-shows for one particular flight, you could get a stand-by seat if you come to the airport.

You take the afternoon off work, pack quickly and go to the airport. When you get there an airline ticket agent tells you that he is unable to sell you a standby ticket. He says the flight stops in Winnipeg on its way to Toronto and is oversold in Winnipeg. If someone in Winnipeg is entitled to your seat, the airline would have to take you off the flight and put you up in a Winnipeg hotel overnight. It is against policy for him to risk incurring that expense.

You ask why you were told on the phone to come to the airport since it was impossible for you to fly to Toronto that day. The ticket agent tells you that the person you talked to on the phone did not have computer access to the information about the Winnipeg-Toronto leg of the trip because they didn't need that information. You say: “Maybe they don’t usually need that information, but you’re looking at one reason why sometimes they do. Your airline's mistake has cost me half a day’s pay.”

You ask to see his supervisor. He says, with an edge in his voice: “So you won’t accept this from me?” You say no.

The supervisor expresses sympathy with your situation but says that he can't take any action. He gives you the phone number of Northern Airline's Customer Service department and suggests that you call there to lodge your complaint. to see the Bureaucracy Navigator’s letter, which resulted in a compensation payment from the airline.

Exercise

Write a persuasive letter of complaint about this situation using this
outline.

Feedback on your work

Click here to see the Bureaucracy Navigator’s suggestions for this letter.