The FCC occasionally receives complaints from consumers about broadcast advertising. These complaints concern a wide variety of issues, including:
The nature of the products being advertised
The timing of certain ads
Commercials believed to be indecent or in poor taste
False and misleading advertisements
Are there laws that limit material stations can broadcast?
Stations are restricted from broadcasting material that promotes certain lotteries; advertises cigarettes, little cigars or smokeless tobacco products; or perpetuates a fraud. Some advertisements also may violate regulations that fall under the jurisdiction of other federal agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration or the Federal Trade Commission.
Additionally, federal laws prohibit or limit obscene, indecent or profane language. Obscene broadcasts are prohibited at all times, while indecent or profane broadcasts are prohibited during certain hours. For more information, see our guide on Obscene, Indecent and Profane Broadcasts.
What if I think a specific ad is false or misleading?
Broadcasters are responsible for selecting the broadcast material that airs on their stations, including advertisements. The FCC expects broadcasters to be responsible to the community they serve and act with reasonable care to ensure that advertisements aired on their stations are not false or misleading.
The FTC has primary responsibility for determining whether specific advertising is false or misleading, and for taking action against the sponsors of such material. You can file a complaint with the FTC online or call toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
You’ve probably heard the advice to stop complaining. However, complaining can be a powerful means for achieving important ends. That is, it can help you to change unsatisfying situations and to get what you want.
Instead of making a resolution to stop complaining, what you need to do is the following:
Stop complaining about things you can do nothing about.
Stop complaining simply as a way to let off steam and vent your frustrations.
When a situation warrants a complaint, make sure that you complain effectively.
There are many situations in which complaining can lead to positive results. Here are three examples:
You purchased a product which is not working as advertised and you want a refund.
You have a co-worker who’s constantly taking credit for your ideas, and you want their behavior to stop.
Your significant other is usually running late, so you regularly miss the start of movies, lose your dinner reservations, keep your friends waiting, and so on. You want them to learn how to better manage their time so that they’ll stop making you late for everything.
In this post you’ll discover how to complain effectively so that you can get what you want. When you’re going to complain, make sure that you follow these seven principles:
Be Specific About the Issue that You Want to Address
Be Very Clear On What You Want to Achieve
Make Sure that You’re Complaining to the Right Person
Take the Emotion Out of It
Use the Sandwich Approach
Try to Make It a Win-Win Situation
Each of these principles is explained below.
Be Specific About the Issue That You Want to Address
When you’re going to complain you need to be very specific about what it is that you’re complaining about. Exactly what is it that’s bothering you or making you unhappy? Be direct.
In addition, address one complaint at a time. For example, if you’re going to complain to your spouse because you feel that they’re not doing their fair share of the housework, don’t muddy up the waters by adding other issues to your complaint. There may be other issues on your mind, but right now you’re just going to address the housework issue.
Be Very Clear On What You Want to Achieve
Before voicing your dissatisfaction, you need to be very clear on exactly what it is that you want to achieve by complaining. That is, you need to have a goal. What has to happen in order to make you feel that the issue has been resolved to your satisfaction?
Here are some examples of goals that you could set when voicing a complaint:
Get a refund.
Get a replacement.
Get a discount.
Get the other person to take a specific action.
Get an apology.
Draw up a game plan on how to prevent the situation that’s bothering you from happening again in the future.
Keep in mind that you need to make sure that what you’re asking for is realistic.
Make Sure That You’re Complaining to the Right Person
In order to achieve a positive result from your complaint, you need to make sure that you’re complaining to the right person. Once you’ve decided what you want to achieve by complaining, find out who has the authority to give it to you. Try asking the following: “Who do I need to talk to in order to . . . ?”
Take the Emotion Out of It
When there’s an issue which you feel warrants a complaint, it’s very likely that there are negative emotions surrounding the issue. For example:
You’re frustrated over the fact that the shoes that you bought online are the wrong color.
You’re angry because your neighbor’s dog keeps waking you up at night with all that barking.
You’re sick and tired of finding the sink overflowing with your roommate’s dirty dishes.
If you become overly emotional while you’re voicing your complaint, it’s less likely that you’ll get what you want. You don’t want the other person to feel like they’re being attacked, because that will make them defensive. Then, instead of thinking of ways to help you resolve your complaint, they’ll be thinking of ways to escape from your emotional barrage.
The best way to prevent your emotions from overwhelming you is to pretend that you’ve been hired to resolve the issue at hand for someone else. By taking a third person perspective you’ll be getting some distance from the problem so that you can look at it objectively, and so that you won’t take things so personally.
In order to make your communication as effective as possible, adhere to these four guidelines:
Don’t raise your voice.
Make your tone as civil as possible.
Don’t be aggressive or insulting.
Be prepared with any facts or data that will back up your complaint. Here are some examples:
Have your sales receipt at hand.
Gather any evidence that proves your claim.
Be ready with any documents you might need.
Being armed with knowledge gives you authority and makes it more likely that your complaint will be taken seriously.
Use the Sandwich Approach
You’ve probably heard of the sandwich approach when it comes to giving others criticism:
Say something positive.
State your criticism.
End on an encouraging note.
That is, you place the criticism between two positive communications. Guy Winch, Ph.D., author of The Squeaky Wheel: Complaining the Right Way to Get Results, Improve Your Relationships and Enhance Self-Esteem, recommends that you apply the same approach in order to complain effectively.
For example, suppose that you and your significant other have decided to move in together. You notice that they keep leaving their used tea bags on the kitchen counter instead of throwing them in the trash. Here’s how to complain effectively about the tea bags by using the sandwich approach:
Initiate the conversation by saying something positive, such as the following: “I’m so happy that we’ve moved in together, and that we’re both looking for ways to accommodate each other’s needs.”
The meat of the sandwich is your complaint: “I did want to talk to you about your tea bags. I’ve noticed that you leave them on the counter after you’ve made your tea, and I would like to ask you to toss them in the garbage can instead.”
End the conversation by saying something encouraging: “I really want us to continue finding ways to turn this apartment into a warm, inviting home for both of us.”
Try to Make It a Win-Win Situation
I’ve already written before about the TV showFrasier. Frasier is about Seattle radio psychologist Dr. Frasier Crane. In Episode 7 of Season 5, Frasier is in a store trying to return a purse he bought for his producer, Roz, which she didn’t like. Here’s the exchange between Frasier and the sales lady:
Frasier: Hello. I’d like to return this purse.
Sales Lady: I’m terribly sorry but this was a sale item and we have a no-return policy.
Frasier makes another effort to get a refund for the purse, but is unsuccessful. A woman shopper overhears the exchange between Frasier and the sales lady and she comes to Frasier’s aid (the woman’s name is Samantha):
Samantha: Ah, look, [reads the sales lady’s badge] Jill, we’re all reasonable people here, why don’t you just give this nice gentleman a store credit.
Sales Lady: Look, I don’t make the rules.
Samantha: Yes, but a shrewd saleswoman such as yourself knows that this business isn’t about rules, it’s about relationships. Now, look at this man, cultured, impeccably dressed, well-to-do, exactly the sort of man you’d love to have a relationship with… Now, there’s only one thing standing in the way of that relationship, Jill, he’s not happy with his purse.
Frasier: [interrupting] It’s not MY purse.
Samantha: Maybe his purse was the wrong color, maybe it didn’t hold enough.
Frasier: [laughing off other people’s glances] It’s not my purse.
Samantha: The thing is, if this man walks away today unhappy, he may never shop here again, and who knows what he might have bought in the future; scarves, gloves, hosiery! The choice is yours, Jill, the commission that comes from a lifelong relationship or the hollow satisfaction of knowing you followed the rules!
Sales Lady: Okay, I’ll go get the forms.
As Frasier thanks Samantha for helping him out, she adds: “the secret is persistence”. Of course, the real secret is that Samantha helped the sales lady to see how she would also benefit by helping Frasier to resolve his complaint in a satisfactory manner.
You’re more likely to achieve a positive result when you complain if you can frame your request as a win-win for you and for them.
Complaining can be a powerful tool for living your best life and getting what you want. However, you have to make sure that when you complain, you do so effectively. Start complaining effectively by applying the seven principles explained above.
Research shows that most people complain once a minute during a typical conversation. Complaining is tempting because it feels good, but like many other things that are enjoyablesuch as smoking or eating a pound of bacon for breakfastcomplaining isn’t good for you.
Your brain loves efficiency and doesn’t like to work any harder than it has to. When you repeat a behavior, such as complaining, your neurons branch out to each other to ease the flow of information. This makes it much easier to repeat that behavior in the futureso easy, in fact, that you might not even realize you’re doing it.
You can’t blame your brain. Who’d want to build a temporary bridge every time you need to cross a river? It makes a lot more sense to construct a permanent bridge. So, your neurons grow closer together, and the connections between them become more permanent. Scientists like to describe this process as, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”
Repeated complaining rewires your brain to make future complaining more likely. Over time, you find it’s easier to be negative than to be positive, regardless of what’s happening around you. Complaining becomes your default behavior, which changes how people perceive you.
And here’s the kicker: complaining damages other areas of your brain as well. Research from Stanford University has shown that complaining shrinks the hippocampusan area of the brain that’s critical to problem solving and intelligent thought. Damage to the hippocampus is scary, especially when you consider that it’s one of the primary brain areas destroyed by Alzheimer’s.
Complaining Is Also Bad for Your Health
While it’s not an exaggeration to say that complaining leads to brain damage, it doesn’t stop there. When you complain, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol shifts you into fight-or-flight mode, directing oxygen, blood, and energy away from everything but the systems that are essential to immediate survival. One effect of cortisol, for example, is to raise your blood pressure and blood sugar so that you’ll be prepared to either escape or defend yourself.
All the extra cortisol released by frequent complaining impairs your immune system and makes you more susceptible to high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. It even makes the brain more vulnerable to strokes.
It’s Not Just You…
Since human beings are inherently social, our brains naturally and unconsciously mimic the moods of those around us, particularly people we spend a great deal of time with. This process is called neuronal mirroring, and it’s the basis for our ability to feel empathy. The flip side, however, is that it makes complaining a lot like smokingyou don’t have to do it yourself to suffer the ill effects. You need to be cautious about spending time with people who complain about everything. Complainers want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. Think of it this way: If a person were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with complainers.
The Solution to Complaining
There are two things you can do when you feel the need to complain. One is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. That is, when you feel like complaining, shift your attention to something that you’re grateful for. Taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful for isn’t merely the right thing to do; it reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23%. Research conducted at the University of California, Davis, found that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood and energy and substantially less anxiety due to lower cortisol levels. Any time you experience negative or pessimistic thoughts, use this as a cue to shift gears and to think about something positive. In time, a positive attitude will become a way of life.
The second thing you can doand only when you have something that is truly worth complaining aboutis to engage in solution-oriented complaining. Think of it as complaining with a purpose. Solution-oriented complaining should do the following:
Have a clear purpose. Before complaining, know what outcome you’re looking for. If you can’t identify a purpose, there’s a good chance you just want to complain for its own sake, and that’s the kind of complaining you should nip in the bud.
Start with something positive. It may seem counterintuitive to start a complaint with a compliment, but starting with a positive helps keep the other person from getting defensive. For example, before launching into a complaint about poor customer service, you could say something like, “I’ve been a customer for a very long time and have always been thrilled with your service…”
Be specific. When you’re complaining it’s not a good time to dredge up every minor annoyance from the past 20 years. Just address the current situation and be as specific as possible. Instead of saying, “Your employee was rude to me,” describe specifically what the employee did that seemed rude.
End on a positive. If you end your complaint with, “I’m never shopping here again,” the person who’s listening has no motivation to act on your complaint. In that case, you’re just venting, or complaining with no purpose other than to complain. Instead, restate your purpose, as well as your hope that the desired result can be achieved, for example, “I’d like to work this out so that we can keep our business relationship intact.”
Bringing It All Together
Just like smoking, drinking too much, and lying on the couch watching TV all day, complaining is bad for you. Put my advice to use, and you’ll reap the physical, mental, and performance benefits that come with a positive frame of mind.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Travis Bradberry, Ph.D.
Dr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning coauthor of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and the cofounder of TalentSmart® the world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence tests and training serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries.
Dr. Bradberry is a LinkedIn Influencer and a regular contributor to Forbes, Inc., Entrepreneur, The World Economic Forum, and The Huffington Post. He has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Fast Company, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review.
A man with a bald head and a wooden leg gets invited to a hallowe’en party. He doesn’t know what costume to wear to hide his head and his leg so he writes to a fancy dress company to explain the problem. A few days later he receives a parcel with a note. “Dear Sir, please find enclosed a pirates outfit. The spotted handkerchief will cover your bald head and with your wooden leg you will be just right as a pirate.” The man thinks this is terrible because they have just emphasized his wooden leg and so he writes a really rude letter of complaint. A week passes and he receives another parcel and a note which says: “Dear Sir, sorry about before, please find enclosed a monks habit. The long robe will cover your wooden leg and with your bald head you will really look the part.” Now the man is really annoyed since they have gone from emphasizing his wooden leg to emphasizing his bald head and he writes the company a scathing letter of complaint. The more…
The complaint letter from Judi: We Blonde jokes at the ofise are tired of all the the dum stoopid jokes about us. We think this is hairassment. It causes us grate stress and makes our roots turn dark. We have hired a loyer and he is talking to the loyers at Clairol. We will take this all the way to the supream cort if we have two. Juj Thomas knos all about hairassment and he will be on are side. We have also talked to the govner to make a new law to stop this pursicushun. We want a law that makes peepol tell brewnet jokes as much as blond jokes and every so often a red head joke. If we don’t get our way we will not date anybody that ain’t blond and we will make up jokes about you and we will laff. Sined by the Blonde jokes at the ofise (sine with a penseel so you can erace it if you make a mistake)
A man with a bald head and a wooden leg gets invited to a hallowe’en party. He doesn’t know what costume to wear to hide his head and his leg so he writes to a fancy dress company to explain the problem.A few days later he receives a parcel with a note. “Dear Sir, please find enclosed a pirates outfit. The spotted handkerchief will cover your bald head and with your wooden leg you will be just right as a pirate.”The man thinks this is terrible because they have just emphasized his wooden leg and so he writes a really rude letter of complaint.A week passes and he receives another parcel and a note which says: “Dear Sir, sorry about before, please find enclosed a monks habit. The long robe will cover your wooden leg and with your bald head you will really look the part.”Now the man is really annoyed since they have gone from emphasizing his wooden leg to emphasizing his bald head and he writes the company a scathing letter of complaint.The next day he receives a more…
After examining his seventy-five year old patient, the doctor said, “You’re in remarkable shape for a man your age.” “Yes, I know,” said the old gentleman. “I have only one complaint. My sex drive is too high. Is there anything you can do for that, Doc?” “Your what?!” gasped the doctor. “My sex drive,” said the old man. “It’s too high, and I’d like to have you lower it if you can.” “Lower it?!” the doctor exclaimed, still unable to believe what the seventy-five year old gentleman was saying. “Just what do you consider ‘high’?” “These days it seems like it’s all in my head, Doc,” said the old man, “and I’d like to have you lower it a couple of feet if you can.”
One day a man has a terrible stomach complaint and goes along to see his doctor. The doctor tells him that he is very ill, but that he can cure his condition with a course of suppositories inserted deep into his rectum every 6 hours. “Right” says the doctor, “bend over and I’ll do the first one for you.” The man bends down and the doctor deposited the suppository. He then gives the man his course and sends him home. At home 6 hours later the man realises that he can’t stick the supposiory far enough up, by himself, so he asks his wife to help him insert the slippery bullet. After explaining to her what to do, the man bends over. His wife puts one hand on her husband’s shoulder to brace herself and thrusts really hard. To her horror the man lets out a blood curdling scream. “My God” she cries. “What’s the matter? Did I hurt you?” “No” replies the man. “But I have just realised that when the doctor did it, he had more…
Scooters, scooters, scooters – it seems like that’s all us city-dwellers have heard about these past 3 years.
Since the inception of rental scooters in Santa Monica in 2017, more and more companies have thrown their hats into the ring, resulting in intense competition. Through this brand rivalry, many of the scooter-centric companies have gone bust, including the most recent shut-down, Unicorn.
Unicorn is a newer brand of electric scooters, under the brand name Unicorn Rides. The supposed up-and-coming scooter company was created by well-known tech CEO, Nick Evans, the maker of the ever-popular tracking device, Tile.
Unicorn was meant to be a product that wowed customers, with special bells and whistles not seen before with other scooter brands. The company boasted a unique, rugged and waterproof battery, enhanced motor output for riding through hilly areas, an integrated smartphone app, and even extra storage for grocery shopping and other errands.
But when Unicorn sent a very worrisome email to a large portion of its customers last week (350 paid-up, un-served customers), it quickly became clear that the company wasn’t going to live up to the hype. In fact, it was obvious that the company wouldn’t live any longer at all.
The gist of the email included an announcement that the company would be shutting down, strictly due to finances. Apparently, the company spent the majority of it’s money on Google and Facebook ads, as well as loan repayments which, they explained, resulted in their inability to fulfill existing orders or refund anyone who had already purchased the $699 device – a huge blow to customers.
In the email, Evans stated that they actually could have continued to press forward with production and fulfillment, and that it may have been enough to fund the business, but they ended up opting against this route as a lack of sales could have resulted in future customer upsets.
In the same email, Evans went on to more deeply explain their money trouble: “Unfortunately, the cost of the ads were just too expensive to build a sustainable business. And as the weather continued to get colder throughout the US and more scooters from other companies came on to the market, it became harder and harder to sell Unicorns, leading to a higher cost for ads and fewer customers.”
This explanation isn’t leaving a better taste in their customers’ mouths though. Buyers like Rebecca Buchholtz are very unhappy, and rightfully so. Buchholtz told The Verge “I am upset he basically robbed everyone of his customers and is closing without delivering any scooters.”
It’s important to mention that Unicorn did not go the typical funding route for its product, either. Instead of just using angel investors and investment firms, Unicorn chose to go a different route – scooter pre-orders. Crowd-funding through pre-orers is not a completely unheard of avenue, though. Unagi Scooters, for example, successfully funded its first campaign for its new scooter (appropriately named Unagi) on Kickstater in 2018, raising over $242K. The main difference here is that Unicorn’s “pre-order” was not through a platform such as Kickstarter, which actually protects buyers from incidents like this.
In his email, Evans alludes that they’re still trying to refund (at least partially) their customers, but he also specifically said that it “looks unlikely”. Their website is still working, but pages like their shipping update and pre-order cancelation pages, which still show up in Google’s search results, are now dead links, resulting in 404 errors. This makes for a pretty clear statement on what’s to happen with the company’s existing customers.
But it’s not over yet! If you are an affected customer of Unicorn’s, don’t fret. Most banks have fraud-protection and buyer-protection, so if you pre-ordered using a credit or debit card, we recommend contacting your bank.
Admit it. Sometimes you just need to whine a bit. Complaining is a natural impulse to experiencing things that we don’t like. Mary gives us a great gift in helping distinguish constructive complaining from destructive complaining. Use her wisdom the next time you feel like whining! – InPower Editors
What’s the difference between these two complaints?
This process is ridiculous! I feel like we are wasting so much time. There has to be a better way for us to work.
Why do the executives change project direction at the 11th hour? Don’t they know they make our lives more difficult?
Complaint #1 sounds like something from a post-mortem – raising awareness of process that needs to be streamlined.
Complaint #2 is about something that cannot be fixed. Sure, executives can be influenced to change, but that’s just not a realistic. No one has control over them changing, which means no one can fix the problem. It’s part of the work environment.
Sometimes we complain to figure out what the true problem is and imagine what a different world could be. I’m guilty of that. Actually, I have built my career on it. I have helped fix call center flows, Website content review processes, launch processes, etc. because I complained about inefficiencies and thought that there had to be a better way.
After taking a step back to look at what I do, you could say I take a 3-step approach to constructive complaining:
I’ll vent about a problem to colleagues and friends. While venting I’m trying to determine what exactly the problem is and looking at it from all angles. Lots of frustration and anger coming out, but it’s to get to the root of what’s really bugging me.
I’ll brainstorm solutions and mull over options to solve the problem.
I’ll discuss the problem and potential solutions with friends and colleagues to get their feedback and additional ideas. Sometimes, they will suggest solutions that I’ve already thought about and discarded for one reason or another. Sometimes, I get some great reasons why I shouldn’t fix something and then I’ll just accept the problem and continue on. I mean if you can’t change the situation, why complain about it, right? However, most times, a solution is defined and problem solved.
This process is usually productive and results in improvements and a lot of new ideas. And during this process, I typically raise awareness of a problem with others and allow the team to provide more solutions. Great for everyone!
Often, whining is constructive complaining in disguise. – via @MFBrodie – Click To Tweet
Destructive Complaining (Whining)
Destructive complaining could be described as complaining about a problem that you and your team cannot solve.
Who will tell an executive to change his behavior?
How can you change the weather?
Can you send out a memo to get people to stop commuting to work at the times you travel there?
Answers to all of those questions are no. They are all destructive complaints.
There are times when whining is constructive complaining in disguise. Maybe you didn’t think something could be fixed, but while you were whining, someone offered an acceptable solution that you never considered? Talk about a twist!
But this is rarely the case. Most whiners reject all solutions provided to them. For example, let’s say someone complains about the company’s logo. You suggest that the person talk to someone in the marketing team, and you provide a name and number. Or go learn about logo design and branding. Or find a designer to create a new one. Every option is rejected and the person continues complaining about the company logo. There is no satisfaction.
Whining is destructive because it not only contributes to a negative work environment, but it simply destroys the brain:
A 2011 research study by Thomas Straube of the University of Muenster and another by Go Okada of Hiroshima University concluded that exposure to negative words impairs the formation of memory associations critical to productive work; research conducted by Stanford University’s Robert Sapolsky shows how stress from negative influences can shrink the hippocampus, the very part of the brain required to solve problems and drive initiatives. So a bitch session isn’t only unproductive, it’s counter-productive, depressing cognitive function and dampening can-do spirit.
Only the whiner can change his or her outlook on life. F. Diane Barth outlined 4 ways to handle whiners and not be drained, but you can’t “fix” them on your own. Whining is a choice. A choice you may not understand, but a choice nevertheless.
Parents can prevent adult whining through conditioning. I think I don’t whine because my mother didn’t tolerate it. As a child, if I started whining for something to eat or drink, she’d tell me to either make a request (go get a solution) or stop. And if I was told no, I could try again, but most times the answer was firm, I had to accept the situation, and stop whining. I lived in a no-whine zone.
Complaining isn’t always horrible. Complaining to find a solution is constructive and can broaden someone’s mind as he considers various solutions. Complaining to complain is destructive – and not only to those listening, but to the whiner himself, and limits his options. To complain or not to complain – it’s a choice that is really up to you. And I choose constructive complaining.
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