By Lisa Shroder
Here are Web sites where you can complain. Some offer advice and links on how to go about it. Others provide a forum, with stories from customers. A few offer help and mediation for free or a price.
This site was founded in 2000 by Matthew Smith of Chicago.
What’s on it: A database of complaints you can browse by company name or date. You can also post your complaints and view company responses. It also links to articles about complaints. A fairly bare-bones site.
What it does: Posts your complaints on the site. They may then be indexed by Google, Yahoo!, and other search engines. The site says that if you put the company’s e-mail address in the body of your message and instruct Complaints.com to forward it to the company, it will do so.
Fee: none; the site is financed by advertisements.
This site—formerly based in DC and now in Columbus, Ohio—was founded in 2002 by lawyer Carl Shoolman, who was looking for a better way to handle class-action lawsuits.
What’s on it: A lot of testimonials, tips, and a searchable database of complaints and responses. Lists companies that have responded well to letters and those that haven’t.
What it does: Promises to send all the letters and make all the phone calls it takes to resolve your problem. However, it doesn’t offer legal advice or otherwise practice law.
Fee: $43 per complaint; it may charge more if it saves you more than $500.
Drive-You-Nuts.com was founded in 2001 by Ron and Lorie Rosenberg of QualityTalk, a North Carolina consulting firm.
What’s on it: Hall of Fame (kudos to companies), Hall of Shame (complaints), Question of the Week, and Success Stories as well as sample letters, phone scripts, check lists, and an article archive. You have to join to access all of that.
What it does: Offers all of the above plus a newsletter and access to an expert to help resolve your problem.
Fee: $29.95 a year; various rates for businesses.
Fight Back! (fightback.com)
FightBack! was founded in the early 1990s by consumer reporter David Horowitz.
What’s on it: Links to Horowitz’s column and radio broadcasts, a forum of complaints, success stories you can search by company name, an “ask David” feature, a list of recalls and warnings, links to consumer organizations, and a complaint form. One of the most sophisticated sites.
What it does: If Horowitz deems your complaint right for his service, he’ll talk to you by phone and offer suggestions and resources for resolving your problem. Your complaint may be posted on the Web site.
Fee: $50 per complaint; one of the few ad-free sites.
This site, based in Chicago, was started in 2000 by entrepreneur Max Spankie after he had a bad experience with a rental-car company.
What’s on it: Company ratings by visitors, contact information for various companies to help you complain, links to complaints about the most-talked-about companies, consumer recalls, and other news.
What it does: Allows you to post your review of a company, which then appears under various search engines.
Fee: none; financed by ads.
Based in Ontario, Canada, TheSqueakyWheel.com was started by Jeff Harris after a dispute with a hotel chain. He initially created a Web page to detail his complaint and placed a visitor counter on it. After the page was made available to several search engines, his complaint was settled.
What’s on it: The site allows viewers to search complaints by type (poor service, rude employees, etc.). It also offers testimonials and a chart comparing itself—favorably—with other online consumer-complaint sites.
What it does: Creates a Web page for your complaint, makes that page available to at least five search engines, and triggers an automatic e-mail to the company every time your complaint is viewed by someone online. It also generates a “support my complaint” message you can forward to friends and family. You can update your page, which stays up for a year unless you ask that it be taken down.
Fee: $5 per complaint.