How to Lodge a Consumer Complaint

In the past on The Simple Dollar, I’ve talked about how to lodge a complaint against a company if you’re truly dissatisfied with a product. I’ve always wanted to do a case study of such a complaint, but I’ve never had an experience severe enough to cause me to get involved.

Until now.

Spring Grove Lemon Sour old and new

Pictured above on the right is a bottle of Spring Grove Lemon Sour soda, made by the Spring Grove Soda Pop Inc. of Spring Grove, MN. It is a small company which only sells their beverages within a 100 mile radius of Spring Grove, MN.

Spring Grove Lemon Sour is, without a doubt, my single favorite soda in the world. It has a sublime fizzy taste that mixes the sour of a ripe lemon with just a hint of sweetness. It is the only kind of soda I drink with any consistency. Every three months or so, when we visit family within the Spring Grove Soda distribution area, we stock up, buying several packs to take home with us.

Over the past weekend, we were driving home from a wedding in Wisconsin when we stopped at an IGA in La Crescent, MN for diaper changes and bathroom breaks. While there, we decided to stock up on the Lemon Sour, but when we found it, the Lemon Sour had drastically changed.

Let’s see that photo again.

Spring Grove Lemon Sour old and new

On the right is a bottle of the Lemon Sour I’ve known and loved for years. Notice the white color. On the left is what we purchased in La Crescent, MN a few days ago. Notice the yellow color.

It wasn’t the color change that was the problem, though. The flavor of the one soda in the world I really enjoyed had completely changed. It went from a sublime fizzy lemony sour flavor with just a hint of sweetness to something that tasted like watered-down Mountain Dew.

Needless to say, I was extremely unhappy with my purchase. I gave bottles of the “new” Lemon Sour to a few people in the area who had yet to try it and the reaction was universally negative. What happened to a wonderfully distinct local brand?

I decided this was the perfect opportunity to put everything I had learned about registering consumer complaints to the test.

Consumer Complaint Tactics

Call The Company

I placed a phone call to their customer support line at (507) 498-3424 (found on the contact us page of their website). I simply stated that I was unhappy with the change in formulation. The kind lady I talked to said I was not the first person to call about this and that they were fully aware of some unhappy customers, which bodes well for some type of resolution.

Why do this? It’s a direct and immediate way to let the company know what you think of the product. It only takes a few minutes and can be done from virtually anywhere.

Mail (and/or Fax) a Letter

I wrote a letter to Spring Grove Soda Pop Inc. Here is the text of that letter.

Dear sir or madam,

I have been a long time fan of your Lemon Sour soda beverage. It is the only soda that I happily drink with any regularity and it is a constant part of my pantry. Although I do not live in your distribution area, I visit several times a year and each time pick up multiple cases of Lemon Sour.

On June 26, 2010, I visited an IGA in La Crescent, MN to purchase an allotment of Lemon Sour to take home with me. I discovered that Lemon Sour had been reformulated. It now had a yellowish color (compared to the original white color). When I tasted it, I was very disappointed. I discovered that the wonderful fizzy sour (with a touch of sweet) flavor I had come to love over the years had been replaced with an overly sweet imitation of Mountain Dew.

I do understand why you may be selling the new beverage as its sweetness may be more attractive to some soda drinkers. However, I implore you to bring back the original flavor of Lemon Sour. I will not be buying the new formulation. I also have many friends and family members within your distribution area who are also disappointed with the change.

Perhaps you can continue making the new flavor and distribute it as well under a new name while bringing back the original Lemon Sour flavor and formulation.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

If you’d also like to write a letter, their mailing address is:
Spring Grove Soda Pop, Inc.
215 2nd Ave NW
PO Box 337
Spring Grove, MN 55974

and their fax number is (507) 498-3424.

Basic style points for writing this letter:

1. Keep the letter short and concise. There’s no reason to be excessively long. A short letter is much more likely to be read.

2. Make the facts clear and straightforward. I stated when and where I purchased the new formulation so that if it was merely a test run, that would be clear to the letter recipient.

3. Suggest a simple resolution. They could continue making the new beverage under a different name (a la New Coke becoming Coke II) and restore the original flavor.

4. Start extremely positively, noting how much you’re enjoyed their product in the past. I am a long time customer and I’ve always been happy with their Lemon Sour flavor.

5. Remain diplomatic and courteous and leave out the sarcasm. They made a business decision that I’m unhappy with. There’s no reason to not be diplomatic about it.

>Why do this? A handwritten letter can provide clear documentation for the company as to the desires of their customer base. Quite often, diplomatic handwritten letters from people who have never written before can get the serious attention of the company in question.

Start a Facebook Fan Page

I started a Facebook fan page entitled Bring Back the Original Spring Grove Lemon Sour! and encouraged people I know from that area on Facebook to join the group. I posted basic information about the change and will let people know anything I find out about reverting back to the original formula using that group. If the group picks up a lot of fans, I’ll send a link to the group to the folks at Spring Grove Soda as encouragement for reverting to the old formula.

One key is to use this type of platform to share methods of contacting the company, such as providing their phone number and their mailing address, to people who might also register a complaint.

Why do this? It allows a person to collect a list and a count of people who agree with the sentiment as well as distributing methods of giving the company feedback. If this page (with a number of fans attached to it) is sent to the marketing director of a company, raw numbers like this can make a convincing case that a lot of customers care about the product and want to see changes.

Write About It Publicly

Well, frankly, you’re reading it. I don’t have access to a much more public place than The Simple Dollar, with hundreds of thousands of readers. I’m almost positive that at least some readers out there have tried Spring Grove Lemon Sour in the past and, hopefully, are also disappointed in the change or are at least aware of it. Such information may encourage them to take action as well.

Why do this? It spreads the word in an extremely public fashion. While I am lucky enough to have a very public platform to use, almost everyone has access to at least some sort of platform to write publicly about it. Start a blog or write a guest entry for a blog like Consumerist. Use fan messageboards. You can start a Facebook fan page, as I did above, if you have no other platform available to you.

Will Lodging a Complaint Work?

My plan is to give it a month or so and see what happens with my various methods of lodging a complaint about this change. Let’s consider this a test case in how to lodge a consumer complaint. In a month, I’ll report back to you with notes on the success and failure of the various tactics tried.

If you’re upset by the change to Spring Grove Soda, please feel free to use any of the information above to contact Spring Grove Soda and express your unhappiness with this formula alteration. You can copy and paste anything from above, but I encourage you to alter it enough so that it can appear distinctive and reflect your own feelings on the matter.

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