Many many summers ago (I think I was 11), my mother -- in an attempt to get me off her back while getting me to exercise my writing muscles -- encouraged me to start writing letters to companies when something wasn't right. In other words, she had me cash in on those "Satisfaction Guaranteed" promises on most product packaging. That summer, I wrote a couple letters, but the only one I remember now was regarding a bag of cheese curls that had nasty clumps of cheese in it. I never sent the letter. (Even then I had trouble with staying on-task due to perfectionism.) Still, it stuck with me that those customer service numbers and addresses are there for a reason. Since then, if I've had an issue with a product or service, I have (in most cases at least) taken the 5-15 minutes to write a quick, concise, and polite letter to the company in question. It is rare that I don't at least get an apology back with a "thanks for letting us know," but in many cases the company will do what they can to make it up to me. This has earned me beaucoup refunds/credits and freebies.
Today was one such instance. For taking the time to "complain" about a 69-cent pepperoni stick, I received a box full of probably over $20 (retail) of the company's "meat snacks." I laughed when I picked up the box at the post office. I really wasn't expecting anything except maybe a coupon for a freebie. It felt like I won something.
Granted "meat snacks" may not be everyone's thing (rarely are mine, but DH will enjoy them). But around Valentine's Day my mom had a stinky experience at a high-end ice cream store -- you know, where they make the ice cream there and prep it on a marble slab. *I* reminded *her* that they had customer service for a reason... she contacted them online and received a certificate for a free waffle cone (and another for $3 off a cake) in addition to apologies from both the corporation and the store manager.
Perhaps our time is worth more than the reimbursements, etc. But when it takes only 15 minutes to write and send an email or letter, getting the complaint off your chest makes it time well spent. The compensation is icing.
(Give it a go -- just remember to be nice. No one likes dealing with a venomous a-hole.)