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0153 A Complaint Letter to a Tour Company

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 153: A Complaint Letter to a Tour Company.

You’re listening to English as a Second Language Podcast episode 153. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Today’s podcast is called “A Complaint Letter to a Tour Company. Let’s listen!

[start of letter]

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing regarding a tour that my wife and I took with your company on February 26, 2006. The brochure stated that we would see some of the most interesting sights of the city. Since we had visited the city before, we looked forward to seeing some new attractions.

On the morning of February 26, our tour guide picked us up in a small van. It did not look like any tour bus I had ever seen. Our tour guide drove us to the waterfront area and said that we could explore the area on our own. The tour guide said that he had to leave for a short time to arrange for our lunch.

By the time the tour guide came back, three hours had gone by! I was very angry and confronted him. I told him that this was the worst tour I had ever been on.

I am asking for a complete refund of the price of the tour. Please send a check to the address above for $150.00 at your earliest convenience. I have enclosed a copy of the receipt for the tour.

Sincerely,

Kanye East

[end of letter]

We listened to a complaint letter in this podcast. A “complaint letter” (complaint) is a letter that you send a company or organization to tell them that they did something wrong. The verb is “to complain” (complain). And here we have the word “complaint” to describe the letter. Now, this is a tour company – a company that arranges and takes people who are visiting to different places. The letter begins with “To Whom It May Concern:” “To Whom (whom) It May Concern:” – the entire expression is capitalized. So, every word: “To Whom It May Concern” begins with a capital letter. This is what we use in, many times, in a business letter, when we don’t know who to write the letter to. You don’t know if it’s Mr. Smith or Ms. Jones. You don’t have a name of a person to write the letter to. So, what we are saying in “To Whom It May Concern” is to the person who is responsible for what I am talking about in my letter. So, that’s a very common way to open a business letter when you don’t know the person or a person in that particular organization or company. It ends with a colon and we use a colon in a formal business letter, instead of a coma. Even if you know the name and it’s a formal business letter, you would still use a colon – “Dear Dr. Johnson:” If it’s a friendly letter, an informal letter, then we would use a coma – “Dear John,” for example.

Well, the first paragraph of the letter begins by saying, “I am writing regarding a tour that my wife and I took with your company.” That word “regarding” (regarding) means I am writing about something. So, here the word “regarding” just means about. “I want to talk to you regarding the money that is missing from my wallet” – that would be the same as “I want to talk to you about that topic.” It’s a little more formal. It’s a little more common in a business situation to use that word “regarding.” Sometimes in a business letter, you will see the top of the letter will have the address – name and address – of the person you are writing. And then you’ll see a line – a space – and the next line will say, “RE:” and then some short phrase – couple of words. The “RE:” there means “regarding.” So, you’re saying, “Here’s what the subject of this letter is.” It’s sort of like in an email. You have a subject line, where you tell somebody what the subject is, using “RE:” in the top of the letter. It goes between the address and what we call the “salutation” – the greeting. So, here the salutation is, “To Whom It May Concern:” It could be, “Dear Dr. Johnson.” So it goes above that and below the address, and again it means “regarding.”

Well, back to the letter. The letter says that “The brochure for the tour stated that we would see some of the most interesting sights of the city.” The “brochure” (brochure) is a description of the tour. It’s usually on a nice piece of color paper with photographs – that’s a brochure. You can have a brochure for a tour. You can have a brochure for your company to tell people what it is that you do. You can use a brochure for any of those things. The brochure “stated” (stated) – that simply means the brochure “said” – past tense of the verb to state, is to say. “The brochure stated that we would see some of the most interesting sights of the city.” Notice the use of the grammatical construction here, “would see,” meaning because we’re saying stated in the past, we use the verb “would see” here – that word “would” – means that it is thinking about the future but in the past. It’s a little confusing. “He told me he would go to the store.” So, he said that to me yesterday but when he said it to me, he was talking about the future. So, in this sentence it says, “The brochure stated” – in the past – “that we would see” – thinking about the future – “some of the most interesting sights of the city.

A “sight” (sight) is an interesting place. Someone says, “I want to see the sights of Los Angeles” means they want to see the most interesting things in Los Angeles, like the beaches and the Hollywood stars and Jeff McQuillan’s house. You know – all of the famous things. So, the letter continues – “Since we had visited the city before, we looked forward to seeing some new attractions.” “Attractions” (attractions) – an “attraction” is just a famous or interesting place that someone who is visiting would want to see.

Well, the next paragraph begins – “On the morning of February 26.” Notice the use there of “on.” “On the morning of.” We don’t say, “In the morning of.” And the reason is that we are talking about a time during a specific day. “On the evening of July 27th,” “On the afternoon of May 3rd,” “On the morning of February 26th” – that just means in that period of time, but for a specific day. If you say, “In the morning,” you’re usually talking about a specific time. “I am going to leave at 6 o’clock in the morning. But you would not say, “I’m going to leave at 6 o’clock on the morning.” You would say, “In the morning” when there’s a specific time. You would not say, “In the morning of February 26th.” You have to say, “On the morning.”

The letter continues – “Our tour guide picked us up in a small van.” Well, the “tour guide” (guide) is the person who is responsible for the tour, who is giving the tour, who is telling you about all the different sights and attractions. “The tour guide picked us up,” meaning they came with their van or their big car and we got into their car. When you say, “Someone’s going to pick me up,” you mean they’re going to drive over to where you are and take you with them in their car. Now, this is not a car but it’s a “van” (van). And a “van” – it’s like a big car or big truck that you can put many different people in there – five, six, maybe ten people in a big van. Well, the letter says that this van did not look like any tour bus I had ever seen. A “tour bus,” obviously, is a bigger vehicle that you can put many more people in – looks the same as any other kind of bus. “The tour guide drove us down to the waterfront area.” The “waterfront” (waterfront) – all one word – “waterfront” is, of course, down in the area next to some water, like the ocean or a river, or a lake – all of those could have “waterfront.” If someone says to you, “I have waterfront property.” That means they own land near the water – that’s right on or touches whatever water you’re talking about.

Well, the tour guide said that they should explore the area on their own. “To explore” here just means to look around, to go by yourself, and look. “On your own,” means by yourself, without the tour guide. Well, the tour guide then said, he was going to “leave to arrange for our lunch,” meaning to make plans for our lunch. “By the time the tour guide came back, three hours had gone by.” “By the time” – that expression means at the hour, at the time that the tour guide came back. But we use that expression “By the time” when it’s been a long time and we are going to say something – usually often that has a negative outcome – a negative result. “By the time my brother came over to my house, all of the work was already done.” “I asked him to come over and help me, but by the time he got here, the work was finished.” So, we’re using that expression “By the time” with the idea that a long time has gone by - has passed - and something bad has happened because the person was very late. Usually, we use this when someone is late for a meeting or an event. In this case, three hours had gone by. “To go by” – when we say “Time goes by” (goes) (by) – or here, in the past – “gone” – “had gone by” – means that it has passed, that it is over. Three hours “went by,” meaning we were there for three hours.

Well, obviously, he’s very angry and the person in the letter here, Kanye East, says, “I confronted him.” I confronted the tour guide. “To confront” (confront) – “to confront someone” means that you talk to them, but usually in order to complain about something or because you are angry. So, that verb “to confront” has a negative meaning again, just like “By the time.” When we say, “I confronted him” – means I went up to him. I talk to him and I probably said something negative, something like a complaint to him.

Well, the letter ends by the person asking for a “complete refund” of the price of the tour. A “refund,” of course, (refund) is when a company gives you money back. A “complete refund” would mean you want all of the money that you spent back. And the expression used here is the “complete refund of the price of the tour,” meaning of the money. So, we wouldn’t say, “A complete refund of the money of the tour,.” we would say, “Of the price of the tour.” He asks in the letter that the company send the check to the address above – that means to the address that’s on the top of the letter which would, of course, be your address. So, send the check to the address above or the address, rather, above. Notice the pronunciation there. If it’s a noun, it’s “address.” If it’s a verb, it’s “address.” So, “I’m going to address a letter” means I’m going to write the person’s address on the letter. Well, he asked for the refund to be sent at your “earliest convenience” – that’s an expression we use in a business letter to mean “as soon as possible” – right away. “I want my money now man.” “At your earliest convenience” is a polite way of saying, “I want you to do this right away” – soon.

He says he’s “enclosed” a copy of the receipt. “To enclose in a letter” (enclose) means to put with the letter. So, if you “enclose” the receipt, you put the letter in an envelope and the receipt in the same envelope – that’s to enclose. And often on a business letter, at the bottom of the letter, you’ll see the words “ENC.” And after that, it will say. “Receipt,” or the name of a document, the name of another piece of paper that’s with the letter – telling you that there is an enclosure – and that is the noun. An “enclosure” (enclosure) is what you enclose or put with a letter when you send it.

The letter ends with “Sincerely,” and that is a business way, a polite way, of ending a letter – “Sincerely,” – you can also say, “Sincerely yours,” and “Sincerely” is capitalized – (Sincerely) but “yours” is not capitalized. So, there’s a capital S for sincerely – a small “y” for “yours” coma.

Now let’s listen to the letter this time at a native rate of speech.

[start of letter]

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing regarding a tour that my wife and I took with your company on February 26, 2006. The brochure stated that we would see some of the most interesting sights of the city. Since we had visited the city before, we looked forward to seeing some new attractions.

On the morning of February 26, our tour guide picked us up in a small van. It did not look like any tour bus I had ever seen. Our tour guide drove us to the waterfront area and said that we could explore the area on our own. The tour guide said that he had to leave for a short time to arrange for our lunch.

By the time the tour guide came back, three hours had gone by! I was very angry and confronted him. I told him that this was the worst tour I had ever been on.

I am asking for a complete refund of the price of the tour. Please send a check to the address above for $150.00 at your earliest convenience. I have enclosed a copy of the receipt for the tour.

Sincerely,

Kanye East

[end of letter]

Remember to visit our website at eslpod.com for more information about this podcast.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language podcast is written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. This podcast is copyright 2006.

Glossary
brochure – a small book with pictures and small articles describing a service, product, or other thing for sale

* After looking at that travel brochure, I couldn’t wait to go to Florida.

sights – interesting things or places to see while on vacation; famous places

* You can’t travel through Italy without stopping to see the sights in Rome and Florence.

attraction – an interesting place to see that many tourists visit; a famous place or thing that brings tourists to a place

* Buckingham Palace is one of the major tourist attractions in England.

tour guide – a person who knows a lot about a place and shows others around it; a person who leads tours of an area

* Our tour guide was terrible. He didn’t know anything about the city at all.

to pick up – to stop a car to let other people on; to go a place so that someone can get in your car and you can give him or her a ride

* The police officer said: Never pick up strangers when you are driving.

van – a large automobile with many seats; a vehicle larger than a car, but smaller than a bus, that seats about six to 10 people

* Since Johan and Gretchen had six children, they sold their old car and bought a van.

tour bus – a large vehicle used to drive people around so that they can see the sights in a city

* While visiting New York City, our tour bus left me behind at the Empire State Building!

waterfront – an area next to a river, lake, or ocean

* I lost my snorkel at the waterfront yesterday.

to explore – to look and walk around a place in order to learn more about it; to learn more about an area by walking around it and looking at what is there

* Manuel spent three hours exploring the forest during our hike.

on (one’s own) – without a guide or companion; by oneself

* Don’t worry about me. I can make it up that hill on my own.

by the time – when; a phrase used to refer to a time when something one has been waiting for has happened

* By the time the bus arrived, I didn’t want to ride it anymore.

to go by – for someone or something to pass; for time to pass

* Three hours have gone by since I called you. Are you ever going to call me back?

to confront – to talk to, with the intent to find out the truth, come to difficult decision, and/or to start an argument

* After Charles found out that his girlfriend was seeing another man, he confronted her.

complete refund – repayment of all of the money one spent on something; getting all of one’s money back

* This clock does not work, so I want a complete refund.

at (someone’s) earliest convenience – a polite phrase meaning as soon as possible; as soon as someone has a free moment

* Could you call me at your earliest convenience?

to enclose – to put inside something else, usually an envelope or a package; to attach

* Nora enclosed a cover letter with her resume when she mailed in her job application.

Culture Note
The Land of Unclaimed Luggage

Most “luggage” (bags and suitcases one takes on a trip) gets to its “destination” (where someone or something is going) and most luggage is “claimed” (picked up) by its owner. But surprisingly, about “one-half” to “one percent” (1/2 to 1%) of luggage is never claimed at all. The airlines spend three months trying to get the luggage back to its owner, but if that is not possible because there is no “identifying information” (such as name, address, or phone number), the luggage is sold to a store called Unclaimed Baggage Center in the state of Alabama, in the southern part of the U.S. (Those who have lost luggage can file a claim and they are “compensated for it” (given money to replace lost items.)

The Unclaimed Baggage Center buys the unclaimed luggage from airlines “sight unseen” (without seeing it before buying), “sorts it” (organizes it), cleans the “contents” (what is inside) of the luggage, and puts it in the store to sell to the public, to people like you and me. The Unclaimed Baggage Center is organized similar to a department store that sells everything you can imagine, with the store adding about 7,000 items each day. The store is so popular that it is the number one tourist attraction in Alabama, with 1 million visitors each year.

At the Center, you can find anything from “precious” (worth a lot of money) jewelry, leather jackets, wedding dresses, “surfboards” (long boards used for standing on ocean waves) to half-used tubes of toothpaste! The guns and illegal drugs found in some of the luggage are not for sale, of course. However, because they do “come across” (find; see) unusual items in some of the luggage, the Center has a small museum “displaying” (placed for people to see) these special items.