Getting What You Paid For
Complaining to manufacturers and service providers is often worth the small amount of time it takes.
That cookie tasted terrible. Half the taco shells in the box were broken. The strap ripped on your tank top the first time you wore it.
Since there’s no way you’ll eat the rest of those cookies, one surefire way to flush money down the toilet is to let disappointing experiences like these go unremedied. Instead, pick up the phone or fire off an e-mail to the store or company to let them know how and why their product failed to meet your expectations. If the contact information isn’t listed on the product, visit the company’s website.
Believe it or not, they want to hear your complaints and gripes. Feedback, even when it’s negative, can help manufacturers improve the quality of their products and services, streamline processes, and prevent other customers having similar experiences in the future.
And because they appreciate your comments and want to keep you as a customer, they will almost always replace the product, re-perform the service, or offer you a full refund. The entire complaint-reporting process shouldn’t take more than a few minutes, a small price to pay for your satisfaction.
This works for just about anything you buy: food and other grocery products, electronics, clothing, toys, tools, dining out, etc.
Not long ago, I had two packages of light bulbs – different varieties and different brands, but the same result: One bulb from each package blew out immediately after installation. It took me all of five minutes to contact both manufacturers using the information printed on the packages. One sent a refund, and the other sent a replacement coupon. Sure, I had two bad bulbs, but in the end, I got four bulbs free.
In another case, I had a bad experience with a fast-food chain. After the restaurant screwed up my order (I hate ketchup!), I returned to the restaurant to get it fixed. When I got home, I realized this time they had left out part of the order. Instead of driving back for a second time, I made something else for dinner and called the restaurant. They not only offered to replace our entire order on a future visit, they sent me a bunch of vouchers for free menu items, too.
In all likelihood, at some point in your life you’ve had, or will have, a disappointing experience with a product or service. Here are some tips to resolving the situation easily and to your satisfaction:
Be specific. When you call or e-mail, recount your experience briefly and factually, and without emotion. Why were you unsatisfied? What exactly happened? How much, or how many, of the products in a package were damaged or defective? How were they damaged or defective?
Be polite. Remember, the person on the other end of your call didn’t burn the cookies. Stay calm, and focus on getting the issue resolved, rather than getting angry. As my mom always says, ‘You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.’
Keep the packaging. The customer service representative will almost certainly want to know some information about the product, where and when it was purchased, and how much you paid. So hang onto that taco-shell box – and the receipt, if you have it - until after you make the call.
Be honest. Don’t be a jerk and call to complain about a product unless it didn’t meet your expectations, and don’t bend the truth to say you had 10 packages of a defective item when you really just had one. If you’re fibbing just to get freebies, that’s lying, and it’s not fair to the company, or to other consumers who’ve had legit problems.
In the event that you’re not satisfied with the way customer service handled your complaint, consider posting a review or comments online. Sites like ConsumerAffairs.com and RipoffReport.com allow you to share complaints, reviews and tips about products, services, companies and professionals.
It bears mentioning that if you’ve had a really good experience, you might want to share that with a company, too. I’ve heard lots of stories where people have been rewarded with freebies or coupons in response to praise or compliments reported to a company.
The moral of the story is that a squeaky wheel gets the grease. If you pay for something that fails to meet your expectations (or if it exceeds them), tell someone. If you don’t bother, everybody loses, especially you.