Consumerist's 4 Most Frequently Given Ways To Kick Ass

There’s four things we say over and over to readers writing in with problems who have gotten their legitimate claims spurned by regular customer service. They just keep working! They’re EECB, Executive Customer Service, Chargeback and Small Claims Court. Inside, what these tools mean and how to get started using one.

1. Executive Customer Service – How to get routed to a high-ranking exec’s secretary who will pass you off to the secret elite customer service squadron. They need to be able solve any and all problems, lest you persist in escalating and interrupt someone’s golf game or steak dinner. Get Started.

2. EECB (Executive Email Carpet Bomb) – Sending a email blast to as many high-ranking execs as you can. The trick is figuring out the corporate email address format and combining it with publicly posted lists of company execs. Get Started.

3. Small Claims Court – For just a few hours work and under $50, you can get a judge to make a company give you what you’re owed. Get Started.

4. Chargeback – Pay with a credit card and if you don’t end up getting the goods or services you ordered, you can reverse the charge and not have to pay for it. Get Started.

(Photo: Getty)

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  1. Mistrez_Mish says:

    After getting absolutely no where with “customer service” at Equifax, I took the Consumerist’s advice and launched an EECB.

    It worked like magic and within 15 minutes of sending the thing out one of their higher-ups contacted me. (This issue… going back and forth with “customer service”…. had been going on for months!)

    The huge and alarming error on my credit report was fixed = happy camper

    • brokeincollege says:

      @Mistrez_Mish: That should make you not just upset, not just mad, but FURIOUS. You, having to escalate to the CEO to get something that should NEVER be escalated beyond a second level manager? To do something that they’re LEGALLY obligated to do? If a company forces me to escalate to the CEO to get them to do something that they’re required to do by law, you can guarentee that I’ll never do business with them again.

      There’s a company I’m dealing with that will absolutely refuse to do the simplest thing (overnight a letter, for god’s sake). I’m calling the CEO’s office today. If he doesn’t budge, I’m giving every member of the board of directors a call about this matter.

  2. timmus says:

    Note that “Better Business Bureau” isn’t in there anywhere. I’ve never gotten anywhere complaining to them, and of course they are funded by their local businesses — not by consumers.

    • WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

      @timmus: Consumerist has something to say about the BBB as well. They work, with one huge caveat: The company has to care about their BBB rating.

      Some do, some don’t.

      I had excellent luck with a BBB complaint to Time Warner, which I keep meaning to tell Consumerist about…

      • MercuryPDX says:

        @WiglyWorm: I think at the very LEAST, the BBB is a good place to check first for potential issues before “hiring” a company.

        Even if your complaint to them gets you nowhere near a resolution, it will still serve as a warning for other people.

  3. MeOhMy says:

    Small claims court in my district is something like $250 :-(

  4. longcrosse says:

    I let loose an EECB on Comcast on Sunday evening of the Labor Day weekend and was escalated to a much higher level of customer service on Tuesday morning. The attention to my email was overwhelming. Although I think Comcast usually gets it wrong, when you know what buttons to push, they bend over backwards to help.

  5. SecureLocation says:

    Filing a complaint with your state’s attorneys general works well too. You’d be surprised at how fast that rebate check will hit our mailbox after you do.

  6. JohnDeere says:

    slow news day

  7. sketchy says:

    I wonder how much longer these strategies will work. As the executives begin to catch on I suspect we will see a reduction in the efficiency of an EECB and ECS. It’s not a terribly difficult thing to set up ‘white-list’ e-mail exclusions or to add another CSR between the consumer and the Executive level of CS.

    Not to say that people shouldn’t try but as more and more people launch EECBs for things like ‘I didn’t like the smell at Target – I want money from you’ or ‘Replace my eight year old tires or I’ll blah blah blah’ there will be a corporate strategy to make it more difficult to get to the Executive level and less chance of getting a positive response. I hope it doesn’t come to that.

    Empowered Consumers = Good for Everyone
    Annoying Consumers = Bad for Everyone

    • dragonvpm says:

      @sketchy: It might actually be good for them to allow EECBs and ECSs to continue because those often fix problems for the people who are most likely to do things like post to the Consumerist or tell ALL their friends about the horrible experiences they had etc…

      It’s the customer service equivalent of the mail in rebate, everyone CAN do it, but not everyone does and that’s what companies count on. The EECB could be a convenient way to give the small percentage of customers who will make a fuss a way of resolving their problem that doesn’t involve outright bad publicity and in many cases could even help with customer retainage etc…

      • sketchy says:

        @dragonvpm: After reading a few (or perhaps more than that) accounts on this very website that amount to “I want my way and I want it now!” tantrums I don’t have the same amount of faith as you that the ‘small percentage’ to which you refer is indeed small or reasonable enough to understand that and EECB or call to ECS is not just a way to bypass the normal escalation procedure or keep from waiting on hold for ten seconds to complain about their cable going out for ten minutes.

        It just seems to me that the EECB and ECS are two methods which come up in almost every thread even when it seems likely (at least from the available information) that the problem has not reached that level yet.

        If people abuse the EECB and / or ECS I fear we’ll see one more layer of happy horsemanure added for consumers to traverse when they actually need to get a hold of someone who cares.

        • dragonvpm says:

          @sketchy: My faith is in people’s inherent laziness. It’s one thing to whine and rant on an online forum, it’s another thing entirely to go onto something like the Consumerist, look up the information you want and then write out a non ranty/raving email.

          I just did that with DirecTV and it took me a good 45 minutes to do the whole thing and I’m sure a lot of people wouldn’t even bother. They might post and vent somewhere, but I think you’d have the same level of response ans mail-in-rebates do (i.e. a lot less than 100%).

          Besides, the total number of people posting to the Consumerist not representative of the total number of customers any major retailer has (see earlier comment about people being lazy, even the angriest people who post here are probably steps beyond the average consumer who will grumble about it and promptly not even switch companies).

  8. Parapraxis says:

    Step 1: Buy boots.
    Step 2: Plant foot in boots
    Step 3: Plant foot in boots in ass.

  9. ThyGuy says:

    #4 bothers me. If you’re going to do a chargeback, remember that you MUST return the item that you bought, even if the store refuses, return it to the manufacture stating you no longer want the product anymore and will be performing a chargeback.

    If it’s a product that can’t be undone (Already released Advertising for the year on a billboard, placemats, TATTOO) You might lose, or even face criminal charges from theft of service.

    Chargebacks are great, but don’t be a crook in the process; it makes you know better than the horrible companies.

    • econobiker says:

      @ThyGuy: A chargeback is to be used more when it is a service or the items were never shipped or delivered.

      One thing to note is that I saw that some credit card companies are trying to limit chargebacks to goods purchased within a certain distance from your home…

  10. NikkiSweet says:

    I have to agree about the BBB… I’ve filed a complaint about a company that “repaired” a computer for my mom, and in the process switched out the my video card (NVidia 5200 *this was a couple of years ago…*) with a crappy, broken card, replaced the 2 gigs of RAM in it with 2 sticks of 256Mb RAM, “replaced” my sound card (which was working fine…) with a $15 sound card from Wal-Mart… All of it could have been prevented if I wouldn’t have been out of state when my computer (that I let my mom use for her work stuff) broke. The knew my mom knew nothing about computers.

    When I complained to the BBB after trying several times to deal with the company directly, the company responded to the BBB claiming that I was a drug user and a stripper AND that I was a teenage mother, so obviously I was lying. The BBB sent that response, and then closed the case. I never recovered any of the parts, and the company is still operating (and stealing, according to other complaints).

    • Parapraxis says:

      @NikkiSweet:

      [quote]the company responded to the BBB claiming that I was a drug user and a stripper AND that I was a teenage mother, so obviously I was lying.[/quote]

      since when was ad hominem attacks allowed by the BBB?

      • Callista says:

        @NikkiSweet:

        [quote]the company responded to the BBB claiming that I was a drug user and a stripper AND that I was a teenage mother, so obviously I was lying.[/quote]

        False statements such as those are considered slander and are prosecutable – especially in a case in which the victim recieves immediate harm due to the statement (such as a refusal to do business with you).

        And moreover, what should be done at this point is to gather all records you have (including ALL statements, records, etc. from the BBB), and gather more people that have had similar experiences and launch a class-action lawsuit.

        The big deal about this, is that this company is repeatedly causing damaging thefts to others – possibly a large amount of damage considering some customers could be using these computers for thier businesses/office work, etc.

        Sometimes getting your money back isn’t enough. Some companies should simply be closed.

  11. HogwartsAlum says:

    I did this just today…well, not the EECB, but email. I bought an X-Acto stapler at work and the spring broke. It was within the manufacturer’s year warranty, so I called first and was routed to a customer service line. The automatic thing hung up on me, so I went to their website and emailed them. I got a response within the hour and was told to email or fax the sales receipt and our mailing address, which I did, and I would be sent a replacement.

    We’ll see if I get one. But that was a quick response. My coworker told me just to pitch it and buy a new one, but I told her, it’s the principle of the thing!

  12. Invective says:

    If after dealing with customer service, on an honest issue of contention, I believe it is the consumer’s duty to report the offending company to the bbb.com *and* to ftc.gov (Federal Trade Commission) or fcc.gov (Federal Communications Commission.), as well as say your local puc.gov (Public Utilities Commission.), etc. The bbb.com and the Federal Communications Commission for example would handle any telecommunications issues. Many companies do follow what their complaint ratios are, especially as you get into the top fortune 500. So regardless of the outcome, it’s good for all consumers to fax, mail, or electronically file a complaint. This makes a record for all to follow on a company’s performance. I believe Cingular changed it’s name back to AT&T because of this, or at the very least it had to be a big part of the decision, as they were highly publicized as having the worst consumer complaint record. (Although one thing I noticed is that agencies like the Better Business Bureau do still tie the two names together.) Regardless of the BBB being paid for by Business, those who do have that logo tend to care about what it is they were trying to accomplish. If consumers don’t complain to the various agencies, then other consumers won’t be aware of any potential problems they might encounter. It’s a selfless act. ;)

  13. TheNerd says:

    When I looked into a small claims case in Indiana, I was told it was $70. Not pocket change for many lower income people, especially when a company has just took their money. I suppose I should be glad all I lost was $15 thrown in the garbage (literally, by an employee!).

  14. redhand32 says:

    The BBB is about as useful as tits on a bull. I have gotten nowhere fast with this pro-business organization. Big yawn at best.