HOW TO: Fight Companies Online And Win

The Consumerist’s step-by-step guide to posting your complaint against a company online and getting results.

Those results can be money, an apology, a new device, or a hug, but you can tap into the power of the magical internet to get you some serious traction.

After blogging about customer complaints for nearly a year, and even ending up on TV a few times ourself, we’ve got what we think is a pretty good idea of what works.

STEP ONE: GET SCREWED

This is the easy part…


START A BLOG

For ease and speed, Blogger.com is pretty good. Give the blog a catchy title, like “Verizon Is Eating My Face.”

POST YOUR INITIAL COMPLAINT

Type the letters, one after another. Be sure to include Who, What, Where, When, and How. It’s fine to be all emo but at least get the facts in there before you start slicing your wrists all over the screen.

INCLUDE CONTACT INFORMATION

A valid email address should do. If you don’t feel like dealing with this blog for the rest of your life, set up a new email address like verizoniseatingmyface@gmail.com.

ENABLE COMMENTS

People will need to offer you advice and solace, as well as throw text-based poop in your direction. Leave these playground gates open. Respond to questions when appropriate.

STOCK SMOKING GUNS

Include pictures, audio, video, phone call recordings, scanned copies of letters, and conversation transcripts. YouTube is good for uploading video. You can even get away with uploading pure audio there too. The key idea here is to publicly publish evidence to bolster your case. The more and the more irrefutable it is, the better your chances are of getting that money or hug you want.

Some of the following involve using HTML code. Don’t worry if you don’t know much about it. These services offer code you can drag and drop into your blog. Their sites also include instructions on doing so, in case you get stuck. Everything is learned through trial and error, so if it doesn’t look right, tweak until it does!

INCLUDE CONTACT INFORMATION FOR THE COMPANY

If people hear your cry and are sympathetic, they may take it upon themselves to call or write the company on your behalf. Boom! Instant protest campaign.

EMBED A SITEMETER

Insert sitemeter code into your site. This will keep track of the traffic your blog receives. Images from its graph also makes for an easy post, “Look, traffic is up 300%!”

INSERT GOOGLE ADS

Apply for and insert Google AdSense. Might as well make some money while you’re waiting for the company to pay up.

SET UP GOOGLE ALERTS

Set up some google alerts for your name, blog URL and blog name. This will help notify you if your story starts breaking bigger and will make you feel good.

SUBMIT TO CLEARING HOUSES

This is almost your most important step, second only to posting the complaint in the first place. If your tale makes it to these site’s front page, it can drive some serious traffic to your blog. Submit your story to them.

Digg (requires registration)
BoingBoing (submit via form)
The Consumerist (send email)
Fark (requires registration)
Metafilter (requires registration, donation and other hoops. Basically need to be an active member already).

ACTIVELY PURSUE AND POST

Enter into an active correspondence with the company and post the results. Write letters. Post them. Receive letters from the company. Post them. Make and record phone calls and post them. Make YouTubes about how things are going. Post them. Make a funny picture. Post it. The key here is to do something and then post about it. Keep the story moving.

IGNORE THE HATERS

Since most people on the internet can’t read, anywhere up to 60% of the feedback you receive will be negative. If you’re reading Digg comments, this can be up to 90%. Hopefully you’re in that special demographic that’s able to be offended by companies but not by faceless strangers. If your story gets posted to The Consumerist, 70% of the feedback will appear positive, but 50% of that is actually ankle-biters trying to downplay a complaint’s validity by honing in on tangential details. As with anything, it’s necessary to separate the wheat from the chaff.

BE PREPARED FOR THE PRESS

If your story does break from the internet and start hitting mainstream news outlets, be happy. Most of the time, the mass press will pressure a company to help you out. Accept the interview requests. Answer their questions. Media appearances can be a hassle, but hey, at the very least they will drive traffic to your site, cranking up the google ad dollars.

Remember, while being interviewed, be friendly and stick to the facts. Don’t be too suspicious and cagey, these journalists are going to be on your side. They may throw some oddball question at you at the end. Fret not, this is your cue to frame the discussion within a greater perspective, like morality and justice.

…AND THE REST IS UP TO YOU. GODSPEED.

— BEN POPKEN

REFERENCES:
InsignificantThoughts
VerizonMath
SnakesOnABlog
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