Can You Do Simple Math? Good, Then You'll Soon Realize Why You Need To Resolve My Complaint…

I’m continuing to read Unscrewed, and in this paragraph, author Ron Burley distills the basic premise behind forcing companies that have wronged you to give you what is due:

…one simple principle I have discovered that was extraordinarily effective in getting a fair resolution to a consumer problem: companies will act only in a manner that will benefit the bottom line. In other words, to get what you deserve, you must convince your opponent that helping you will be to his or her advantage.

Do the right thing? Corporate citizenship? Ethics? Plain ol’ fairnes? These words and phrases mean little to many big companies for whom churn, the rate at which customers leave and take business elsewhere, is a basic part of their business model. But they do understand the simple equation of incurring the least costs. Make the company realize that it will cost more to ignore you than to help you and soon you may find the tables turning in your favor.

(Photo: foundphotoslj)


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  1. theWolf says:

    Wait a minute…9/3 = 3???

  2. gabi says:

    @theWolf: Since 3/3 = 1, and 3 + 3 + 3 = 9, 9/3 would be three…

  3. theWolf says:


    Yeah, I was being a smartass.

  4. Consumer-X says:

    The important corollary to this story is to complain to someone high enough on the corporate food chain that your complaint is a total waste of their valuable time. They will often take care of or delegate someone to make your annoying little problem just go away.

  5. beyond says:

    So to get a company to resolve my problem, I need to make it worth their while. That’s brilliant advice. Um, thanks.

  6. Pancakes?? FRENCH TOAST!! says:

    Why is it people assume corporations should act like humans? STOP ANTHROPOMORPHIZING. You don’t expect your car to have the same ethics as you do, why do you expect a corporation?

  7. Imaginary_Friend says:

    I bought the book based on the stuff I’ve read about it here and I’ve got to say, it’s really eye-opening. Some of what Ron Burley says is just plain old common sense, but most what he’s learned can only come from the school of hard knocks. I really wish this book had been around when I was younger; I could’ve saved myself a lot of time and money using his strategies.

    As it is now, I’ve learned to be proactive and try (as much as humanly possible) not to do business with cr@ppy companies in the first place. The book is a good read though and definitely worth the money. I’ll be giving it out as Christmas gifts once the paperback version comes out.

  8. gabi says:

    @theWolf: Ah, I wondered about that. Apologies.

  9. The Walking Eye says:

    @Sushiwriter: Because a corporation is run by humans?

  10. mk says:

    The problem with not expecting companies to act like humans, is that in most cases, at least where the law (taxes etc.) are concerened, they are people (if not human). So, really, they should be expected to act like people.

  11. 82300sd says:

    If you haven’t seen the movie “The Corporation” it’s a good view. They argue that a Corporation is not only a person but a “destructive psychopath without conscience”

  12. azntg says:

    Apparantly the CEO of Spirit Airlines must’ve taken a cue from this one.

  13. spinachdip says:

    Scoff all you want, but it’s something too many people, consumers and customer service reps, forget.

    Companies that are known for good customer service do so because they understand that being customer-friendly is good for the bottom line, even in cases where the customer is wrong or they stand to lose money on the transaction. So Netflix gives you the benefit of the doubt on lost discs and Apple gives a free computer to that idiot who smashed his MacBook.

    Conversely, it’s the same reason why some companies, notably banks and insurance companies, can screw consumers, laws and ethics be damned, because the effect of one customer, or even a group of customers, is negligible. So Best Buy has decided that a piece-of-shit Geek Squad that steals from your computer is better for the bottom line than a qualified, well-managed, customer-friendly tech support.

    So when you write a complaint letter, the goal isn’t to convince them that you’re right, but to convince them of how much business they stand to gain or lose.

  14. Buran says:

    @Sushiwriter: Actually, the law says that corporations are to be treated as people for a lot of purposes.

  15. nequam says:

    @Sushiwriter: A corporation is, by definition, an association of people. Collectively (and by imputation) it has knowledge, forms intent and responds to incentives.

  16. BugMeNot2 says:

    The “botton line” argument is not usefull with larger companies, because most customer service reps, even at cust oriented companies (i have worked at one, which i will not mention the name of), do not care about their company’s success. For the average cust service rep, they are far more concerned with not doing anything too unusual. If you give a wronged customer a free replacement DVD Player, you may help your company’s bottom line through word-of-mouth and future sales, but you run the real risk of being chastized by your employer, if a replacement is against company policy. All the same, intelligent, motivated cust service reps will still do the right thing… so the important rule is to find a way to contact a good rep, instead of a drone.

  17. BugMeNot2 says:


    I understand your point of view, but I find it hard to believe that you have had any real-world experience at a customer oriented business, or have studied any economics or marketing.

    People expect large companies to behave ethically because they do not want to be treated poorly after a purchase. That being the case, when a consumer is treated without fairness or respect they are less likely to purchase from the same company again. It is that simple.

    Admittedly, there are viable non-customeroriented models as well (eg: expensive one-time purchases, or extremely low-cost items, etc) but the trend for the last few decades has been away from these models – thankfully!

  18. spinachdip says:

    For the more obtuse among us, it’s probably easier to understand if we substituted “companies” with “business owners, executives, customer service reps, store managers, and otherwise people who represent companies to customers”.

  19. itunes-guru says:

    Check out this post on TheBestPageInTheUniverse.Net about how Orbitz lost so much from ignoring advice like this…


  20. Basic math tells me that you spelled ‘fairness’ wrong in the article…