Get What You Paid For

Consumer advocate Ron Burley describes the reasons the state of customer service is in such disrepair, and the basic gist on how consumers can get what they paid for when things go wrong.
  • Figure out the material benefit you’re seeking. If there’s none, get on with your life.
  • Ask yourself if your time is really worth the material benefit you’re seeking, and valuate your free time hourly wage more than your working wage.
  • on’t scream, threaten, or write a letter, instead…
  • Go in and execute a cold, logical plan that will
  • Convince the company that it will cost more to ignore you then to pay attention to you.

As he points out in his book, most companies DO get things right most of the time, but when they don’t, proactive consumers can take measures to get what they deserve.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Egakino says:

    Eh, just another news show pitching a book that only gives common sense (true probably to people who don’t have any). Only real thing I liked about what he had to say was “remember your free time is worth more than your work time”. Wish more people had that as an inherent principle.

  2. gatopeligroso says:

    @EGAKINO I couldn’t agree with you more. My time is definitely worth more than half of the poor customer service experiences I’ve ever had. Best way to deal with those experiences that aren’t worth your time, shop somewhere else.

  3. When a consumer does complain to the offending company’s top management, make sure to state the following clearly:

    1. What happened
    2. Why the issue was not resolved
    3. What the consumer is seeking
    4. Propose an alternative solution
    5. Contact information including mailing address

    Do not use threat or words like “we are going to boycott you and your business”, that would just make the consumer looking like corporate-terrorists. Instead, use softer tones like “we regret that we are meeting under current circumstances”.

    Of course, consumer should document all interactions with the company during the process.


  4. Buran says:

    … starting to wonder if that guy is paying for all these stories …

  5. nctrnlboy says:

    One thing I have noticed is how these days…. offering a better product or a better customer service is not the way to compete with other businesses.

    Now days…. they are focused on how best they can mislead , lie to & manipulate customers into buying their product/service.

  6. enm4r says:

    @nctrnlboy: Of course, it gives quicker returns to appear like you have good service than to actually have it.

    With so many options in most industries, companies are now more interested in going after quick returns instead of building repeat buyers and longtime relationships. Service isn’t necessary if you don’t care about a repeat sale.

  7. nctrnlboy says:


    Yeah, but its the blatent lying & predatory practices that a lot of businesses use to sell their products/services …. that REALLY makes me sick.

    CLauses lost in a mountain of fine print that are just about impossible to find, mandatory arbitration contracts where the arbitrator is in the company’s pocket, Predatory lending practices…. the list goes on & on & its almost criminal!

    Its sad that the mantra of businesses today is almost always to “not offer a good product, but try to somehow trick customers into buying it”

    Head on! Head on! Head on!

  8. royco says:

    Thats all fine and good advice, but what can you do when it fails? I’ve recently had a horrible experience with Lenovo re: the purchase of a new Thinkpad laptop. (Leaving me with no laptop and an outstanding credit card bill for $1600) Nothing I’ve done in the way of calm calculated e-mails and phone calls explaining the benefit(s) of assisting a loyal and repeat customer who is in a jam has gotten me anywhere.

    I’ve escalated all the way to Executive Customer Relations to no avail, and I’ve even tried to contact the VP of Sales & Marketing with no word back.

    I won’t bore you all with the entire ordeal, but if you’re interested, you can skim over the ‘rip off report’ I’ve filed:


    I’ve been a longstanding fan of the Consumerist, and would love to fancy myself a savvy consumer, but in this instance It seems impossible that anyone could have forseen the tragic outcome set into play by a customer support rep of this company.

    Oh, and contacting the BBB doesn’t seem like it will do a whole lot of good, as the Executive Account Specialist I’m dealing with (Tony Bumarch) has already told me that he (and he alone) handles all BBB complaints directed at Lenovo himself.

    Anyone have any thoughts?

  9. Rubyredgirl says:

    Not much interesting in this newstory, he doesn’t actually explain how to do any of these steps, just pitching his book. This video was a waste of my 3 minutes! Reading the text to go with the video was plenty!

  10. timmus says:

    I think the sad reality is that consumers are firmly affixed to the tit of cheap prices. It doesn’t matter how sour the milk is — for every pup that takes offense, ten more pups are lining up because it’s soo cheeap!

  11. Mary says:

    You know, I realize working in retail makes me biased, but this is the closest I’ve ever seen someone come to saying, “maybe, as customers, we should stop acting so entitled and start only demanding what we deserve.”

    Because really, the declining state of customer service is entirely the fault of…both sides.

  12. Buran says:

    @royco: Chargeback.

  13. jeffeb3 says:

    Did she say she was going to “Shaft us” hmmm…I don’t think that’s very appropriate journalistic chatter…

  14. royco says:

    @Buran: I already filed a dispute with my credit card company, but because of the mis-information a Lenovo rep gave me, it left me without a tracking number to *prove* I sent it back. So my CC company (Wells Fargo) says I’m just at the mercy of Lenovo.

    And to top it off, the Lenovo lady who is in charge of disputing my claim on Lenovo’s part is based in Brazil, so I can’t even readily call her and discuss the matter over the telephone. (She does not respond to e-mails.)

    My only point of contact with the company thus far has been a one Tony Bumarch in Executive Customer Relations, (Direct #: 919-593-6681) but he blames UPS, and UPS blames the UPS store I dropped it off at, and the UPS store blames Lenovo. (And so on)

    Lenovo lied to me, and no one @ Lenovo takes any responsibility for giving me the incorrect information regarding how to go about returning this darn laptop, which is just mind boggling. I always trusted IBM/Lenovo up till this point, and I’ve always adored the Thinkpad branded laptops, but right now I’m so terribly furious with their inability to properly process a return that I would never consider purchasing another laptop from them again.

    I’m being completely reasonable and level headed about the whole thing too, ie: not raising my voice with the Lenovo rep, keeping it cordial, etc. but it’s getting me nowhere. I would even settle for the faulty laptop back in my possession, but according to Lenovo it can’t be found. I asked Mr Bumarch to perform a physical audit of their warehouse in search of said laptop, to which he replied that that request was wildly unreasonable on my part. (ARGH!@#$)

  15. royco says:

    Er, (Direct #: 919-543-6681) and not (919-593-6681) sorry about that typo. (Not sure if it even matters at this point tho) Oh, and e-mai =

  16. ju-ju-eyeball says:

    @Tian: Do not use threat or words like “we are going to boycott you and your business”, that would just make the consumer looking like corporate-terrorists. Instead, use softer tones like “we regret that we are meeting under current circumstances”.

    Yes, of course, use your best “politically correct” language. No need to piss them off, even though they pissed you off.

    Corporations now have a “screw the customer” in the name of profits mentality. American corporations no longer care about customer loyalty in the same way it no longer cares about its loyalty to its employees.

  17. Imaginary_Friend says:

    @RUBYREDGIRL – He was on a quickie CNN blurb. Do you seriously expect him to sum up his entire book in two minutes? And even if he did have more time, he’d be stupid to tell everything that’s in the book for free on a dumb tv show. If it sounds interesting to you, just buy it (it’s about $11 bucks at Amazon) or check it out from the library. Sheesh.

    @Royco – Even though you made some crucial errors in judgement, I’m sorry you got screwed.

    1. You said you didn’t receive a battery and power cord when you bought your new laptop, so you “promptly purchased an alternate Thinkpad from a local retailer and called in to make arrangements to return the incomplete laptop that was mailed to me through Lenovo directly.” My question is why didn’t you just have Lenovo FedEx the missing items to you? Why buy a whole other computer?

    2. You said, “A customer service rep gave me completely inaccurate information as to how to go about returning their equipment to them. (‘Just write ‘return to sender’ on the original package and drop it off at a UPS store’ was what I was told”. My second question – and please don’t take this the wrong way – but, how old are you? Have you ever made a return in your life? When has it ever been appropriate to write ‘return to sender’ with no documentation, no RMA number, and no receipt or tracking number from the shipper on an expensive item? That, to me, is just stunningly naive. At the very least, common sense should tell you to get a receipt from the shipper which verifies the contents of what you’re mailing.

    3. You said, “lo & behold Lenovo claims they never received my laptop back at their warehouse. I asked for a physical audit to be done at their warehouse, confident that it’s in there *somewhere* but I was told by Mr Bumarch that that request is wildly unreasonable.” It is unreasonable. Why? Anyone could have stolen it. As soon as you left the mailing store, some jerk in the back room could have ripped open your package and took the laptop home. Or someone else could have done the same thing while your package was en route, or yes, even at the Lenovo warehouse. You’re basically asking him to waste valuable man-hours looking for something that might not even be there.

    4. You said, “I’ve been an avid Thinkpad fan for countless years and even have an old P166 Thinkpad in my closet that still runs, (It’s built like a tank) but I have pretty much lost all faith in Lenovo’s ability to properly deal with even the most simple of tasks such as a customer return.” First of all, Lenovo bought IBM out in 2004. You are not dealing with the old IBM. And secondly, Lenovo can’t be expected to process your return if they never received your item. Even if you were given poor return instructions by their employee, your lack of common sense in not getting a receipt for your shipment makes you partially responsible. Sorry.

    If you made your purchase using an American Express card, you’d be covered for lost and stolen items. Link:

  18. FLConsumer says:

    I’ve asked it in other threads, but never have received a response to it — When did the companies stop viewing the customer as their lifeblood and start viewing them as their enemy?

    Timmus: Sadly, I believe you’re right. When I experience piss poor service, I take my business elsewhere, but I don’t think enough Americans do this to make a difference. Look at all the people who camp out overnight for “black Friday” sales. Americans have no concept of what their time is truly worth, which is why many of them are willing to work for companies & shop with merchants who don’t respect their time. I’ve often asked people to tell me how much they’d pay to get an extra hour a day in their lives. The numbers they spout off are usually pretty high.

    Quality isn’t a major commodity in this country ‘though. We’d rather get the cheapest, biggest, and most… nowhere does quality appear on the radar screen these days. I’d still like to know when this whole mindset changed. I believe it might have started before my time, but I think the pace of such degeneration has accelerated over the past 10 years.

  19. FLConsumer says:

    Royco: Without some sort of proof (tracking #) that you sent it to them and that they received it, I don’t know why you’d expect them to suddenly say they’ve received it. The laptop most likely is lost in the UPS system somewhere (or got 5-fingered by a UPS employee) and you probably need to take up the claim with them, not Lenovo. I think even Amex would have a difficult time accepting this story, and Amex’s refund/credit policies are quite liberal.

    You have to look at it from their perspective. I have a customer who says they sent me a laptop back to my factory. Okay, I call up the loading dock and see if one’s been scanned in. Nope, it never arrived here. So it either got lost in shipping or the customer’s lying and trying to get $1k or so of money back and keeping the laptop. If the customer had a tracking number which showed the laptop WAS delivered, I could see which day it was received, who signed for it, at what time of the day it was received, go back through the security footage and figure out what happened.

    In many ways, this situation is like going back to a store for a refund on a product the cashier forgot to put in your shopping cart, but you paid cash and didn’t bring a receipt with you. How is the store possibly going to make this work?

  20. royco says:

    @Imaginary_Friend: I have indeed returned things online before, and in the past an RMA number has always been required. This is why in my initial conversation with the Lenovo rep who gave me the faulty instructions, I asked more than once if this was indeed the correct return procedure – only to be told that yes, it indeed was. So not only did this Lenovo rep ‘lie’ to me once, but kept repeating the lie upon me questioning her.

    Furthermore: As per my conversation with the Lenovo rep, I was under the impression that because it was ‘return to sender,’ that the initial tracking number would simply be re-used, and that I could track the package going back to them via the old tracking number. (Same with insurance, I thought that because the package was insured on it’s way over to me, that the same insurance would cover it on it’s way back.) So i really thought I had all my bases covered here, only to be told later that due to the mis-information given to me, I was completely screwed over.

    Re: the battery and power cord – when I called about the missing pieces of my purchase, I was told that there would be a THREE WEEK delay in getting them! This was after I’d already waited 3 weeks to have my laptop shipped to me from Hong Kong. It was rather impulsive, but I just couldn’t stand waiting another 3 weeks for a laptop I was already patient about receiving.

    And lastly, I’m old enough to own my own home and have three children in high school, so this is not a case of some naive student taking a wild guess as to how to go about returning a package.

    I realize that some of the blame rests on my shoulders for not calling back Lenovo and speaking to a different rep to confirm that the first rep was correct, as the whole thing did sound a little odd – but honestly, customers really should not be required to have to call back a company over and over to ascertain if the first tidbit of information given to them was indeed correct. That just seems silly. This was not a super duper complex procedure, but rather a simple return, and I feel that I should have been given the correct information from the get go without the need for more phone calls to verify that this person at Lenovo knew how to do her job.

    I really feel that the rep I spoke to @ Lenovo flat out lied to me and as a result, this whole crazy situation ensued. No one at Lenovo wants to take any responsibility for having given me this misinformation, even though according to them, this rep violated every return procedure rule ever put into place by Lenovo to protect their customers.

    I’ve told the rep in Executive Customer Relations that I’m not looking for any handouts here, I simply want the laptop I already paid for but returned to Lenovo – and so far they’ve been unwilling to even do a physical audit of their warehouse on my behalf stating that this is a wildly unreasonable request.

    I’m also unsure if the lady I spoke to was based out of India or if she was stateside, (she sounded American enough) but regardless of where this customer service rep was located, I really think that if Lenovo was paying their customer service reps good money (in rupees or dollars) that their employees would probably put alot more effort into memorizing the correct procedure for processing a return.

    The entire situation has practically brought me to tears out of pure frustration, and I’m really, really dismayed at Lenovo’s reaction to the entire ordeal. There hasn’t been a shred of sympathy or an apology in this anywhere, and thats what seems to be the worst aspect of it all.

    If I was told: “oh my god, what a horrible situation, I am so very sorry that the lady you spoke to gave you such incorrect information, and even though we cannot find your laptop, I will send out a mass-memo to our customer service reps detailing what can happen if the incorrect return procedure is given, in the hopes that this will prevent future incidences such as this from occuring with other customers.” …I would be alot more pleased with their response to this situation.

    As it stands, I can’t even get the satisfaction that even if I’m just screwed over for 1600 dollars, it will if nothing else, help prevent other people from getting screwed over too.

  21. royco says:

    Speaking of Lenovo, I just found this article on the Consumerist which dates back to 2005 concerning someone else who was lied to by Lenovo, and the shoddy customer service that ensued:


    Lenovo lied to me, but at least I know I’m not alone!