Get Your Complaint Solved: Quick Beats Nice

Some of the tactics we recommend to consumers battling large and/or indifferent business are faster rather than nicer, and with good reason.

Emailblasting the entire executive team, using backdoor phone numbers to reach the executive customer service team, passing out complaint flyers in front of their store, making a YouTube complaint video… don’t those sound a little “unfair.”

Shouldn’t you just take a number and stand in line? Write a letter and wait 6-8 weeks before sending a followup? Pitch a case to the Better Business Bureau? Write a letter to the local newspaper?

Those methods can work, and you should always give the company at least one shot through the established channels first, but they won’t necessarily get things done quickly.

This is not to say you should be rude. If you scream, threaten, or insult, you lose. You’ve just given them permission to ignore you, to write you off as a kookoo. If anything, be extra-polite.

Time is money, but this isn’t simply a matter of impatience. Compensation is the only thing you should be after. You want to get exactly what you paid for. Not extortion, not an apology, not for them to tuck you in at night and give you a goodnight kiss. Figure out what your hourly wage is worth, remembering that free time is worth more than on-the-clock time. If the value of the time you’re spending on the issue exceeds the value of what you’re seeking, give up. Take your business elsewhere. Otherwise, you’re being irrational.

Businesses know that humans have a least somewhat of an economist inside them and that’s why they put up hurdles when you try to get complaints resolved. You have to fax in multiple documents, you have to wait for them to call you back, you have to put a green cup on your head and spin around three times reciting the lyrics to “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General.”

This is why it’s so important to get your problem solved quickly, and do that, you’re gonna have to play a little hardball. Learn how to do so by reading, “The Ultimate Consumerist Guide To Fighting Back.”

(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. kimsama says:

    I use Photoshop when I want to have a faster raster.

  2. randombob says:

    … And if all that fails….

    Scream & yell and make it very apparent that you’ll not be back, and that you’ll be telling all your friends & relatives about what they’ve done to you.

    I mean, you should at least be nice enough to let them know why they’re a failing business model, no?

  3. Murph1908 says:

    “If the value of the time you’re spending on the issue exceeds the value of what you’re seeking, give up.”

    I think standing up for my consumer rights is worth my time as well. I thought Consumerist thought so too, but I guess I was wrong.

  4. compuwarescc says:

    @Murph1908: “Value” can include what you consider the value of standing up for yours and other consumer’s rights.

  5. @Murph1908: I agree.

    Compensation is the only thing you should be after.

    Not necessarily. Maybe you’re looking to get the company to change a policy. Not all complaints have to be about financial damage, do they?

  6. Xerloq says:

    I agree with the value of what you’re standing up for, but I think the point of the post is that you should ‘fight’ the company as follows:
    1. Give the company one chance through their normal resolution channel.
    and then
    2. If your issue is not resolved quickly, escalate fast and hard so you don’t have to spend time standing up for what you value.

    The point is to get what you want now, while being courteous along the way. You’re more credible with the EECBs and back door numbers if you can show that you tried it their way and it didn’t work.

    Get it done, don’t waste money or time.

  7. royal72 says:

    @randombob: “I mean, you should at least be nice enough to let them know why they’re a failing business model, no?”

    i vote no, considering 99% of the companies we bitch about here on consumerist have nothing to do with the necessities of life. so if company x goes under tomorrow, there’ll be another one in its place… more to the point, why waste your time trying to help a company that didn’t care about you in the first place.

  8. Newleaf says:

    I agree- unfortunately. I had a very expensive sewing machine which never worked properly. After returning it to the store for a year, time and time again and being told I needed to take sewing lessons. I decided once and for all to try to get a replacement of an entirely different brand and model. I sent an email to the store (I had never complained in writing before), and as an afterthought decided to send a copy to the manufacturer of the machine (I had complained to the company before). When googling the company name, one item which came up was the president’s private corporate email in connection with a contest he had juried a year before. I sent it there. The next day I got a call from the store and by 4 pm had the new machine.

  9. bbbici says:

    If a company is being blatantly retarded and there are competitors, get what you can out of them and never go back.

  10. dcndn says:

    I usually give them one or two screwups before going right to the execs. Comcast supervisor failed to call back when she said she would? Direct call to the VP for Customer Experience. Dell CSR bounces me around two or three times or hangs up on me? Call to Executive Customer Service in Round Rock. Coffee drink from cafe wrong even after they try to correct it? Ask for a new one.

    Companies often make mistakes, but we should just assume that they’re going to without giving them a chance to do it right.

  11. teenween says:

    I am dealing with this situation right now. I’ve been waiting for over 10 days now for a refund because the company snet me an incomplete camera. I’ve started a blog about it in the hopes that I can speed along the refund process. I’ve also e-mailed the CEO and Founder. We’ll see if it helps. I’ve given them ( several opportunities to make this right.

  12. kadath217 says:

    I just went through a battle with DirecTV over a wrong charge. Going through the usual channels, and being especially nice and friendly, I got them to agree to refund my money in 8-10 weeks. Being nice was not getting me anywhere, and the promised callbacks did not come.

    The next day, I tried a different approach. I called back and fought my way up to the supervisor’s supervisor. She tried to placate me, until I got strongly assertive. After that, her tone changed, and my money was back in my account within 48 hours.

    As usual, Ben is right on — being nice would have gotten my money back, in 8-10 weeks. Knowing how to game the system, and being a little assertive goes a long way.

  13. Murph1908 says:

    Looking at it from that perspective, that makes sense. It does seem like the article is trying to make this the point.

    However, I think that:

    “Figure out what your hourly wage is worth, remembering that free time is worth more than on-the-clock time. If the value of the time you’re spending on the issue exceeds the value of what you’re seeking, give up. Take your business elsewhere. Otherwise, you’re being irrational.”

    is off that point, and saying ‘give up and accept the screwing.’ I don’t think it’s irrational to hold a company to their promises.

  14. G-Dog says:

    Why do people think they have to be nice? You should never trust anybody you give your money to.

  15. BigNutty says:

    I agree with the hardball method. Whether it concerns financial or unfair business decisions, I love the challenge of making a company “do the right thing”.

    I write letters with the heading “Notice before Lawsuit” that sound like they are from a lawyer (I watch a lot of Court TV). I demand exactly what I want and deserve and I always give them a time limit to respond back to me.

    If they ignore me I always file the lawsuit in small claims court (about $20 bucks) and then they always settle with me (for more money to cover my costs and hassles).

    I’m 8 for 9 so far.

  16. MercuryPDX says:

    @Murph1908: I think what “If the value of the time you’re spending on the issue exceeds the value of what you’re seeking, give up.” means is don’t spend three months of your life arguing with a company over a paltry sum of money, just on principle.

    While I agree that consumers should stand up for their rights, you have to know when to just throw in the towel.

  17. ivealwaysgotmail10 says:

    I Agree that you have to factor in the time you have spent on the problem, But obviously this includes time without a product when it is being replaced or repaired, time taken to re-configure/setup new product, hold times, even the time it takes them to respond to your emails. If you have been on the phone for more than 3 hours on a problem its a large problem, at that point im not happy with just a return or my money back, i have spent enough effort and time on an issue that merits compensation, Or at least fast resolution.

    On a recent problem i had with dell my combined time on the phone is probably somewhere between 10-16 hours, Many of those hours caused by incompetent reps not calling me back when I’ve been disconnected. This is not only time consuming but undeniably frustrating, and its especially annoying when your speaking to outsourced rep’s. Who sometimes can be just as helpful but most of the time comprehend about 80% of what i say, and their responses are about 95% read off of a computer screen.

    If no one can understand your issue ask for a supervisor, i cant stand reps who tell me they dont have one, no viable company has any rep without immediate management. Most of the time when they say that its because they think you may tell their supervisor they were of no help, which is the case 9/10 times i ask for someones supervisor.

    My personal tips?

    New products that are within 30 days-ish and are not working should be replaced with NEW replacements, NOT refurbished, If i have already had a problem with a product ill be damned if my replacement is going to have a higher chance in any way of breaking yet again.

    If a rep is being rude or unhelpful, or just doesnt give a damn about you or your problem, Dont just ask for their name, 9/10 companies use other things like Employee ID #’s Usernames, Locations, Ask them for their name emplyee ID number or any other idenifiable information, then call back to the same number and ask for a supervisor to file a complaint.

    For cable, Phone, internet, installations, If the guy is an ass, Ask him to leave (who wants a jerk in their house for 2-10 hours?),
    A Guy from charter communications came to my house, complained when i asked him to park across the street, he had used one of our boxes on an earlier job and he tried to pawn it off on dispatch forgetting to give it to him, He was just an ass in general, I told him to leave, I said flat out that you should work on the way you treat customers when you go to their houses and that there was no way that i was going to let him stay in my house for 8 hours installing cable.

    Got a call from charter who apologized but i switched to U verse who sent a very nice installation guy.