3 Ways To Ineffectively Complain

When you call up customer service, would you like to hang up with your issue not fixed at all? How about leaving the conversation angrier than when you started it? Here are three excellent tips for not getting what you want whatsoever when you complain to a company:

1. “Call employees incompetent.”
A general non-starter.

2. “Complain about something they can’t control.”
Head, meet brick wall.

3. “Threaten to sue or never do business with the company again.”
Then why should the company care about helping you out?

How to take your complaint to the next level [Elliott]


Edit Your Comment

  1. digital0verdose says:

    I have to imagine, that when a conversation with CS degrades to the point where one of those three comes into play, that the caller is more concerned with effective feedback than just venting to the “asshole”.

    • Etoiles says:

      When I first started working in retail, my mom wisely told me (she was a bank teller for years) that some customers are there to complete a transaction, some are there because they’re lonely, and some are out to pick a fight with anyone they think can’t fight back.

      (She then went on to confirm: “Those are the real assholes of the world. Not much you can do about them.” A wise woman, my mother.)

      And you’re right: some people are really just out to pick a fight, rather than actually resolve a problem.

      • chocolate1234 says:

        As a former bank teller, I agree with your mom completely!

      • colorisnteverything says:

        This is so true. And after working in retail and working for the state in Medicaid, I can confirm this happens all across the board.

      • justagigilo85 says:

        Working in retail for 6 years, she nailed it on the head.

      • myCatCracksMeUp says:

        some people are really just out to pick a fight

        sadly, this sounds like some commenters around here.

      • anyanka323 says:

        I agree with your mom. Most customers who call to complain seem to have a grossly inflated sense of entitlement or some psychological issues, especially low self esteem and anger management. Most of them are never going to be satisfied no matter how much you kiss their ass and they’re always going to find something to complain about. Most of the time, they’ll get their way even if they exagerrated or made it up. Most people in retail management at the store level, especially supervisors and managers who actually go out on the floor, are so spineless that they’ll give into most customer demands, no matter how absurd, in the name of good customer service.

    • lim says:

      Most of the time, maybe. But some people will start the conversation off with a combination of the above, even if it is their first time calling. I took calls where it was a person’s first time receiving our mailing and they called up and immediately started in about junk mail, how they don’t like the items, how they disagree with the editorial, etc.

  2. danmac says:

    1. “Call employees incompetent.”
    A general non-starter.

    It’s sad that in the world where we live, this point needs to be part of a “guide”.

    • greggen says:

      I dont understand, when dealing with a company filled with incompetent employees your are supposed to lie? =(

      • danmac says:

        No, you’re supposed to try and find someone competent by escalating or trying alternate channels (recalling, e-mailing the consumerist, EECB, etc.). Calling out someone who is incompetent may satisfy your need to feel better about the situation, but in the end it doesn’t help you.

      • Kitamura says:

        I guess it depends on whether the employee is genuinely incompetent, or if it’s stupid corporate policies that’s forcing them to appear incompetent and ineffective.

    • IThinkThereforeIAm says:

      As in:
      a) sad, because it’s true or
      b) sad because people are impolite enough to say it?

      • dbeahn says:

        Sad because when you open with that, you’ve just made sure that most CS reps (who are people too) will do only the bare minimum they are REQUIRED to do to keep their job, and will probably throw up every roadblock they can to keep from even doing that.

        Simply being polite, on the other hand, will often get a CS rep to go out of their way to fix your problem.

      • danmac says:

        Sad because evidently, treating another person like a human being needs to be part of a guide.

      • MishunAcomplisht says:

        A, definitely a. Due to a host of reasons, really customer service is dead and most customer service peons are COMPLETELY clueless, just like most of them are from or in another country.

  3. pop top says:

    Wait, you mean treating front-line employees like shit and acting like a dickhead ISN’T the way to voice your issues?

  4. zegota says:

    Good tips, except for number two, in some cases. Unless you’re complaining about an Act of God or something, it’s incredibly difficult for a consumer to know exactly what actions a company can or cannot take. As I’m sure many readers know, there are a ton of things that a CS rep will claim that they can’t help or control, but if you’re persistent enough, or talk to another rep or manager, it’s funny how the impossible is suddenly no big deal.

    Also, threatening to not do business again isn’t generally smart, but truthfully telling a company with whom you have ongoing service (cable, internet, etc.) that you’re considering ending service can open doors.

    Of course, the #1 rule of what not to do is to be rude, so even if you’re complaining or considering ending business, doing it in a respectful manner helps a lot.

    • babyruthless says:

      I worked as a cashier in the mall. I cannot tell you how many times people complained to me about what sizes my company’s products came in. Often they were very angry about it. I told them that they could call corporate, but they very, very, very often preferred to yell at me. A cashier. About sizes.

      This is a thing that the company can easily control, but the actual person you are talking to? Cannot do a damn thing about it.

      • LaurelHS says:


        Exactly. The same goes for people who complain about the prices of items in the store. The cashier doesn’t set the prices, he or she just rings them up.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      As I’m sure many readers know, there are a ton of things that a CS rep will claim that they can’t help or control, but if you’re persistent enough, or talk to another rep or manager, it’s funny how the impossible is suddenly no big deal.

      When it’s due to persistence or another rep it’s not that it’s not a big deal; you just made them cave because they don’t feel like dealing with you anymore. But it shouldn’t be surprising that a manager has more power to do certain things and bend/break policy than a grunt.

    • PTB315 says:

      In the link the guy who wrote this 3 point list made reference to things like weather or “man-made disasters”. Weather i understand, what the hell constitutes a man-made disaster? Is he referring to stuff like “the material was on a truck that was involved in an accident” or something?

  5. dulcinea47 says:

    As for number 2… there’s plenty of stuff they’ll *say* they can’t do anything about, but they actually can. It’s important to differentiate.

    • trentblase says:

      Here here… in CS speak, “can’t” often means “won’t”.

      I recently had to execute #2 and #3 in tandem… but #3 wasn’t an idle threat, it was genuine. I simply wanted the CS rep to take my complaint to any higher ups that because they (1) can’t do anything to help me, and (2) have no way of transferring me to someone who can, I see no reason to do business with them in the future. It may be ineffective in that I won’t get what I want, but I wasn’t going to get that anyways. It was effective in that they understood why I was going to take my business elsewhere.

      A company that does not empower its reps to do anything, and then hides behind that as an excuse for poor customer service does not deserve my business.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        That last sentence was beautifully written.

      • Tom Foolery says:

        On the other hand, just because the rep can’t do what you want them to do, doesn’t mean that they’re not empowered to help. I’m not a front line rep, but i talk to people all the time who get upset because i won’t give them a modification with a permanent rate reduction to 2% and $50k of principal reduction when they have no income they can document. Sometimes, i can’t do anything means “not only can i not do what you’re asking, no other rep you speak to will be able to do what you’re asking, my superviser can’t do what you’re asking, the area manager can’t do what you’re asking, and neither the senior VP nor the executive VP can do what you’re asking, and asking me to do it another five times won’t change that.”

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I think a good example is what I called Amazon for last week. I bought some stuff and even though it was listed as “in stock” the invoice said the items wouldn’t ship until August 24. I thought they would ship within 24 hours, so I called Amazon to ask about the time difference. There’s a difference between what I asked about and someone being an idiot and calling Amazon to say “can you make it get here faster?” when no, Amazon can’t call up the fulfillment center and say “hey, this person really wants their stuff.”

    • Destron says:

      Being on the other side of the fence, this kind of mentality is what really pisses me off. A CSR has absolutely no reason not to do something for you that is within their ability unless you started out being a dick to them. Yet people always assume that when they say they can’t do something that they really can and just don’t want to.

      There is also a difference in what they CAN DO and what they have the AUTHORITY TO DO. Just because they can do something does not mean they have the authority to do it, and if you get a timid person that does not like confrontation, your right, by being a complete dick you may be able to force them to do it. In the mean time you may get them reprimanded, cause them to lose a raise, or get them fired. Does that make you feel good that you can affect someone else s quality of life be being an asshat and forcing them to give you what you want so you can go about your happy life?

      Oh wait, CSR’s are not people anyway so who give a flying fuck if they can feed their troll kids or not right?

  6. therealchriss says:

    Working in a call center, if someone mentions the word “lawsuit” or “lawyer” to us, conversation ends right there. They get the phone number to the legal department and a friendly goodbye.

    • Conformist138 says:

      This. Mentioning legal action will get you the legal department, sometimes without even the friendly “good bye” from the CSR transferring you. So, if you want to wander into a deeper lake of shit and talk to a new rep in legalese, just say you’ll sue.

  7. chefguru says:

    This “guide” is just pointless… It’s like saying “3 ways to NOT talk your way out of a traffic ticket: 1) call the cop a ‘pig’. 2) rip the ticket up in front of the cop. 3) tell the cop to piss off and just drive away.”

    • danmac says:

      Three ways not to hook up at a bar:

      1. “Get drunk and vomit on yourself.”
      A general non-starter

      2. “Spend five minutes trying to read what’s on her t-shirt.”
      Head, meet brick wall.

      3. “Arrive on your bicycle.”
      Why should she fellate you if you can’t even drive her to your mom’s basement?

    • Blueberry Scone says:

      The thing is, I think people need to be reminded. If you call up to complain about a product/service, you’re probably already worked up, right? Now, some folks think that screaming at the CSR will do the trick – they need to be reminded that it won’t.

      FWIW, I am nothing but nice and polite when I have to call a CSR. I have gotten freebies, numerous “let me see what I can dos,” etc. I have a relative who thinks that screaming at the CSR is the way to go, and is mystified when they hang up on him.

    • buckeyegoose says:

      i’ve done number 3 before, and still got it dropped, lazy ass state trooper never showed to court.

  8. Hungry Dog says:

    You F***in A********* Piece of S******* C**** **** *****
    Now help me solve this and don’t be disrespectful you ******

    Company (insert name) did not help me at all those dou****ags. Their service sucks! All I wanted was this computer to stop flig wallering when I press the any key.

    • danmac says:

      Dear Consumerist,

      I listened calmly as the confused lady on the other line tried to help me. She was obviously not from America, but I tried not to hold that against her. I proceeded to politely outline my problem, although I admit my voice escalated a bit when I called her a worthless dot-head (*chuckle*). Also, when she asked me if the router was plugged in, I kept interrupting her because I know that the stupid router was plugged into the world wide web.

      In the end, she completely failed to help with my issue and I will no longer be using Sprint for my internet service.

      • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

        This is so damn close to a lot of the e-mails I get as an IT support specialist that it took me a while to figure out you were kidding.

        Below is the FULL text of an e-mail I received from one of my pain-in-the-ass users last week:

        Why not just fix this program, so it does all of this type of work for us instead of use having to do more work just get it to do what computer programs are to do in the first place (like all of the reparative work). I guess I will just have to waste my time doing reparative work. Thank for your time.

        By the way, this user’s native language is English.

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:


      • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

        You obviously didn’t call me. To me, this is an easy-peasy help desk incident. I would advise you to requisition a larger mousepad first, and if that didn’t help, to go to your manager and use the identical language to request a bigger monitor because your mouse pointer keeps slipping off the screen.

        I guarantee the problem will be resolved shortly. It may be your manager’s and my problem that gets resolved, but that’s a resolution too.

  9. FredKlein says:

    3. “Threaten to sue or never do business with the company again.”
    Then why should the company care about helping you out?

    Um, to avoid a lawsuit, and/or keep you as a customer?

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      How many of these threats really result in a lawsuit?

      When I worked a front desk job at a hospital, I was instructed that anyone breathed a word relating to lawyers, suing, or whatever, I was to immediately notify my supervisor. I thought that was silly because that’s EXACTLY the reaction the bluffing blowhards want… a sudden scramble to make things right. But, hey, I didn’t make the rules.

    • BarbiCat says:

      I’ll let you in on a little secret.

      Most customers who immediately go to the “I’ll switch to your competitor!” argument? Are NOT worth saving. No, seriously, my company actually tracked these numbers once. The customers who constantly switch from us to our competitor, and back again, order the LEAST amount of services, have zero loyalty, and cost the most money. I’m sorry, you’re not worth our business.

      The customers who call in and ask us to FIX their problem, those are the customers who tend to have multiple services, coupled with high rates of loyalty. Please, remind us of your loyalty and patience before threatening us with something that, frankly, doesn’t affect us at all.

      • Griking says:

        Awesome point.

        I work in retail and it’s always humorous to see the customers that swore that they’d never set foot in your stork again back a week or so later or at our next sale.

        • LaurelHS says:

          But if you make a complaint and it’s ignored, saying you won’t give them your business anymore is reasonable in my opinion. I had a situation where a restaurant employee made fun of me and asked me overly personal questions. I politely explained to her that I have problems with anxiety and that I didn’t like her talking to me this way. She laughed at me more and said she had just been making conversation. I told the manager that I would not be returning to this restaurant if their employees were going to behave rudely. I did not return to the restaurant for the next few years (after that, I moved out of the area so it was no longer an issue). If I say I’m not going to return to a business, I mean it.

      • FredKlein says:

        Most customers who immediately go to the “I’ll switch to your competitor!” argument? Are NOT worth saving.

        Is their money no good?

        And who said anything about “immediately” going to that?

        The customers who constantly switch from us to our competitor, and back again, order the LEAST amount of services, have zero loyalty, and cost the most money.

        Well, if I had repeated problems with the service I was getting from a company, I’d probably end up switching to another company. If I was having, say, billing issues with my cellular company, I might just drop back to the dead-simplest plan instead of calling each and every month to find out why they are charging me Data charges for sending Picture Mail, when Picture Mail is explicitly listed as ‘free’ under my plan.

        So, in that hypothetical, I’d be ‘unloyal’ and ‘ordering the least services’, because the company sucks, not because I do.

        • BarbiCat says:

          Actually, no. Their money isn’t as good. Because a customer with $35 in monthly services who is already getting several promotions and save deals, that *costs* us hundreds in truck rolls and man hours each month isn’t worth their small amount. And yes, THESE are the people who START the calls with “I’m going to switch to your competitor”. Not “I have an issue with this service that I need fixed”.

          I’m sorry your experience with companies has been so universally poor. I work as a phone tech, and I get to hear all about how certain people have been “putting up with our poor service” for years, but never once have they called us about it or asked us to fix it. If you can’t take ten minutes out of your day to tell us your TV has bad reception for THREE YEARS, why should we give you the $500 credit you’re asking for? There’s got to be give and take here. I can’t fix what you don’t tell me about, and honestly, there’s very little I *can’t* fix, or escalate to have fixed by someone else.

      • FredKlein says:

        The customers who call in and ask us to FIX their problem, those are the customers who tend to have multiple services, coupled with high rates of loyalty.

        And what happens when you refuse to fix those problems? Mayhaps the customers threaten to leave or sue?

        • BarbiCat says:

          Can’t say I would know, as the company I work for bends over backwards for customers. There’s very little we can’t, or won’t, do to help people who have our services, as long as they’ll work with us to do so. I’m sorry this isn’t your experience.

      • shepd says:

        Sometimes it’s worth the effort. Royal Bank just managed to majorly piss me off with unnecessary collections letters this week. I’m also getting a mortgage (already approved). I told them to close the account, and that I wouldn’t do any business with them. I also told my mortgage broker to strike RBC off the list of companies I’ll accept a mortgage from.

        Hope it was worth the $140 in account fees you recovered on a forgotten account that you just realized this month was unused to guarantee you won’t be taking on a $190,000 35 year mortgage with over 20% down.

        But yeah, I don’t have any loyalty to any company, I just have loyalty to my money. I change car insurance companies yearly to whoever bids the lowest, and I do the same thing for anything else I’d rather not have but have no choice but to purchase. Some companies know how that game works (my cableco) and have managed to keep me as a customer for almost 6 years by ensuring they offer me a competitive rate. Other companies figure that it’s not worth making $5 off me when they could make $20 off another customer that may or may not replace me.

        To each their own. To be fair, my cable company is, IIRC, one of the largest 10 tech companies in this country. I think they got that way by focusing on churn.

        In comparison, the phone company here, which focused on never bothering to keep customers that threatened to leave has had constant customer shrinkage for several years straight and I think the cable company is poised to take their spot on the biggest companies chart.

        • perkonkrusts says:

          shepd, by switching auto insurance companies every year, aren’t you missing out on any discounts companies may give to customers who are with them for a long period? I know at least some insurance companies (e.g. Amica) give lower rates to customers after a couple years.

      • PTB315 says:

        Just want to say its a beautiful thing to hear someone else on this site recognize the fact that a company does not want every single customer out there. There is such a thing as a bad/ undesirable customer, for many different and widely ranging reasons. The worst reasons being that they waste your time and money with complete bullshit, or that they’re just awful people who treat everyone they encounter like they’re not human.

        The second group are the people who need this list the worst, yet would get nothing from it.

    • Jack Doe says:

      1: There are a number of customers who are not worth keeping.
      2: Go ahead, mention a lawsuit. You’ll get transferred to legal, and our lawyers are a bit more badass than yours. Oh, and while this is happening, all your services get disconnected. Have fun.

  10. Ouze says:

    1.) Call the company without knowing exactly what you want to have happened at the end of the call.

    2.) Use emotional arguments instead of plain, simple, and concise facts.

    3.) Take less then what you want from the first person you talk to.

    These are my top 3 fails.

  11. mrs.bunnykins says:

    I love getting yelled at because the USPS had a delivery issue with the customer’s package. I just simply say “I understand you are upset about the situation, and I will do everything I can to help. I would like to take this opportunity to just remind you that the USPS is delivering this package not our employees” I swear, some people….

  12. Karita says:

    I would always laugh in retail when someone threatened not to shop with me again. It didn’t happen often, but when it did, it was typically the type of person that made life miserable for employees AND customers, and their disappearance tended to be good for business again.

  13. brinks says:

    As a retail manager, I wish the people that complained to me would pay attention to this guide.

    Pretty much every complaint I ever dealt with started off with someone insulting my employee, asking for something no sane person thinks we could possibly do for them, then saying if we didn’t meet their ridiculous demand they’d take their business elsewhere.

    If you are reasonable, I’ll bend over backwards to solve your problem. If you’re an asshole, I’ll let you take your business elsewhere. Now you’re someone else’s problem.

    • RvLeshrac says:


      What’s interesting here is that half of those commenting seem to have failed to grasp that the reason they often can’t get #2 is because they failed at #1 and #3.

      I had a manager once explicitly tell a customer that he had absolutely no reason to help him with his issue since the guy’d already said he was never going to shop there again no matter what we did for him. But we were going to help him anyway despite the fact that the problem had absolutely nothing to do with us.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      Retail gets enough customers here where you probably don’t have to worry about losing 1-2 over an issue that is way beyond your control. Seriously Walmart and Target or any other major retail store have so many customers that losing a few isn’t going to phase them. In fact you probably want that customer to leave because chances are they are costing your store money, making the lives of employees miserable and taking time away from employees that could be helping a customer that is worth keeping.

      #3 is is a must-avoid, because a company isn’t going to bother wasting resources on a customer that is never going to come back anyways. I would also like to see a study done on which consumers say they will never come back, but ultimately come back anyways. If there was ever a study done like that I think you would find that most customers would come back.

    • Etoiles says:

      One of the many reasons I loved my manager when I worked for GameStop… one day a horrible man came in and told me I was, and I quote, “a stupid cunt-faced bitch” when I wouldn’t complete his transaction the exact way he wanted. My manager wasn’t there at the time, but found out about it from the assistant manager.

      Week later, that guy comes back in. Manager comes to my register, motions for me to go to the back, then on ringing out that guy, calmly and politely explains to him that the employees are not there for abuse and that this is the last transaction he will EVER be completing at our store, because he is not welcome to return: not for any reason, and not at any time.

      Can’t work with an asshole, but you can make them follow through on “taking my business elsewhere.”

    • babyruthless says:

      I worked at Victoria’s Secret in college.

      I was working the register next to the manager on duty (who was filling in for someone on lunch, or something) and a customer came up and wanted to return a bra because the wire had come out. How long ago did she buy it? Oh, a year or so. And it was washed in the washing machine and dried in the dryer. But she totally does this, like, every time she needs a new bra. She just brings in her old one and we replace it for her.

      My manager told her she was out of her mind to think that we would have any incentive to replace this for her–she, by her own admission, has bought one bra here in the last few years and has us replace it for free every time it wears out (which it does quickly because it is mistreated). Girl wants to speak to a manager. Manager says she is the manager. Girl wants to speak to a different manager. Manager says she’ll try to find someone and walks to the back of the store and stays there for 20 minutes. Comes back and says she checked everywhere, and nope, she was still the only manager. Girl (who was probably 20+) calls her mom into the store. Manager tells mom what her daughter does, and why they don’t really feel the need to have her as a customer any more.


  14. Xerloq says:

    So what do you do when the CS rep uses these on you first?

  15. chargerRT says:

    This is all obvious, but good advice for anyone without common sense–and we all know someone affected by this.

    I worked in a tech support call center, where the general idea was to give the caller ONE fix to try, and get off the line. (Thank goodness this was in the days of dialup internet and not wasing cell phone minutes.) Then they could call back and reach a different person to try the next fix on the list. Gee, can’t see where this would frustrate anyone! If Consumerist existed at the time, we would be a “worst company” nominee, no question about it.

    I empathized (and sympathized for that matter) with many of our customers, and often gave added advice and extra fixes to try if someone seemed to be savvy enough. But all empathy and willingness to help ENDED if anyone called me a name or disparaged me personally. Say what you will about the company, but talk down to ME like that? Forget you. “I need you to try that last fix, and if that doesn’t work, shut the computer off for a few minutes, and call back when you’re ready to work on this TOGETHER. Thankyouforcallinghaveagreatday.” [click]

    My favorite was a caller who was so angry, and so negative, I fed it all right back to him. I went through 3 fixes and he said, “Those’ll never work.” I said, “OK, then nothing will. Sorry.” Then HE hung up.

    All this said, I have pretty close to zero tolerance for telephone customer service reps who don’t have a basic command of English enough to do anything but read the scripts. I am polite, but whether or not the issue is resolved, it is so painful for everyone. With the dis-service script readers provide, it’s no wonder customers are spontaneously combusting like this.

    • Karita says:

      Agreed. I don’t know that it’s that the foreign reps have such a bad understanding of English, though. I think their hands are probably tied to an extreme extent. That’s just a guess. At least *usually* when I get a rep reading from a script, they understand me well enough to read me the relevant answer, which leads me to believe their English is fine. I get the sense they just aren’t allowed to go beyond that.

      Regardless of the reason, I get really angry when someone reads a script, especially when they have to read back stuff I’ve already told them I know. Luckily, only once has it led me to get angry enough to yell and hang up the phone, but I’m pretty even-tempered.

      • chargerRT says:

        That makes sense. Maybe I’m more frustrated at lack of being able to help. That, and the canned responses via chat, etc.

        • dreamfish says:

          Indeed. There is nothing more dispiriting than when I call my cable company and, after only a short time talking to the rep, realise they’re going through a pre-defined script and I’m going to have to put up with this for 10-15 minutes before we can get to really solving the problem.

      • PTB315 says:

        Ever deal with Quickbooks customer service over the phone? Their call center is in India (not really a problem, I’ve never been unable to understand anyone I’ve spoken to), but they are reading from scripts complete with upselling you every single time the call is drawing to a close. I’m too polite to hang up on them, but I really should just do it.

  16. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    Actually, after reading the Consumerist for about a year I would say the #1 way to ineffectively complain is to…

    1. Get all worked up, don’t contact the business, and then submit an incoherent article to Consumerist.

  17. chocolate1234 says:

    I worked in customer service for years, and it really taught me how to approach difficult situations as a consumer. My husband and I are both polite, and never hold the CSR responsible for something that isn’t their fault. I can’t think of the last time I didn’t have an issue resolved to my satisfaction, and often I’ve even had extra perks thrown in. Last week, we had cable issues, and the guy went above and beyond because he said I was nice to him. I remember doing the same thing when I was in customer service. So many people were incredibly rude, so when I came across someone who was nice, I’d go above and beyond for them. Seriously people, just be nice and it will open so many doors.

  18. TasteyCat says:

    I have seen all these tactics work before, sometimes with remarkable speed. I wouldn’t recommend them, particularly as a starting point, but they may well work.

  19. DerangedKitsune says:

    4. “Complain to a front line employee.”
    Like a private in the army, they’re the most numerous and least empowered. If you want something done that they’re saying no to, or you’re told is against policy, try speaking with someone who actually has some level of authority and autonomy.

    At the very least, the CS will be happy to no longer be dealing with you. This I can say from experience; if I’ve told you no, I’ve told you I’m not allowed to do that, and that I can’t do what you want, then venting, yelling, and repeatedly asking for the same thing is only going to waste both our time. Go above my head and either get what you want or realize that you never will.

    • Corinthos says:

      Exactly I could care less if a customer never does business with the wireless company I work for again. Even though we are supposed to attempt to save account I never do because it doesn’t directly affect my paycheck. If they threaten to sue I could care less also.

    • brinks says:


      I wish people realized it does NO GOOD to yell and scream at someone who has no authority to do what they’re asking. I.e. : a cashier can’t change the prices or policies set by corporate; if you don’t like it, you gotta complain to corporate itself. Causing a scene just makes you look like an ass and won’t resolve a thing.

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      Right, like that works when the rep considers your problem so trivial that they flatly refuse to escalate you. Or, in a case I’m dealing with right now, “While you were on hold, I talked to my higher up about your problem and they said their decision is final.”

      • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

        By the way, the decision wasn’t final by any means, as I found out when by some miracle I got through to a manager superior to the so-called “higher-up” that the original rep refused to let me talk to.

  20. Hoss says:

    After some discussion there will come a point that it’s clear that your not getting anywhere. I find saying “is the anything you can do for me” helps put the CSR in the driver’s seat. You want them to feel like the smart one with lots of power, it does no good to play that role yourself.

  21. OnePumpChump says:

    How about threatening to bad-mouth the company until the day you die?

  22. KyBash says:

    When my sister was second-tier customer service (dealing with those people who couldn’t get anywhere with the front-line customer reps), she had an excellent answer for the “I’ll sue” comment:

    “Oh, I’m really very sorry to hear that. I wish you had told me sooner; it would have saved both of us some time. I think we could have worked something out, but by state law, only our legal department can discuss matters related to pending litigation. I will put a note into your file to alert all of our customer service representatives that they must refer you to our legal department. Have a nice day.” (click)

  23. colorisnteverything says:

    One thing TO do is to say “thank you” when the CSR does something that may even just be MINIMALLY helpful.

    It is very important to make it worth their while to help them. Don’t start off being an asshole. Today, I dealt with Sam’s Club. I ordered a mattress. They are on their way now, but when they were scheduled, they never showed. Because I had to teach students (I am a TA), I had to leave at noon and they weren’t here. One CSR was useless and refused to help. She said she’d call me back and she didn’t. I called another one, Drew, and he was very nice and tried to help me. Never gave up. It was the dispatcher at the local company that was the issue – was NOT answering the phone or replying to email. He finally got ahold of them and I gave the dispatcher shit for not returning my call or caring and told him when he said he would “try” to get the bed to me that I would be instituting a charge back today if it was not delivered.

    Low and behold, he made it happen. And I thanked Drew for his help and also thanked the delivery driver for calling me. Reward the people who want to help and make it clear to those who CAN help and won’t that you will not stand for nonsense in a normal, strong, and not too angry manner. Thank them when they finally digress and help. REWARD good behavior if not for yourself, but for the NEXT person.

  24. XTC46 says:

    #3 was always an immediate end to conversations I had with people. The moment somone threatened legal action, they were asked to contact our legal department as i could no longer provide assistance if that was the route they chose to persue.

    As a CSR, I had no reason to not help somone at our standard level of care. If that person was a dick, they would get the minimum service within the scopre of my job, and I would refer them elsewhere if it fell out of that. If they were nice, Id do everything i could to help them, including working with managers I knew would cave to what they want, etc.

  25. haggis for the soul says:

    Basic manners on both sides could go a long way. Who knew?

  26. Harry_Greek says:

    These aren’t complaints – these are threats. People who do this do it to cause havok, not get an issue settled.

    You don’t settle issues by causing/creating one.

  27. mingtae says:

    I think everyone who does not work customer service over the phone would be surprised at the treatment reps get, even if they are English speaking Americans. Phrases like “you people” and “I hate your company” will really get you know where. So here are a couple of tips and yes, it is sad that people forget to use common courtesy.

    1) Be nice. Swearing, yelling and making threats will make reps tune you out.
    2) Give the person you are speak to a chance. We work for the company so we know how the ends and out of the business. The longer a person has been with the company, the more they know how to bend the rules.
    3) If a rep says something cannot be done, do not think a supervisor, manager, director, Vice president or CEO can do it. Empowerment is the big buzz words these days but rules are created for specific reasons.

  28. isileth says:

    I use a few tricks when I complain.
    As said before, being polite helps and it’s really unnecessary scream and rant to the employee at the other side of the phone because he/she is the least responsible for your problems.
    Sometimes I prefer to write and I use the same pattern.
    Being polite, explain clearly with dates and the like and throw a bit of sarcasm but always polite, without using curses or slang.
    And, most of all, always send a copy to some institution, governamental or not, that is interested in what consumers say.
    If I have a complaint about something concerning computers I usually send a copy to some pc-magazines in my country.
    It it’s related to something else, I copy to a tv-show specialized in customers’ complaint.
    This last trick doesn’t warrant a solution, but you can be quite sure to at least receive an answer.
    Until now it worked just fine.

  29. balderdashed says:

    Good advice up to a point, except that it presumes that one’s sole objective in complaining is to get an issue “fixed.” There are other good reasons to complain. It may be that there really is no fix — the company has messed up so badly (ruining a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, wedding, etc.) that there is no way to undo the damage. In that case, complaining may at least spare some future customer from their incompetence. And speaking of incompetence, some employees clearly are — and when that is the core of the problem (i.e., an employee lacks the basic skills necessary to do his or her job, and that’s why my car still doesn’t work after three or four failed repair attempts) I don’t mind pointing that out.

    Complaining about something a company can’t control? The problem with that argument is, companies use the “we can’t control that” (or a variant, “it’s not our fault”) argument all too often to escape responsibility. If I didn’t get the product or service you promised, and I paid my bill and did everything right, then “buck-stops-here,” it is your fault! Don’t blame a subcontractor or vendor (you chose them), a delivery service (likewise), God (I’m not that religious), or the weather (you know it snows from time to time in Minnesota).

    As for threatening to never to do business with a company again, I’ve found that can be a pretty good strategy. If I’ve explained the problem clearly, and the company refuses to make things right, my matter-of-fact message is: “You sold me a product that does not perform as you promised. You can choose to refund my money in full, and I will continue to do business with you. Or you can choose not to, and I’ll never place another order. It’s entirely up to you, and I’ll be fine with whatever you decide.” I usually get my money back — but if I don’t, never having to deal again with that company is usually compensation enough.

  30. P_Smith says:

    The most ineffective way to complain is to let yourself be easy to ignore.

    If you can’t do a chargeback or have no ability to file a lawsuit, they’ll ignore you. When you can get your money back by legal force (after all reasonable means have been tried), you’ll get the company’s attention.

    If you can’t make visit the corporate or regional office in person, they’ll ignore you. Phone calls and email are easy to ignore. Being able to walk into managment offices and forcing them to see and deal with a poor product or a service failure gets the company’s attention.

    If you can’t make other customers, potential customers or the general public know how inept, corrupt or dishonest the company is, they’ll ignore you. Thank you Consumerist and the Internet! Getting other people’s attention gets the company’s attention.


  31. kitty says:

    This articles title should have been:

    “3 Ways for Consumerist to Profit by Telling You What You Already Know”

  32. Gin&Jesus says:

    As a CS rep, I can tell you directly that these three things instantly make me less willing to help. All three of these happen pretty often on the phone, and via email/chat.

    Stop complaining to me that the severe flooding in your area delayed your package. If you want to “never do business with me again”, then that’s fine with me, because I won’t have to deal with your complete ignorance ever again.

    Most people that call customer service centers are entitled, arrogant, and with unbelievably high expectations. We aren’t made of magic. We can’t make your package arrive in 1 day when you paid for standard shipping. Get over it.

  33. smo0 says:

    3. “Threaten to sue or never do business with the company again.”
    Then why should the company care about helping you out?

    OVERALL – that may be true.. but some companies have retention departments designed for those magic words…
    At citi, if someone was serious and said, “close my account right now…” I’d attempt to close it, if a retention message popped up, I had to xfer it… sure as a rep/agent you don’t have to do it, but if the call was monitored, you could get written up for not following procedure…