Reader Wants To Know If He's A Bad Consumer


UPDATE: Greg has heard the voice of the Consumerist reader hive-mind and decided to follow your advice so that he may continue to criticize Bad Consumers without being labeled a hypocrite.


Regular readers of Consumerist are probably familiar with the “Bad Consumer” tag, used to single out those people whose behavior often makes it more difficult for the rest of us to be treated like human beings. And while most of us would like to think of ourselves as anything but someone that would fit into this category, doubts do occasionally creep in.

Take for instance the following tale from reader Greg, who thinks his recent heat of the moment behavior may have crossed the line:

I recently bought a 13-year-old car from a friend. Despite its age it was in great shape, with only 65,000 miles on it. It passed the safety inspection with flying colors and it drives like a dream.

Today I took it through a touchless car wash and during the drying cycle I noticed that the rear door panel was hanging off and flapping in the wind. I checked it out and found that a small piece of a plastic snap had broken off, loosening the entire panel to the point where I could probably remove the entire thing with my hands if I put a bit more pressure.

I spoke to the manager about getting my $7 back, to help alleviate the pain of having to fix my door. Before I got five words out, he cut me off and said, “You need to understand that this is a touchless car wash, so if the pressure broke anything off, it’s because it was already broken before you went in.”

I countered by showing how loose the entire panel was and saying, “It’s simple: my door wasn’t like this when it went in, but it was when it came out. Your washer did this to my car.” He was adamant that it wasn’t the machine’s fault, and refused to budge. “Thousands of cars go through that wash with no problems, our car wash is fine,” he said.

Earlier, I’d spoken briefly to the cashier, who explained that he couldn’t even give a refund if he wanted to because I’d paid at the pump. Knowing this, I told the manager that in lieu of a cash refund, I would be happy to take a free bottle of washer fluid ($4.50 value) for my troubles, anything to offset the inconvenience and cost of fixing my door. After a lot of back and forth he begrudgingly accepted, saying, “Go ahead and take a bottle. It comes out of my pocket though.”

I replied, “Thank you very much, this door repair comes out of my pocket too.”

Now I know it wasn’t entirely their fault, it also due to bad luck. In the heat of the moment I was in a “someone must pay” mindset, which is why I fought so hard to get something in return. I admit that I argued more for the principle of the matter than anything else. Looking back, I wonder if I was a bad consumer on this one. Most times when I hear of stories like this I think, “Just quit your bellyaching, stuff happens, get over it”. Now it seems the tables have turned.

So am I bad consumer, or did I deserve a little bit of washer fluid for my troubles?

Incidentally, the $4.50 I saved went straight to a roll of duct tape, so I think the door is fixed, for now.

Now here’s where you get to play judge, jury and (depending on your state) executioner:

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.