Ralph bought a computer security program from SUX. But then he found he couldn’t download it.
So he contacted the company—whose customer service representative told him: You’ll have to buy another of our products to make the first one you bought work properly.
At that point, Ralph had had enough.
He sent SUX an email via its own website, outlining his problem and asking that the $60 charge on his credit card be removed.
Six days later, Ralph called his credit card company, to see if SUX was still charging him for an item he hadn’t received.
It was time to play Machiavellian hardball.
Ralph once again dialed SUX to speak to one of its customer service reps.
Calmly–but firmly–Ralph identified himself, then quickly summarized the problem he was having with the company.
Then he said:
“I suggest you contact someone in management and tell them this: I want this charge off my credit card in 24 hours. If it isn’t, here’s what’s going to happen:
“One: I’m going to file a criminal complaint with the local office of the United States Attorney [Federal prosecutor] for fraud against your company.
“When a company does business in more than one state, that brings it under Federal jurisdiction. And there are Federal penalties for charging people for products they didn’t receive.
“Two, I’m going to make this situation very well known on social media sites. That’s going to cost you bigtime on future customers.
“Again, I’ll wait 24 hours. Pass this on to your management.”
Then he hung up.
Slightly more than 24 hours later, Ralph got this email from SUX:
“Thank you for ordering from SUX. At your request a return has been initiated.”
In short: The charge would be removed from his credit card.
There are several important lessons to be learned here.
First, before you call to complain, make sure the product isn’t working.
Read the instructions carefully and follow them to the letter.
If you can’t understand the instructions, or if you feel you do and the product still isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do, call the company.
Second, when you reach the customer service rep, be patient and polite.
At best, getting angry and offensive wastes valuable time which could be better spent outlining the problem you’re having.
At worst, the tech might hang up on you, which means you’ll have to go through the whole telephone-tree exercise again.
Third, explain precisely what has gone wrong. If the tech gives you instructions on how to resolve the problem, follow them to the letter.
Fourth, if you’re sure you want to return the product, say so.
Find out the company’s preferred way to do this.
Fifth, if you’ve paid for it by credit card, state that you want the charge removed from your bill.
You may have to wait until the company receives the product before they take the charge off your bill. To make sure they get it, send it signed-receipt-requested.
Sixth, wait five to ten days to see if your credit card has been charged.
Ralph waited six, which is a reasonable number.
Seventh, if the problem hasn’t been resolved, call the company again and ask to speak to someone on its corporate headquarters—the higher up, the better.
You can often find out the names of the top executives of a company by checking its website. Or by going to a business-rating website, such as that of Standard and Poor’s.
Eighth, be polite but businesslike as you outline your problem.
If you can’t outline it in one or two minutes, ask for an email address where you can send a detailed email.
Ninth, state clearly what you want the company to do for you.
Often, people get so angry at the frustration they’ve endured that they forget to say what action they want the company to take.
Tenth, if the company rep makes it clear they won’t take back the product, give you a substitute, or refund your purchase, it’s time to play hardball.
Eleventh, if you believe the law has been broken, say so.
And say which agencies you intend to contact—such as the local District Attorney’s Office, Federal Trade Commission, United States Attorney or Federal Communications Commission.
Twelth, have at least one or two consumer complaint websites ready to cite—and contact.
- http://www.yelp.com/ – Yelp (Probably the most-feared consumer complaint site)
- http://www.ripoffreport.com/ – Ripoff Report (complaints, reviews, lawsuits and frauds reported)
- https://www.ftc.gov/ – Federal Trade Commission (Does not resolve individual consumer complaints but can file lawsuits against companies violating Federal law)
- http://www.hissingkitty.com/ – Hissing Kitty (Posts your complaints on Google, Yahoo and Bing)
- http://www.measuredup.com/ – Measured Up (“Consumers Review / Businesses Reply / Everybody Wins”)
Businesses fear bad consumer reviews–especially on Yelp! and Facebook.
When I once visited a local animal shelter, a receptionist told me: “If you have a problem with something, please see me. Don’t go home and post it on Yelp!”
Thirteenth, tell the company official what action you intend to take unless your demands are met.
Offer a deadline by when you expect that action to be taken.
Fourteenth, if that doesn’t prove enough, consider filing a private lawsuit.