Consumer Power – Part I
June 7, 2009 by admncc
The other day at lunch, a colleague was telling me how her husband is a fierce consumer advocate. She said that he has fair expectations, but won’t hesitate to stand up to a company if he needs to. That was music to my ears, as I’ve spent years grandstanding and arguing that consumers should stand up for their rights and that companies should work to better resolve complaints.
Anyway, most recently this guy was upset because he had to wait on hold with his cell phone provider for more than one hour. So he sent the provider’s CEO an invoice for his time. That’s right; he billed them for his actual salary equivalent. The provider called him and said, “You can’t do that.” He said that he most certainly could and then sent them a delinquent notice when the first invoice wasn’t paid. As a result, the phone provider conceded. This guy now has a clause in his contract which says that if he has to call them and is forced to be on hold for more than a certain period of time – he gets an automatic credit on his cell phone bill. I think this guy is my new personal here! His story also reminded me of the now infamous mathematical equation check that a consumer once sent to Verizon Wirelsss.
The battle for consumer rights is taking off. And I’m curious how you feel about it? Do you complain or not complain, do you write letters or let it go, do you call the Manager or tell yourself it’s not worth it, etc?
One of my favorite blogs to read is Extreme John’s. Coincidentally, he just posted a Guest Post where his friend, Lace, complained about a recent experience with Comcast. The post also includes a video link of a Nightline story which focused on consumer vigilantes. While some consumers certainly take matters into their own hands or to the extreme, it appears that many companies are responding to those who fight back. The stories of Michael Whitford (who destroyed his Macbook on YouTube) and Bob Garfield (who launched an anti-Comast web site) are used as examples.
I couldn’t be happier that consumers are getting savvier and finding new and innovative ways to resolve their cases. Nothing is more frustrating than the not being able to get a complaint resolved and feeling helpless.
It’s time for companies to showcase their dedication to customer service. If they don’t, I’m afraid whether big or small, that they’re not going to be able to survive in this economic climate – because the heat is on…
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I for one will complain about things if it keeps happening. I have a local Wendy’s, which after several trips resulted in several sour Frosty’s I complained, and they sent me vouchers for free food. I am willing to let something go once, and if it is a repetitive problem, then I am ticked.
Four years ago I sent a message to Best Buy, because of their stupid website. I had just received a DVD Player & Surround Sound System for the house, and family members got me Best Buy Gift cards for gifts. This was to cover expenses for upgrading speaker wires, speaker stands, and all that good stuff needed to install the system. I went to the store and got prices of things, then I went home and looked at their website. I was able to find several “online only” items on sale, so I put them in my basket. I went to pay, and the site did not accept the Gift Card payments. I contacted them because by buying everything online I would have had $75 in gift cards left over for other item, but in the store in order to buy what I needed I would need pay an addition $50, and that did not include the extra trip to the store. According to them, they did not allow Gift Card to purchase items online. So, I told them they could shove it, I went to the store, bought the items, and I have not been in Best Buy since. Sure, I am one person, but the fact that I am one person standing up to a big business makes me feel like I am doing something to screw with their bottom line, even though I know they are not losing a lot of business from me.
What kind of questions is this for me? I complain, a lot! If I don’t feel that I am getting the service that I am paying for then you can bet your ass I going to be vocal about it.
I have gotten apology letters and gift cards from:
Second Cup (Canadian type of Starbucks)
The Cheesecake Factory (twice for screwing up two MAJOR orders, major as in 4,000$ worth of cheesecakes as Xmas gifts to clients….two years in a row!)
I’ve gotten free service from:
Rogers (cell phone)
Fido (cell phone)
Telus (cell phone)
Bell Canada (home telephone, internet and TV)
StarChoice (satilite company)
Yeah in case you can’t tell after a cell company pisses me off to much I just cancel and find a different provider.
I’m a huge fan of standing up for your rights and getting what you are paying for.
I loved the Macbook video. It made me realize that I need to be much more creative when I take on a company. Haha!
Billing for his time is brilliant! And to have the balls to send a deliquent notice. He is my hero, too. We do have to stand up for ourselves as consumers and the more creative the better. They’ve all heard the complaints before, we need to step it up a notch to be noticed.
I wish I were more assertive in getting what I want when something goes wrong. Often, I just let it go and in some cases I take my business elsewhere. Occasionally, I will ask for a manager to explain a problem. Recently, it got us a discount off our bill. It was at a restaurant and two out of four entrees were served lukewarm.
Jenny, I’m impressed with your list! Companies better learn not to mess with you!
you know. after working in customer service for so many years… i definitely notice crappy service much more. however, i would never send back food, or chew someone out. .. cus i know that won’t do any good. they don’t give a rip. in fact, its easier to sit there and listen to someone go off then actually have to do work.. so. I just immediately ask for their supervisor. then ask for their supervisor.
problem solved. AND you usually get something for free. hah.
That’s awesome. I’m continually amazed at how poor customer service has gotten lately, particularly since you would imagine the opposite with the job market being what it is.
I’m impressed with Jenny too. For years I’ve had problems with Bell Canada and they’ve given me nothing in return except for a headache.
Hey thank you for the inclusion brother, I appreciate that and Im glad you can find some joy in my boring little corner. Haha.
It’s about time that people started demanding some service, the internet is a huge enabler of these actions and these success stories will continue to grow. You can include Lace as a success story, Comcast commented on his guest post and moved up his appointment.
I also think it’s important to not only point out the consumers that take it to the next level and express their frustration, but it’s also important to give props to the companies that react and resolve these issues when they are put on a public stage.
I’m pretty patient, but once a company draws first blood, it’s ON! Extreme John’s right about how the internet empowers consumers to fight back and that we should also acknowledge it publicly when companies resolve our issues.
What’s always worked for me when I write a complaining letter is to specifically outline how I want to be compensated (reimbursement AND extras for my troubles) and then I send copies to the CEO, Customer Relations, and EVERY manager on down. Always go balls-to-the-wall!
I find the best way to get through to these people is to start off with something along the line of, “Look, I don’t mean to be rude, in fact I’ve worked in customer service before and have been in your shoes however this is unacceptable and if you don’t want to get yelled at please pass me to your supervisor.”
With Bell Canada you have to be very assertive and you need to be direct. After they apologize for their shitty service, mistake in billing, or whatever say, “Thats fine but how do you plan on making up for it? How are you going to compensate me?” They will try by offering you a discount on your services for 1 to 3 months and say “Nope, not enough. Not only did you incorrectly bill me but I’ve just wasted X amount of time trying to get through to you. My time isn’t free. I’m actually calling you from work…” and by that point they should offer you a month of free service. I usually make them combine stuff. I’ll demand a month of free service and then an additional 10% off for the next 3 months.
I stand my ground and make sure they realize I’m not a push over. I’m sure in my Bell Canada file when I call a message instantly pops up. “Beware, major bitch on the telephone!”
One more thing when dealing with customer “service”, or managers that are finally making things right…ask this question: “is that the best you can do?” Almost always, there is one more step they can take.
I think that complaining over a genuine beef with a company is one thing and complaining over ever little thing that “offends” you to get “free stuff” is quite another. I for one am a little tired of the “what do I get for free” attitude that some people take into every situation they face on a day to day basis.
I have no problem seeking restitution if a company actually wronged me in one way or another and I usually get it. What I find absurd is the consumer who cries wolf. Having worked as a customer service represenative and in the food service industry I have dealt with more than my share of consumers who want something for nothing just because they had a bad day.
And the next time you call up to yell at CSR, remember that the people who answer the phone rarely are the exact person who caused your problem in the first place. Remember to direct your anger where appropriate. (Okay I might be a little bitter about having worked as a Customer Service Rep and taking misdirected anger all day long 🙂
Ok so any advice here would be welcome. My wife and I had a joint cell phone plan with alltel. My wifes new employer has a great discount program through verizon so we wanted to see if we could take advantage of it. I called Alltel and explained that we wished to switch my wifes account to Verizon but didnt want to pay an early term fee and asked if their was a way to do this. After being put on hold for 15 minutes the lady came back and explained to me in great detail what to do in order to avoid an early term fee. So we follow everything to the T, in fact when my wife went to Verizon they were familiar with the process. So two weeks later I get a text and guess what I have an early term fee. I have spent at least 3 hours on the phone asking how a company can charge me an early term fee even though the account is still active in its family of networks, and I did what I was advised to do by a rep at that company. They say they wont do anything because there are no notes in the system from that call. They can see I had a 25 minute call into them but no notes so no credit. Any advice?
This is why I suggest when talking to someone from a company that you are getting credit from that you always always ask for their name and their employee number. That way you can go back to them.
What I would do in this case is call the customer service line and ask to speak to someone in customer satisfaction. It is their job to keep you happy (and often try to convince you NOT to change companies). Explain to them the situation and the steps that you and your wife followed to NOT get an early termination fee. If you explain to them the details/steps you followed they will know that you obviously are familiar with the process because someone informed you of it.
If they tell you that they are unable to do anything to help you then ask to be transferred to the department for cancellations. When they see that you are serious they will realize that waiving a 200$ cancellation fee will cost them a lot more than $200 in the long run!
I actually can’t recall a time when I have actually complained. I actually hadn’t realized this until now. But unless someone is just really rude, I guess I just assume that sometimes things happen. IDK, maybe I just haven’t had a bad enough experience yet.
[…] really enjoyed the “Consumer Power – Part I” post and discussion. The comments were great and some of the stories were very […]
I figured I would respond to this post since it’s about me! Cell phone companies pretty much get to do what ever they want now days with no recourse. I have since cancelled with Verizon and went with AT&T so I could get the I-phone. After purchasing my Iphone a few weeks ago they released the new updated phone this past Friday. I called AT&T and told them the situation and they told me that it would be no problem at all to take my old phone and trade it in on a new phone. I would have to pay a 10% re stocking fee but I was OK with that. After being told by the rep where to go I got in the car and started out on my journey. I first went to the AT&T store and was told “no way” and then told to go to the Apple store where I bought the phone. The AT&T rep at the store told me I should have never purchased the phone from the Apple store because they can’t handle your account the way AT&T can??? I then went to the Apple store where I was told “no way” and go back to AT&T. I then called AT&T customer service and was told that the rep told me wrong and they apologize.
I was quite upset since I just wasted 3hrs of driving around and standing in line at stores. I spoke with the supervisor and tried to explain to her that AT&T sold me a phone only three weeks ago that was outdated. She basically said that there was nothing she could do and the representative should have not have told me that. I find it very wrong that a company can sell you equipement and then put out something new and not offer to allow you to upgrade. I was told that if I want to upgrade I would have to buy a completely new phone and pay an early termination fee on the phone I currently have. I don’t see how this is possible. After getting no where with AT&T I have began the process of legal action. I have come to the conclusion there are NO good cell phone companies and none of them care about customer service. I will keep everyone updated of the situation.
[…] and people I’ve come across who have amazing stories; like Scott (who very innovatively embarrassed his wireless provider) and Steve (who became a blogging hero for putting a punk in his place). […]
[…] to visit (to fix several channels not working) but they never showed up. Taking a page from Scott’s book, I decided to send them an invoice for my time. I worked up my hourly salary and invoiced […]