How to Complain Effectively and Get Your Money Back

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Sticky Situations, cont'd.

The Situation: The seared tuna you ordered arrived well done instead of rare, as requested.

Need to Know: Timing is everything. Don't wait until you're halfway through your meal to complain about bad food. And don't suffer in silence, eat it, and then stiff the waiter with a poor tip. Most restaurant staff will do their best to make you happy if you speak up. The industry is dependent on good word of mouth, and managers don't want disappointed customers.
Speak Your Mind: "I asked for this tuna rare, and it's well done. I was wondering if you could please redo it?" You're being direct yet unemotional, and you're also assuming goodwill -- an approach that will motivate your waiter to help you, says Michael Kaufman, past chairman of the board of the National Restaurant Association.
Bite Your Tongue: Don't say, "You messed up my order." You're blaming the server for what was probably a mistake in the kitchen.

The Situation: A new pair of pants labeled machine-washable shrank the first time you washed them.

Need to Know: Some retailers will refund your money for defective products. Find the terms on the store's Web site, then call the service line or go back to the store with the pants (and the receipt if you still have it) to ask for a replacement or full refund. Chain retailers with their own clothing put a premium on the quality of their goods as well as their customer service, so they may be more likely to accept a return than department stores, which sell a wide variety of brands.
Speak Your Mind: A polite, direct request will go a long way to winning over the salesperson, who often has considerable leeway in interpreting the return policy to keep customers satisfied: "I love these pants, but I can't wear them now because they shrank when I washed them. Can you take them back and recommend another style?" If the store won't honor your request, write to the clothing's manufacturer and include a picture of the shrunken garment.
Bite Your Tongue: Saying "If you won't help me, I'll report you to your manager" can backfire. Not only does such a statement breed hostility, but most staff members also know that they have their manager's full support in dealing with customers.

The Situation: A small appliance such as a toaster or coffeemaker stopped working after only two or three months.

Need to Know: Few of us actually fill out or keep warranty cards, especially when the product isn't a major purchase, so it's often unclear whether an item is still under warranty. Some manufacturers will repair or replace a product for free even if you didn't fill out the card, but they don't advertise this on their Web site. It's worth contacting customer service to find out.

Speak Your Mind: Call the service center and say, "Your products usually last a long time, so I was surprised that the motor on this blender gave out so soon. What's your policy for appliances that break?" This wording signals your awareness that every company has a different system to resolve problems, says Lori Jo Vest, the other coauthor of Who's Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan.
Bite Your Tongue: Telling the representative "This is the last time I buy one of your products" shuts down communication.

Continued on page 3:  Reader Problems Solved


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