Saving Money by Speaking Up - The Secret to getting your Complaint Heard

We've all been there. We are out somewhere, enjoying ourselves, spending some money and it happens, we find ourselves at the receiving end of a poor product or lousy service. Dissatisfaction with a product or service can happen to anyone, at any time, but it's what you do about it that will determine how satisfied you will feel in the end, both in terms of getting your money's worth, and feeling better about being mistreated. Since not everyone is comfortable "making a scene", this article explores ways to bring serious attention to any situation without having to embarrass yourself or anyone else. Let's explore what you can do to turn a bad customer experience into a positive and therapeutic one. After all, no one likes to be left feeling ripped off.

1. Ask to speak to the manager

Addressing your complaint or problem immediately is one of the best ways to remedy a situation. Ask for the manager, stay calm, explain what happened, and why you think you weren't treated properly. Describe how disappointed you are, how much you'd like to be a regular customer and suggest what kind of remedy would make you likely to return to that business.

Last week I was food shopping at a new store. As I entered the store, I picked up their sales flyer, and loaded my cart with their sale items. I kept a mental list in my head of how much everything would cost. At check-out, the total was twice what I had mentally figured. The cashier and I went over some items, and what was suppose to be on sale, was not ringing at the sales price. After ten minutes of trying to figure out what was going on, I realized that the sales flyer I picked up, was for LAST WEEK'S sales.

I took the stack of about 50 sales flyers from the table right inside the front doors, and showed the manager. I explained how much time I had lost, and how disappointed I was that last weeks flyers were left out for everyone to shop with. He apologized, offered to put everything back for me, and gave me a $20 gift card. Now, I still lost about an hour of my time, but I did feel better about that experience because I spoke up, not only for myself, but for everyone else who would make food selections from an out-of-date sales flyer. And when I spoke with the manager, I did so calmly, and off to the side, so no one could hear our conversation.

It is important to remember that most companies want to provide a good experience for their customers. In these challenging economic times, they certainly need your dollars. But, companies cannot fix what they don't know about, so you are doing them a favor by letting them know where they have dropped the ball. You are not complaining as much as you are trying to help them improve their chances of keeping their customers happy.

2. Write a complaint letter

If you cannot remedy a situation right away, write it all down in a complaint letter. You should include your name and address, date, phone number and some background on what happened. Next, describe what caused the problem, and what effect this had on you. Then in the letter, state what you want. Do you want a refund? How about a gift card? Ask for what you need, so that you will feel better about shopping at this establishment again. There's no guarantee that you will get what you asked for, but you will feel better knowing that you tried. And who knows, maybe they will send you something you never even thought to ask for. You should also include copies of any receipts to verify your information.

Use the companies online contact information to submit your complaint letter directly to them. If you can't submit directly online, use USPS. It really doesn't matter how they receive your complaint, it just matters that the details of your situation get into the hands of someone who will listen and respond.

3. Call the company

Bigger companies have customer service departments that handle complaints. Jot down your facts, and call their 800 number. Just like you would if you wrote a letter, explain to them what happened and what they can do to remedy this situation. When I opened my can of French Fried Onions last month, I noticed right away that something was wrong. Instead of the usual little crispy crunchy bits of onion pieces I saw little mushy brown clumps. I immediately called the 800 number that was right on the side of the can. After giving the customer service rep. all the numbers from the product that she asked for, she not only apologized, but offered to send me two coupons for free cans of onions. Did I feel better because I made that call? Absolutely.

No one likes to feel ripped off, but if you take some kind of action, you can get results. Asserting yourself allows you to begin to feel better, gives you the opportunity to save some money, and, last but not least, may end up making things better for the next person who encounters a similar situation.