When you buy something, be it a physical product or a service, you expect to get a certain value for your money. Unfortunately, sometimes it doesn’t happen. You need to know how to ask for a refund or some other compensation. In this post, I’m going to share my personal stories about customer complaints I had to file. At the end of the post, you’ll find my seven best tips on how to be prepared to complain and get what you want from the companies’ reps.
Note: This post might contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
How many times were you not happy with a service you’ve received or a product you have purchased?
All these shoes that fell apart after the first week?
Remember how frustrated you felt? I’m sure I would be very upset about the lost money and the time it will take me to fix the problem.
How many times did you actually do something about it? Wrote an email or made a call?
Some people are too shy to speak up and demand compensation for wasting their money on a poorly made product or unsatisfying service. Others might think it’s not worth their time to enter into the conversation with the seller.
But I’m quite sure that there are people who are not really aware of the option to complain and receive compensation.
Smile To The Salesperson – My Russian Memories
Let me share some of my childhood memories from Russia of the ’80s and ’90s. The idea of customer service in the Soviet Union simply did not exist.
In vegetable stores, there was a big pipe made of rusted steel that had been used for selling potatoes. Every customer brought his own bag, put it under the pipe opening and pressed a button. He could only pray that the potatoes he got into his bag wouldn’t be too rotten to eat, as it would be impossible to exchange them. He would have had to pay for the good ones and rotten ones all the same.
When I face disappointment, my sense of justice would always push me to stand up and initiate the confrontation. I don’t mean being aggressive, at least not at the beginning. I start with a short and polite email or call the vendor, describing the situation and asking what could be done to fix it. Often, it’s enough to get the appropriate compensation.
Don’t forget that it’s your consumer right to complain when you don’t get the promised value for your money.
Here are several real examples from my own experience.
Shoes With Unexplainable Tears
My favorite example is shoes. Especially, children’s shoes. Yes, kids have a special talent to ruin shoes very quickly. They stop the swing with their toes (this is how we lost a nice UGG-like pair of boots from Costco last year). They kick the walls. They slow down their bikes by dragging the foot on the ground.
However, I have learned to distinguish between normal wear and tear and exceptionally poor quality. Look at the picture below – these shoes look totally torn after a couple of weeks of indoor wear.
The tears appeared where the shoe folds at every step the child makes. This is not normal!
My guess is, the leather was not treated appropriately during the manufacturing process. A couple of years ago, my daughter had exactly the same mary janes and used them till her feet outgrew the shoes. That was the reason I’ve bought this pair in the larger size. Why didn’t the shoes hold up this time?
That being said, many of the manufacturers are ready to assume the responsibility and compensate the customer. In most cases, they will be happy to replace the ripped pair with a new one of the same size and similar price.
Sometimes you’ll have to send the old pair to the service center. (They will provide you with the shipping label so you don’t have to pay the shipping fee). In other cases, you’ll need to cut the tongues of the shoes and send the picture to the support representative.
The pair from the picture above was purchased on the Plae website. I wrote their customer support, provided a short description of the issue and attached the pictures. The response came the very next day, apologizing and offering a replacement. We got a new pair of the same shoes after about 10 days.
I know you want to ask whether the new pair is better. We waited for spring so my daughter could wear them again. So far so good!
Stride Rite is a reliable brand as well. Here is a pair of my son’s winter boots that got ripped at a very unusual spot:
Stride Rite made it right by replacing the defective boots with sandals without any issues.
The Mighty Amazon At Its Best
The online retail giant takes customer satisfaction seriously.
Even with the third party sellers, you can still hold Amazon responsible for the quality as they allow the sellers to use the platform. It’s Amazon’s duty to conduct a thorough check of the seller’s reliability and stand behind the advertised promises relating to third-party products.
The responsibility is at the highest level when the product is sold by Amazon itself, especially with their private label.
Want some real Amazon stories from recent years?
Burning Out Bulbs
No long ago, we bought Ecosmart energy saving LED bulbs. They were supposed to work for many years while reducing our electricity bill.
Unfortunately, the bulbs started to burn out quite quickly, making the purchase not worth the money invested. We opened started a chat session with customer service. After explaining what happened, we got a refund for the product, without the need to send it back.
My husband bakes bread all the time. It’s amazingly flavorful bread made with different kinds of flour – spelt, rye, whole wheat. He likes Bob’s Red Mill flour and orders it in bulk from Amazon, as the price is usually lower than in our local grocery stores.
Once, he ordered a 4-pack of spelt flour and 3 out of 4 packs had holes in them. A lot of flour was spilled inside the box. The customer service rep was quick to apologize and issue a full refund. We kept the flour in a Ziploc bag and still enjoyed the delicious bread. Don’t ask me for a recipe, it’s a family secret!
Chinese Dr. Martens
I ordered two pairs of kids boots made in China that look very similar to Dr. Martens and even have cozy fur inside. Usually, I don’t buy unknown brands, but these were made of leather and I decided to try, thinking “what can go wrong with a leather boot?” My bad.
Customer support is one of the reasons we keep using Amazon and will choose it over a cheaper price for the same product in other sites. The peace of mind is so worth it for us!
How To Get The Money Back? Be Prepared To Complain
Disappointments happen all the time, there is no need to be surprised or upset. You want to be prepared for the confrontation, in case you’ll have to get into it, to demand the appropriate value for your money.
1. Do you have a case?
Before picking the phone or composing an angry email to the seller, answer the following question: Why do you think you have a case? Did the company make a promise that their product failed to fulfill?
Be honest with yourself. There are people on the other side as well. Sometimes it’s just a single business owner trying to make a living from selling his products on Amazon. Don’t hurt his ratings and income without having a good reason.
2. What do you want to get, exactly?
Before initiating the communication with the seller or the service provider, think what is it that you want to get out of the complaint?
There are obvious options, such as a full refund or product replacement. Yet, in some cases, more creative solutions are available as well. One month of free membership, a complimentary product, or $5-$10 credit compensation for your time.
3. Have all the case related information ready
If you shop in real brick and mortar stores, keeping the paper receipts for a long time could be tiresome. With the technology improvements, more and more stores will allow you to retrieve the receipts based on the credit card, or even phone number. You can ask about it at the counter, before leaving the store.
4. Be polite, no need to get personal
Always start your communication in a polite and nice tone, even if you are upset. Many times it will be enough and you’ll get your compensation just for asking politely.
Keep in mind that the customer representative on the other side of the line is a low paid employee and he or she has nothing to do with your problem. They didn’t make those shoes. They answer the calls of angry people to make a living. Be nice to them.
It doesn’t mean that you should take a “no” for an answer. Stay firm on what you need and feel is just, explain it, again and again, don’t give up. And if needed….
5. Get to the right person
Some issues can’t be resolved at the level of the first customer rep that picks up the phone in the calling center or answers the chat session at Amazon support.
When you’ve reached the roadblock, ask to be transferred to a team manager. She might have a higher authority level that is required to resolve your claim.
6. Keep the records of the interaction
Always keep the records of your interactions with customer support. Save the emails, write down the name of the rep you spoke with, ask for a chat transcription or copy the content of the chat to a file on your PC.
For example, Amazon used to have a button that would send a copy of the chat to your email once you close the session. It’s not there anymore. You can copy the chat to a Word document or save a screenshot with the promise to send you a refund, as a reference.
Don’t forget to check that whatever was promised during the call or the chat session is delivered. For example, you get new shoes or a refund.
7. Complain to consumer organizations
Do you think you have a good case but still hitting the wall trying to get compensation from the seller? There are several extra options to take it to the next level.
- Better Business Bureau (or BBB) maintains companies ratings based on the complaints on file. The BBB assists the customers in resolving their conflicts with companies.
- Look for local State Consumer Protection Office.
- File a dispute with your credit card company.
- For online transactions – file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
- For purchase from a foreign retailer -contact Econsumer.gov.
I hope this post helped you get motivated and ready to contact customer support. Remember to ask for a refund or replacement any time you are not happy with what you’ve got for your money.
Don’t forget – it’s your right to complain!
What are your stories about customer complaints? Please, share in comments below!
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