How To Ask For Refund – The Art Of Complaining For Consumers

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.

How To Get The money back? Complaining customer on phone

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.

There was a continuous shortage of almost everything. People were extremely happy to find something to buy in the shops that mostly had empty shelves. Meat, cheese, ugly clothes or shoes, furniture, rugs – everything was hard to get. At times, this was the situation even with basic products like bread or milk. Long lines formed outside the stores with people hoping to find items to purchase by the time they reached the counter.
The power the store employees had over the customers was like that of gods. The saleswoman could decide who gets the goods, who can skip the line, who can choose their piece of meat. It was the customer who had to smile to the angry lady over the counter, not the other way around.

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.

In 1995 – 2010, I lived in Israel, where the situation was much better. There was no shortage and no lines to buy products or receive services. Most of the time, people are friendly and nice to each other. Many stores had defined exchange and return policies.
Yet, these policies were usually quite strict. For example, the right to return existed only within a week or two from the day of purchase, under numerous constraints. The customer had to present the original receipt. The item had to be unused and in its original package. The merchant would never refund with cash but only issue store credit.  If the product did not meet your expectations, it would have been really hard to get anything back.
In 2013 we moved to America. Well, I guess, you get the idea of how happy I was to discover the culture of customer service in the US. It took some time to get used to smiling counter clerks and “no questions asked” option to exchange or return items to the store.
Of course, I’m not trying to say that the service is great everywhere and all the time, but the difference is noticeable.

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.

How to get refund - plae shoes with a hole

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?

Unfortunately, many brands that were famous for their high-quality products several years ago, moved their production facilities to places with cheaper labor. They also try to save on materials. The impact is clear in many customer reviews that mention the declining quality and growing disappointment from the quality of shoes.

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.

From my experience, I can praise the following children shoe brands for great service: Plae, Stride Rite and Kai Run. These brands didn’t hesitate to resolve the situation.

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:

how to get your money back - torn boots

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.

Spilled Flour

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.

The sole of my daughter’s boot soon came off at the front. She told me that the sole is very thin and she feels every tiny stone she steps over. It was too late to return, but it’s never too late to complain! This time it took a lot of my husband’s time on the chat session.
Luckily, he’s great at multitasking, chatting with Amazon while doing his regular work at the office. He convinced the rep and his supervisor that Amazon should take responsibility for the third side seller’s product quality. Eventually, it worked!

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!

Related Post:

How to get a discount on Amazon Prime

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?

Let’s say, you’ve purchased a garment with a label saying it should be washed in cold water. But you tossed it into the washer with your towels and had run the extremely hot sanitation cycle. The seller shouldn’t be responsible for the ruined item.

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

Try to keep all your shopping documents available: receipt, invoice, dates, shipping tracking codes, items names and links. Gathering the data is easy when you shop online and get your order’s invoice directly into the email box.
Don’t delete them and it will be stored there forever (Gmail is my friend for this stuff). Most of the online retailers will require you to open an account before completing the order. It means they will also keep the records available for you for years.

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.


Final Thoughts

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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14 thoughts on “How To Ask For Refund – The Art Of Complaining For Consumers

  • January 15, 2020 at 9:35 am

    I think that you need to be polite to the service and use your ability to be mild.

    • January 15, 2020 at 9:57 pm

      Sure, David
      Always start with being polite. Escalate if necessary.

  • May 31, 2019 at 11:26 pm

    Great information Mary and yes the experience varies a lot from country to country. I live in New Zealand (born in Holland) and many of the retailers have a no questions asked policy. When they are house brands often you don’t even need to prove you bought it off them if you talk to them nicely and most people here are fundamentally honest.
    I keep having a problem with Asics running shoes, I always end up with a hole by my big toe. If I’m in the US I will buy them from a store like US Navy, but here they are more expensive, but the service is great and as you said in the article, backed by the manufacturer. My latest pair were almost exactly a year old. I took them into the shop and they said I could pick them up on the following week with a patch in them. I got a phone call to say they were ready and when I expected to pay, they said, no problem we will charge it to the manufacturer. It’s all about being nice to people.
    Service is sometimes a little different, as I discussed in a recent article where United Airlines wouldn’t take responsibility for damage to one of my guitars.
    I also find writing is good because you can show evidence with photos and tell a nice story.
    Social Media is good as a last resort as I found when I was getting nowhere with my Internet Service Provider. I told my story on Twitter (I have a lot of followers) with hashtags and within no time flat someone was on their way to sort things out.
    Do you find that nationality has a lot to do with whether people complain, or put up with poor quality products or services?

    • June 1, 2019 at 6:12 pm

      Hi Luigi,
      You have interesting stories, thank you for sharing.
      I think it depends on your early experiences about service, what are you used to. In Russia, we were nobodies, without any rights. Only living 20 years in Israel gave me a feeling that I can stand for myself against people and organizations.
      Currently, my husband is fighting with AT&T, our cellular provider about a deal they pulled into by telling lies at their store. They promised BOGO free deal that ends up as 50% discount on the second phone in the best case, as actually we were not supposed to get any deal at all with our plan. Knowing the right information, we won’t buy anything at all. Based on the lies, we did. And then the bill arrived, totally surprising us. We’ll see how this story ends..

  • April 10, 2019 at 10:24 pm

    I appreciate this piece. I actually have not tried it, but I have heard of friends who have tried this, but the whole thing didn’t work out as expected. I guess they didn’t have all the required information or documents like some you mentioned here. Going forward, no company would want customers to ask for a refund especially money, however, this would make them pay more attention to the quality check. On the other hand, how does one ask for a refund on a digital product for example, a software? There are many software sold online with one bogus claim or the other which most times end as craps. 

    • April 11, 2019 at 8:28 am

      Hi Tolu,

      It’s a good question about refunds on software. First of all, read the agreement. Check what are the terms of use – is it a refundable product? Under which conditions? Second, check the company’s reviews on BBB and TrustPilot. 

      And if you feel scammed – don’t give up. One of my friends filed a claim with the Attorney General about $99 charge on some auctions website. He presented many screenshots of the site to prove it was deceiving customers about their refund policy. He won and got his money back. Many times it’s about your persistence and willingness to fight for your consumer rights.

      Be prepared, know your stuff.


  • April 10, 2019 at 10:00 pm


    Thank you for posting about this serious situation and helping others to speak up their minds. Sometimes people, including myself, prefer to keep quiet instead of filing a complaint. But what you showed through this article is that I have the right to have the product I asked for and this step-by-step guide will really help the next time I am not satisfied with the service or the product.

    Great work with your article.



    • April 10, 2019 at 10:24 pm

      Hi Mariana,

      I’m glad you find this guide on getting a refund useful. I’m sure there are many people who don’t even try to speak up. It’s especially hard with personal interaction. I find emails and chats with customer representatives much easier.

      Well, except the chats with bots, when you can’t get the robot to understand what you want.


  • April 10, 2019 at 9:55 pm

    Politeness is key.  People aren’t going to help you if you are ticking them off.  Treat people the way you want to be treated and you will get your refund.

    Thank you for writing about this.  Not everyone realizes that asking for a refund at the store isn’t the only option.

    • April 10, 2019 at 10:20 pm

      Hi Colby,

      I used to be more aggressive in the past (Israeli culture!), but now I understand that being calm and polite will get me more. My husband is superior in handling customer issues with quiet persistence.

      Sometimes it’s good to be creative and accept a not obvious way of compensation.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts.


  • April 10, 2019 at 9:50 pm

    Hi Mary,
    What an interesting article I accidentally come across about how to ask for a refund if we are not happy about a product or service.
    I agree with you. It is not easy when you come across such experience and then the struggle of getting the money back. Your post give some valuable information how anyone should proceed with making a complain and escalate it if you are not satisfied.
    Thanks again for the article, I found it interesting and useful.
    Best wishes.

    • April 10, 2019 at 10:16 pm


      You are right, getting a refund is not easy. Some stores don’t have easy chat and their customer desks don’t reply fast. Sometimes it takes a lot of persistence to get your money back in some way.

      I’m glad you find this post useful.

      Thank you for visiting


  • April 10, 2019 at 9:50 pm

    When I find myself in a messy situation, writing a consumer complaint letter requires me keeping my emotions because I don’t want to create a scene and secondly mostly I will just leave the place quietly. Going through your wonderful post is just amazing as I have really learned about new tips on how best to go about it. I love all the examples you shared and they are really motivating. Thanks for the innovative idea. 

    • April 10, 2019 at 10:14 pm

      Hi Labulo,

      I also might get emotional sometimes when I feel that what happened was unjust. I need to take time to breathe and think about the best way to complain. Usually, writing a complaint is easier for me than talking in person. Chat is also a good option. For me, the worst case is to give up and not try to get your money back.

      The brands and stores are big players, they have funds to cover such situations. For us, consumers, the cost of shoes can be material in our budget. It’s not a fair game. Stand on yours!


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