Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thrifty Thursday: Speak up

Quite often, we will come across a product or service that does not meet our expectations. Many people feel it is easier to just absorb the cost and move on, but I believe it is important to stand up for what is right. When I am disappointed in a product/service, I will often sit down and e-mail the company (the website and/or e-mail address is usually on the pacjage or you can Google it). More often than not, the company will send a coupon (or more) to replace the product I was disappointed in and they will offer an explantion. Usually, if the explanation includes an apology and an admittance that there is a problem, they have become aware that something needs to be fixed. If they tell me that this is just the way the product is, I know they do not plan to change it and I will not purchase it again.

This can also be done at the grocery with "fresh" items that are purchased there, such as breads, meats, and produce. If the item is not as fresh as it should be (i.e. it is still within the use by date, but is bad) and you do not have the receipt, you can often still exchange the product for another "fresher" package. If you have the receipt they will usually offer you the choice of an exchange or a refund.

Be sure to watch the cash register as your products are rung up or at least review your receipt before leaving the store to make sure everything rang up correctly. It also helps if you have a general idea of what your total should be ahead of time so that if it is way off, you know something is wrong. It happened to me today and it turned out the cashier had only scanned 2 of my 3 $3 coupons. I politely asked if he had gotten all 3 coupons and he realized that 2 had stuck together. Some stores will also take a certain amount off your order total if you catch their registers are scanning something incorrectly.

On the flip side of all this, do not hesitate to applaud a company either. It may not always seem like it but companies do still want us to be happy and just like us, they like to be told when they have done well. This also may result in coupons for free product, but should not be our motivator.

So how does one tactfully complain or compliment a company? I will share what has always worked for me. First, do not threaten, use foul language, lie, or disparage their company. I start my letters by telling them how long I have used their product, whether it is my first time or I have been a long-time user. This lets them know that I am either not sure what to expect or that I am a "loyal" (or return) customer. I then find something good to say about the product before going into my complaint, or I continue on with what especially impressed me in a complimentary letter. For a complaint letter, I will say something like this: "I have always loved *positive aspect of product*. That is why I was especially surprised to find *negative event* in this can/box/bag/etc." I then will let them know that I am disappointed/upset/concerned (whatever the case may be) and that I hope they are working on correcting the problem. If, it is a repeat occurence or a serious enough problem and I mean it, I will let them know that I am planning on discontinuing using their product, unless they can show me the problem has been resolved. I follow up with how I would miss the positive things about the product and that I would hate to have to stop using the product, but that the safety of my family is most important or that the money we have can be better spent on a another brand. Then I sign off and send it. I will not name the brand, but ran into some issues with diapers when my oldest was an infant. I wrote the company regarding my disappointment and received a coupon for a free package and several more for deeply disounted packages. It always makes me laugh when companies do this when you are disppointed in how a product performs, because if I was not happy the first time, I doubt I will be happy the second time. Anyway, the free package performed the same as the first and I re-wrote the company and specifically asked that they NOT send me coupons for more of their diapers because I was done using them. I stated I did not want free diapers that did not work, I wanted them to make a better diaper so I had more choices at the store. The company again apologized and sent several high value coupons and free coupons for other products they manufactured.

In today's economy, we need to get the most for our money and when a product does not meet our expectations, we are not getting our money's worth. It is only fair to let the companies know what it is we do not like and give them the opportunity to fix it. On the other hand, companies also realize that we can choose who to do business with and although it may not always seem this way, they do value our business. Companies also feel the pinch of the economy and do not want to lose customers. Do not be afraid to speak up for yourself and you may just end up being rather pleased with the results.

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