Here's the thing about life: things go wrong. Packages are lost, shipments delayed, a decimal is inadvertently moved, things break and the people who are supposed to fix them don't. Fair enough. But in my view, the people selling goods or services have an obligation to keep the promises they make to clients or customers. And that promise is that things work.
As a consumer, your obligation is to make sure businesses keep up their their part of the bargain. This is where organizing comes in, and why it's important to develop reliable systems for filing receipts and warranties. You also need a place to store names, numbers, addresses, and websites, as well as account numbers, user names, and passwords. Once something goes wrong, you need to pull out a notebook and start recording the specifics of your encounters: who you talked to, the time and the date, what was discussed, what agreements were made. These are the details that are crucial for satisfactory results--results that you can count on your way to the bank.
Example one: The Broken Delivery Promise From The Fancy Department Store
This past holiday season, I was, well, late in ordering a gift for one of my nieces. I know. I'm supposed to be getting better and believe me, I am: usually my holiday gifts don't get out before April. Anyway. I was late, I was desperate, and there it was, a Very Fancy Department Store that said: don't worry, we'll get your package to your niece in time--guaranteed.
Well, heck, who can argue with that? Never mind where my package was going was Seattle, where a huge snow storm was raging, or that my sister hadn't seen a UPS truck on her street for over a week. THE VERY FANCY DEPARTMENT STORE PROMISED my niece's gift would be delivered on time, and by golly, I believed them!
Folks, it did not get to my niece on time. It did not get there one day late. Or two days late. Actually, when it finally did arrive, it got there a whole week late.
I got on-line and connected via real-time chat with customer service. I told them: I don't know what you're going to do--you tell me--but make it right. You made a promise and you didn't keep it. I'm calling you on it. Ball's in your court. What are you going to do?
It helped a great deal to have all the information before me: the dates and time that I made my order and a copy of the on-line receipt and delivery "guarantee". When the first customer service agent mysteriously dropped our chat, I copied it and pasted it into my word processing program while it was still on the screen, complete with his on-line name and identity number. In the end, the Fancy Store agreed to give me a 10% discount on my purchase.
Amount Saved: $19.00
Example two: Tale of the Broken Appliance and The Repair Man Who Couldn't Fix It
I'm a big believer in buying warranties for large appliances; in my experience, it almost always pays to get one, and the longer the service plan, the better. So a few days before the new year, I was stuck with a busted appliance. No problem, I have a warranty for such purposes. I called my warranty provider--neatly printed in my address book along with my account number--and arranged for service, with the naive hope that we'd be up and running in a matter of days. A month later and the appliance still wasn't fixed. Never mind that the service repair man had come out three times; I later found out he quit the day the company announced plans for drug testing. Finally they sent the supervisor out, a man with 30 years experience, who required three hours to un-do everything that the drug test shirker did wrong. Mid-repair, the supervisor put down his tools and in a pique of irritation and yelled: "If he didn't quit, I would have fired him!" which, I admit, was gratifying. Still, there was the matter of the appliance-less month. And so I called the issuer of the warranty, who had subcontracted out the work, and asked them to add a month to the end of my warranty contract, since I'd been out of the appliance a whole month. And to my utter astonishment, they said no. They would not add a month to my contract. Fine, I said. Then discount a month's worth of pay from my warranty. Nope, they couldn't do that, either. Fine, I said. You're a big store, give me a months' worth of the amount--what I calculated to be about $3.33--in store credit. No. Okay, I said. I'm through doing the heavy lifting here. Let's here your ideas. I'm open. I'm reasonable. I just want you to make this right. After a pause, the supervisor offered an apology. "Not good enough," I said.
By the time I called the corporate customer relations office, I was in the type of rage usually reserved for the type of reality TV that involves uniformed officers and Miranda rights. It's the principle of the matter, I fumed. You sent a stoned repairman to my house not once but three times and I was out of service for a month. This isn't what I had in mind when I signed up for your service. Obviously you need to do something here. What's it going to be?
Amount Saved: $100, which is half the amount I paid for my 5-year warranty service, in the form of a Big Box gift certificate for my troubles.
Example 3: My Little Hand-Vac: How Can It Be Broke When It Still Smells New?
Last example: I bought a hand vac, after the last one, which performed honorably for almost ten years, died peacefully in its wall-mounted holster, never to recharge again. After doing a fair amount of research, I found a model I liked, drove to a local store and bought it. WOW, was it ever great! The suction! The power! The mobility of its swivel head! I was in heaven! And then: it died. Just like that. I'd used it maybe five or six times. It even still smelled new.
Well, that's just not right. I got out my owner's manual (neatly filed and accessible, dear Questers!) which warned me not to bring the vacuum back to the store where I got it, but to call the manufacturer instead. Okay, fine. I called the manufacturer and explained the problem. "At this rate, I figure I paid, like, $10 a pop each time I used it," I explained. The manufacturer understood. They sent me out a new model, which I got a couple days later.
Amount Saved: $59.99 for the hand-vac and $5.65 for taxes.
How much I've saved so far this year, just by complaining:$184.64.