Ever had a retail experience that made you grind your teeth? The worst part isn’t necessarily the money lost in a bad deal, but the overwhelming feeling of powerlessness that goes along with it. There are, however, many ways to regain the upper hand. Here are a few options.
The Better Business Bureau: The national BBB has an online presence where you can submit consumer complaints. You enter your Zip code onto the home page and they route you to your local BBB. The site is easy to use and yes, it garners results. I had a bad experience with a cellular carrier and submitted a complaint through the Web site. Then I forgot about it. Within two weeks, though, I received phone calls from the office of the president of my cellular phone provider. When they didn’t reach me at home, they called my cell phone (I’d provided both numbers on my BBB complaint). They handled my complaint expediently and I feel much better about the process.
The Parent Company: If you’re dealing with a franchised company, or one that has many locations, find out where the parent company is located and write to them. My husband was furious about a bad job a franchised mechanic shop did on our minivan. We looked up the parent company on the Web, and once we found their City and State (and the CEO’s name), we got the mailing address from www.anywho.com. We sent a letter via snail-mail (aka postal mail) and within a week, the owner of our local shop called us. Of course, he called to yell at my husband, so that left us unsatisfied again. This time, we called their customer service line (also listed on the parent company’s Web site) and after hearing our story, they offered to refund us the money we spent to have a real mechanic fix the bad job that Midas did on our van. We just have to fax them the bill. Not bad!
The Federal Citizen Information Center: If you were watching TV in the U.S. in the 1970s, you probably remember all the ads for the consumer-information booklets from Pueblo, Colorado. The organization behind that is a government agency that works to educate consumers on all matter of issues. Their publications are available for order via the Web, and some are even downloadable. They also host an offshoot Web site for Consumer Action, which will send you a free 2009 Consumer Action Handbook (currently out-of-stock but should be available within a month). You can also view the Handbook online. Additionally, Consumer Action provides information about filing consumer complaints, and even offers a sample complaint letter and email.
Thanks to Wallet Blog, you’re powerless no longer. Go forth and complain!