How To Use Complaining as an Effective Refund Strategy

ComplainingWhen you think of complaining, you usually do so with a negative context.  Complaining is the result of unhappiness and powerlessness and if you hang around people that are constantly complaining, you’ll find your mood to take a sudden shift downward.

Earlier in life, I would get agitated at people that complained about every little thing in their lives.  For two years, I worked in an office of complainers, always upset at what was happening around them.  Rather than do something about it, I heard about the same problems over and over and over again, until I decided it was best if I didn’t work there any longer.  Complaining can be extremely stressful and it’s certainly not something I enjoy.

With that said, I’ve learned that voicing my opinion when I’ve been treated unfairly or unjustly has it’s immediate benefits.  There was a time in my life when no matter how terrible the service, how rude the customer service agent or how ridiculous a charge on my credit or debit card was, I would simply let it go because it “wasn’t that big a deal”.  Working at McDonald’s during my entire high-school career, I became numb to people that would complain about the pickles they didn’t want but it was my job to make things right.  I often day-dreamed that customers would drown in their unasked for condiments and fixins but that’s neither here nor there.

The day that my opinion on complaining changed was when I had almost no money to my name, hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and I was charged $32 for a NSF fee that was clearly the banks fault.  I simply couldn’t afford to lose that money so I called Wachovia (no longer my bank) and complained that it was, in fact, their fault.  I learned that each Wachovia customer was given a one time fee removal as a courtesy and I felt pretty good that I called in.  I vowed never to let my voice go unheard again.

These days, I find myself complaining about A LOT of the everyday problems stemming from restaurants, credit card companies, customer service representatives and almost anything else you can think of, because it saves me money and makes me happier!  Complaining has become an art form for me, like negotiating, where I go in with a set goal of what I expect to get out of it and as the conversation develops, I might change my goals.  Please don’t misunderstand my methods here, I am not making up things to complain about, nor do I hope that something bad happens simple so I can make a profit.  I simply react to everyday situations that I don’t care for and decide to do something about them.

For me, there are three regular situations that arise where my complaining techniques come in handy.

Poor Service or Food When Dining Out – With so much experience on the other end of this one, I know the game-plan from the restaurant when a customer complains.   I used to be of the mindset that these waiters, waitresses and cooks don’t make a lot of money and work very long hours, so if they screw up, I should cut them a break.  What can I say, I’m a nice guy.  Unfortunately for them, I now speak up if I’m missing a side item or if food is taking way to long to come out of the kitchen.  I’ve got to remember that I’m paying for a service and others are also paying for a service.  If I don’t voice my opinion, there’s a chance the shotty service will go unnoticed and will continue.  Keeping my cool, I express my displeasure to the waiter, waitress or manager of the restaurant and sometimes, I’ll score a free dessert or even a free meal.  (Make sure you do a quick sweep for loogies if you complain before your meal hits the table)

Poor Product Performance – My customer service complaining skills are better than ever and I can proudly say that I’ve had hundreds if not thousands of dollars refunded in bogus practices and fees.  Just today, I was charged $19.95 from SmartCredit.com, for a free-trial I canceled FOUR months ago.  I called in asking what happened and they explained that sometimes, their system makes random charges.  It was at that moment, I had the piece of information I needed to make sure my card was promptly refunded and after 60 seconds on the phone it was.  Another problem I’ve had is with my digital cable and internet through Comcast.  These guys seem to have an outage every week for a few hours and it drives me crazy.  On the surface, it’s really not that big of a problem but it’s such an inconvenience.  I called in several times to see what was going on and after 20 minutes with a rep, I was given a one month credit for my cable and internet service.  Pretty sweet!

Poor Customer Service – If there’s one phrase I’ve leaned to use more than any other, it’s “Can I please speak with a manager.”  Sometimes, no matter how valid my argument, I just cannot get through to the person on the other line (or on the other side of the counter) so I kindly ask to speak with a manager.  The job of a good manager is to take a disgruntled customer and turn them into a satisfied customer, so managers will usually offer compensation for your experience in one way or another.  The reason you are talking with customer service in the first place is usually to fix a problem and unless you have an able agent willing to help, the problem will only get worse.

There’s one last piece of information you’ll need to be an effective complainer and that’s the complainers etiquette manual.  Just because you feel you are to be compensated does not mean it will be so and in order to present the best case possible, you NEED to follow these three rules:

  • Rule #1 – Keep your voice down: When people argue, their voices tend to get louder and louder until they’re no longer talking but screaming.  If you raise your voice to the point where you’re yelling, you’re less likely to have someone listen to what you’re saying.
  • Rule #2 – Cursing will curse you: Under no circumstance can you lose your temper and start letting the four letter words fly.  This also includes clever name calling like “four eyes” and “metal mouth”.  The second you start berating the people designed to help you, you’ve lost.
  • Rule #3 – Stick to the facts: Often times when seeking reimbursement, you tend to overestimate the level of inconvenience you’ve experienced.  I can remember demanding $10,000 in reparations from an airline because they lost a suitcase with ~$100 worth of clothes inside.  My credibility went right out the window with that request.

I urge you to take what you’ve read here today, learn from it and go out into the world vowing never to let businesses get away with shotty service or products ever again.  If you’ve been slighted in the past, I would love to hear how you dealt with the situation and what the end result was.  Feel free to COMPLAIN below!

Published or Updated: June 28, 2011

Comments

  1. kt says:

    i have never been good at complaining and i avoid it when i can. The thing is when i get very mad at something all good manners are thrown out the window and i use bad language and say things that i know i shouldn’t. So to stay clean i avoid complaining whenever i can

  2. Pat Chiappa says:

    I have been a consumer complainer for years.

    I don’t like the word ‘complainer’, it sounds whiney and annoying. I rather think of my complaining as an extension of my high standards, commitment to value and discriminating taste. I’ll pay for you good service, but you have to deliver. If you promise to do something, I’ll hold you to it. If you take my money, I expect something in return.

    On the flip side, if someone does a good job, I’ll contact their manager and let them know. I recently did this with a helpful employee at Continental. If I’m going to take the time to complain, I will also take the time for praise. The bottom line is that complaining is good – it keeps companies on their toes and accountable. Complimenting and praising is also good, it keeps the same companies motivated to care about what they are putting out there in the world.

    My advice is to do both.

  3. john rain says:

    What does anyone know about people who have large events, then afterward complain about everything, even if it was OK, just hoping to get refunds they’re not really entitled to.
    As a deliberate, premeditated strategy?

  4. Erma Kelso says:

    Earlie this year, I bought a Lumix (Panasonic) camera, at Best Buy and I was happy that it had a rechargable battery and the charger came with it. I used the charger one time and after that I could not find it anywhere. Went back to Best Buy where I bought it thinking I could buy another charger.

    The first employee to wait on me looked at the chargers and said Nope, we don’t have it. I waited around until another employee came along and asked him. He looked and said Nope, don’t have it and left.
    I complained to my son and he said go back to Best Buy and ask for the manager so I did. The manager was an older person(lady) and along came a male manager. Telling them my problem, the male manager went back to their warehouse and got a charger for me at no cost!
    Can you believe that each Panasonic camera has its own certain charger and there is not a general charger for cameras.
    Iwould never thought of asking for the manager.
    And after reading your article, I wish I had asked for a manager when I found a worm in some turnip greens I was eating at a restaurant near a farmers market. When I showed it to the waitress, she just said Yes, sometimes there is a worm in the greens. Lovely, huh? Like a dummie, I quit eating, paid my bill and left.

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