New HampshireDepartment of JusticeOffice of the Attorney General

Consumer Protection & Antitrust BureauEffective Negotiations

Everyone purchases a defective product or is dissatisfied with a business's service at some time. While we all complain about it to our friends and relatives, in reality, few of us actually complain to the retailer or manufacturer. Sometimes, people who do complain may not express their concerns in the most effective way possible to the retailer or manufacturer. This section provides some tips on helping you state your case to the business's representative in order to maximize the likelihood that the problem will be satisfactorily resolved. Resolving consumer problems is not always simple, but can be very rewarding both for the consumer and for the business. Consumers tend to frequent businesses they know will pay attention to their occasional problems.

To Begin

Before approaching the business, take a few minutes to collect information you may need and to decide on what resolution would satisfy you.

  • First, gather all the relevant information about the product or service, such as sales receipts, credit card slips, canceled checks, and warranty documents. Also, it is helpful to know the date of purchase and the product's model number.
  • If the product has a warranty, read the warranty card or pamphlet to see if the problem is covered. If it is, the steps you need to take are usually outlined in the pamphlet.
  • Decide what you want to have done about the problem. Should the product be repaired or replaced? Should the seller make a refund? If the problem is with a service, should the work be redone? The business may offer a solution you had not thought of, so it is important to stay flexible.
  • Recall the name of the salesperson who sold you the item, or who performed the service. Did this person say anything about the product or service that would be helpful now in fixing the problem?


When something goes wrong with a product or service you purchased, it is natural to feel upset or even betrayed if the salesperson made promises about the product's or service's performance. The best way to negotiate a good resolution to a problem, however, is to proceed with self-assured good manners rather than anger. A good attitude and pleasant manner will probably get you better, faster results than irritation and belligerence.

Call the business where you purchased the product or service. Find out who is authorized to deal with customer problems. Many large retailers have a customer service department, which is a good place to start. If the business does not have a customer service department, find out the name of the person who has authority to help customers with their problems and write it down.

Whether negotiating in person or over the telephone, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

  • Introduce yourself pleasantly to the person helping you with your problem.
  • Keep the tone of your voice pleasant. You may be upset or angry about the problem but it probably is not the fault of the person with whom you are speaking.
  • Keep a positive attitude in your mind as well as in your voice. Be optimistic about the ability of this person to assist you in resolving your problem. Courtesy goes a long way, too. You want business people to be polite to you; they should be shown the same courtesy.
  • State your problem and what you want done concisely. A simple, clear statement of the problem and your proposed remedy is an effective approach.
  • The person who is assisting you may be authorized to offer you certain options. If these are consistent with what you wanted, then your problem has been successfully resolved. If the solution offered is not what you had in mind, you should consider it as an alternative. If you do not wish to accept that offer, you may want to take your complaint to a higher level of authority.
  • If this person cannot help you, find out who can and write the person's name down. Also find out how to contact him or her.

If you find the business's representative is unable to help you resolve your problem, you can try another approach. This one is called "problem solving."

  • Identify the problem in terms of needs not solutions.
  • Ask the person assisting you to suggest some possible solutions. Work together to brainstorm some solutions that you had not thought of.
  • Select one of the solutions that fits both your needs and the business's.

When a solution to the problem has been agreed upon, both you and the person assisting you need to be sure that you are clear on what that solution is. Repeat the agreed upon solution to the person exactly as you understand it, including dates by which work is to be completed and who is responsible for what costs.

If the plan is complex or involves more than one person to implement, it is a good idea to write out the agreement. Be sure that you write down the name of the person assisting you so that if the proposed solution is not carried out as planned, you can refer to the same person.

Sometimes, the person you are dealing with may attempt to sidetrack you in your quest to have a problem resolved. A technique referred to as "broken record" can come in handy. This is not an appropriate tool when negotiating a settlement; you do not want to ignore a seller's good faith argument or settlement. However, when you find roadblocks being thrown up, this technique might be useful. You simply refuse to be sidetracked by repeating your concern, problem, or solution until the person gives up on the sidetracking. Robert Bolton, in his book People Skills, presents some steps to help you use the broken record response:

  • Select a simple one-sentence statement and use that statement, no matter what the other person says or does.
  • Repeat your one-sentence statement after each statement made by the other person. Don't respond to any other issues raised by the other person, or, if you do, respond only briefly.
  • Maintain a calm, pleasant voice during the exchange.
  • Remember, silence is golden! By repeating only your one-sentence statement, the other person will eventually realize any further talking on his or her part is futile.

If you have attempted to negotiate in person or over the phone, and have not achieved a reasonable result, you may want to write a letter of complaint. Refer to the section on Remedies: Writing a Complaint Letter.

What To Do, Where To Go If You Have A Problem

If you have tried everything on your own and have not reached a reasonable solution, contact the NH Consumer Protection & Antitrust Bureau. They offer a mediation service to help consumers and businesses resolve disputes.

NH Consumer Protection & Antitrust Bureau
33 Capitol Street
Concord, NH 03301
(603) 271-3641 or 1-888-468-4454

The Better Business Bureau also mediates disputes between consumers and businesses.

Better Business Bureau
25 Hall Street, Suite 102
Concord, NH 03301
(603) 224-1991

New Hampshire Department of Justice
33 Capitol Street | Concord, NH | 03301
Telephone: 603-271-3658