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.
Before approaching the business, take a few minutes to collect information you may need and to decide on what resolution would satisfy you.
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 customer service departments, 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 so you won't forget it. You will want to speak directly with this person either over the phone or in-person at the store.
Whether negotiating in person or over the telephone, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
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."
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:
Example: Molly Tyme needs to have her old watch repaired. She goes to her local jewelry store where she knows she can get the work done. Molly talks to Sid Sails, the salesperson.
Molly: My old 17-jewel watch needs to be cleaned and repaired.
Sid: Our repair person has been out sick and has a tremendous backlog.
Molly: That's OK, I don't mind the wait. I want my watch cleaned and repaired.
Sid: It's an old watch. He may not be able to repair it.
Molly: I still want to try to get it repaired.
Sid: There's a $5 appraisal fee.
Molly: Fine, here's $5. I want my watch repaired.
Sid: You may never come to pick the watch up. Look at all those little bags on the shelf – those are watches that have never been picked up.
Molly: I want my watch cleaned and repaired and I will pick it up.
Sid: Ok here's your receipt. We'll call you when your watch is ready.
Molly: Thank you.
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 Remedies: Writing a Complaint Letter.
If you have tried everything on your own and have not reached a reasonable solution, contact the NH Consumer Protection Bureau. They offer a mediation service to help consumers and businesses resolve disputes:
NH Consumer Protection Bureau
NH Department of Justice
33 Capitol Street
Concord, NH 03301-6397
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, 603-228-3789, or 603-228-3844
Portable Document Format (.pdf). Visit nh.gov for a list of free .pdf readers for a variety of operating systems.
New Hampshire Department of Justice
33 Capitol Street | Concord, NH | 03301