I’ve never been a fan of getting things you don’t deserve, whether by deception or stealing. But when I purchase a product and it doesn’t live up to my standards, I make it a point to let the company know.
Crappy ways of getting “free” stuff include lying about poor service at a restaurant, returning an empty box to a store in order to procure a second item for free, and scamming stores with coupons (watch TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” for examples of this deceptive practice). I abhor these “practices” and highly advise against them.
But if you truly have a problem with a product or service, by all means, TELL the company about it. In fact, I’ve had success in gaining a replacement for defective merchandise or poor service nearly a dozen times in the past couple of years. Here are some of the highlights.
I bought a six-pack of Coca-Cola, and when I got it home, found a can was empty of the sweet stuff (the can wasn’t damaged or punctured). I e-mailed their customer service and was sent a coupon for a free six-pack to make up for it. Free is free, right?
A similar instance to the Coca-Cola one: I purchased an HP printer cartridge and found that no ink would come out of it, no matter what I tried. I spoke to a technician through e-mail, and when we couldn’t get it to work, I was asked to send in the defective cartridge. In return, Hewlett-Packard sent me a new cartridge, free of charge.
This one earned me a mention on The Consumerist. You can read the full, bloody Tostitos story here. The short version is that when my husband opened a stubborn jar of Tostitos Southwestern Ranch Dip, his finger was cut from a piece of chipped glass — chipped UNDER the lid. But he neglected to tell me about said event, so when I arrived home after working a late shift, I opened the dip and sliced my OWN finger. As I put on a bandage, I saw the bathroom wastebasket full of bloody tissues. Frito-Lay, Tostitos’ parent company, saw my blog post before I could contact them, and made things right with some free products and a bunch of coupons for even more free products.
Comcast was our old cable provider, and we not only had our cable ‘accidentally’ disconnected once, but TWICE (I watched the guy go up the pole the second time). So I wrote this scathing blog post, fueled by the fact that the disconnection caused me to lose paying freelance work. Someone from Comcast read the post (I assume the company has a public relations department that looks for negative mentions on the Web) and offered to make things right. For our two-day interruption of service, we were credited a half-month of costs on our next bill. A full month would have been better, considering we pay an arm and a leg for our service, but it’s better than nothing.
My mother-in-law got me Brita’s faucet filtration system for Christmas (yes, that was what I’d asked for, since we could hardly keep the Brita pitcher filled up due to our aggressive water consumption). I loved it, except for the crappy plastic adapters the company included in the package to get it to fit our specific faucet. Have you ever seen plastic threads? They don’t hold up very well. After a couple of months, the plastic adapter threads deteriorated, leading to lots of leaking from the faucet when we either used tap water or switched to the filtered water. I scoured the Internet to see if others had the same issue, and found that Brita consumers can request metal replacement adapters (it’s noted on the company’s own website). So I had a very easy time calling the company and asking that metal Brita adapters be sent to my home, free of charge. Of course, if the company just included these metal adapters with the faucet filtration system in the first place…
How to Do It
Again, I don’t condone deceptive consumer practices. That being said, I DO encourage anyone who has a less-than-stellar experience with a company to let them know about it. But the key is to not be a jerk about it. Don’t call and berate the person on the other end of the line. Most of my experiences involved writing an e-mail to the company’s customer service department or blogging about my poor experience with a product or service. Sure, some of it is passive (writing a blog post far from guarantees a company response), but it’s just as much a shot in the dark as writing an email and hoping someone from customer service actually responds.
At the very least, you’ll get your complaint off your chest!