Wednesday, November 18, 2009

So You Are A Consumer And You Have A Complaint

So you are a consumer and you have a complaint that you want to get resolved or an issue or concern that you would like addressed with a company or government agency. As a consumer what do you do to accomplish your goal?

· First, if you have a complaint be certain that you are legally justified in pursuing your complaint against a company or government agency. For example, read the terms of the product warranty for the product you have purchased or read the terms of service for the service you have purchased to determine whether your complaint is legally justified or not. If after you have read the terms of the warranty or the terms of service you believe that your complaint is legally justifiable, then pursue a resolution of your complaint. If your complaint or issue is against a government agency you need to determine whether what you are seeking is able to be done within the policy guidelines of the agency. If it is then take the appropriate steps to try and get your complaint or issue resolved.

· Before you take the first step to try and get your complaint or issue resolved stop, relax, get calm and focused and think positively about getting your complaint or issue resolved. Believe that you can get your complaint or issue resolved satisfactorily. In seeking a resolution for your complaint any results you achieve will be primarily based on your attitude and not your actions. Yes, the steps you take to get your complaint resolved are very important; however, what is much more important for you to achieve success is your attitude. So, think and be (feel) positive about getting your complaint or issue satisfactorily resolved before you even begin the process of trying to get it resolved.

· So, now that you are convinced that you are justified in pursuing a resolution of your complaint or issue and you are in a positive state of mind take the following steps to get your complaint or issue resolved.

· Determine who you need to call and speak with about your complaint or issue. Do some research about the company or government agency and find out what is the most appropriate department to contact as well as the most appropriate person to call and discuss your complaint or issue with. Most consumers mistakenly call a company’s or government agency’s regular toll-free customer service line and speak with a customer service representative about their complaint or issue only to discover that the person they are speaking with is not empowered to help them resolve their complaint or issue. As a consumer advocate I seldom call the company or government agency’s regular toll-free customer service line. Calling the number, being placed on hold for up to 45 minutes, only to reach a representative who informs me that they can not help me is very frustrating so I generally do not go that route to try and get a complaint or issue resolved for a consumer I am advocating for.

· To minimize your frustration as a consumer you want to speak with the person who can help you in the fastest amount of time possible. When it comes to my resolving consumer complaints or issues with a company or government agency for a consumer, I most generally contact the corporate headquarters or agency headquarters and politely and positively ask the receptionist to help me. I ask her or him to please connect me with someone in a supervisory position in the customer service or consumer relations department who can help me resolve the consumers complaint or issue. With some government agencies citizens are provided a caseworker or case manager. In that situation as a consumer advocate I would call or as the consumer representing yourself you would call the case worker or case manager to try and get your complaint resolved. If you can not get your complaint resolved at that level then you would ask to speak with someone in a supervisory position at the agency who can help you. Almost all major companies have a customer service or consumer relations department that provides “expedited” or “complaint escalation” services to respond to consumer’s complaints or issues. In some companies I have heard the departments referred to as the “executive customer relations” or “executive consumer relations” department. You want to speak with someone at the executive level to experience the fastest resolution to your consumer complaint.

· Whenever you speak with someone ALWAYS ask for their name and, or ID number. Also document the date and time you spoke with them. Be polite and courteous. Try to share something positive with them about their company such as a product or service of their company that you like. Or tell them that you have been a satisfied customer of their company, for example for 5 years, but now you have a problem and would they please help you try and get it resolved for you. Even though you might feel angry or frustrated it will not do you any good to take your frustration out on the person you are speaking with. You want them to like you…to want to help you and the only way to do that is by being positive and by treating them kindly.

· If you can get your complaint or issue resolved over the phone as a result of your call then that is a good thing. If you can not get your complaint or issue resolved by the person you are speaking with, or if it appears that the person you are speaking with does not fully understand your complaint or issue, ask them for an email address or a fax number so that you can send the complaint to them for further consideration and action. If you are going to send the person an email or fax set a time frame for them to respond. Inform them if they do not respond back to you within the agreed upon period of time you are going to call them again. And, if they do not respond to you call them back. If you get the person’s voice mail leave a message for them. In your message state that you would like them to respond or to have someone respond to your complaint within a certain time frame and that if they do not you will call them again. Call them one more time and if you get their voice mail or you speak with them personally and do not get your complaint or issue resolved then you “expedite” or “escalate” your complaint personally to the office of the president or CEO of the company.

· Get the name of the president or CEO of the company and call and ask to speak with them personally. In almost all cases you will not get the president or CEO, but rather, an executive assistant. Get their name and ID number if they have one and again document the date and time of your call and who you spoke with. Be polite with them and share with them your complaint or issue. Ask them to please help you as a valued customer of their company to get your complaint or issue resolved. They might want you to email or fax the information to them so that they can review it and forward it to the most appropriate person in the company who can help you. Tell them you will send them the email or fax concerning your complaint and establish a time frame for them or for the appropriate person to respond back to you. Let them know if they do not respond then you call them back for a response. If you get a response back from someone at the company that your complaint has been resolved to your satisfaction send an email or fax to the person you spoke with and thank them for their assistance. Also “carbon copy” to the president or CEO of the company. Expressing gratitude builds good will for the future in case you ever have another complaint or issue you need help with at that company or government agency.

· If you are not able to get your complaint or issue resolved by someone with the company then you want to file a complaint against the company with the appropriate government agencies such as your state’s Attorney General’s office as well as the AG office in the state where the company is headquartered. If your complaint concerning the company is because of fraudulent, deceptive or unfair business practices you would also want to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Visit their website to file a complaint at

About the Author:

Harold Cameron is The Chief of Helping People and Consumer Advocate for HaroldSays and and Ambassador of Positivity for The Be Positive Day.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Test Reveals High Level of Lead In Children's Toys

Children's toys carrying the Barbie and Disney logos have turned up with high levels of lead in them, according to a California-based advocacy group — a finding that may give consumers pause as they shop for the holiday season.

The Center for Environmental Health tested about 250 children's products bought at major retailers and found lead levels that exceeded federal limits in seven of them. Lead can cause irreversible brain damage.

Among those with high lead levels: a Barbie Bike Flair Accessory Kit and a Disney Tinkerbell Water Lily necklace. The group said it also found excessive lead in a Dora the Explorer Activity Tote, two pairs of children's shoes, a boys belt and a kids' poncho.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown has sent letters to Target, Wal-Mart and the other retailers who sold the seven products, warning that children's goods on their store shelves were found to contain illegal levels of lead and should be pulled immediately.


Think About It

If this can happen in the US where stringent rules are in place to protect the consumers, think about the countries in the Third World where such protection is not available.