The Benefits of Courteous Complaining

In the last month or two I have made a command decision. I am not going to settle for sub-standard products. If we purchase something, using our hard-earned money, and it does not meet our expectations, I am going to let the manufacturer know. Seriously — people have no problem walking into the wine shop and complaining that they didn’t like a wine so it must have been “bad.” (Not true: just because you don’t like something, that doesn’t mean it has turned.) I hear people at the bank complain about waiting in line (and rather nastily, I might add). I don’t think it’s ridiculous to lodge a complaint if the product really, truely does not perform — as long as the complaint is made in a courteous way. Considering the rising prices of foods and household goods, I feel well within my rights to demand excellence.

About a week ago, after yet another load of laundry where several items had to be re-laundered because stains did not come out (even after pre-treating), I decided to write to Proctor & Gamble, the maker of Tide detergent which I had been using. The stains weren’t anything crazy. They were basic food stains created by two messy little boys: ketchup, chocolate pudding, spaghetti sauce, etc. I went to the Tide website to contact the company. I included the size of the detegent I’d purchased as well as the UPC code. I very politely expressed my disappointment with the product, noting that I had been a loyal Gain user but decided to give Tide a shot because I’d purchased it on sale. I wasn’t mean, I wasn’t accusatory. I asked if perhaps they’d recently changed formulas or if there was a bad batch, and also said that I was sorry I could not recommend the product to my friends and family because I do use and enjoy many other P&G products. I wrote the e-mail on a Saturday and that Monday I received an e-mail response back, saying that there would be a postal mail follow-up. Today I received a $5 coupon for Gain detergent (also a P&G product, in case you were wondering). I was very happy about this and it makes me feel like I am valued as a customer. Sure, $5 might be a drop in the bucket to Proctor & Gamble, but it is good enough for me. Basically, it gives me the money back on the Tide I was not happy with and allows me to puchase my detergent of choice. I was proud of myself for making my dissatisfaction known in a firm, yet polite way and getting a result.

So the moral of this story: don’t be afraid to complain! It doesn’t matter what the product is, if you are not satisfied, let the company know. Say you prefer to write with Bic pens, and you buy a package that is faulty. Send them an e-mail! Any corporation worth their salt will send you a coupon at the very least, as long as you thoughtfully explain the problem and are not obnoxious about it. It might not seem like much, but I think it’s going to matter more and more in this slow economy. Don’t throw your money away and don’t feel like you have to settle.

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  1. Dara says:

    You’re totally right. It’s also useful to specifically ask for what you want (a refund, a coupon, etc.). I recently had several diapers in a package with Velcro tabs that weren’t attached correctly — definitely a manufacturing problem, you couldn’t fasten the diaper unless you used tape. I e-mailed them requesting the equivalent of a free small package of diapers and they sent me a $10 off coupon. You can bet that helped me stay a loyal customer.

  2. Angie says:

    Having just finished ringing three companies, for various problems, I wholeheartedly agree. If I have any problem with a product, I ring the free phone number most of them provide, and generally (except for one crummy company who said thanks and hung up, thanks colgate-palmolive, I’m talking about you) I get a voucher to replace the product, and more.

  3. Lisanne says:

    There’s a Buffalo Wild Wings in my hometown. I’ve been wanting to try it sometime. Sounds good … sorry to hear that you only thought it was OK. I’m curious what they’re like.

    I *completely* agree with this entire blog entry. I’ve been writing companies here lately, actually, because I think that the whole frugality thing has really hit home with me! We’re paying for all of this stuff, and products should WORK. Prices are going up. I wrote Welch’s because a box of their fruit snacks was all dried up and shriveled and I had to throw it away. They sent me a bunch of coupons (including one for free fruit snacks!). I wrote Playskool because their diapers (sold at CVS) suck!!! I also wrote Disney Press because a “Little Einsteins” book of stickers had a faulty page (we couldn’t use the stickers). I’m all about coupons these days. I’m not writing JUST to get coupons, but I really do think that products should work and that companies need feedback.

  4. Shannon says:

    I have done this a lot… 3 or 4 times we have bought a case of soda and one or 2 of the cans are leaking… called coke and dew and told them and sent us money to get a new pack… just did it 2 weeks ago about a Green Giant item that I bought that just wasn’t right… wasn’t cheesy etc… and it was to be a cheesy item… they sent me 2 vouchers last week… But I have also called for coupons… some will do it… others won’t… kind of sucks since we don’t get the paper… but oh well…

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