Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Sometimes it Pays to Complain

Like many of you, I grew up with parents who taught me not to complain. And while my actions don't always evidence it, I have a healthy disgust for a complaining spirit.

But sometimes, it pays to complain.

What do I mean by that? Well, sometimes the products you purchase are defective in some way. When I come across such a product, I let the manufacturer know about it. And really, "complain" is far too strong a word for what I'm talking about. 

Do you see the ruffle trim? Be still, my beating heart!

Here's the thing -- companies want your business. If you don't buy their products, they cease to exist. And most companies will bend over backwards when they find out they've messed up in some way. Most of the time, I'll receive a coupon for a free replacement of the defective product (usually we're talking about food here, so coupons are the logical solution). Sometimes, I'll receive a replacement coupon and a complimentary coupon, just to let me know they're sorry and they still want me as a customer. That floats my boat!

And then sometimes... Sometimes companies go above and beyond in a way that makes you want to hug their customer service representatives and invite them over for dinner!

Case in point? The two fabric kits in the picture above were sent to me by Michael Miller Fabrics, after I let them know that I loved their fabrics, but one of their panels was printed slightly off-grain (making it almost impossible for me to make the gift I was creating look neat and professional). When the customer service rep asked for my address so she could "send me a token" of their gratitude for buying their product, I had no idea this was what she had in mind! The kit on the left has a baby book and even more fabric & ribbons than the Dick and Jane kit -- but personally, I've been longing for that Dick and Jane fabric for ages, and I'm much more excited about that. *wink* I still have no idea why they went to such lengths, but I'm certainly grateful!

Another company I can't praise enough is organicgirl: good clean greens. I happen to love their 50/50! Spring mix and spinach greens -- we can't afford to purchase much organic produce, but these salad boxes are so convenient and long-lasting that I consider it money well spent (plus, lettuce is on the "Dirty Dozen" list, and it's something we eat frequently). We found a blade of grass in one of our boxes, and within days the extremely polite and apologetic rep had sent me not one, but four coupons for free boxes of salad, as well as a handful of $0.55 off coupons. That's over $24 of free salad!

So, how do I do this ethically? Because once you realize how easy it is to get free stuff, there's a temptation there to find "problems" with everything...

First, I consider whether it's a real error on the part of the manufacturer. Unknown object in my peas? Grass in my salad? Ziploc bags that consistently tear when you open them? To my mind, those are all legitimate problems, and if I were a manufacturer, I would want to know so I could fix it. One leaf of wilted lettuce in a box of greens? Food that spoiled because I left it in the car? Definitely not legitimate causes for complaint! That's not company error, that's just life. And ultimately, dishonesty about a so-called "problem" (whether it's totally fictional, or just super-pickiness) to receive compensation is stealing from that company. That's something I don't want on my conscience, especially for $1.50's worth of carrots or yogurt.

Second, I never, ever demand anything -- or even ask for anything! I e-mail or call the company, tell them how much I like their product, and let them know what the problem was. There's no need for whining, accusations, or unpleasantness of any kind. After all, the customer service rep did not personally put some foreign object in my oatmeal, just to annoy me. *wink* When I mention I had a problem, the response is a request for my address and info so that the company can "make it up to me." I always thank the reps, and tell them that I appreciate their help.

And if for some reason I'm not offered some form of compensation -- no big deal! I'm not a confrontational person, and having to ask for a coupon would just about kill me (though I don't think doing so would be wrong). But fortunately I've never yet had to do that.

So while "complaining" may seem like something to shy away from -- and it usually is -- sometimes it's okay.   And when it's okay, it pays!


  1. I had something like that happen recently. I ordered a tea set from "The English Tea Store" And I found that one of the cups was shattered in transit. We called and instead of them sending one cup, they sent the whole set of cups again! Same thing happened when I found a large chip in the lid of the sugar bowl. It really does pay to let them know when something is wrong and not of your doing. :D

  2. Those fabrics are amazing! I'm sorry your project couldn't work the way you wanted it to. Knowing that that company is that concerned about a fault in their product makes me want to buy from them again and again. :)

    Tiffany (who can't figure out how to sign in on her iPhone :)


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