Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Complaints 101

          I abhor retired people who spend their golden years writing to manufacturers complaining about some inane thing that happened or didn’t happen with their product. These people don’t hesitate to dash off an annoying diatribe to any retailer if they had to wait in line or have encountered a less than cheerful salesperson or wait person. (Have YOU ever tried waiting tables for a living?) They complain it didn’t arrive in time, or arrived damaged, or didn’t live up to their expectations (or their design taste) when they got the item home.

          If you really hate people like that you should stop reading right now….because (gulp) I’m one of them. My own life isn’t entirely about composing clever barbs to companies when I’m upset about something, but I have been accused of pointing out a flaw or shortcoming of a retailer or manufacturer when a situation didn’t make my consumer genes hum with satisfaction.

          I come by this desire to set the producer straight or to share a less than rewarding experience honestly and … genetically. My mother was the queen complainer, which was all well and good expect she went overboard and complained about things that she shouldn’t have.

          For instance, once during her golden years, Mother deemed it a valiant task to count the number of squares on the toilet paper roll. Not surprisingly, the roll, which was touted as containing 400 squares, would sometimes have only 392 squares or, heaven forbid, only 380 squares. My mother, the English teacher, would spend days penning a complaint riddled with her disappointment and dismay about this shortcoming. The self-satisfaction she received by sending her letter outshone the milk-toast apologetic reply wherein the manufacturer would promise to right any wrong AND would include a coupon for free future purchases. Well, that free stuff got my attention and I began “educating” companies, too.

          My first such venture, when I was about 16, involved a Nestlé’s Crunch candy bar. I opened the package and found a hole in the bar with a white filmy cobweb…no insect, just the smashed home of one. This was a no-brainer. I sent the entire product back to Nestle and within a matter of weeks I received a 3 by 4 foot box containing one of every product Nestle made along with a profusely apologetic letter. Looking back, they’re probably just glad I didn’t sue their asses...lol.

          I wrote letters a few more times, hopefully, only for legitimate things and not because the fold on the granola bar packaging wasn’t centered on the product. Coats and Clark sent me 12 skeins of yarn when I discovered a skein that had several knots in it instead of a continuous piece of cotton.

          Most recently, I went to Whole Foods in Coddingtown instead of the store near my home on Yulupa and wanted to purchase, among other things, a half pint of pico de gallo. First, let me say their pico de gallo is delicious! I only buy the half pint size for $2.99 because I can’t consume more without it going bad. To make a long story short, the Whole Foods in Coddingtown didn’t stock, nor could they produce, a half pint, so I was going to be forced to purchase the pint for $6.00. Come on people, you can put it together. Well, they couldn’t find a product code, yada yada. I left the store empty-handed. When I got home I fired off a kind but pointed email and within two days, I’d heard from the store’s customer service department. They not only will be sure half pints of their tasty salsa are always available but, for my inconvenience, a gift certificate is waiting for me at the Customer Service desk at the store.

          In order to be successful in enlightening a company, your complaint needs, obviously, to be legit. I sure hope I’ve not inherited the hyper-vigilant complaining skills of my mother. In any letter or email, it is key to be polite and express disappointment or surprise at the lack of quality, or poor service, rather than anger or pointing out their stupidity.

          I look forward to hearing of any experiences that have or have not worked for you. In the meantime, I’m off to the Whole Foods in Coddingtown. I wonder what the gift certificate is for?

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