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On Your Side

Have a Complaint for Customer Service?

Before you confront customer service, make sure you can answer yes to these 4 questions

En español | Getting what you want from a corporate customer-service department is a lot like arguing with a teenager. You need to have a plan, stick to the facts, stay calm and know that you might lose.
 
See also: Know when to quit. 

That being said, the four-point checklist I use when advocating on behalf of AARP members can help you significantly increase your odds of coming out ahead in a product or service dispute.

Even if you've already called customer service and been turned away, all is not lost.

Before you try again, test yourself against my checklist. You should be able to answer yes to all four questions:

1.  Have I been significantly harmed?
This may seem like a "duh" question, but I often hear from consumers who want to fight over "principle" without actually having lost anything of real value. I'm not against having principles, but they just don't carry any currency against a large, faceless corporation. If you're upset over a matter of principle or could hold your total financial loss in spare change, forget about dialing customer service. Write a letter to the editor instead.

Stressed man checking in at airport.

2. Do I have a case?
It's rarely enough to just say that the product stopped working or the service was shoddy. No matter how obvious the issue might be to a normal person, convincing a corporation to spend its time and money to help you out involves building a case that proves your point.

If the product is under warranty, you'll need the purchase receipt and warranty agreement. If you can't find the receipt, but registered the product when you bought it, the registration can also establish the warranty coverage.Even if you're not covered, or the agreement says the company accepts warranty claims only in certain circumstances, you likely still have a case if the product or service fell short of what a normal person would expect.

On the other hand, if an 8-year-old refrigerator starts leaking coolant, most people might consider that an acceptable and predictable result of aging — meaning that you don't have a case.

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