Top the Treasure Hunt leaderboard by 5 p.m. Friday to win a $100 gift card! Learn more

7 Things You Should Never Say to Customer Service

3. “Bankrupt.” As in, “I’m going to bankrupt your company.” Just as with threatening someone’s job, it’s unlikely you’re going to bring down the house—and the approach is overly antagonistic. There’s no way that your one case will destroy their business. You have to think about your real goal: Is it getting a refund or value for money paid? And even if you were actually able to derail the corporate train, you still wouldn’t be better off financially.

4. Any form of “&$#%!” This covers foul language, sexual innuendo, or comments about someone’s ancestry. This behavior is guaranteed to immediately get you classified as a “crazy” customer. The customer service representative will rightfully hang up on you and then scribble a note in your file to make sure that every future agent will be aware of your challenged mental state. While unleashing a string of tawdry epithets might make you feel better, your wallet won’t get any fatter.

5.  “Never,” as in, “I’m never going to use your products again.” In large part, the reason companies offer customer service in the first place is to retain loyal customers. They calculate that anything they give back will be offset by your future purchases. Therefore, if you tell them that you’re no longer going to use their product or service, you’ve taken away the number-one reason for them to be nice to you.

6. “Media.” You’ve got to be pretty high up the chain of command before warnings of going to the press will have any impact. You will also need to do some research first, including demographics, audience numbers, and reaching the right reporters, in order to use press exposure in your favor. In my book, “Unscrewed: The Consumers’ Guide to Getting What You Paid For,” I discuss in-depth how to use the promise of going to the media to your maximum benefit.

7. “Kill.” This also goes for “bomb,” “shoot,” “beat up,” and other physical bullying. Never, ever, make personal threats against an employee of the company or its executives. Verbal threats of bodily harm are crimes. Customer service calls are recorded, and you will likely find yourself at the wrong end of a restraining order, or worse, behind bars.  Promising to make a scene at corporate headquarters is equally unproductive. If you’re so angry that only a personal confrontation will satisfy you, then you’re taking the whole thing much too seriously. You either need a therapist or a lawyer—maybe both.

The primary consideration—do not put yourself in a position where you can be marginalized as an unreasonable complainer, a crazy person, or a danger. No matter how frustrating or absurd the situation, you need to maintain a businesslike approach at all times.

So if you can’t scream and yell, what can you do when you have not received the product or service you paid for? Read seven things you should say, and that may greatly enhance your chances of winning a satisfactory conclusion in a customer-service conflict.

Ron Burley is the author of Unscrewed: The Consumer's Guide to Getting What You Paid For.

You may also like: 10 Common Consumer Complaints

AARP Real Possibilities

Also of Interest

Join AARP Today — Receive access to exclusive information, benefits and discounts

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

The Cheap Life

Jeff Yeager Cheap Life Ultimate Cheapskate AARP YouTube web series save money

Catch the latest episode of The Cheap Life starring Jeff Yeager, AARP's Ultimate Cheapskate. Watch

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

AARP Credit card from Chase

Members can get cash back rewards on purchases with the AARP® Credit Card from Chase.

AARP Financial Services

Info on saving for education from AARP® College Savings Solutions from TIAA-CREF.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.