Sunday, May 29, 2011

Confessions of a Complainer

Once upon a time, a child loved to complain about things in hope of changing the world. She would find fault in all kinds of products, services, (people), foods, stores, etc. Anyway, this was before the technological era heralded the concept of email. So how was this child supposed to complain? To whom would the complaints be directed? She went with the times.

The child began to write letters by hand and mail them out (using a stamp) to the appropriate companies. Since the child's voice was rather youthful, calling the companies wasn't much of an option. Scorn would not have been appreciated. Writing was an excellent alternative to calling, and so that's what the child did.

Believe it or not, I actually did that as a kid. I wrote tons of letters spewing forth every problem I ever had with any product. Lids that wouldn't close, lids that were too hard to open, shampoo that was too runny, toothpaste that seared off my taste buds, toys that fell apart, fruit cocktail that didn't include 1 of the ingredients, etc. Were those fun times! I would sit waiting excitedly for return mail. Sometimes I actually got coupons or a canned response. But I was missing that human response. What a pity that I couldn't talk to those pea-brained reps myself. I was deprived of long, twisty-turny conversations with Raj and Mohatma. I didn't know about the feature on most sites called live chat! Imagine!

Has anyone ever done anything like that as a child?

Recent case studies (Gloating opportunities)

This post will highlight some of the most recent incidents where I've practiced what I preached. Maybe you can learn a thing or two (I certainly did), or perhaps you'll find some motivation to make that overdue phone call to Amazon. Here's what happened:
  1. I am a longtime buyer of Dole Cole Slaw that comes in a bag. You buy the stuff, add your dressing, and voila: you got yourself an excellent cole slaw (if you use my recipe, that is). Lately I noticed that the shredded cabbage pieces are very large. In fact, each piece was about 3-5 times larger than it has been in the past. I decided I'm going to call Dole. I issued my comment (I did not want to make this a complaint) and the guy said, "Thanks for letting us know. As our way of thanking you, we'll send you some coupons for replacement products." 
  2. On Friday I called Nestle (who owns Wonka candy) with a simple question: Why do they not produce the Tangy Taffy bars with crystal-like glitter on top, like they have in the past? The woman explained to me that they DO still sell them, but only in the cherry flavor. As a way of thanking me for taking the time to inquire, she also said that she'll mail me some coupons for different candy products. 
  3. I received a photobook I had ordered from Shutterfly. I'm glad I carefully screened the pages because two of them had a mistake. The printing didn't bleed to the edge of the paper. I definitely did not have them appear like that in my project. So I called today and a woman with an unpronouncable name added to my account a credit for a free photobook and free shipping! So in essence, I got $37 just for calling! I am so excited so she didn't simply say, "Ok, we'll reprint your book for you." because this way I can make a NEW book! And my heart won't bleed from the non-bleeding pages.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

General Statement about Buying #4

Basically, this post is an all inclusive word that might just be the most important thing you've seen all day:


People expect us to look for bargains. It's built into our nature as a human being, and nobody's immune. Why be the full-price payer when you don't have to? So what do I  mean by "ask"? Basically, this word should infuse you with enough confidence to feel the world is yours. Stores exist because of you, the buyer. Believe me, if you weren't shopping, they wouldn't be open. They want you. And they'll do (almost) anything to make sure you stay a happy buyer at their place. So now that we've established how valuable you are, read ahead to see what you can do with your special powers as a customer. 

Manufacturers, companies and stores all have stashes of funds and leeway for special circumstances. I'll give you an example. Last night I bought an item on Amazon and used my Amazon Prime Student to get myself free 2-day shipping. Being that the order was transmitted after midnight, the date was May 9. Two-day shipping, for anyone who can add, is the 11th. I check my order status today and see that the estimated ship date is May 13! Why? So I engage Raj from India in a livechat discussion and he says that it's because the item was out of stock. Um, it was not OOS when I bought it. So I told him that and he bored me with useless info that didn't help one bit. I innocently ask whether he can upgrade my shipping to 1-day (which normally costs an extra $3.99) to compensate. Of course he said "Yes" (well, not exactly yes but "I have changed your order to reflect 1-day shipping, at no cost"). See, that's the thing. Amazon will NOT go broke if they "wasted" their $3.99 on me. In fact, Raj encouraged me to come back soon! How do you like that?

What does this teach us? We ASK ASK ASK! Don't be afraid to ask for stuff like shipping upgrades, free samples, free shipping, free anything, replacement products (you heard about that already!), longer return periods, warranties, bigger refunds (remember the Ralph Lauren nightshirt story?), etc. Remember, the stores WANT you and their sole function is to serve you! Hopefully that's enough of an ego boost to combat any embarrassment you might experience while begging your way through buying.