Dear Savvy Consumer:
Having read and mediated hundreds of complaints in my career as a consumer advocate, I’ve learned a thing or two about the art of complaining. While it’s true that consumers now have more tools than ever to get their voices heard, it’s still true that you must craft your message properly and be persistent to get results.
Any complaint you write, whether it’s a letter or an email, should contain five key elements. First, state what your problem is and collect all the evidence that supports your side of the story. State exactly what it will take to resolve your problem—a refund, replacement or apology. Set a deadline for a response, and don’t forget to tell the company what you plan to do if you don’t get satisfaction.
This last point is often overlooked. You might say you’re going to stop payment on a check, or that you’ll be reporting your bad experience to others on Facebook, Yelp, Twitter or GetSatisfaction.com. One woman who was dissatisfied with a wedding photographer sent copies of her complaint to all the bridal shops in her area.
Other possible threats include filing a complaint with a media consumer action line, the Better Business Bureau, state regulatory agencies or local law enforcement. Contractors, for example, know that if a lot of complaints are filed against them with the Contractors State License Board, they could be investigated and possibly have their licenses revoked. This kind of threat can be very powerful.
After all these years, I still love coaching people on how to complain effectively, so send me an email if you want advice on how to tackle your particular problem.
The Savvy Consumer
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Special Phones Available for Californians Who Need Them
If you or someone in your family has difficulty using a standard telephone, you may be eligible for a free phone that makes it easier to make and receive calls. The California Telephone Access Program (CTAP), sponsored by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), provides free devices for California residents who have difficulty hearing, speaking, moving, seeing or remembering due to an illness, disability or medical condition. There’s no income restriction, but you do need a doctor’s signature on your application. The various types of phones and devices do everything from make voices louder and numbers easier to read to flash a light when a call is coming in and convert conversation to text. Visit www.ddtp.org or call (877) 546-7414 for more information. You can even try out the different phones at any one of seven CTAP service centers, including one in Oakland.
Kudos from Diamond Certified Consumers
Re: Bay Area Body Shop, Newark CA
I recently had my vehicle repaired (body and paint work) at Bay Area Body Shop in Newark, CA.
I can say, without hesitation or reservation, this is the best body and paint shop in the Bay Area. The management and body and paint staff are outstanding.
I say this based on:
In my younger days (I am now 77 years old), I had an extensive background in the auto body repair, painting and fabrication industry. I worked in some of the best custom auto body and fabrication shops in the Bay Area. I later owned my own body shop. In my retirement years, I am still interested in this craft. I have retained all of my auto body tools and equipment and still work at the craft on my own collectible vehicles.
I have had work performed at this shop for a number of years. Each time, the work has been outstanding.
Castro Valley, CA