This article is presented by Kelly Whalen, Consumerism Commentary staff writer.
As consumers we often face situations that are both expensive and frustrating. These can be problems of our own doing, such as overdraft fees or closing of an inactive credit card, or problems that are caused by the company’s we are paying, like a credit card company that raises your rate for no reason, or an apartment complex that keeps your security deposit.
Recently a friend, we’ll call him Steve, contacted me with an expensive problem of his own. Steve recently moved into a new home. He had to decide between two cable companies in our area, Verizon and Comcast. Comcast has a reputation for being difficult, so he opted to go with Verizon.
Steve needs internet at home for his job as a manager in IT at a large corporation. Verizon came out and set up his phone line, and DirecTV (who is the cable branch of Verizon) with no issues. Then came the long wait for internet service. Phone calls, three cancellations, and over a month of waiting ensued.
When it became clear Verizon was not going to ever honor their appointments, and after a ton of water time and frustration Steve canceled service with Verizon and called Comcast. Comcast set up his internet as scheduled and Steve did a dance of joy.
The dance was short lived. Soon Steve had a bill from DirecTV for a $460 early termination fee. When he complained, DirecTV said it was Verizon’s issue, not theirs. After several phone calls, which we all know involve insane wait times, he came to me for advice.
Within days Steve had the $460 back in his pocket, and did another dance of joy. How did he do it? He followed 3 simple steps I offered him.
1. Call the big guys. Talking to an entry level customer service rep is fun if you have a twisted sense of humor, but it usually gets you nowhere. Supervisors or managers of customer service reps often robotically spew out the same one-liners that the CSRs use.
Use the power of the internet to find phone numbers or email addresses for the CEO’s or a VP’s office. 95% of the time you’ll get a quick and apologetic response. Links to many company’s executive offices can be found on the Consumerist.
2. Use word of (online) mouth. Brands are now wising up to using social media to monitor what customers are saying about their products. A fantastic place to get help is twitter. Yes, I know not everyone uses twitter, but you should have an account for solely this purpose if for nothing else.
You don’t have to have a million followers to get noticed, either. Big brands are on twitter, and many more are on Facebook. The number of brands using social media is growing daily. DirecTV is on twitter, as are Comcast, Home Depot, and others.
3. Be persistent. While a $10 fee may not seem worth arguing over, I’m sure that you have your price. You’d be surprised how quickly some companies will react. I’ve had fees eradicated in less than 5 minutes. Is 5 minutes of my time worth $40? Heck yeah.
What are some ways you have succeeded in challenging a big company or getting a fee returned to you? I’m about to embark on another credit card adventure with PNC, you can read more about my saga here.
Updated June 23, 2016 and originally published December 10, 2009.