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Persistence Pays Off

This article was written by in Consumer. 16 comments.


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.

Fist1. 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 20, 2014 and originally published December 10, 2009. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Kelly is a mostly stay-at-home mom to four kids. You can more of her articles about personal finance at The Centsible Life. Also, you can follow Kelly on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Writers Coin

I’ve found that being stern but very polite on the phone usually works. Sounds simple but in my experience it’s served me well.

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avatar Kelly

I agree that being polite definitely helps. Polite but firm.

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avatar Monty Loree

Good advice.. I’m curious to know if the $460 was allowed for in the service contract… but I’m impressed that he was able to get his money back. It doesn’t hurt to contact the upper management.. I’ve done it many times and have always gotten a better response. To get an even stronger action, write to upper management and then do a follow up letter to a government regulatory body, if there is one.

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avatar Kelly

I’m not sure if it was in the contract, but seeing that Verizon broke their end of the contract, they shouldn’t hold “Steve” accountable for breaking the contract.

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avatar Steve

Kelly –

I will call myself “Steve” and completely agree with your comments. Persistence is a key, and to WC’s point above, politeness is always a good guideline to follow. Each person on the journey is only doing his / her job, and it’s important to allow the process to play out. Remember that each conversation is recorded and noted in your record, so the next person you talk to already knows your situation and your general demeanor.

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avatar Kelly

Making notes of who you talk to and when you spoke to them is extremely helpful. You can keep a spreadsheet on googledocs so you can use it from work or home.

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avatar Craig

Sometimes you need to be a little pushy and annoying to get your way. People need reminding and standing strong can help you out in other aspects of life too.

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avatar Robert

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

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avatar atexasgirl

I recently had to be persistent with a $350 refund I was owed for a product I returned. I emailed customer service twice, politely asking when I could expect my refund, but got no response. I wasn’t asking for an immediate refund, but simply looking for some acknowledgement from them that they knew they owed me one. I did some digging and found the company president’s email address and CCed him on my third request for a status update. Still no response. With my fourth email, again CCing the president, I threatened to leave a review on Amazon.com and any other website that rated them, telling everyone about my terrible experience with customer service. Within 30 minutes of that email, the entire refund was credited to my account.

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avatar Kelly

@atexasgirl, I agree sometimes it takes the possibility of negative press to change a company’s approach. As you said it should never be your first course of action.

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avatar SteveDH

Everybody calls me Steve (except Mom – Who uses Stephen). My issue with Bank of America involved privacy. After being denied a $38 charge for gas while out-of-town I called customer service and was asked far too many questions about where I was, what I was doing, and if I had or planned to charge more. With over $100k of credit worthiness with BoA I wrote the CEO (Mr. Lewis). I’m sure he never saw it but the “Executive Office” responded promptly. Although they explained that they were protecting me I rejected that nonsense because they were, in fact, protecting themselves at my expense. Not a monetary expense, but since I had already pumped the gas, had I not had cash the police might have been involved. I download into Quicken every Tuesday through Saturday so they will know of any bogus charges long before they show up on a monthly statement.
Enough of that: I was successful by going to the top, via snail mail, and using polite but firm language about my complaint.

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avatar Kelly

I can understand if they did that for a large purchase, but their first course of action on an out of town gas purchase? That seems excessive. The least they could do is call you first!

Snail mail is another great way to get in touch with execs, but I often choose email first since it’s quick and immediate.

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avatar Jim

“DirecTV (who is the cable branch of Verizon)”

Just FYI, Verizon and DirectTV are separate companies. DirectTV is a satellite TV provider and not cable company. Verizon and DirecTV partner in some areas. Where I live Verizon provides their own TV services.

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avatar Kelly

In our area they are partners, Verizon does not provide cable, online FIOS, which was not available in Steve’s area. So if you want cable and you have Verizon you have to do with DirecTV. Sorry for the confusion.

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avatar Andrew @ Earn Give Save

Good stuff! And I agree with the commenter who said “be polite” when talking with a company. Before I ask for anything, I praise the service I’ve been given through the company. My job requires providing a lot of customer service, and it’s great to hear affirmation of my product. Makes me want to work harder for my customers!

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avatar John DeFlumeri Jr

Persistence is the main ingredient in the war of nerves, like obtaing a refund.
Persistence is what wears the other guy out.

John DeFlumeri Jr

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