We’ve all had a bad customer service experience at one time or another. Now, with the Internet, it’s easier than ever to find a forum to discuss these incidents, seek advice from experts and fellow consumers and, most importantly, to vent.
Every state either has an Office of Consumer Affairs or a section on its Attorney General’s page where you can file a complaint against a local business (and some states have both). There are also several agencies like the Federal Trade Commission, the Better Business Bureau and the Aviation Consumer Protection and Enforcement division that solicit consumer complaints. And in a couple months, there will likely be another one. The financial reform package, which has been approved by both the House and the Senate, includes a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency, whose main purpose is listening to and (hopefully) acting on consumer complaints.
General Tips for Griping
As a consumer, you always have the option to engage with the company directly, although there is a good chance that you will just end up with a PR response at best and silence at worst. Still, I do recommend that you start by exploring this route, especially when you have a serious issue to take up with the company such as fraud or a failure to deliver the service you purchased.
According to The New York Times, one very successful method is to a write a letter to the CEO or other higher-ups in the company with your complaints. You should write with a civil tone, but don’t be afraid to imply threats, like noting that “you’ve sent a copy of the letter to a government agency, like the Federal Trade Commission.” Alternatively, you can try talking it over with a representative on the phone. In this case, the Times has two tips: Ask the person what they would do in your shoes in order to get real substantive help, and ride out the clock, since the representative isn’t permitted to hang up on you and will feel more compelled to resolve your issue. (Check out GetHuman.com for a directory of numbers to connect you with a real representative.)
If none of that works, you should take to the Internet. Here is our roundup of the best sites to visit if you want to vent and see your complaint have some impact, or if you just want to read the crazy feedback from other consumers.