In today’s climate of big business and automated customer service, nearly everyone has at least one story to tell about getting nowhere when complaining to a company about its products, services, or practices. Just like person-to-person relationships, person-to-company relationships have much potential for miscommunication, mistrust, and misunderstanding.
So what do you do when you have a problem with a company that you just can’t seem to resolve? If the dispute is over a relatively small amount, it probably isn’t worth the cost of hiring a lawyer or the time spent badgering the company’s customer service. But sometimes, the issue hits a nerve, and you might want to pursue the matter on principle.
When a company treats you unfairly and you have trouble getting anyone to pay attention to your complaints, you may be able to get a resolution by filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). The BBB works as an arbitrator between a consumer and a company or charity; it does not handle disputes about illegal practices, which must be reported to the proper authorities.
Although the BBB does not hold legal authority over companies, its reports on companies and charities, as well as its fraud alerts, hold weight in many consumers’ spending choices, so businesses are usually willing to respond favorably to complaints in order to maintain their good reputations. Buyers should beware more than usual when dealing with a company that has a large number of unresolved BBB complaints.
Before complaining to the BBB, do your best to resolve a dispute directly with a company by contacting a manager. If you do not receive a satisfactory response, contact the local BBB in whose territory the company’s headquarters are located. (You can find a list of local Bureaus and file a complaint online at bbb.org; the site also handles complaints about online companies, whose physical location information is sometimes difficult to determine.) Some companies become members of the BBB to demonstrate a commitment to good business practices, but consumers can file a complaint about non-members, as well.
When you file a complaint, be as detailed and specific as possible about the problem. The web form has space to put in model numbers of products that have not lived up to expectations, dates of your complaints to the company, order numbers, salespeople’s names, and more. Include any relevant information to make your case, and present the information in as neutral a tone as possible – save the rants for your family and friends. Also be clear about what actions you expect the company to take to resolve your complaint. Do you want a refund, a replacement product, or something else? An expression of clear expectations will help the BBB determine whether the company has acted in good faith to meet those expectations.
Every time I have used it, the BBB has helped solve the problems I’ve had with companies. In one case, a simple mention to the customer service representative that I planned to contact the BBB was enough for the company to do what was right. Two or three times, after getting unsatisfactory responses from customer service, I have actually filed a complaint. Every time, the company about which I complained resolved the problem within a week. Most recently, when I complained about a large credit card company not crediting me the rewards promised in a special offer (even after five calls to its customer service number and as many promises that the credit would be on my next statement), I received a personal call and more credit than I had requested.
The BBB provides a valuable and (I believe) underused service to consumers. By working to resolve disputes between people and organizations, the Bureau improves communication, accountability, and good will. Try using its services the next time you have a problem with a company; you will probably be pleasantly surprised at the results.
Image courtesy of ‘SeraphimC’