You’ll never do business with them again? We’ll see

So you’ll never do business with them again?

We see it all the time:

“I’ll never fly that airline.”

“I’ll never rent cars from that agency.”

“This is why I never book a travel reservation through that company.”

“I never stay at a hotel in that chain.”

Many of our stories and forum threads contain some variation of “I’ll never do business with” some company.

OK, that’s certainly your choice. But here’s why you should keep it to yourself.

You’ll never do business with them again? Really?

Every month we bring you a report about which companies receive the most complaints. Many, such as American Airlines, United, and Expedia make regular appearances on our list. These were the top three companies on our complaints list for February. Once our advocates have ended their work on these cases, our writers prepare stories for this website.

Almost inevitably, someone notes that “This is why I’ll never do business with that company.” Sometimes it’s the person who asked for our advocates’ help. Often, it’s a commenter on the story. And it happens in our forum threads too.

Burned bridges

I recently wrote about Tre and Kimberly Chiem, who had a bad experience at Rockwater Secret Cove Resort in Vancouver, Canada. Rockwater offered the Chiems a free one-night stay as compensation for a number of complaints about poor customer service during their stay at the resort.

Unfortunately, Kimberly Chiem responded to the resort, “At this point we cannot see why we would spend any more money at your resort so it does not compensate us at all.” She also mentioned that she had posted about the case in a Facebook group of more than 3,000 members, which led the resort to rescind its compensation offer.

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And Rockwater’s response to the Chiems didn’t stop there. Its manager informed the Chiems that the resort was turning over the Chiems’ case to its lawyers because the Chiems had libeled Rockwater on social media.

My colleague, Michelle Couch-Friedman, noted in another recent case that threats don’t work when advocating a business complaint. Our archives teem with stories about consumers who tried to threaten businesses with refusals to interact with them again. They found out the hard way that this threat doesn’t work.

“We’ll never do business with you either!”

Companies’ responses to you’ll never do business with them are not likely to be what unhappy customers hope for. Those responses range from ignoring the customers altogether, to subsequent refusals to serve them, to legal action against them.

From a company’s point of view, what does it have to gain by helping a disgruntled customer who announces that he or she will never do business with it again? The company would prefer to keep ongoing client relationships happy rather than spend valuable time and resources on a former customer who isn’t coming back.

We note in our FAQ about resolving consumer disputes that we always advise being polite and respectful when communicating with a company about a problem.

As our own Christopher Elliott notes in the FAQ,

If you’ve ever wanted to end a complaint letter — or phone call, for that matter — with the words “I’LL NEVER FLY YOUR AIRLINE AGAIN!” or “I’LL SEE YOU IN COURT!”, then let me offer a little advice. Don’t. Threats won’t just guarantee your failure. You could also end up on a company’s blacklist (Oh yes, they have them) …

Do companies actually pay attention to our website?

Yes, companies read our website. They even respond to stories from time to time.

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My colleage Diane Perera wrote about Austrian Airlines’ failure to pay EU 261 compensation to Mary Kopacz. Peter N. Thier, a spokesman for Austrian Airlines, responded in the comments on that story.

It’s not impossible — or unheard of — for companies to uncover the identities of online posters who claim that they’ll never do business with them again. And as long as the companies aren’t engaging in acts of discrimination, they can decline to do business as they see fit.

Legal hot water

Companies can take legal action as well, as Rockwater did when the Chiems posted on Facebook about their experiences.

If you sign a contract with a nondisparagement clause, you can’t make any public statement about the company that is negative in nature. Public statements include posts on social media or other websites, including this one. And while there may be laws limiting these clauses in the United States, there’s no telling what might happen when you cross the border.

Many companies include them, along with nondisclosure agreements (NDAs), when settling customer complaints and even during initial interactions with potential customers. These are legally enforceable contract provisions, so saying anything at all, especially if it isn’t to give a business warm fuzzies, can land you in court.

And nothing is predictable

Even if you say you’ll never do business with them now, you might be forced to in the future.

Companies with which you currently do business may cease operations, forcing you to switch to other companies with which you don’t currently do business. The corporate world abounds in mergers and acquisitions. Consumers who would travel on either United or Continental Airlines, but not both, had to adjust their flying habits after these airlines merged in 2010. And in 2012, passengers on US Airways had to do the same after American Airlines acquired that airline.

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Also, business partnerships, such as airline alliances, may require customers to consider their behavior for entire partnerships. Tell one partner that you’ll never do business with it, and all of them may refuse to do business with you.

Watch your comments

So it’s best to exercise caution when threatening you’ll never do business with them. Even if you don’t do business with them now, a day may come when you will. And companies just might remember your negative posts — and they won’t do business with you.

Have you ever threatened to “never do business” with a company? What happened?

Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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