When you fire off a complaint letter to a company, the first answer you’ll get will probably be “no.”
No, you can’t have a refund. No, we won’t apologize. No, you can’t exchange the faulty product.
Customer service representatives are trained to say “no” in a thousand different ways, and even at times to make the “no” sound like a “yes” if not at least a “maybe.”
After that, you’ll need to figure out whether to reply to the “no” or appeal to a higher authority.
It depends how firm the “no” is.
If you get an email that ends, “There will be no further correspondence regarding this issue,” then replying to the email won’t serve any purpose; in fact, your note will probably be ignored.
But anything short of that should be construed as the company simply offering its position, and that there’s some flexibility.
• A statement that it is the company’s “policy” to not allow a refund or exchange means you have the ability to ask for an exception. If you think your argument is strong enough, you should.
• Any derivative of the phrase “at this time” — as in, “At this time, we are unable to process your request,” means there may be a better time (like, tomorrow?) and since it lacks the finality of a “never” it should be interpreted as an opening.
• Arguments that your request would be unfair to other customers (for example, if we gave you a refund, it wouldn’t be fair to the other customers to whom we said “no”) can easily be appealed. No two customer problems are exactly alike, and besides, who is going to tell the “other” consumers about a company’s act of kindness? What will they do when they found out a rule was bent? Nothing.
These are just three circumstances under which you should hit “reply” and make your best argument. Even if you’ve received a form letter, odds are someone will be reading your answer.
If you get another “no” then it’s time to take your case up the chain of command. All the way to the top, if necessary.
(Photo: nathan gibbs/Flickr Creative Commons)