Find help for legitimate complaints

CompensationCredit: Photo by Jane Gates

Whether you shop directly at your local stores or “let your fingers do the walking” on the Internet, we still are a part of a consumer society that shops regularly. Sometimes the product or the service we receive just doesn't live up to our expectations. This can become a real problem when businesses refuse to pay attention to our complaints. Negotiating through the morass of telephone recordings, non-responsive Internet emails and unhelpful platitudes or people who are unable communicate due to language barriers or corporate denial policies can make a consumer painfully frustrated. So how do you get attention if you have a product or service complaint? ...Especially when there might be plenty of other people trying to get results who are in line ahead of you?

Many businesses are taking advantage of the marketing exposure offered by having a product or service page on Facebook or other social media. This is usually a way they can reach more customers with their advertising and promotions. It is a powerful marketing tool that helps them boost business. But this same business asset can be used in reverse for consumers who are getting the run-around when they need personal attention.

In a world where the quality, durability and integrity of materials and services is falling in the grab for escalating profits, poor products are becoming the norm. The public even expects most purchases to be thrown out in a short period of time. No one's surprised when they find their purchase to be defective. The only way we will see an improvement of services and products is if we demand change. That means we need to shop smarter and use the tools we have to hold companies responsible for what they sell.

Although the Internet offers many opportunities to push advertising, marketing and sales, it also offers the consumer a great platform to get attention for product or service complaints.

If you try the suggested channels of email, telephone calls and visits to retailers and cannot be heard, use the tools of the Internet. That means find the social media where your seller is reaching a big audience and post your complaint. Start out respectfully. Even if you are frustrated, your are more likely to get what you want if you request help honestly before trying to bully or antagonize.

The Internet is a two-sided coin and although it may allow for marketing and promotion for companies to increase their target markets, it also exposes that same large audience to both positive and negative feedback. Companies don't want you to be a negative influence on a large chunk of their (potential) customers. So, you are more likely to find a response to your complaint on one of these sites than you are by going through traditional channels.

I have a relative who started a huge backlash against an expensive electronic item being produced by a major international corporation – an item that was seriously defective. It took time, but the complaint gathered a following in the thousands and eventually led to compensation for all the consumers – a responsibility that would never have been taken by the company without this exposure. A couple of years later that same relative again ran into corporate stonewalling and posted a polite comment on the heavily frequented company site. In a matter of hours, the complaint was successfully addressed and my relative was able to post a positive follow-up to the original complaint – making the company look good to all the other site visitors.

So if you find yourself angered by the difficulty of getting a response to your legitimate consumer complaint, be it about product or service, don't hesitate to use the company's social media. The Internet may allow companies to reach a broader public, but it also allows you to do the same. Even an individual can right a wrong by exposing it online. Don't abuse this with frivolous complaints or you will weaken the tool. Even the largest companies don't like bad feedback, particularly when it is legitimate. Start respectfully and see if you can't use social media – and, if necessary, rating sites, to help reach a fair resolution to your reasonable complaints.