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  • Reiterating the benefits of contacting customer service: Make it a habit!


    I’ve written before about how to tell companies that when you’re both satisfied and dissatisfied about their services or products. I generally practice what I preach, but I have to admit that sometimes I simply forget or get lazy.

    For instance, I have a broken night light sitting on my desk. It’s been there for months. I intended to email the manufacturer to complain about how it was broken when it came out of the package. But I got lazy and now it’s too late (since I appear to have tossed the packaging that I thought I’d saved).

    As I get tangible results from contacting companies, I realize the benefits of making it a habit. And it really does pay off – literally. Earlier this week, I found a tiny dead bug in a Target brand package. I immediately used the online contact form to contact Target and by that evening, I’d received a response saying that my message had been forwarded to their monitoring staff and that they were sending me a $3 check to reimburse me for the product. I would have been even more impressed if they were also reimbursing me the 28 cents that I paid in tax, but in this instance, I didn’t even ask for compensation. (It was a non-food product and I’d used almost all of it before I found the bug.)

    On my post about complimenting companies and asking for coupons, Mama Bird left a comment noting that she’s had success emailing companies who make products that rarely go on sale. I think that’s a great strategy and plan to implement it myself.

    So, to sum up, the lesson of the day is make it a habit to contact customer service with all good and bad experiences!

    Previously: How to write an effective complaint letter & How to write a complimentary letter and get free coupons

    Thumbs up to Fidelity Customer Service


    Back in November, I mentioned that California residents could get a $50 Target gift card by opening a new 529 Scholarshare account. I waited until December to act on the offer, but I did get applications for both boys in by the deadline. In the subsequent weeks, I got lots of mail from Fidelity (which manages Scholarshare), confirming that they had received the applications and opened the accounts.

    And then I waited.

    I’d signed up for an automatic deposit into both accounts, but the money wasn’t being withdrawn when it should have been. I knew it might take some time to set the withdrawals up, but finally, at the end of last month, I had to admit that something wasn’t right.

    I dreaded calling customer service but I didn’t feel this was something that could be communicated effectively via email. So I forced myself to make the call, and as always seems to happen, it was much less painful than I thought it would be. I was put on hold for a while, so the customer service rep could go figure out what the problem was. That was okay, though, because when he came back on the line, he really had figured out the problem. It seemed my authorization to withdraw funds hadn’t been sent to the right department.

    I then mentioned the Target gift cards and pointed out that through no fault of my own, the requirements for getting them had not been fulfilled. (The first contribution had to be made within 90 days of the creation of the account.) The CSR agreed that it wasn’t my fault and said he’d get back to me. The next day, I was informed that the gift cards were on their way. And they arrived just a couple days later.

    These are the first Fidelity accounts I’ve ever owned, and I’m pleased with how they handled the situation. Hopefully, the automatic withdrawals will now be taken care of and I can put the boys’ 529 plans on autopilot.

    Previously: Good customer service from Sharebuilder

    How to write a complimentary letter and get free coupons


    Recently, I read over at A Full Cup that someone sent an email to the makers of Shout stain remover, telling them how much she loved one of their products, and that in response, they sent her a coupon for a free product.

    It was enough to get me over my hesitation of sending complimentary messages, which came about because my first experience went so badly. It was five or more years ago, when I called the 800 number on a package of Glide floss, and told the representative how much I loved their product. The rep said thank you, and that was the end of the call. I was much too shy to ask for a coupon, and it was many years until I tried again.

    Since I keep Shout wipes at work, I emailed Shout myself and said that I love the wipes and keep them in my desk at work, and that I’m constantly handing them out to colleagues so they can erase their spills. I then asked for coupons. Two days later, I received an email thanking me, and a couple of days after that, my free product coupon arrived.

    So here are the keys to a complimentary letter:

    • Keep it brief. Don’t bury your request in a long missive.
    • Be honest. Have a genuine compliment. If you’ve never tried the product, say that instead to justify your request. If you have a suggestion for improving the product, tell them.
    • Make your request explicit. If you want a coupon, you can say something like, “I would appreciate some coupons for my next purchase of your product.”
    • As always, be polite. There’s really no excuse not to be.

    Now, I’m off to see if there’s an email contact form for Glide floss!

    Previously: How to write an effective complaint letter

    Update on my Amazon customer service saga


    Last month, Amazon messed up the payment method of an order, which instigated a series of emails and phone calls on my part to try to fix things. First they made things worse, then they made things better, then they made things worse again. It got to be so frustrating that I couldn’t even bring myself to keep you updated until I had a better idea of what I was going to do.

    When I last wrote about this debacle, I was waiting for Amazon to deduct the full amount of the payment – $72.13 – from my gift card balance. But for some reason, they only deducted $65.

    I waited for nearly two weeks to see if they would deduct the remaining $7.13 but nothing happened. So I’ve given up.

    I feel I’ve given Amazon more than enough chances to correct their initial error. I’ve sent at least five emails and made two calls since I noticed the initial error. I just don’t feel like going through the hassle of contacting them by email – which will likely get no response – or by phone, which simply results in the agent sending the gift certificate department a message that may or may not get a response. And the chances of them botching yet another attempt to correct the error seems, well, astronomical at this point – perhaps guaranteed.

    One interesting development through all of this has been that I didn’t purchase anything from Amazon for over a month. I couldn’t tell you the last time that happened in the last nine years, when I first started shopping at Amazon. Even as I’ve become more frugal, I’ve been able to get great deals at Amazon on things I would have bought elsewhere (mostly gifts). And earning Amazon gift certificates through SwagBucks made shopping at Amazon even more appealing.

    I never got around to writing that letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos – though I’m still thinking about it, just because it’s completely unacceptable that Amazon doesn’t respond to customer service emails.

    I also thought about not shopping at Amazon anymore, and have spent the last month when I wasn’t buying anything from them wondering if the savings and convenience are worth it. For better or worse, my answer is yes. I placed my first order since this fiasco started last night.

    I’ve already made my decision, but I’m curious: what would you have done?

    Update on Amazon customer service: Things are better, but they’re not fixed


    If you’ve been following along, you already know that Amazon botched the payment method for my order of an Aerogarden and seed kit. Here’s the latest . . .

    When we last left off, Amazon had charged my credit card for the entire purchase, $72.13, and credited back $60.69 to my gift certificate balance, meaning I was out a total of $79.27. In other words, Amazon owed me $7.14 (the cost of the seed kit).

    I took the advice of Funky Frum and Helen and sent Amazon an email summarizing the situation and stating that if they didn’t correct the payment, I was going to initiate a dispute with my credit card company for $7.14. (Fortunately, the Aerogarden and seed kit were charged separately, so it would have been easy to just dispute the charge for the seed kit.)

    Despite the “Most emails are answered within 12 hours” message on the contact form, I wasn’t surprised to receive no response within 48 hours. But since I sent the email on Friday, Feb. 28, I told Amazon that I would wait until 6:00 p.m. on Monday (today) to hear from them.

    Yesterday, I logged into my credit card account and discovered that Amazon had credited my card with the full amount of the order. That left my credit card at $0 as to this order – they’d charged me for $72.13 and credited me for $72.13.

    Meanwhile, my gift certificate balance remained at $90.69. That’s $30 of gift certificate credit that I added after I thought they’d fixed the error, plus $60.69 that they credited back for an inexplicable reason. So I still owed them $72.13 – the cost of the order.

    I have no faith in the email contact form, so this morning, I called that toll-free number again. Again, it sounded like the call was outsourced, but again, I got someone who understood what I was saying. That’s something at least. At this point, of course, it’s somewhat difficult to follow what happened, but I’m pretty sure I conveyed my message clearly: deduct $72.13 from my gift certificate balance and call it a day.

    As of this writing, my gift certificate balance is still $90.69. I hope that changes soon, and that this whole saga will soon be over and done with!

    Fallout from the economic crisis: Consumers spending more time fighting companies?


    The last two weeks have made me very concerned that as the economy worsens, I’m going to have to spend more and more time fighting companies for no good reason.

    The first incident that causes me concern is the amount of time I’ve had to spend getting Amazon to fix a billing problem. They screwed up and didn’t apply my gift certificate balance to an order, and as result, I’ve had to send four emails and make one phone call, not to mention endure a lot of frustration.

    I’ve had hundreds of uneventful orders with Amazon. I’ve even contacted them in the past and gotten relatively prompt responses with satisfactory resolutions. I’m quite disturbed at the fact that they’re not responding to emails, and that even after I called and spoke to a person who directly contacted the Gift Certificates department while I was on the phone to ensure that my situation was rectified, I still didn’t get an email telling me that things would be taken care of until the 48 hour deadline they had imposed upon themselves had passed. Even worse is the fact that after initially fixing the problem, they made things worse by reversing the correction, but incompletely and in a way that left me $7.14 short of where I had started. I’m afraid that this is a sign of things to come and that the headaches of shopping with Amazon aren’t going to be worth the convenience or savings.

    The second incident that worries me is a letter I got from my health insurance company, denying a test that was performed last May. The letter doesn’t indicate why it took them so long to deny the claim, and now I have to spend time and energy filing an appeal, which may or may not be granted, for a medical test that my doctor obviously felt was necessary.

    A friend who works for a doctor in his billing office has been telling me for a few weeks now that insurance companies seem to be automatically denying claims in the hope of saving money. She says their reasons for denying claims include “the information wasn’t properly lined up in the box on the form.” She assumes that the insurance companies are hoping most patients don’t appeal, and that claims will be processed if they are appealed – but for some reason that’s not making me feel better, given that my test was done back in May.

    These incidents make me worry that I’m going to have spend my future time making sure my family gets the money it is due and keeps the money it already has – rather than being able to spend my time saving money by spending less and making money via this blog and other ventures. I really hope this isn’t a sign of things to come – but I must admit, I’m not very optimistic.