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Friday, September 4, 2009

RAISING HELL

"So, I want you to get up now; I want all of you to get up out of your chairs; I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out, and yell, "I'm as mad as Hell and I'm not going to take this anymore."

- Newscaster Howard Beale (Peter Finch), "Network" (1976)

The purpose of my pet peeves is to allow me to vent my frustrations with some of the oddities of life we all experience which I personally find to be rather therapeutic. I see no sense in bottling up life's disappointments, but rather to develop a dialog and hopefully find some alternatives. I recognize that not everyone wants to put pen to paper to voice their displeasure, but I think we are doing a disservice by acting like sheep and accepting the status quo at face value.

We now live in an age of pitiful customer service whereby companies have devised bureaucrat schemes to frustrate consumers from returning merchandise. Government is just as bad as officials really do not want to hear from their constituents thereby allowing them to do as they please. This results in an apathetic general public which allows others to walk all over them. If you want to do nothing and accept the status quo, then you better learn how to say "baa," or you can become more proactive. Surprisingly, it's not as difficult as you might think. Here are some ideas:

Not happy with a product you've purchased? Take it back! Remember, companies are counting on you not to return something as it cuts their expenses down. If you are not happy with their return policy (or the clerk processing your request), ask to speak with a manager. Still not happy? If the company is big enough, ask to see an H.R. representative to complain how you were treated. (Just asking for the H.R. rep usually does the trick though).

If you can't find what you want or are not happy with something, write to the company. Just about every company has a web page today; go to their "contact" section and register a bitch, not just once, but as many times as is necessary until you get a satisfactory answer. E-mail is a lot simpler than snail mail. Depending on the severity of the problem though, a well prepared letter works wonders. Depending on the severity of the problem, mentioning you are "seeking legal counsel" usually gets their attention.

Write to newspapers about your gripe. Even in this age of the Internet, a well written "Letter to the Editor" can rally support for your cause. To locate a newspaper in your area, see:

World Newspaper locator (refdesk.com)

A lot of local television stations have a consumer problem-solver unit. Call and explain your problem to them. It's worth a shot.

If you have a problem with a particular service person, notify their superior. It might not result in anything, but it will be recorded by the superior as a mark against the employee. Actually, you would be doing the manager a favor. If enough people complain, he or she will get the message and do something about it.

Don't be too fast in discarding a customer satisfaction form. Fill it out and send it in. Again, if enough people point out a problem, something will eventually be done about it.

"Birds of a feather" - Network with other people of similar interests. We all know there is strength in numbers and the Internet offers a multitude of discussion groups to discuss problems and devise strategies for addressing them.

The Internet also has an abundant number of places to voice your concern or displeasure about something; for example:

Complaints.com - to post a consumer complaint

Consumer Affairs - for reporting automotive problems

Better Business Bureau - complaint form (useful for BBB related companies)

Government related sites for the consumer:

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

U.S. Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) Problems, Concerns and Complaints - for air transportation

U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Complaints (including junk faxes, identity theft, and bad programming)

U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Consumer Protection (including identity theft)

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Note: Most, if not all, state governments also have consumer protection agencies you can check with as well.

In terms of expressing your voice to politicians, you can find the name and address of your representatives in the federal government at:

U.S. House of Representatives - to write your Congressman

U.S. Senate - to write your Senator

Office of the President of the United States

Rally Congress - create petitions for Congress

Check with state, county and municipal web pages for local leaders. You may also want to get involved with a Political Action Committee to network with people of similar interests. Nonetheless, one of the best things you can do to voice your displeasure is to simply VOTE.

One area that causes considerable frustration to the consumer is technology, particularly with computer hardware and software. Surprisingly, very few companies in the technology sector (if any), have an on-line complaint registration process. I find this rather ironic, but I guess they fear they would be overwhelmed if they did. For example, to register a complaint to Microsoft, you need to write a detailed letter and mail it to:

Microsoft Corporation
ATTN: Complaint Dept.
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052-6399
USA

IDEA: In automobile traffic, I don't think we use car horns enough to get people to pay attention behind the wheel. There are, of course, a couple of exceptions to this, such as New York and Miami who have raised the use of car horns to an art form. The horn is an effective way to get people off their cell phones. Three short beeps means, "Get off the cell phone and drive." Try it. It works.

When registering a complaint, don't just be a hothead (unless you cannot get the attention or action you want thereby justifying you to become one). Instead, try to be as articulate in your objection as possible. Understand this, when listening to customer complaints, customer service personnel play the role of "Doctor" with you, whereby they are trying to diagnose a symptom (as expressed by you). Your interpretation of a problem may be one thing, the true cause may be something entirely different. The more clearly you can define the problem as you see it, the better they can diagnose and solve it for you. Avoid the temptation to swear or berate the other person as this is generally frowned upon and your comments are discarded out of hand. However, if you cannot get satisfaction, a fiery tongue may be your only alternative. At least you'll get the pleasure of calling someone an idiot (or worse).

When it comes to registering a complaint, your mantra should be "'Tis better to give than to receive." Unfortunately, we live in an age where if you don't speak up, people will walk all over you. The key to success is to simply be persistent. If you've got a problem, doggedly follow it through as long as it takes, which might be quite awhile. Remember, "the squeaky wheel gets the oil." This is why I have added, "Tim's Complaint Box" in my main blog, to expedite finding the channels to register a complaint.

As Howard Beale in "Network" said, "...first you have got to get mad. You've got to say, I'm a human being, God damn it, my life has value." If we could get enough people to stand up and yell, "I'm as mad as Hell and I'm not going to take this anymore," maybe we would sleep better at night knowing our interests are being maintained, and I could finally discontinue my pet peeves. Until then, I'll keep on truckin'.

One last note, if you're willing to complain, also be willing to extend a compliment when you see something done properly.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For a listing of Tim's Pet Peeves, click HERE.

Download Tim's new eBook (PDF), "Bryce's Pet Peeve Anthology - Volume I" (free) DOWNLOAD).

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.