How To Control Your Life

Part 61

A friend of mine arrived at work late, hot, bothered and breathless with exasperation. She fumed through a meeting and didn’t perform at her best. Finally, when the meeting broke up and people were coffeeing and chatting, she explained what had happened.

“I was just leaving - obviously in a hurry and obviously on my way out to work - when this guy appeared on the doorstep in front of me and started to ask questions about my television licence. He wouldn’t stop, and he said he would get a search warrant and come back with the police if I didn’t prove to him that I didn’t need a television licence. I couldn’t get rid of him and I missed my train. I’m seething!”

My friend doesn’t watch television; she never has and, given her feelings about it, probably never will (at least voluntarily). I don’t know if she was expecting sympathy that day, but what she got was:

“Why don’t you just pay up? It’s not worth the hassle.”

and:

“You’re the reason my licence fee is so high. Just pay the damn thing”.

It wasn’t a good day for her.

The reason I know it wasn’t a good day is that she still tells the story, still with a sense of fairly reasonable outrage - and this incident happened over twenty years ago.

It’s not the original annoyance that still bothers - that ended well because my friend is no shrinking daisy and she wrote a polemic to TV Licensing, followed it up with a further one when they replied in a stock and useless fashion, and so finally obtained a very reasonable monetary compensation for the behaviour of their representative on her doorstep that day. It was the attitude of her work colleagues which formed the real annoyance. The fact that, rather than smack back when someone becomes over-officious and/or heavy-handed, those people would themselves have responded meekly by paying monies which weren’t due, and they advised her to do the same.

It’s not always easy in the United Kingdom to make a complaint; companies don’t make it easy. Even Amazon, excellent as it is generally with its customer service, doesn’t put the link to its actual, ‘real people answering questions in real time’, Help anywhere you’ll find it without a certain amount of hunting. Say, for example, you find that something you bought from Amazon doesn’t work but it’s outside the ‘Return’ window. (This can easily happen if, for example, it’s something you’ve bought to replenish your stationery or store cupboard and you only find it’s defective when you’ve used up your current Dymo tape or lightbulb.) If you click on the relevant item in ‘Your Orders’ you will only get the message:

and a button which invites you to ‘Continue Shopping’.

You’re then on your own in the hunt for further help - although you do have the option to ‘View return policy’, which will helpfully tell you that you can’t return items outside a certain window of time.

What you actually do is:

♦ At the bottom of the screen you’re on at this point, under Let Us Help You on the right-hand side, click Help (bottom of the list)

♦ On the next screen, ignore all the main choices you’re offered (‘Your Orders’, ‘Returns and refunds’ etc.) and look for Need More Help? which is at the bottom of the list on the left-hand side

♦ Clicking on this will offer you, in the middle of the list, Contact Us and you should click on that

♦ You will then be offered the chance to click on An order I placed and, again, you will have to choose the order (‘Choose a Different Order’, because the one offered will simply be the latest one sent out) and then scroll through all the orders you’ve made since the one about which you’re now complaining - no mean feat if you’re a frequent Amazon orderer, but persevere: keep on clicking on ‘Load More Orders’ until you finally get there

[Note: If your order was placed more than six months previously, you will need to change the selection at the top where there is a button marked ‘last 6 months’ after ‘Orders placed in’]

During the (very long) time you are cursoring down and down your list of orders, you may find that Amazon suddenly asks you to sign in again; if this happens I’m afraid you have to start cursoring down your orders all over again; no one said life was going to be easy.

♦ Then, once you’ve found the item, you will be advised to contact the seller (which should always be your first port of call anyway, from wherever you’ve ordered). If you have, and haven’t had a satisfactory response, or if the item was from Amazon itself, you can continue. When you’ve selected the item you’ve found, tick the check box next to it and then choose ‘Select an issue’ (there are no problems, only issues). Choose Other order issues (it’s the vaguest) and then, finally, you will see under ‘How would you like to contact us?’ three options: E-mail, Phone and Chat. These options look as if they’re greyed out, unavailable (I’m sure this is not intentional…), but they are available so you should click on Chat.

Now, despite the fact that you’ve gone through all this, don’t assume that the customer service representative who will pop up will know the order number, so have it ready. If you know how to cut-and-paste (and you should, you should, you really should), cut-and-paste it either from your Amazon list of orders or from the e-mail sent to you confirming the order originally.

Now, apart from having to type out the problem, your full name, the order number, and anything else the representative feels called upon to ask you to test your typing skills, you’re on the home straight. This is where Amazon starts becoming genuinely helpful. The Amazon customer service representatives are mandated to solve your problem and send you away a newly-happy customer, so you will get your replacement or refund or whatever you wish - and they’ll offer it before you even ask, once you’ve outlined the problem (sorry - issue). If something needs sending back and you can’t make it to a post office, they’ll send a courier -next day. They’ll send you a link so you can print out a returns form, all fully completed for you, and they’ll wait while you print it. They’ll be polite, helpful - and they will do everything necessary to make sure you’re a happy customer.

It’s worth the hassle in the end - and it is a hassle (vide supra)- and that’s how it’s done.

Of course you could have just left it. A Dymo tape is only £8.48 - although of course you sensibly ordered a couple so the order was actually £16.96 - but you can afford to write that off, can’t you? It doesn’t take you long to earn £16.96, does it? That’s after tax, of course, so it’s really about £22.61, but that’s not much is it? It doesn’t take much to earn that, just a touch of travel time and travel costs and a few overpriced lunches and coffees and all that.

That is of course just one write-off. There’s also the mistakes your bank made but it’s never been worth the hassle of reclaiming all those small amounts. Same with the supermarket - not worth queuing up at the Customer Service desk just to get £1.68 back or whatever - each time. And it’s never been worth challenging your electricity supplier for not letting you know that there were cheaper tariffs than yours so you’ve been paying over the odds for the last seven months.

It’s not just the money - and it’s a large amount of money, adding up over time - it’s how it makes you feel. If you don’t challenge companies which give you bad service, take your money and generally treat you like an annoyance rather than one of the people paying their wages, you feel slighted, frustrated, ignored, helpless, and out of control.

It is a hassle to complain. It is slightly daunting to fight back. But there are advantages:

♦ You save a lot of money
♦ You get your own back on companies (and their staff) which provide poor service
♦ It gets easier to the point you’re all set up for the fight each time
♦ You get the feeling that you’re fighting for other people, people who can’t fight back (and you are)
♦ You regain control: of your money, of the service for which you’ve paid, and of your life

Take control: complain.

Twitter: Maryon Jeane

Part 1 — http://tinyurl.com/k8e4jv6
Part 2 — http://tinyurl.com/k2qtplb
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Part 60 — http://tinyurl.com/j3uurm2

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