I know that this post comes late, but hopefully you won’t call and complain. That last sentence will make sense in a moment.

This post is about what power we, the consumer have. In this economic time, most are willing to do whatever they can do to keep their customers. For example, the average person spends $350,000.00 at Wal-Mart in their life. If Wal Mart makes you angry and turns you away, then they arent losing a small transaction, they are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars! We forget that we hold hundreds of thousands over the manager’s heads and too often let poor service pass along.

Without giving too much information, I just want to say that Joanna and I were treated very poorly (on several accounts) by Verizon, our cell phone provider. So when my (already defective) phone quit working a few weeks ago, I decided to bring it in. I was told that I had no options, and that the defective phone I was sold was as good as trash. No repair, no replacement phone, no ‘Im sorry’, just another rude person who couldn’t care less.

I now had to decide between shelling out hundreds for an ok new phone that might be just as awful as my last, or buying a cheap refurbished one that was made ten years ago. Now I love taking .5 megapixel pictures, but I am cheap, and I feel that I already pay too much for a phone that has barely worked. This was the last straw, and my stingy side took over.

So I set out to write some emails. Through some extensive investigation, I found the emails for Verizon’s CEO, President, Head of Customer Service, and the Mid TN Distrit Manager. I sent them essentially the same email explaining my past experiences, and telling them that I was considering terminating my contract. I did my best to be professional, but at the same time explain how and why I was so upset. I sent the email

Then, last week I got a phone call from a very nice woman that had received my email. She apologized for my experiences, overnighted me a new phone for free, and gave us a discount on out next phone bill. She was understanding and apologetic, promised to call the store I went to, and made sure that I was a satisfied customer before she let me off the phone. I honestly felt that I could have demanded free service for life and she would have made it happen.

Now you might be asking me how do the same thing. My first piece of advice is not to go out looking for something free. I never at any point thought that I should try and work this company over for some free stuff. I was treated poorly, and simply wanted to exercise my power as the consumer. If all I got was an apology, a promise to follow up with the staff, and a free repair on my dumb phone, then I would have been happy. If you have been treated poorly, then here are some tips for you:

1 Remember names and times. Even if I’m calling Comcast to ask about a $2.00 charge on my bill, I always take note of the date and time. This helps add validity. Think about it; “Tammy cussed at me and threw a pair of shoes at me last night at 9:00” means that they can verify that Tammy was working last night, and that she was in the shoe dept.

2 Dont yell. Whether you are making a phone call, or you are writing an email, stay calm. Be sure to convey that you are upset, but if you start yelling, or writing swear words, then you are only making yourself look unprofessional. Not to mention, its just tacky.

3 Use the internet. I’m serious, check out their website, read news articles on customer service and stock, and google ‘how to complain about my netflix picture quality’. You never know what you will find.

4 Use Social Media. I tweeted about waiting for a Fedex package, and an actual Fedex representative tweeted at me in minutes! My sister told me about an old woman that made a youtube video talking about Sears’ awful warranty repair guys, and Sears sent the guys to give her a new washer! These companies hire people to watch what people are saying about them on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Myspace (ok, no probably not Myspace). I wouldn’t doubt it that someone from Verizon, Fedex, Wal-Mart, or Comcast will probably stumble onto this post without me ever knowing it.

What not to do: don’t try to rip them off. If you just don’t like your phone, and want a free iPhone, or feel angry that they wouldn’t replace the phone you dropped in the lake, don’t make up some story for free stuff. Just be professional, and let them know that they will lose your patronage if they don’t right what was wronged.

So hey, remember that this is your money, and you decide where and how to spend it.