P. 1
The Customer is Boss (3)

The Customer is Boss (3)

|Views: 74|Likes:
Published by Mohammad Shafique

More info:

Published by: Mohammad Shafique on Apr 24, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less

10/07/2015

pdf

text

original

Sections

  • CHAPTER 3
  • CHAPTER 4
  • CHAPTER 5
  • CHAPTER 6
  • CHAPTER 7
  • CHAPTER 8
  • CHAPTER 9
  • CHAPTER 10
  • CHAPTER 11
  • CHAPTER 12
  • CHAPTER 13
  • CHAPTER 14
  • CHAPTER 15
  • CHAPTER 16
  • CHAPTER 18
  • CHAPTER 19
  • CHAPTER 20
  • CHAPTER 21
  • CHAPTER 22
  • CHAPTER 23
  • CHAPTER 24

"Customers must take action to get the
servire they deserve. The Customer Is Boss
is a quality guide that shows consumers how
to getgood customer service every time. "
GERRI DE1WEILER
ExEclJlJVE DIRECTOR. BANKCARD HOWERS OF AMERICA
"The voice oftheconsumer has never been nwre
powerful than intoday's competitive and complex global
market. Businesses know that ifthey are to succeed.
then they must beable to react to theconsumer's needs.
InThe Customer Is Boss, John Tschohl offers a road
map. detailing how consumers can let businesses know
the quality they expect inservices and products."
ELIZABETH DOLE
FORMER UNITED STA'lES SECRETARY OFlABoR
"A simple. no nonsense book that can definitely
help thefrustrated consumer who isn't getting the
satisfaction they deserve from a product or service. "
JEAN M. Om:
PREsIDENT. SocIEIY OFCuSTOMER AFFAIRS PROFESSIONALS
VICE PREsIDENT. QuALnY AssURANCE NATIONAL CAR RFNrAL


"John Tschohl has done a great
servirefor the average under-serviced.
consumer. Here is the true art
of complaining - how to. who to. when to ­
with pra£ticaUy guaranteed results.·
JERRY NOACK
PuBusHER. T1IAIMNG MAGAlJNE
"A bill of rights and a guide to action
forcustomers; contains thought
provoking ideasforbusiness managers."
DR. WU.JlAM 8YHAM
CEO. DEVEWPMENr DiMENSIoNS lNrERNA7YONAL
Co-AUlHOR. ZilPP

taking care of your most valuable asset
- your customers."
KEN BlANCHARD
Co-AUlHOR, THE ONE M!NuIE MANAGER


"The Customer IsBoss is a treasure chest of
practical informatiDn about earning good seroice.
I highlyendorse the strategies in
John Tsclwhl's excellent bookr
PAULJ. MEYER
FbUNDER. SOCCESS MOllVATION lNs'ImnE. INc.
AND lD.DERSHIP MANAGEMEl'If, INc.
"John Tsclwhl has done it againl Now theconswner
has a personal handbook to guarantee receiving
excellent seroicefrom store clerks to attorneys;
every quality consciDus owner and manager
slwuld have theircustomers read this book."
DR. ROBERT E. HUNTER
PREsIDENT, DELTA DENTAL P1JlN OF MAssACHUSEITS
"Excellent book - John Tsclwhl has included not
only the what but alsothelww - the'lww' toget
good sensce. I know what good seroice looks Wee.
This book wiu help me get more ofit.•
Ai WALKER. CSP, CPAE
PREsIDENT, NATIONAL SPEAKERS AssocIATION


"The 'customer' nwvement in business is now
reoching even thenwst resistant pockets of
government. But it won't be complete anywhere
WltU paying customers demand aJ.l theqUfl1ity and
efficiency they deseroe. Tschohl tells them how.·
ARNE CARLSON
GoVERNOR OF MINNEsarA
"A refreshing approach to handling
service irwitations. We, inbusiness, need
constructivejeedbock togive better service."
RoBERT GANDRUD
PREsmENr, LurnERAN BRalHERHOOD
"An educated consumer that lets us know our
strengths and weaknesses is our greatest aJ.ly
in our questjor total customer satisjoction.·
GARY PAXI'ON
PREsmENr, DollAR SYsrEMs


"The Customer Is Boss will help consumers.fight back
against the aU too.frequent product and service abuses
they suffer. John Tschohl offers practical stepsfor both
registering a complaint andgetting satisfaction.
The price of the book will be repaid many times
over by the savings it will render. •
RICHARD C. WIITfELY
VICE 1'R£sIDENT, THE FoRUM CoRPORATION,
AurnOR, THE CUSTOMER - DRlVEN CoMPANY
"This book is very concrete and reaUstic,
especially in Russia. I greatly appreciate it.•
OLEG URALOV
PREsIDENT, VIDEOmM CoRPORATION, RUSSIA
"I sincerely beUeve that The Customer IsBoss is one
of the.finest books ever written in theimportant,
and greatly neglected.field ofcustomer service.
It's entertaining enough to make it digestible and the
poweifuI prindples are presented withthe divinity of
simplicity. Don't pass uptheopportunity to
absorb thesefabulous ideas."
CAVE'IT RoBERT


'Tschohl does it again. ..with clarity ofpurpose
and simply-stated logic, he's created the consumers'
MBiU ofRights
M
when it comes to better customer service.
Yes. quality service is attainable, and The Customer Is
Boss is the initiative that can make it happenr
BERNIE TRACHl'ENBERG
PuBUSHER. HUMAN RmJURCE ExEclll7VE MAGA2JNE
'This book is very usejulfor all people in Russia.
I support the ideas and pradke proposed in this book. M
M!KHAIL KABATICIlENKO, ED.D.
CHAIRMAN, EoOCA1URS FOR PFACE AND UNDERSI'AND1NG INRlISSlA
MMany books are wrtttenfor bosses on how toprovide
good service. This does not guarantee exceUent service
for the customer. Now John Tschohl gives the customer
the toUs togetsuper/Dr service - a unique and
important difference. It returns control back to the
customer; who really is the boss. M
lAURA IlSWOOD
AVIHOR, SERVING ThEM RIGHT


-John Tschohl's exceUent book motivates us, in
business, to doan even betterjob in seroing our
customers to their complete satisJaction.·
THOMAS MEINL
PREsIDENT, Juuus MEINL, AUSlRIA
-At last - a book that helps the consumer
recognize their privilege ojgood seroice and their
responsibility to reward those who give it by their
businessl Again, John Tschohl has provided an
exceUentJormat and increased customer satisJaction.·
NAOMI RHODE CSP, CPAE
PREsIDENT ErEcr. NATIONAL SPEAKERS AssocIATION
-John Tschohl's new book is a primerJarevery buyer­
and seUer. Customer service pays huge dividends and
customers who are persistent, firm and reasonable will
get their way. The Customer Is Boss teUs them how."
RUDY BOSCHWITZ
UNllED STA'1ES SENA1E
CHAIRMAN, HOME VAW


MA practical blueprintJor solving problems."
DEE J. ATKINSON
GoVERNMENf AND 1NDus7RY AFFAIRS OFFICER,
KEMPER NATIONAL INsURANCE CoMPANIES
MIn BraziL every consumer should read. this book to
really understand why The Customer Is Boss."
ANDRE PALO HERMANN
me,8RAzlL
MJohn Tschohfs titles make you think,
hisexamples make youJeel
and his /ogic makes youaqtee.:
But, it is his concept that makes youact!
The Customer Is Boss is a quick read
with workable ideas."
PAUL C. GREEN, PH.D.
lNDVSlRIAL ORGANIZATIONAL Psl'cHOIJXJIsr


"A wonderjUl A toZgame plan on how to demand. good
seroice,just what the buying public needs. Thisfast­
read book is a 'must read' for us all. Thank youJohn
Tschohlfor champilJning thefight-back crusade. No
more caveat emptor (let the buyerbeware). Now Tschohl
is to be salutedfor shoWing us howto be awareofgood
seroice and bad seroice, and howtoaddress the latter."
PATRICIA COLEMAN
VICE PREsIDENT/AssocIATE PuBUSHER, Bu1LDING SUPPLY HOME CENlERS
"Must read/ Tschohl tells youhow to create happy
customers, This book is going into ourmanager's
success library at Stew's.·
STEW LEONARD
PREsIDE:Nf, STEW LeONARD'S


MIjoundJohn Tschohl's new book really helpji.Jl in
transmitting theidea oj 'the customer is first' topeople
working directly with students in my University.
I strongly recommend itjorcustomer service
seminars and courses. W
ALVERO CASTRO HARRIGAN
REcroR UIAcn; UNIVERS1DAD LA17NOAMERlCANA, CasrA RICA
MEveryone has received poor customer service at one
timeor another. In The Customer Is Boss,
myfriend John Tschohl telu:hes conswners
how to change poorcustomer service into the
quality customer service they deserve. W
BILLMACK
ScUlPTOR

THE CUSTOMER IS BOSS
APRACTICAL GUIDE FOR GETTING
WHAT YOU PAID FOR AND MORE

John Tschohl

jlBESTSEllERS I ~
-PUBLISHING
Copyrlght ©byJohn Tschohl. All rights reserved.
Pnnted and bound In the United States of America. No part of
this book may be used or reproduced In any manner or form
without written permission from the publisher except In the
case of brief quotations In articles and reviews. For Information
address Best Sellers Publishing. 9201 East Bloomington
Freeway. Minneapolis. MN 55420. Phone: (612) 888-7672 and
Fax: (612) 884-8901
Publisher's Cataloging-in-PublicationData
Tsehohl, John.
The customer is boss: a practical guide for getting what
you paid for and more / byJohn Tschohl.
p. em,
ISBN 0-9636268-0-9
1. Customer Service, I. Title.
HF5415.5.T 1993
381.33 - dc20 92-076103
CIP
TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPrER 1- PAGE 17
SERVICE: HOW BAD IS IT?
CHAPrER 2 - PAGE 31
FIGH'I'ING BACK PAYS OFF
CHAPrER 3 -PAGE 37
SHOULD YOU COMPLAIN?
CHAPrER 4 - PAGE 43
WE DON'T COMPLAIN ENOUGH
CHAPrER 5 - PAGE 51
COMPLAINING PROTOCOL: USE OIL INSTEAD OF VINEGAR
CHAPrER 6 - PAGE 57
PREPARATION: JUST IN CASE
CHAPrER 7 - PAGE 61
THE WORKING DOCUMENT
CHAPrER 8 - PAGE 65
HOW TO COMPLAIN EFFECTIVELY: STRATEGIES


CHAPTER 9 - PAGE 77
EFFECTIVE COMPlAINING: BUSINESS BY BUSINESS
CHAPTER 10-PAGE 103
LIGHTS, ACTION...COMPlAINI THE FIRST RULE
CHAPTER 11- PAGE 105
LIGHTS, ACTION...COMPlAINI THE SECOND RULE
CHAPTER 12- PAGE 109
HOW TO WRITE 'THE LEnER'
CHAPTER 13- PAGE 123
LEnER SAMPLES
CHAPTER 14-PAGE 145
COMPWNING IN PERSON
CHAPTER 15- PAGE 149
BmER BUSINESS BUREAUS
CHAPTER 16-PAGE 153
LOCAL MEDIA ACTION LINES


CHAPTER 17- PAGE 157
COMPANY HOT LINES
CHAPTER 18- PAGE 163
'SUE THE BUMS'
CHAPTER 19- PAGE 167
GET HELP
CHAPTER 20 - PAGE 181
YOUR OWN CONSUMER GROUP
CHAPTER 21- PAGE 187
GET TOUGH: GUERILLA TACTICS
CHAPTER 22 - PAGE 203
BLAME THE MACHINES
CHAPTER 23 - PAGE 207
HOW TO GET ROYAL TREATMENT EVERY TIME YOU BUY
CHAPTER 24- PAGE 215
WHAT'S IN IT FOR BUSINESS

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

My special thanks go to Hazel Brown. who has been my
assistant for more than 19years. andto Steve Franzmeter, who
assistedmein the writing ofthis book andwho co-authored my
other book. Achieving Excellence Through Customer Service.
Thejobthat is too difficult for Hazel has not yet been
invented.
Steve coordinated the communication program for Service
Quality Institute for some seven years. DUring that time he
managed to persuade hundreds oftradeand business magazine
editors. syndicated writers. general interest magazine editors.
electronic media program directors and others that the articles
and news stories that he submitted to them were worthy oftheir
media.
My Service Quality Institute staff- every one ofthem­
has been extremely cooperative in obtaining information
requested from them and in validating details.
Tomy wife. Pat. and to my children. Christina and
Matthew. "Thankyou" for tolerating my obsession with
excellence in customer service.

PREFACE
SOLUTION TO BAD SERVICE:
COOPEUTION

MIt's a shame. but in America today when we get
good seroice we are surprised by it.
People don't expect it, they don't demaIld it, and
they settlefora lDt less than they should."
- F. G. (BUCK) ROOOEI5
/ibmerCorporate VIce PreSident oj Market1ng, IBM

2 JOHN TsCHOHL

For the past 12yearsI have been teaching businesses how
to provide quality service.
During that time I learned that a true service-oriented
culture in America is possible only when...
1. consumers knowwhat theycan doto obtain quality
service; and.
2. when business Is motivated to provide quality service.
Business must offer good service to consumers who are
determined to both prevent and reject bad service. Only then
will our economy achieve the service ideal sought by most
people.
3
THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
No matterwhat your problem, no matter what your
complaint, you, the consumer, cangain satisfaction in the
marketplace If you refuse to accept service that doesn't meet
your needs or desires In terms ofpromptness, courtesy,
convenience, product knowledge, and the ability toactually
solve your problem, You need no longer feel that you are
doomed to be a vtctim the rest ofyour consuming life.
When you follow the Simple guidelines In this book, you
will gainbetter service in department stores, in restaurants, and
in supermarkets.
You will experience a boost In the respect shown you by
professionals such as physicians, dentists and attorneys.
You will feel secure and fearless in the knowledge that tf
you purchase a product that fails through no fault ofyour own,
it will be repaired or replaced toyour satisfaction.
What is myjustification for making this promise toyou?
Over the years I have worked with thousands ofpeople
called "consumers." I've learned why salespeople andothers in
service positions treat you poorly and what you can do to...
I. prevent badservice: or,
2. to change bad service to good service,
I have come toknow not only thefrustrations of
consumers but the causes ofpoor service bysome businesses.
I will teachyou methods that have been effective for men
and women just like yourself in big cities, small towns, and
places In between.
This book is dedicated to the principle that consumers and
business benefit when consumers demand good service In a
reasonable manner and when they exercise informed and
effective cIiticismofbadservice inthis service economy.
4 JOHNTsCHOIlL
Aloud, table-pounding. threatening approach is uncalled
for. It's also counterproductive because. Instead ofencouragtng
an openness tolistening anda desire to solve your problem.
this approach puts the person onthe defensive and closes out
any possible chance for having a constructive, problem-solving
dialogue.
Theproblem ofbad service canbe solved through
cooperation between consumers, onthe one hand, and
business, government, and private organizations onthe other.
We hope that this book will promote reasoned cooperation
through which much more will beachieved than could bedone
through confrontation.
This book shows you howtochallenge badservice Ina
calm. reasoned. effective manner. You must be as fair as you
want business to be. It's easier for you tofeel that you are
Justified In complaining Ifyou complain for the right reasons,
oneofwhich is rwt "revenge."
Remember that friendliness with salespeople has a way of
begetting friendliness (and good service) by salespeople.
So. read on. Read on and discover that complaining can
be an honorable avocation ifyou do It constructively and for
legitimate reasons.
Read onand learn that you are rwt helpless Inthe
marketplace.
You, as an individual, have power - power to.fight back
and to improve service for yourself and for other consumers who
have tolerated rotten service far toolong.

INTRODUCTION

service has become
a maddeningly rare co1Tl1TlDdity in the marketplace...
customers know service when they miss it,
and now they want it back.

6
JOHN TsCHOHL

Good service is as muchthe responsibility ofconsumers
as It Is ofbusinesses.
Consider this reasoning: Abusiness cannot correct a
service defiCiency until it is aware that a deficiency exists.
Complaints bycustomers often arethe first hint for a business
that its employees are alienating customers, working at cross­
purposes with management.
If supervisors had theirway, every customer would feel
complete satisfaction sothat theywould return tobuyagain.
But, supervisors can't stand around and watch their service
employees at work all day.
Here's where you come In.
Too many ofus have accepted badservice as a normal part
ofeveryday life, But, It should be an exception, not the rule,
Thisbook points out that you, as a consumer, also have a
responsibility - at least to yourself. You must call badservice
to the attention ofmanagers, supervisors, owners and othersto
whom front-line service employees report.
7
THE CUsroMER Is Boss
The message inthJs book is: You can obtain redress for
wrongs visited upon you by those businesses interested only in
the shortest or fastest route to your wallet and who feel they
can't be bothered to provide service also.
You canobtain satisfaction for Insulting treatment by
salespeople and byclerks who consider you, the customer, to be
an unwelcome Interruption Inan otherwise pleasant day.
So. consumers must "complain"...constructively.
Complain before dissatisfaction degenerates Into anger.
Don't ever feel guilty aboutcomplaining. You deserve good
service. You pay for good serviCe.
When a business gives you surly service, don't ever excuse
it. After all, it costs business nothing extra tobe friendly...
unlessyou consider thecost ofpersuading employees that they
should provide service and showing them how to do It.
We urge you now to resolve never to accept Insults or
Indifference by people you're buying from.
Fight back! Resign from the sllent majority,
Every time you let bad service go bywithout objecting,
you're encouraging It. You're rewarding employees for being
lazy. You're making It acceptable for them to not beinterested
In dOing a good job.
Do not ever allowan outrage or an oversight to slip by
without telling a service person about it. Ifthey do not
apologize or correct a problem, then tell theirsupervisors, too.
Every time youtipa waitperson who didn't notice you for
20 minutes and then brought your steakwell done Instead of
medium rare, as you ordered It. you encourage a repeat
performance for unsuspecting future customers. You should
instead complain to the wattperson's supervisor.
Things have gotten sobadthat service workers expecttips
nomatterhow rotten the service they provide...or don't provide.
8 JOHNTsCHOHL
Said aJapanesevisitor toAmerica. Tadashi Nishimura of
Osaka: "I don't mind tipping. but services I got inAmerica were
so badthat ona number ofoccasions I could not reward them
with money. yet. you aremore orlessforced to tip everywhere
you go."
In a business environment that is becoming more
impersonal and automated than ever before. you must
complain. Or. you will continue toget bad service andsuffer
frustration in the form ofsplitting headaches. upset stomachs
and brooding anger.
Complaining is appropriate and necessary.
BENEFITS OF FIGHTING BACK
There is solace for the spirit In fighting back. There is
satisfaction in winning fair treatment when all around you
consumers are shaking their heads andgrinding theirteeth.
So. following the guidelines in this book for claiming the
service that you payfor pays off.
This book tells you 1ww to fight back. It shows you 1ww to
strike a blow for service. It shows you 1ww to gettogether With
otherconsumers to bring stronger pressure to bearupon
reluctant businesses and theirstaffs.
One way that consumers can influence business to provide
good service is to educate business owners and managers to the
fact that a proper service attitude and satisfied customers have
a strong, positive impact upon the bottom line.
Some businesspeople don't reallze that good service is
profitable. It canbe a competitive edge. It canbethe only
reason that theysurvive in bad economic times.
Agood point to make to bustnesspeople is that theysave
money onnew advertising andpromotion when theykeep more
ofthe customers won byprevious advertising andpromotion.
9
THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
at costsfive times as much to obtain a newcustomer as to keep
a present customer.)
TIME magazine wrote in a cover story on customer servrce:
"Personal service has become a madden1ngly rare commodity in
the marketplace...customers know service when theymiss it,
and now theywant it back,"
!fyou feel this way, thenyou should read this book.
Do rudeor ignorant andindifferent service workers anger
you? If so, then this book Is for you.
Do you rage about rotten service to your friends, your
spouse andyour relatives but merely glare at offensive service
employees?
If so, then you should read this book, byall means.
ACTION FOR SATISFACTION
This book also shows you how to earn good service when
you make a purchase and how to obtain satisfaction when
business orgovernment agencies provide badservice.
This book shows you how to complain effectively. Call It
"constructive criticism.· Never forget that you ought to
complain, because thecostofa purchase should pay for both
the merchandise and the service.
Your money buys the right to respectful treatment, the
right to beinformed, assisted and respected - not just the right
to spend yourmoney andgetthe goods.
You ought to take action to win satisfaction because by
doing soyou help fellow consumers obtain good service In the
future.
10 JOHN TsCHOHL
You will alsobe helping business. Businesspeople. after
all. don't intentionally seekcustomer dissatlsfaction. They don't
oppose the notion ofproviding good service. But. theyare often
so narrowly focused uponprofit that theytend to overlook
service.
One company displays a large signwith the words: "We
love it when you give us the business." With yourhelp. more
companies will adopt that philosophy.

THE BUSINESS
POINT OF VIEW

"Consumers are not the only losers in the
perilous world of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware),
soare the companies that rejiLse to recognize
positive benefits of responsive consumer policy."
-JACKGIlL5
Consumer Fedemlion ojAmerica

12 JOHN TsCHOHL

What we have In the marketplace today Is a problem
Business often argues that the problem is exaggerated.
That's possible. but the signlficant point for businessIs that
poor service Is perceived as a problem by consumers.
Consumers could be wrong. but we don'tthink theyare.
Surveys consistently show that consumers think they
receive bad service - a lot ofit. Their views appear In reports
on surveys by leading customer service research firms. by the
U.S. Office ofConsumer Affairs and by corporations themselves.
13
ThE CUSTOMER Is Boss
THE BAD EGGS:
GOOD BUSINESS REPUDIATES THEM
Aseparate book, aveIY large one, can be written about
creative service strategies in business - aboutemployee
training to head off customer dissatisfaction and complaints
and to resolve anyunavoidable complaints tothe satisfaction of
customers.
Actually, I've written that book already. It's entitled
Achieving Excellence Through Customer Service and it was
published In 1991 byPrentice Hall. Throughout thisbook, too,
we've credited business for some outstanding service
achievements that, strangely, don't make the news very often.
Also, we've reminded readers that most businesspeople and
employees ofgovernment and private organizations go out of
their way towin the total satisfaction oftheir customers and
clients.
Customer satlsjoction Is the goal ofvirtually every business
owner. The company does not exist that wants you, the
consumer, totakeyourbusiness to its competitors.
Nevertheless, In the realworld deficiencies dooccur. These
are the times that consumers candoa favor for themselves and
for the business bypointing out the deficiency tothe business.
Poor service often is perpetrated byfly-by-nJght operators,
byvarious business scamsand by underfinanced businesses so
absorbed with day-to-day survival that theyhave notime to
build a service organization. Leading companies always "take
care ofyou" or correct a problem without question.
But, there always seem to be some businesses In "hot"
fields - computers and software. environmental sanitation.
vitamin therapy - that have tapped a vein ofgreat consumer
demand and then become complacent l1ke the Cheshire cat In
"Allce In Wonderland." They doa lot ofbusiness without
providing good service.
14 JOHN TsCHOHL
But. eventually, their chickens come home to roost and are
eaten by the Cheshire cat!
Thedon't-give-a-damn attitude shown by some businesses
toward consumers is rejected just as vehemently bythose
businessesalready providing good service to consumers.
Service faults usually are faults ofomission. Abusiness
hasn't yet trained employees or begun a formal service program.
Or service practices have grown old and weak because
they've become routine. Enthusiasm has waned. Managers
don't review and reinforce service practices or demonstrate their
own commitment to quality service.
Still, most businesspeople krww that long-term customer
loyalty, won withgood service, is worthfar more than any brief
benefits gained from arranging matters for a company's
convenience - and for customers' inconvenience.
Ifwe are to come as close as possible to the truth, we must
judgeeachbusinessindividually. To be fair. we should not
generalize...not paint all businesses with the same brush.
Remember when the employee at the insurance office
sounded so friendly when you called with a question about your
premium? Remember how pleased you were when you received
the requested information the next day?
Remember that waitress who made you feel at home and
rushed to get the extra sour creamyou asked for? Shedeserved
the bigtipyou left.
Remember the building supplies storesalesman who
carried that boxoftiletoyourcar? You could have carried it
yourself.
That's good service. Applaud it. Tell yourfriends about it.
15 TflE CUsroMER IsBoss
Jack Gillis, public affairs director for the Consumer
Federation of America, is perceptive enough to see the wider
significance of poor service: "Consumers are not the only losers
in the perllous world ofcaveat emptor Oet the buyer beware),"
says Gillis. "So are the companies that refuse to recognize
positive benefits ofresponsive consumer policy. "
Most companies know It.
The story is told ofBillie Burns, former men's clothing
department manager at a Nordstrom department store,
renowned for Its good service. Burns received a call from a
regular customer who was hurrying to the airport and needed
some clothes. Burnsgathered up a bag full ofblazers, slacks,
and underwear and charged themtothe customer's account.
He waswaiting onthe curboutside the store when the man's
car screeched toa stopand pausedJust long enough for a fast
exchange.
So, let's have a little recognition for those businesses In
which we consistently find unfailing smiles, friendly patience,
broad product knowledge. competence, alertness and
enthusiasm.

CHAPTERl
SERVICE: HOW BAD IS IT?

'This is supposed to be 'the service society.'
So where's the service?"

18 JOHN TsCHOHL
"We could get a lot more done around here if we
didn't haveall these customers bothering us."

Aman who lives In a suburbofBoston wrote this
plaintive account of his service expertence onone very badday:
"The dishwasher, which had been repaired on Monday,
flooded the kitchen floor again. Not to worry, said the helpful
person at the appliance store. Someone will be over 'between 8
a.m, and 4 p.m. Tuesday:
"With my shoes still squishmg I head tothe office. But, the
train Is late. When it shows uptherearen't enough sealsand
the heaterhas gone berserk. I want to complain, but no one
answers the transit department's toll-free customer-service
number.
"Things aren't anybetter when I finally get towork. The
copier is out again; I can't get anyone at ourBoston office to
answer the phone; and my lunch plans go awry when the fancy
French restaurant 'loses' myreservation."
19
ThE CUSTOMER Is Boss
Dick Youngblood, business columnist for the Stnr Tribune
of Minneapolis-St. Paul, thinks that the service economy is a
hoax. He lambasted "those troglodytes [anyone who lives ina
primitive, low, or degenerative fashion] ofthe service sector who
insist on keeping 9-to-5 working hours" despite the large
number offamilies in which everybody works and nobody's
home durIng the day.
Daytime, Youngblood points out, is the only time that
manyservice businesses operate.
You, the reader, know how bad service is. You most likely
experience bad service every day. You may have a cache of
personal horror stories stored in a comer ofyourmind.
You've encountered problems ranging from indifferent sales
clerks torude waiters tothe purchase ofexpensive items which
not only fail to work but also seem impossible to service.
TheVCR runs only in reverse, the refrigerator freezes the
lettuce but not the icecream, or a blouse labeled "Machine
Washable" shrinks.
Employees act as if theythink: "We could get a lot more
done around hereif we didn't have all these customers
bothering us."
You walk into a business and you notice an employee
peeking aroundthe edge ofa display rackwearing an
expression that says: "Oh, crtpes, herecomes anotherone.
Just when we ordered a pizza, too."
Thewaitress bringS you a well-done steakwhen you
ordered rare. You can't find your morning paper because It's
nestled behind the bushes. Your pharmaCiSt gfves you the
wrong prescription.
Your flight takes off late. Because traffic Is stacked up, the
plane circles...and circles. By the time you land, yourbaggage
has beenput onanother plane toyet another destination.
20 JOHN TsCHOHL
Thefurniture you ordered with six-week guaranteed
delivery hasn't arrived aftertwo months.
In the supermarket, several checkout lanes stand closed
while youwait in oneofthe open lines, moving one place
forward every five minutes.
You stop afterwork to cash a check, or to buy something
at the deli, or to pick up a gift: at one ofthose all-purpose drug
stores. Theonly signoflife the clerk shows is to takeyour
money and to drop your change in your hand. Shedoesn't look
at you, and her feeble greeting soundsmore like a grunt.
We arejustified in remarking: "This is supposed to be 'the
service society.' So, where's the service?"
These experiences and many othersare uncomfortably
familiar to everyone.
People who earn their incomes providing service to
customers - whose patronage pays them- should be
courteous, don't you think? They should move qUickly. They
shouldbe attentive and listento you. They should be helpful
and knowenough about their product or service toanswer
questions.
This1s whatyou deserve. This is whatyou should expect.
And ifyoudon'tget it, you oughtto let somebody knowabout it.
Nearly one-third ofall households in America experienced
at least one stgnifiront consumer problem during the year
before, according tothe National Consumer Survey (NCS)
sponsored by the U.S. Office ofConsumer Affairs. Of
households reporting problems, more than 60 percent told of
losses averaging $142.
21
THE CusroMER IsBoss
That $142 was the sum of commerCially done work such as
clothes washing and dIying while an appliance wasn't working,
inoperable or ineffective product that was not returned for
refund or exchange, cost ofrepair or replacement when no free
repairor replacement was available and uncompensated time
lostfrom work waiting at home for service people.
Nearly 15 percent ofthe problems Involved lost time from
work while Waiting for repair people.
"We'll bethere between 9 a.m, and 4 p.m.," says the very
friendly service scheduler onthe phone.
You ought to say: "Oh, aren't you wonderful. Will you pay
me for the time I lose from work waiting for you?"
Otherresearch supports these NeS findings. One study
discovered that one out offour purchases results in a problem.
Asurvey reported that more than 70percent ofsome 100,000
respondents experienced problems with grocery products ­
from a bugIn thejamto spoiled oranges.
This Isa common variety ofbad service: You stayhome
from work to let the plumber In and to lock upafter heleaves.
But the plumber doesn't showup. He doesn't call to sayhe
won't be able to show up, either.
Soyou stayhome a second day; andthis time you lose a
day's pay, Does the plumber reimburse you? Don't ask!
THIS IS ASERVICE ECONOMY?
Economists call oursa service economy, But, you'd never
know it from the difficulty consumers experience Infindlng
genuinely friendly, helpful personal service,
What consumers aregetting, Instead, is service people who
treat themlike road kill, or who seem tobe"out tolunch," or
who quickly disappear when they seea customer approaching.
22 JOHN TsCHOHL
Business Week magazine wrote: "At manydepartment
stores these days the customer Isn't always right. In fact, the
customer Is barely tolerated."
Ertc Sevareld, former CBS News commentator, believes
that service in our "service economy" has worsened. That
bothers him. He says: "The decline ofservice goes along with
the decline ofcivility. Civility. kindness, patience withothers is
what makes a democratic. civilized society operate. Ifyou
forego those things, what have yougot?"
Tom Peters and Nancy Austin, In their popularbook A
Passlonjor Excellence, point out that retailing oftengives "no
distingUishing service" and, as a result, has "reaped the reward
- fed-up customers..."
They write: "Common decency, common courtesy...Is the
exception. "
When Peters and Austin refer to "retailing," they really
ought to say "some retailers." No doubt. most bad service is
given bythe same retailers over and over again. That leaves a
sizable number of retailers whose names never show up
negatively in consumer surveys,
People under 25 maynever have seena service station
attendant wipe windshields except In the 1983 movie Back to
the Future. where employees buzzed around a car withliquid
glass cleaner, chamois and water can as if theywere competing
for a Service Attendant ofthe Year award.
23
THE CUsroMER Is Boss
When the media hear about a service station With service.
they make afeature story out ofit. Newspapers raved about
Eastham's service station on Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda,
Maryland. Two Eastham attendants nm toward every car that
pulls up to the pumps. "Good mornmgl" theyyell out to the
driver. They scurry about swiftly pumping gas, cleaning every
Inchofglass, and shouting for the driver to unlatchthe car's
hood. Hands fly among the hoses and belts, checking oiland
waterlevels.
A dropofsweat falls from one employee's forehead and
lands on the front bumper. Quickly he bends over and wipes it
offwith a cleancloth.
Can you believe it?
Theentire service process lasts aboutthree minutes.
Bad service is seen bymanyconsumers as a personal
insult. They become angry, depressed, or insecure when
salespeople ignore them, snap at them or hurry to get rid of
them. They are offended whensalespeople haven't considered
their customersimportant enough for themto learn the
answers to common questions about the merchandise or service
they sell.
Kroger Food Storessurveyed consumers and found that
more than half expected that they would be miStreated in some
way. They expected to be ignored, to waitin long linesand to
haveclerkssay "I don't know" and "Sorry, I'mgoing on break."
How manyconsumers have experienced service so badthat
they felt like complaining about it?
Nearly all ofthem, I believe.
No government agency maintains a Helpfulness Index,
however, so statiStics on service level don't exist. We are left to
the opinions ofexperts. And experts in customer service say
that service in our service society generally stinks.
24 JOHN TsCHOHL
Jason had been saving his money for more than a yearto
buyan expensive home entertainment center. He went tothe
storeona Tuesday afternoon, deliberately arriving afterthe
lunch-hour rush, at a time when hethought business probably
would be slow.
He planned to look at the vartous systems, listen to how
theysounded, and then ask a salesperson to explain features of
the various systems that he found most desirable In his price
range.
There were two salesclerks onthe floor when Jason arrtved
and, as he hoped, theywere not busy. One approached him
eagerly, saying, "Can I help you, s!r?"
"Not right now," saidJason. "I just want to look around for
a while."
Theclerk's smile froze. He saidnothing, then walked back
to the other clerk. Although the salesperson lowered his voice,
Jason heardhim derisively say, "Looker. Guess U's going to be
anotherbad week for my paycheck."
Then the two clerks proceeded to talk toeachother abouta
movie theyhad seen. When Jasonwasready to ask questions,
the clerk dismtssed him with a wave ofthe hand saying. "The
signs saywhat you get. We can't go taking out the spec sheets
unlessyou knowwhich one you want tobuy."
Jason was as disappointed as he was angry.
He left, knowing hewould have to try again somewhere
eise on another day.
"Another slow week," the salesman said, never reaI1zIng
how close he came to making a $1,000 sale.
25 ThE CUsroMER Is Boss
MaIY wasIn the market for a newcarwhen shewent tothe
showroom of alocal dealership. She knew the features she
wanted and the general price range she could afford. But when
she arrived a football game was onthewidescreen television in
thewaiting areaset aside for customers having theircars
serviced. The salespeople were gathered around theset, Sipping
coffee and cheering the home team on.
Mary understood the loyalty. She was a fanherself and
hadhoped towatch thegame. Butthiswas the only time she
hadtoget the car andshehoped that she could make her
purchase andleave quickly. She hadnoquestions to ask. Yet
when she tried to get someone towait onher, thesales staff
kept saying. "Just a minute, lady."
What they didn't anticipate was that Mary's patience lasted
only.fWe minutes.
It was another three weeks before shecould take time
again to look for a newcar- at a different dealership.
TALK ABOUT BAD SERVICE
Bad service takes many forms. How many ofthese
characters and situations do you recognize?
1. Highschool students working at minimumwage in a
local hardware store who are so uninformed about
products that any question other than "How much
does It cost?" is met with a blank stare.
2. Home electronics or computer salespeople. or auto
parts store employees who arecondescending toward
you because you ask questions about a product's
features andapplications. They tossoff incomplete or
unbelievable answers toyour questions like they would
throw scraps to a dog.
26 JOHNTsCHOHL
3. Bankswith long lines and teller windows that close
just whenit's your turn.
4. Doctors who are always "1UI1Itlng late." Their office
secretaries make appointments for specific times, but
you haven't seen the doctor at that time in ten years.
Doctors apparently overschedule to maximize their
incomes: Some patients might not keep their
appointments, you see.
5. Salespeople who obviously feel that playing the
customer-is-always-right role is degrading. They give
crisp, cold, and abrupt service, rarely establishing eye
contact with you. They usually glance at you, just
barely avoiding rudeness, because they realize that
theymust be helpful and friendly since that's theirjob.
But. for sure, they're not going to doany more than
they must do to keep you from complaining to the
manager. Service is not something theygive with great
enthusiasm.
6. In a department store, boutique, applIance store, or
government office, employees walk byyouas if you're a
mannequin. Or, if theycan't avoid responding toyou,
theyspeakwhile continuing to fill in records or to
stock shelves.
7. Restaurants that overbook or understaff, thereby
"encouraging" you towait in the bar for yourtableand
to buy expensive chinks.
Money magazine observed that some restaurants have
come to be noted for their"hors deals" rather than
their "hors d'oeuvres." The service situation in
restaurants, says Money, reflects the risein dining out
and the decline ofcommon courtesy.
27
ThE CUSTOMER IsBoss
Arestaurant InWest Los Angeles is notorious for
overbookings that result Inwaitsofup to an hour,
ANew York City restaurant that caters to employees on
Publishing Rowandto the arts crowd also is well known for bad
service. Oneman and his guest were shown Into a tinywaiting
alcove whenthey showed up for a reservation that had been
confirmed and then reconfirmed. An hour later theywere given
a table. with no apology for the long wait.
Sometimes diners dinelonger than a restaurant expects;
but. the maitre d' could have shown some concern; and he
could have apologized.
Thelate comedian Freddie PrInze chose the problem of
Indifference as a comedic trademark. No matterhow simple a
request - from "Do youhave the time?" to "Please pass the
salt"- he always said: "It's not myjob."
"Have youever triedto buy something Ina fashionable
shop ifyou are a female, gray-haired. over-50, and a bit
flabby?" asks BarbaraS. Bach ofIndianapolls. "Don't bother.
Salesclerks willavoid you as ifyouhave the plague. Next to the
unaccompanied child sent out to buy something at the last
minutefor a harriedparent, over-50, fat. and faded females are
the most ignored customers Inthe world."
She couldn't get anyone towait on her so she finally picked
up the skirt and headed for the door. Three security people
converged on her.
"However: she said, "they didn't offer to wait on me:
She urged "over-50, overweight, and overlooked" females to
buy from mail-order catalogs.
Thisis not the way things ought to be Ina Civilized SOciety.
As a service to people who are Indecisive and hesitant about
complaining, hereare valid grounds for complaint:
28 JOHN TsCHOHL
CJ UNWILUNGNESS TO ANSWER QUESTIONS;
IGNORANCE OF MERCHANDISE: Some salespeople
give flippant, partialanswers to questions like scraps
to a dog, while continuing to fill out forms, stock
shelves, or talk witha friend.
CJ AVOIDING; IGNORING: Employees seem to be on
perpetual coffee break. They disappear as you
approach. Sometimes theywalk byyou without even
looking at you. You find themabsorbed in personal
conversations, chatting onthe phone, ortoo busy
shelf-stocking to be bothered bya mere
customer.
CJ COLD, IMPERSONAL MANNER; Service is crispand
abrupt, not onewhit betterthan necessary to avoid the
Ireofsupervisors. Service employees give the
appearance ofhelpfulness. Some hospitals and
doctors treat patientslike cadavers, working onthem,
talking over them...never speaking to them.
CJ FAST, CARELESS SERVICE: To some servtce
employees you are an unwelcome interruption. They
want to finish with you quickly so theycanget on with
more "important" business like discussing last night's
date. Sometimes theyignore you, thinking that
shunningwill encourage you to leave. One veteran
female consumer says: "I never leave. I interrupt
themuntil I get their attention."
CJ THE BRUSH-OFF: You're treated like a football,
handed off and passed all over the field. After you've
become tired offeeling like a pigskin, you give up,
vowing revenge. Some government employees seemto
bevery good at giving the brush-off.
29
THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
Cl PROMISES NOT KEPI': Attorneys say: "It's in the
mail." Furniture stores schedule adelivery date, then
Ignore it without telling you. Appliance repair
technicians promise to come onTuesday. but they
don't show up and don't call. Moving companies
promise an arrival datefor yourbelongings and miss it
by days, and you set up housekeeping in a motel.
o FAILURE TO RETURN PHONE CALLS: You call and
leave messages repeatedly. Your calls aren't returned
because you are a problem that the business does not
wish to solve.
You deserve better.

CHAPrER2
FIGHTING BACK PAYS OFF

"Fight back!
You don't have totake itJ"
---.--.­
32 JOHN TsCHOIlL
"When products proved poorly made.
items arrived broken orfood spoiled, I used to
throw them away, corwinced that to complain
would only draw form letters...(But now) I use the
telephone and the typewriter. I get resuUs."
-DAWNSOVA
Women's DayMogaztne

Twowindows fell out ofher Ford, so Gayle Knutson ofSt.
Louis Park, Minnesota, wrote to the Ford Motor Company about
it. By return mail she received a certificate authorizing her to
have the windows repaired. The cost ofthe windowwork and
other repairs was about $500, paid by Ford.
Teny Rikolta, 43. ofBloomfield Hills, MichJgan, mother of
four, objected to the way female characters were treated in a
certain1Vsituationcomedy. Shewrote letters to all 45
sponsors ofthe show. At last report noneofthemhad
withdrawn sponsorship: but stillMs. Rikolta gotresults. She
appeared on the network1Vshows "Nightline," "CBS This
Morning," and "Entertainment Tonight" - campaigning for her
position.
33
THE CUsroMER Is Boss
Joe Ctmmet, freelance artist, and his wife. Eve. find that
most businesses settle complaints graciously. One night they
went to their local theater, expecting arelaxing evening.
Instead. they spent the night straining to hear a scratchy,
poorly amplified sound track. They decided that they would
confront the manager.
What happened? He gave them free movie tickets.
Dawn Sova wrote in Woman's Day magazine: "When
products proved poorly made, items arrived broken or food
spoiled, I used to throw them away, convinced that to complain
would only draw form letters...(But now) I usethe telephone
and the typewriter. I get results."
But, still, far more people complain among themselves
than complain toan offending business. Amajor national
survey found, in fact, that only 10 percent ofpeople disgusted
with service actually complain.
Why? Some people aretoo polite tocomplain. Or, they
think that only yahoos complain.
Others simply don't have the self-esteem or personality
type to confront others, even when they are certain that their
complaints arejustified.
COMPLAIN EVERY TIME
If the inclination to shut up instead ofto speak up is ever
going to change. consumers must undergo an attitude change.
They must make complaining the rule instead ofthe exception,
Look at it this way: It's logical to complain inour society.
Consumers wield great influence here. If large numbers of
consumers consistently press their displeasure upon business,
then more businesses will realize that good service Is in their
best Interests and will provide it.
Fight bacld You don't have to take it
34 JOHN TsCHOHL
There Is benefit to the splrttin fighting back.
There's pleasureand satisfaction in winning fairtreatment.
You ought to complain becauseit's right to doso ­
because businesses are wrong to makeyouwait for 20
minutes...wrongto turn loose salespeople who know little more
about the merchandise they'reselling than how to turn it on
and off.
Since youpay for service, you're being cheated whenyou
get neglect and eveninsults. So. complain to avoid injustice...
and also headaches. hlgh blood pressure. and hypenrentilation.
When an employee treats you as ifyou have B.O.•fight
baJ:k forthe sake ofall other consumers...and for the sake of
the majOrity ofbusinesses that will almost always jump through
a hoop to satisfytheir customers...as soonas they know that
the customeris dissatisfied.
FIGHTING BACK IS IN STYLE
More people are fighting back. Fighting back may be a
sJgn ofthe times. There'san upsurgein personal action
throughout our society. People believe more than everthat they
can change government. social and economic conditions. and
the waybusiness Is conducted. And they're doing it
So, confront businesspeople who continually Ignore you.
Don'tallow themto intimidate youintosilence whenyouknow
very well that even by business's own standards you are being
poorly served.
Fight back! Demand service. Don't let a single example of
rudeness or socializing at your expense go unreported.
Oneofyour obstacles in your fight-backcrusade will be
managers and executives who believe that customersdeserve
onlymerchandise - or service that they specifically payfor.
35
THE CUsroMER IsBoss
Any pre-sale or post-sale service is a bonus that customers have
no right to expect and are unjustified in criticizing. the
businesspeople believe.
These are likely to be the same businesspeople who say
"Caveat emptor!" ("Let the buyer beware."], as if it is the
ultimate rationale for bad service.
Well...fine. If they want to throw down the gauntlet, let's
pick it up. "Caveat emptor!" We will beware. And when we
beware, business better beware. too.
We aren't gOing to hand over our money without msrsttng
that we get full product or service value. "Full value" means
"full service."
We will consider a transaction incomplete until we are
satisfied.

CHAPTER 3
SHOULD YOU COMPLAIN?

"Complaints areopportunities
to rectify customers' problems."
- ThE OFFICE OF CoNSUMER AFFAIRS

38 JOHN TSCHOHL

You should complain.
Complain to organizations whose poor service is part of
their lean-and-mean management plan that reduces the
number ofemployees who make person-to-person contact with
consumers.
Leveraged buyouts and hostile takeovers never are
consummated for the purpose of improving service.
According to the National Planning Assn.• a Washington­
based business research organization. corporate downsiztng
and plant closings have displaced (de-employed) more than two
million workers every yearsince the late 1970s.
Ifyou readthe newspapers you've seen it happen many
times: Multinational corporations seeking even more profit take
over companies whose assets theycovet. They spend millions
on the finanCial transaction itself, but not a centto maintain or
to develop courteous, helpful service.
39
THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
Afew months later poor servlce reaps its reward: Apublic
outcry in the press, ademonstration outside corporate
headquarters, or government pressure forces a company to hire
a vice president ofcustomer service, to announce a new
customer service program...or even to provide better service.
Theway that poor service develops, sometimes, is through
the "demotivation" ofemployees. After a merger or takeover
their fear ofbeing fired distracts themfrom theirwork. They
become disillusioned, dispirited, and unmotivated. Service
declines.
As a result ofmergers and unwillingness ofcompanies to
spend money to develop quality service, people keep coming up
withnew horror stories totelltheir friends, who have their own
storiesto tell.
DON'T BE EMBARRASSED
There's noneed to be embarrassed about complaining.
You aren't hurtingan organization bycomplaining. Quite the
contrary: You're helping. Why? Because you're bringing a
problemto the attention ofmanagement, a service that will be
appreciated bymostexecutives, unless you swear at themwhile
you're describing the problem.
Thebest organizations know that it is in theirinterestsfor
customers who are dissatisfied to complain. That's because
when customers complain. then businesses can correct. If
customers don't complain, businesses cannot correct.
So. don't biteyourlipand let the bile lise, or clamp your
mouthshut and let the pressure build up. Prevent a heart
attack byletting management know, immediately, about bad
service,
40 JOHNTsCHOHL
Here's a concise list ofthe benefits ofgood customer
service for business, the sort oflist that the president ofthe
International Customer Service Association would read from the
podium at the group's annual meeting:
"Satisfled customers return. Asolid baseofsatisfied. loyal
customers minimizes the cost ofattracting new customers.
That cost is five times higher than the costofkeeping existing
customers, calculated bya standardgenerally accepted by
customer service pros."
NO EXCUSES SERVICE
Most retailers operate on profit margins ofabout l-to-S
percent. Add to meager profit the apparent mass flight of
competent salespeople. andit's a wonder that retailing survives.
This said, there's still noexcuse for shabbytreatment at
the hands ofrude salespeople, or for roadblocks thrown in your
path when youtry toget replacement or repair service for a new
product that doesn't work, or for appliances or furniture with
six-week-guaranteed delivery that are still"on the way· aftertwo
months.
Good service prevents the need for a company to spend
money to attract new customers and clients to replace those
that bad service has alienated.
So, whencustomers complain andgoad organizations into
service improvements, theyare helping themsave money.
When customers complain theyare more likely to continue
buying from the organization theycomplain to. even ifthey
don't receive total satisfaction. This may seem strange, but it's
true. TheOffice ofConsumer Affairs states: "Although many
managers view complaints as a drainon resources...complaints
maybe an extremely valuable marketing asset...Complaints are
opportunities to rectify customers' problems.
41 THE CUsroMER Is Boss
"Companies that respond to these 'opportunities' are
rewarded through continuing brand loyalty, generally in direct
proportion to the degree oftheir responsfveness."
Nordstrom Ine., thehighly regarded, Seattle-based apparel,
shoes. and soft goods retailer that's been in business since
190I, has proved that retailers candovery well, indeed, when
theylisten to customer complaints andwhen they work hard at
reducing the number ofreasons for complaining. The company
enjoyed the highest salesper square foot ofanydepartment
storeinthe country, $310, before the recession that began in
1991. That was $160 more than the average.
Nordstrom has stores in more than 40 cities in the Pacific
Northwest, California. Minneapolis, and eastern cities.
In its National Consumer Survey the U.S. Office of
Consumer Affairs found a strong relationship between
complaining and brand loyalty. When minor complaints were
resolved to the consumer's satisfaction, 70 percent of
complainants reported that they would keep onbuying.
Among those whose minor complaints were not
satisfactoIily resolved, 46 percent still indicated that they
would repurchase the problem product or service.
But, the same National Consumer survey found that only
about a third ofcustomers with minor problems who didn't
complain at all saidtheywould repurchase.
So, you see, complain1ng is good for business,
Feel good about complaining.
Consumers have always known that good service yields
competitive advantage.
Any business can train andmotivate theiremployees to
provide friendly, competent service...iftheywant to. There's
simply no excuse for surly, uninformed service,
42 JOHN TSCHOHL
Indeed, good service can be achieved withjust a simple
change in attitude by front-line seIVice people led by managers
and executives - plus changes In procedure that expedite
service,
Here's an example ofa problemthat could be solved more
easily if business would simply change a procedure - staffing
level, In this case: You're on the phone listening to a repetitious
message that says, "All service representatives are busy." Every
oncein a while a recorded voice says, "Thank you for being
patient."
But, you aren't patient. Hearing a voice expressing the
assumptionthat youare patient whenyou aren't is likebeing
thanked for your vote by a politician you voted against.
After the seventhor eighth "Thank you for being patient,"
you feel like blowing a high-pitched whistle into the phone
receiver even ifyou know that the voice you hear is recorded.
In many cases, preventing this aggravation would require
only scheduling the same stafffor more hours duringpeak
calling periods so that real people could answer the phones
promptly.
Somebusiness, government, and non-profit organizations
provide outstandingcustomer service, But, manyothers treat
customers and clients as if they are obstacles or inconveniences
Instead ofthe source oftheir survival,
It's up to customers and clients to helpthese organizations
see the light. Ifyou hesitate to complain, remember that
organizations that treat customersas 'adversaries' instead ofas
friends are beneficiaries ofyour complaints, not victims ofthem.

CHAPTER 4
WE DON'T
COMPLAIN ENOUGH

"I'm mad as heU. ..and I'm not
going to take it anymore!"
FRoM mE MOVIE
NE1WORK

44 JOHNTsCHOm.
"It's no wonder that in the marketplace or in the haUs
oj government those who are organized and
knowledgeable {get] their way. Andthosepeople
who abdicate, delegate. or vegetate are taken."
-lNrRODUCTIONto A Publll: CU1Zen's Action Marnud

Some consumers spend thousands ofhours driving a new
automobile, eatingfood from a supermarket. or shopping for
clothing, but not one minuteto correct overpricing, fraud, and
hazards associated withthese products!
Service Is bad largely becauseconsumers allow business,
government units. and private organizations to get by with it.
They just walkaway, shakingtheir heads. "telling off the
salesperson In their imaginations. and visualizing themselves
relatingtheir experience to their long-suffering spouses or
frtends.
Shoppers are sheep!
Consumers feel that:
1. Complaining isn't worth their time and effort.
2. It won't do any good.
3. They don't knowhowor where to complain.
4. They mlght be embarrassed if theycomplain.
45
1HE CUSTOMER Is Boss
We do not complain enough even though most of us
experience bad service regularly,
AHackensack, New Jersey. newspaper told a story about a
woman who waited at an untended cash register for a full 10
minutes, Finally, she yelled loudly enough to turn a few heads:
"WI1l somebody please take mymoney?"
Another woman tellsofan experience in Bamberger's
department store. Shewasthe only customer in the Lady's
Dresses department. Bored salespeople stood aroundin
clusters. Yet, no salesperson broke away from a group to take
her payment, even though it was obvious that the woman had
finished her shopping andwas looking for someone to help her.
Finally, she approached a group ofsalespeople talking
animatedly. She asked for assistance. One ofthe salespeople,
a woman, said: "Just a minute, honey." And shewent backto
exchanging chtld-reanng anecdotes with two otherwomen. The
customer complained tothe department manager. Shealso
cancelled her charge account.
Gary ShadeofApple Valley. Minnesota, got mad at a pizza
parlor. Hisfamily ordered a pizza at 6:25 p.m. and theywere
told that it would be ready at 7:00. But. it wasn't ready until
7:40. Even then a clerk told the family that they'd have towait
another 10minutes while she made the garlic bread.
That's when Shadeasked to see the manager.
"Although sixotherpeople waited as long or longer than we
did. no one complained to the cashier or to the manager: said
Shade. "Not one person."
This extreme tolerance for bad service can be explained by
the fact that some consumers have received bad service for so
long that they expect it; so, theydon't even botherto complain
anymore. Ifthey did, the picture would look even worse for
business, for government. and for private organizations.
46 JOHN TsCHOHL
Here's one more Incident that indicates that consumers
don't complain often enough: Every time Bette Schwartzberg
shopped at a certain A&P storeonthe East Coast, which she
didas seldom as possible, shevowed, "Never again.'
"1 Simply could not get out ofthat store without being
aggravated. whether it wasbecause only onecheckout register
was open with a long line infront ofit...or something else: she
Said. "1 can remember several times wanting only a few things
and deciding tojust leave and buythem at a convenience store
even thoughtheycost more there.'
In a neighborhood Grand Union store, saysMs.
Schwartzberg, "I am invariably impressed. The manager himself
opens a new cash register whenever lines get more than three
people long:
Ms. Schwartzberg's experiences demonstrate that
businessescan provide good service if theywant to andthat it Is
every customer's dutyto make themwant to.
THE FACTS: PEOPLE DON'T COMPLAIN
Astudy found that only oneout of26 customers who are
dtssattsfied actually complain. And only a fraction ofthe
complainers pursue a solution to their problem beyond the
seller - to the manufacturer...or to government agencies and
consumer groups.
An oft-cited survey ofconsumers with service problems
found that more than 70percent ofconsumers fully justified in
complaining don't do so.
Perhaps more people would express their dissatisfaction if
theyknew that 56percent ofall complaints result in
satisfaction for the complainer, according to onestudy.
47
THE CUsroMER Is Boss
Still another study determined that a fourth of the average
business's customers arewilling to switch to competitors. That
ought to strikefearInto the hearts ofbusmesspeople.
However. many dissatisfied customers never get around to
"voting withtheir feet." Says James DonnellyJr., author of
Close tothe Customer: "I've hadpeople tell methat theyhate
their bank, but they haven't left yet. Or, theyhate a certain
airline, but theycontinue to fly it."
If switching yourbusiness is intolerably inconvenient, then
apply the strategies described In this book.
Switching yourbusiness toa competitor remains oneofthe
best recourses for consumers.
But. businesses who give bad service know that most
dissatisfied customers don't complain. Thedeafening silence
from their customers gives thempermission tocontinue the
same poor service policy. When you thinkabout it, what
motivation does a businesswithuncomplaining customers have
to provide service?
It's up to you tomotivate thesecompanies.
Service becomes even lessimportant tothese businesses
the daythat they realize that customers that switch to
competitors are replaced by competitors' customers switching to
them.
Poor service wastes yourtime. That'sIntolerable when
two- income families are common. Both wage-earners fight the
clock. Husbands and wives are so rushedtoget home to do
their family chores that organizations that waste theirtime win
their enmity.
So, it's not surprising that people feel that complaining Is
tooexpensive andtime-consuming. This wasproved by a
survey of2400 randomly chosen households. Thesurveywas
reported Inthe book When Conswners Complain. byDr. Arthur
Best ofthe New York Law School
48 JOHN TscHOHL
Otherstudies find low ratesofsatisfaction with the results
ofcomp1aln1ng. ANational Consumer Survey reported more
than 40 percent ofhouseholds experiencing consumer problems
were unhappy with action that business took to resolve their
complaints.
So theystopcomp1aln1ng.
EMBARUSSMENT
Consumers don't want other shoppers or service employees
to look at themwith disdain. They don't wantto be called
whiners orjerks for comp1ainlng...even If an Incompetent
employee wasguilty ofbeing rude and lazy.
Bad-service employees have this embarrassment shUck
down pat. Just by to get away without Upping a cab driver and
he'll teachyou true embarrassment, quickly.
Ifyou leave a small tip, a waitperson might follow you to
the door with it - even Into the street - and throw the money
at you, proclaiming In a loud voice: "Here, you need this more
than I dot"
In the mind ofmany service workers, a Up is due for any
service, whether it is friendly andwll1lng or surlyand reluctant.
CONSUMERS EXPECT BAD SERVICE
One consumer authority says: "In some industries people
have gotten mediocre service for solong that theytakeit for
granted. Take the NewYork subway system. People areso
happy to survive the tripthat dirty cars are notimportant.'
Amajor retail food chain surveyed consumers, In focus
groups, and found that nwre than half expected that service
would be bad and that theywould be mistreated.
49 THE CUsroMER Is Boss
They expected to be ignored and to wait In long lines. They
expected to have checkout people say. "Sony, I'mgoing on
break."
People who expect bad service are rarely surprised when
the antictpated bad service occurs. Nor are theylikely to do
anything about it.
IS POOR SERVICE YOUR OWN FAULT?
Gary Shade. the astute consumer from Apple Valley.
Minnesota. who complained about slow pizza delivery. said: "It
amazes methat as Americans we can sit backandtruly believe
that the current trade imbalance is not our fault, that it is the
fault ofthe Japanese or our own government. when we accept
service like this.
"The more I experience poor service the more I believe that
it is our fault. It's our fault when we don't raiseour voices
when confronted with exceptionally poor service or quality.
Have we become so accustomed or conditioned to bad service
that we accept it without challenge?
"How is a company to know, without consumer feedback,
that they must change?" Shadeconcluded.
With the proper attitude, you cangetgood service almost
every timeyoubuyanything. Sayto yourself: "I amgOing to
demand good service."
So. askfor the service that you expect. Use phrases such
as "Would you mind...?" Or: "Will you please...?" Complete
these phrases withwords that describe the servtce you require.
You'll get what you ask for, almost every time, unlessyou
ask for something unreasonable. But, you will know when you
are being unreasonable; so you won't really expect to get what
you ask for.
50 JOHN TSCHOHL
If a miracle occurred and every consumer complained
every time they didn't get what was ordered...or had to wait half
an hour for somebody to acknowledge their existence...or had to
argue through lunch hour to get a service employee to
acknowledge an obvious billing error ...or needed a blood hound
just tofUld a service worker ...if every one ofthese people would
complain every time, then the bad businesses, the inconsiderate
government. and the sleepy private organizations would "get the
message" overnight.
Go ahead, America. Just likein the movie Network, lean
out your windows and yell: "I'm mad as hell...and I'm not
going to take it anymore!"

CHAPTER 5
COMPLAINING PROTOCOL:
USE OIL INSTEAD
OF VINEGAR

"Be sure you are right,
then go ahead:
- DAVY CROCKEIT, AMERICAN FRoNTIERSMAN

52
JOHN TsCHOHL

Ifyou are right, youhave Abraham Lincoln behindyou.
Hesaid in his Second Inaugural Address: "Let us have faith
that light makes might, and in that faith let us to the end dare
to do our duty as weunderstand it."
Now, what better guidance could a consumer complainer
want?
(What, you don't believe that Crockett and Lincoln were
referring to complaining about bad service?)
We interpret Lincoln and Crockett to mean, In modem
terms: Make sure that youhavea valid case and that it is not
youwho is at fault.
Maintain a calm and reasoned frame ofmind by reminding
yourselfperiodically that there are at least as manyalert and
helpful, friendly, and knowledgeable service workers as there
are indolent, insulting, and msouctant service workers. The
problem is that the bad onesare so very noticeable that they
block our view oftheir friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, and
professional co-workers.
53 DiE CUSTOMER Is Boss
But. try to notice the good service. If you don't accentuate
the positive, you'll criticize unfairly. You wil1judge harshly and
unreasonably, thereby dampening the desire ofeven the
competent service employees andtheirsupervisors toanswer
yourrequests and solve your problems. You wI1l...shallwe
say....lose credibility."
Answer for yourself the question: Just how
accommodating do you expect business to be?
This accommodating? Asign, relating to Irate, complaining
consumer showed a store manager ta1k1ng to a complainer:
"Would it satisfy you if we would refund your money, replace
your purchase, go out ofbusiness, andshoot the manager?"
Or this accommodating? "Ifwe don't get you your pizza In
five minutes we'll make your car payment.' (Radio commercial
for Gung Ho StirFry, a chain ofrestaurants.)
Don't let your face droop Into an expectant scowl whenever
you entera store. Don't let anticipation ofbadservice cloud
yourjudgment.
Be constructive. One ofyour functions should be
(shouldn't it?) to encourage good service sothat you will see
more ofit. Do this bycomplimenting good service people... and
bycalling bad service to the attention ofperpetrators. Inform
their superiors andthe president ofthe company or even publtc
or private watchdog groups when badservice is very gratuitous
and Insulting.
Here are some gutdelmes that a level-headed person who
wantsto avoid burning his/her bridges behind themmight
want to follow Incomplaining, negotiating, appealing, or
constructively criticizing:
54
JOHN TsCHOHL
1. BEREASONABLE. Ifyou really want satisfaction and
you aren't just letting off steam, it's important to avoid
being critical. Criticism puts people on the defensive.
Ifyou appear to be reasonable, people fmd it harder to
tune you out. Skillful complainers agree: An effective
tactic is to present yourself as a reasonable person
who needshelp.
2. COMPLIMENT. Pat Bear, who runs an information
retrieval firm in New York City, starts her complaints
witha compliment. Shereports: "I went to the buyer
at Saks Fifth Avenue and said: 'Everything I ever
boughtfrom Saks has been terrific. I was surprtsed
when this happened.'" (The seamsin her bootstore
open. Saks exchanged them.)
3. AVOID ANGER. Spiteful letters and hand-waving
haranguesin person are counterproductive. Just
present the facts, soberly, clearly. forcefully.
Anger and sarcasm merely put your opponent on the
defensive. Besides, strongly negative emotions tend to
gtve you a headache. If you are angry. people focus on
your angerinsteadofonyour problem. Sarcasm and
excessive cleverness also detract from your message.
So, appeal, at first. Don't demand.
4. AVOID DRAMATIC DISPLAYS. Don't try to get your
way by creating a disturbance. In a hotel, don't
threaten the room clerk with: "Since you won't honor
my room reservation I'll just sack out in your lobby.
First. I'll put on my pajamas. Then, I'll..."
55
THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
Parkingyour car in front ofthe dealership from which
you bought it and mountJng a signthat says "I bought
this lemon from SmithAuto Co: definitely will harden
the negotiating position ofSmith Auto Co.
Just lock eyeswiththe personin authority who
receives your complaint and speakin a firm, steady
but reasonable voice in presentingyour case.
There's always timetoget hard-nosed afteryou've tried
the softsell.
When you'rein a restaurant, don'tget madand demand to
see the manager afterfive minutes ofwaiting because youhad a
bad day. Don't become prematurely indignant. Save your
indignation for timeswhen it is really justified.
Don't use a waitress or a salesclerk as a convenient
whipping post. as an escape valve for the angeryou feel because
you had an argument withyourboss. Or because you'rehaving
marriage problems oryour boyfriend or girlfriend left you. Or
becauseyour teamlost a game,
When you complain, be firm but be pleasant. Rage just
makes it easy for a businessto dismiss youas a crank. Speak
firmly but calmly. Don't threaten or attack a serviceperson
orally. Stickto poor-service issues.
Acalm approach almost always is effective, Unfortunately,
manypeople lapseintoa tirade the moment theyopentheir
mouths to complain. That's because they're afraid, Or they're
uneasy. Theirloud, threatening manner is false bravado,
"Many people gripe just toget something offtheir chests,"
says the national manager ofAutocap, a tradegroupthat
handles thousands of complaints from disgruntled car owners
every year.
56 JOHNTsCHOHL
To be very sure that you are reasonable and blameless,
recite the facts ofyour experience toa good friend or family
member. Ifthey, too, think that you were "done wrong," then,
by all means, proceed withyourcomplaint.
Some customer service professionals find that the very
word "complain" is counterproductive. Herb Nierenberg uses
the word "negotiate." He wrote the book The Art of Negotiating.
Stephen Pollan, who wrote Getting People toSay Yes, believes
there's value in "appeal" instead of"complain."
You might like the term"constructive cntlctsm."
No matterwhat words you use, fix in your mind the
inadvertent nature ofmost poor service.
Dr. Edward D. Joseph, psychiatrist at Mt. Sinai Medical
Center, New York, said, in referring to poor service: "It's
important to remember that most'mjunes' are inflicted
impersonally (and) without malice."

CHAPTER 6
PREPAUTION:
JUST IN CASE

"Anyone can gatherfacts andftgures
and present them in a clear and logical way."

58 JOHN TsCHOHL

If you want to stop being apologetic and fearful to service
and manufacturing businesses that make it corporate policy to
intimidate or to confuse you, then keep all yoursales slips.
Keep cash register receipts. credit card receipts. cancelled
checks, product tags, labels or warranties, careinformation
sheets. repairorders. copies oflettersthat you sendto the
company or store. and even keep company advertising. Keep
any piece ofpaper that comes with a purchase
Under law, customers must be informed ofthe name and
address ofevery manufacturer offood, drug, and cosmetic
productswhen theypurchase them, Many otherproducts have
this information, too. So. one thing you accomplish bysaving
the paper that accompanies a purchase is that you have the
information youwould need towrite a lettertothe
manufacturer, if doing so becomes necessary.
59
THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
Ifyour experiences with rotten service have made a fanatic
out ofyou, you could expand your income tax record-keeping
system to routinely include notes about your reactions to
treatment you receive, toquality ofproducts purchased.
GET THE FACTS
Besides accurate and complete information about your
buying experiences, also obtain names andtitles ofpeople you
meet while purchasing, so you canaddress anyletters or make
phone calls to individuals by name.
The easiest place to find phone numbers and locations of
the businesses you deal withat a retail level is inthe telephone
directory. Company headquarters, regional offices, local
distribution centers. andsales offices that can befound in
phone books often WIll handle your problem locally - or refer
you to the proper individual and location in the company.
Zip Codes for the addresses you find in phone directories,
by the way, are included in a Zip Code section in most phone
books.
When you make that first phone call to a business whose
service you are dissatisfied with, have penand paper handy so
you canjot down names andtitles ofpeople you speakwith as
well as phone numbers and dates ofcalls.
Mike Berger, a computer Journalist, prepared. He was hit
withan exorbitant phone bill for calls billed to his home phone
number. Thetrouble wasthat he didn't make the calls. He
lives alone and he wastraveling during the time the calls were
made.
Thephone company wouldn't accept his claim that he
didn't make the calls. So, he contacted the state Public Utilities
Commission, presented his case, and asked for a public
hearing. The PUC obliged.
60 JOHN TscHOHL
Berger went home and threwhimself Into preparations for
the hearing. He analyzed his btlls for a year. usinghis
computer. Then he preparedcomputer-generated graphs to
illustrate that the expensive phone calls he was billed for were a
deviation from his normal calling pattern as shown by the
graphs.
Berger convinced the PUC that he didn't make the calls.
So. the regulatory body Instructed the phone company to delete
the cost ofthe callsfrom his billing.
Not manypeople can use a computer to coerce business
into fairness. but anyone can gather facts and figures and
present themin a clearand logical way.
Successwill be much easierwhenyou keep all the paper
that you receive whenyou make a purchase.

CHAPTER 7
THE WORKING DOCUMENT

"A working document is a statement
ojaU thejoas. names and arguments
pertaining toyour situation. "

62 JOHN TsCHOHL
"You area person to be recokoned with. •

One fine form ofpreparatlon for a by-phone or In-person
meeting witha company representative Is a "working
document:
Aworking document is a statement ofall the facts, names,
and arguments (appeals) pertaining to your situation. This will
be yourguide when you make phone calls andwrite letters.
Thedocument should contain date, time, and topics of
phone calls and latervisits tothe storeor office and names of
contacts. Ofcourse, it should also contain a careful descnption
ofCircumstances surrounding the event that caused your
complaint.
Ifyou can type the document, fine. Atyped document
Implies competency and often wins faster company response if
for no other reason than that it's easierto read than a hand­
written communtcation. Companies will conclude that you are
a person to be reckoned with.
63
THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
Ahand-written document still islikely to receive fair, if
slower, treatment. Companies want to hear about customer
dissatisfaction sothey can prevent future dissatisfaction.
With your working document and with thepapers you've
saved, you're ready to begin a complaint process.

CHAPTER 8
HOW TO COMPLAIN
EFFECTIVELY: STRATEGIES

TenGuidelines forEffective Complaining:
1. Have your facts straight.
2. Be clear about what you want.
3. Write to the president if other calls fail.
4. Never talk to anyone who doesn't have the
authorityto do what you want.
5. Escalate your complaint quickly.
6. Speak finnly.
7. State that you are unwilling to let the matter
be prolonged.
8. Set a reasonable time limit for action.
9. Conclude phone calls witha restatement of
any agreement that you reach.
10. Keep clear copies ofevery letteryou send.

66
JOHNTsCHOHL

Let's saythat you receive rudeor incompetent service from
a front-line servtceperson, Since that employee is part ofthe
problem, you are unl1kely to receive complete satisfaction from
that employee.
Attempt toget yourcomplaint satisfied bythe offending
employee bymaking a direct requesttothe employee for
satisfaction. Aservice employee is not very likely to say "No" to
a direct request. Why? Because employees know that their
bosseswould disapprove,
As a consumer, you know byexperience or byinstinct that
when you go to the boss after the employee has given you the
cold shoulder, the boss often will leanheavily in yourdirection.
If the employee refuses yourrequest and refuses to provide
rwrmal sennce, you have an effective weapon to use against
them- their own behavior. You can use that behavior as a
lever to pry good service out ofa store, government office, or
other organization.
67
THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
Sometimes the bosswill say"No, "too. But, usually this
will happen only when you are clearlywrong- or clearly rude,
Maybe it's clear, too, that you wereJust looking for away to
express youranger about the speeding ticket you got onyour
way to the store.
If nobody listens to you, continue complaining untilyou
reachthe president ofthe company... if you're really determined
to solve yourproblem.
When you complain to a president, convince him or her
that you are only the first complainer in a long line of
dissatisfied customers. Point out that salesclerks who handled
your purchase badly most likely are treating other customers
the sameway. If this kind oftreatment continues, you can say,
the business will be in danger, no matter how well established it
is now.
But, if a manager or supervisor succeeds in persuading the
president that yourcomplaint is not worth responding to, then
go on to these organizations, in sequence:
1. Theindustry's self-regulatory body, suchas the
Furniture Industry Consumer Action Panel (F1CAP) or
the Major Appliance Consumer Action Panel (MACAP).
They have fine reputations for service. MACAP, for
Instance, cut through redtapeand found a consumer's
mtssing living room suiteIna large store's warehouse.
It was delivered within three days, afterthe consumer
hadwaited a month before contacting MACAP.
2. Consumer organizations such as those listed In
Directory ofStateand Local Consumer Groups.
available in most libraries. Or, contact the Better
Business Bureau or a local or state consumer
protection agency. (State consumer protection offices
often are located Inthe attorney general's department.)
68 JOHNTsCHOHL
3. Afederal government agency, such as the Food and
DrugAdministration or the Federal Trade commtseton,
Finally, try arbitration, Small Claims court, or even a
lawsuit. ifyouare clearly in the light and if a company
has repeatedly refused you.
In some circumstances, you will get perfectly good results
bygoing to a customer service department in person or by
calling a company's customer service "800' number. You are a
good judgeofsituations that ought to be brought tothe
attention ofan organization's customer service department.
Customer service employees either canhandle your
problem directly - theyare being given greaterresponsibility
for satisfyingyour request - or theyknow howto bringyour
caseto the attention oftop management.
Ifyou suspect that you are being given the brush, bounced
from personto person, like a balloffa bumperin a pinball
machine. call a halt witha threat to continue accosting the
company until they respond appropriately.
Onewoman began to occupy so muchofthe time available
on a mail-order clothing company's fax machine that a manager
ordered the customer service department to solve her problem
immediately.
Always make sure that the person you see has the
authority to make a decision, though. If he or she doesn't, find
somebody who does.
You might strikeout in trying to resolve a service problem
bydealing withsomeone at the location where you received poor
service. Or, perhapsyou're tooreserved toconfront employees
face-to-face. So, gohome andlaunchyour campaign there.
69
THE CUsroMER Is Boss
It isn't fair to assume that you wUIbe rebuffed at the
purchase location, however, Most complaints are resolved long
before they reach top executives such as store managers,
company vice presidents, or the president. Businessshouldbe
given credit for this.
But,. the few complatnts that must be carried to the top
becauseyou couldn't get favorable response from first-contact
employees are precisely the complaints that cause most high
blood pressure and gastro-tntestmal upsets among consumers.
GET THE FACTS
Make sure that youhaveaccurate and complete
information before you Initiate a complaint. You might even be
so annoyed that you carry a microcassette recorder in the top
pocket ofyour blouse or shirt and record a repetition ofthe
same awful service. ifyou need more details, Just nonchalantly
reach insideyour pocket and press the record button.
These modern. supersensitive micro-recorders pickup
vo1ces clearly about 10feet away in a relatively noisy
environment.
When an employee says something like, "Sony. it's
company policy" and they suggest. in effect. that you get lost,
then you'll havethe goods onthem.
Play back the recording for the customer service rep.
To encourage good service, transcribe any recordings of
cheery, helpful responses bysalespeople. (You're a good
citizen.) Sendthe transcrtptton to the place ofbusiness witha
note sayingwhen and where the good service occurred.
The exceptional serviceperson will hear about it and benefit
from the recognition.
You will needto obtainnames and titlesin preparation for
calling or wnttng anyone.
70 JOHN TsCHOHL
Findphone numbers in local phonedirectories or dial the
information number (Area Code + 555-1212) for the city In
whichthe company facility you are trying to reachis located. If
people that you reach at these numbers can't handle your
problem, they11 usuallyrefer youto someone who can.
Many companies have set up toll-free "SOO' numbers.
Often this hot line number is listed on packages or labels.
Call the telephone company's toll-free information number
(1-S00-555-1212) to find out if the company you wishto call
has an "SOO' number.
Employees working these hot lines are trained to know
policy and procedure and to tellyou what to do and whom to
contact,
One way to determine where a company is located is to
look at the product tags or labels or on warranties or printed
product information and care information sheets that
accompany merchandise.
But, ifyou've lost all sources ofa manufacturer's name or
phone number, try the Better Business Bureau. TheBBB lists
manymanufacturers, but not all ofthem. Othersources ofthis
information are Standardand Poor's Register and Conswners'
Index toProdu£t Evaluations and Information Sources.
Most libraries carryoneor bothofthese reference books.
Standard and Poor's lists the names ofcompany presidents
and other corporate officers, too.
Final resources for Information that you need to contact
retail or manufacturing companies are two membership groups
for customer service professionals:
SOCIE1Y OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS
PROFESSIONALS IN BUSINESS (SOCAP)
801 North Fairfax Street, 4th Floor
Alexandria, VA 22314
703-519-3700
71 THE CUSfOMER Is Boss
INTERNATIONAL CUSTOMER SERVICE ASSN. UCSAl
401 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
312-321-6800
It's effective strategy tospeakfirmly but calmly Instead of
screaming andwaving yourarmswhen you complain. Don't
threaten.
Bepersistent. Persistence is the aceup your sleeve, oneof
the basic rules for successful complaining. Businesspeople, you
see. find it difficult to rebuff a persistent customer. They're
hampered bya voice in theirminds saying: "It's badbusiness
to say 'No' to a customer."
GUIDELINES
Here are 'Ten Guidelines for Effective Complaining":
1. Have yourfacts straight. Refer to dates, names, and
specific Incidents. Support your statements with
documentation, whenever documents are available.
2. Be clear about what you want. Demand a specific
remedy. This is more effective than going Into an
aimless tirade.
3. Write to the president ofthe company, if repeated
phone callsto a supervisor or the customer service
department fail.
4. Never talk (or write) to anyone who doesn't have the
authority to dowhat you want. Don't deal with anyone
who won't give you his or her name and title, either.
5. Escalate yourcomplaint quickly tohigher ups.
6. Speak firmly, with a determined toneIn yourvoice.
72 JOHNTsCHOm..
7. Statethat you are unwilling to let the matter be
prolonged indeftnitely or to repeat yourstorycountless
times.
8. Set a reasonable time l1m1t for action - 10 working
days Is a rule ofthumb. If someone appearsunable or
unwilling to helpright away. goabove hls or her head.
9. Conclude phone callswith a restatement ofany
agreement that you reach: "So. 1can expect delivery
byTuesday?" Or. "I understandthat a refund w1ll be
mailed to me within a week."
10. Keep clear photocopies or carbonsofevery letteryou
send. Successful quality service businessesare very
good at "making it right: even by phone. You don't
have to fight very hard. Sometimes youw1ll succeed on
the phone. but you might also be skillfully put off. (If
the personyou're speaking with was stricken with a
case oftotal honesty, she or he would say something
like: "I don't have ttme to talk withyou now. 1have
eight other callswaiting."J
So. write a letter:
Send complaint letters directly to decision-makers,
prlmarily to the president ofa company. Normally the president
w1ll relayyour complaint to the person in charge ofthe
department in which the complaint originated.
When an employee receives a letterofcomplaint that has
been forwarded by the president ofthe company, the message
war be noticed and war be acted upon.
Conclude your lettersby requesting a response withln a
reasonable time, such as two weeks. Ifyoudon't hear from
anyone bythen, sendanother letter. Ask for details onwhat's
being done about your complaint. Attach a copy ofthe orlginal
letter.
73
THE CUSfOMER Is Boss
If you don't receive satisfaction to the letter-writing
campaign, then set up an appointment to meet with someone,
1nperson.
Whether you have kept paperwork or you must tediously
assemble it, send a box full ofpapers [photocopies only) toyour
contact, such as a consumer service rep, at the offending
company. That person mJght satisfy your complaint just so
he/she can avoid reading your pile ofpapers!
Or, you might get the samecheery-voiced cooperation
wttlwut sending the papers after you sayonthe phone: "Why
don'tI popup there and showyou everything."
When that happens, stop to remind yourself that they
could have stonewalled you, flatly refused your request, or
shuffled you around until you became discouraged. But, they
didn't.
The fact is that most companies want you to be satisfied,
so sometimes theyshortcut what could bea tedious process
when they don't have time to deal with a complex complaint.
(Who does?) They knowthat when theygive satisfaction to
customers the company wins in the long run.
So, give the customer service rep or the department
manager a real chance tomake things right. We've heardof
caseswhere a customer service repfunctioned as a mediator
between an angry customer and an employee who quickly
regretted his or her actions and apologized.
It's important to begin at lower levels. with the customer
servtce office, for instance, so you cantell higher-ups. with
honesty: "I followed procedures."
Areminder: Follow up every meeting [or phone call) with a
letter to the person with whomyou met or spoke.
74 JOHN TsCHOHL
If your complaint involves service that disappoints many
other people. too, a consumer organization mJght be eager to
helpyou, and the others. (You know that others are frustrated
and angry because XYZ Co. Is one ofthe main topics of
conversation in yourdaily lunchgroup. It ranks rightafter
personal gossip, the weather. and sports.)
Acontact with a government consumer protection office, or
the Better Business Bureau, canpayoffImpressively, too. A
home Improvement contractor who left a pile ofInsulation
pieces, broken studs. smashed sheet rock panels. and nailsand
screws laying in a home owner's driveway retrieved the junk pile
within two hours aftera call from a city consumer protection
office.
Consumer groups affiliated with city or county government
are listed in the phone book among the entries for your city or
county offices. To find private consumer groups inyour area,
see the Direcwry ojState and Local Conswner Groups in the
library,
Forguidance in dealing with the media, see Chapter
Sixteen about Action Lines. These 1V, radio, and newspaper
services accept and investigate complaints from consumers,
then report results.
Theconsumer reporter ofa metro 1Vstation obtained
refundsfor consumers who hadbeenbilked bya basement­
waterproofing company. Thereporter, acting ontips from
consumers, ran stories onthe company's practices until the
company president was indicted. He was found guilty of
consumer fraud and sentenced to prison.
75
THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
More and more 'IVstations are setting up these consumer
help services. says Silvia Gambardella. consumer specialist at
WCCO-lV in Minneapolis. Gambardella does regular on-air
reportsabout consumer complaints and how they were
resolved.

CHAPTER 9
EFFECTIVE COMPLAINING:
BUSINESS BY BUSINESS

a Airlines a Physicians
a Auto Repair Services a Railroads
a Banks a Realtors
a Bus Companies a Repair Services
a Funeral Directors a Restaurants
a Government a Retailing
a Hospitals a Retail Store Delivery
a Lawyers a Supermarkets
a Moving Companies a Utility Companies

78 JOHN TsCHOHL

Anewspaper carried a columnist's outraged report about
the repulsive behavior ofthe part-owner ofa fine new
restaurant in a prestigious downtown building.
Oneoffour businessmenarrfvtng for lunch asked tobe
seated In the back but was told that the space was for guests
with reservations.
"But, I havea reservation," the man said.
Mistake. BAD mistake. Theretort lit the part-owner's flre,
"Ifyou can't take a jokeyoucan take your (obscenity) out
on the street and (obscenity) yourselves:
In a case such as this. the proper reaction probably is to
leave. Just leave. That's what the male lunchers did, on their
wayto another restaurant.
But, for nearly every different rotten-service situationthere
exists a distinctive reaction that is more effective than other
reactions that might occurto you.
79
ThE CUSTOMER Is Boss
AIRLIBIS
If an airline will not resolve acomplaint, write to the
Bureau of Consumer Protection, Federal Aviation
Administration, Washington, DC 20428. This office will review
your complaint to determine if FAA rules have beenviolated.
They'll alsotellyou what yourrights are.
Some disputes must be settled In court, though.
Also send a copy ofyourcomplaint, ifyou wish, to the
Aviation Consumer Action Project (ACAP), P.O. Box 19029,
Washington, DC 20036, a private consumer organization. It
monitors the airline industry. ACAP doesn't resolve individual
complaints, but it provides useful information concerning your
rights; and the Project supports you inyoureffort to obtain
satisfaction.
Torecord a complaint with the Department of
Transportation, call the Consumer Affairs office at 202-366­
2220or write to Consumer Affairs, Department of
Transportation, 1-25, Washington, DC 20590. They encourage
phone calls, but ifyou write, include a return address and a

AUTOMOBILE REPAIR SERVICES
Pick a mechanic like you pick a surgeon: Get a second
opinion. Also, obtain an estimate, even if you must payfor it.
Sometimes it's even worth having yourcar towed out ofa shop
ifyouloseconfidence In the work being done, instead ofpaying
a $1,000 bill only to have the problem occur again.
Most Important ofall, says Kenneth Zmo, former mechanic
who is editor ofMotor magazine: "Don't be submissive. Be
assertive."
80 JOHN TsCHOHL
"Inmyexperience: says Zino, "women dobetter than men
In dealing withmechanics becausethey're open. Iftheydon't
understand something theyask the mechanic to explain. Men,
ofcourse... we know everything about cars. Mechanics tell you
it's easier to deceive a man than a woman askingquestions."
BANKS
Let's say that you've deposited money in an automatic
teller machine on Monday; but when you check on Thursday,
the bank knows nothingabout it.
You call the bank, give the personyouspeakwiththe
number on your deposit record, and ask what happened to your
money. The employee will tell youthat it'll take "10days.'
sometimes less. for an Investigation. But, you can't wait that
longbecause you've already writtenchecks on the amount that
you deposited.
So, you call the president'soffice and explain the problem,
evenIfyou can only get the prestdent's secretary. Saythat the
10-day poliey Is unacceptable - that youneedyour money
immediately. She maysay: "I'm afraid that's howlong it takes.
There's a lot ofpaperwork togothrough."
So, yousay: "Then. please give methe name of an
executive who has authorityto correct the error and report back
to me by tomorrow morning."
You'll most likely get a name.
Now. because dollar signs representing overdraft penalties
are swimming around Inyour head, callthe bank executive
whose name you were given and tell his or her secretarythat
you've beenreferred there by the president's office forfast
actiononyour problem. Explain that youcan't be expected to
wait for your money whenit was the bank, not you. that made
an error. Tell the person that Ifyoudon't hear backbynoonthe
81
ThE CUSTOMER Is Boss
next day you'll hold the bank liable for an "consequential
damages" that you suffer from issuing checks against your
"valid deposit." The specter of the bank president hovering over
himundoubtedly will move the bankexecutive you're dealing
with to bump yourcase ahead ofother work.
Loss or delay ofa deposit is only one ofthe problems that
people have with banks. Long lines is another common banking
problem.
Ifyou find yourself waiting endlessly In a long line for one
of. let'ssay, three active tellers when other bankemployees are
standing around, ask the person behind you to save your place.
Goto the chief teller and ask that another window be
opened. If this reasonable request is smilingly ignored, seethe
manager.
If others in your line look annoyed about spending their
lunchhour Inching toward theirmoney, you might also want to
ask the other waiting customers, In a pleasant but frustrated
tone: "Would anyone herehelp me persuade the manager to
open up another teller window?"
Most customers don't like to bethe first to complain: but
some ofthemwillgladly support your effort. The manager who
sensesan Insurrection general1y willopen one or more teller
stations.
Forotherbank problems, the general rule Is to approach
bankofficers directly.
Officers are tnsulated from all customers but the largest
depositors and borrowers: so, a confrontation with a run-of-the­
mill customer Is likely to catch the officer's attention and render
himor her very cooperative.
82 JOHNTsCHOHL
BUS COMPANIES
Contact your state's transportation department. Serious
complaintsthat the state transportationdepartment can't or
won't handle can be referred to the Interstate Commerce
Commission (ICC), Washington, DC 20423, 1-800-424-9312, if
the problem Involves only interstate service.
FUNERAL DIRECTORS
After you've talkedwith the owner ofthe funeral home,
contact a local funeral directors' trade association. (Look In the
telephone yellow pages under "Associations.") Or, ask any
funeral director for the name ofthe local business association.
The Better Business Bureau can also provide this
Information.
You might alsolodge a complaint withthe National Funeral
Directors Association ofthe United States, at 11121 West
Oklahoma Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53227, 414-541-2500.
Or, try the International Orderofthe Golden Rule, 929 S.
2nd St., Sprtngfie1d,lL 62704,217-544-7428, another funeral
directors' association.
Thesegroups really dowant to police the unprofessional
operators in their midst. They might bringdown more
government scrutiny and regulation upon all of them.
GOVERNMENT
Whendealing withgovernment bureaucracy. you always
have the advantage ofan appointed official who is interestedin
beingreelected. Ifyouget no satisfaction from underlings. a
letter to the elected official detailing a legitimate complaint
usually will yield instructions to the department you'redealing
with to see to it that you receive satisfaction.
83 'n!E CUSfOMER Is Boss
Your ultlmate weapon, when you've been sertously
wronged. Is the press. The elected officJa1 does not exist who
does not fear exposure ofhis department's callous disregard for
the rights ofcitizens Ina Letter to the Editor.
Another effective way toget the attention ofthe topperson
Ina government agency or department - even when that
person Is an unelected, hired bureaucrat - is towrite a letter in
which you tell ofyour plan to testify before the legislative
committee that considers that department's next appropriation
request.
This is a practical approach only when the appropriation
hearing is near.
To strengthen your threat, Include in the letter the
actual dateand time ofthe next hearing, if it has been set. or
the name. address, and phone number ofthe agency that will
schedule the appropriation hearing.
As far as the bureaucrat knows, you might own your own
business or be independently wealthy, soyou canafford totake
the time needed to testify before a legislative committee.
Even if you are rwt Independently wealthy, your outrage
might motivate you to.find time to testify. You may be a
salesperson, self-employed. or a worker with access to a dayof
discretionarytime off or a backlog ofvacation or sickleave days.
Oryou may bea homemaker who canjuggle your schedule.
Testimony may take no more than an hourifyou arrange
with a legislative committee orsubcommittee chairperson to
appear at a speCific time.
You might get cold feet. ofcourse; but. meanwhile, the
bureaucrat would get cold chills. Next tohis own job. the
closest thingto a bureaucrat's heart is his department budget.
Beprepared to carry outthe threat ifyour letter Inwhich
you announce your intention to testify before the appropriations
committee goes unanswered and your problem unresolved.
84 JOHN TsCHOHL
Type out a news release that explains yourcomplaint, alert
the press that you will be testifying; and equip the press to
report onyour testimony by giving themcopies ofthe news
release.
Resist the thought that the government department or
individual bureaucratthat caused yourcomplaint will retaliate,
It is far more likely that the person will notretaliate. Why?
Because your complaint will be a matter ofrecord, making the
revenge-minded bureaucrat a logical suspect as the perpetrator
ofthe retaliation.
Generally, the hlgher you takeyourcomplaint in
government, the easier it is to fight backsuccessfully,
Elected officials are paying more attention to the people.
Ifyour beefis withthe state and underlings are unwilllng
to take responsibility for yourcomplaint, write tothe governor's
appointee heading the department. Suchpeople are not career
civil servantswiththe attendantjob security. So, they are more
likely to be sensitive to constituent complaints.
When you are dotng battle with a commission, write to the
director and send a copy to all commissioners.
And don't hesitate to write tothe governor. In most states
the governor's staffwill forward yourletter tothe appropriate
department or agency chief. Your complaint letterwon't hit the
trash can.
But, when you're locked in battlewith a front-line
government department such as one that handles driver
licensing, zoning and planning, public utilities such as streets,
curbs, and gutters, or with the dog catcher, build a.fi1e onthe
Stubbornly Obstructive Bureaucrat (SOB) - build yourcase.
85
1HE CUSTOMER Is Boss
You must be ableto document yourcasebecause some
bureaucratsare hlghly motivated obstructionists, SOBs. Some
ofthem seem touse whatever energy theyhave to prevent you
from getting what you want. Their greatest joyin life seems to
derive from the mouthing ofthe word "No."
Go aheadand feel like a private investigator.
In building your file you'll begiven an advantage bythose
government workers who carelessly convict themselves out of
their own mouths. They also lounge about theirwork places as
if theyhadjust dropped in ontheirway tothe country club.
They may be so loose-mouthed and lazybecause the Civil
Service system makes discharge ofa government employee as
difficult as bringing a Middle Easternterrorist tojustice.
So, Insert in your file names ofpeople you asked for and
spoke with. Write down responses such as:
"He's onbreaknow. You cantty later."
"He's not backfrom lunchyet."
"Let mecheck." Then, five minutes later: "Somebody said
he was here, but I can't find him."
"He's gone for the day."
Thiscan goon for weeks...or months.
Incorporate these responses in a letter to the supervisor.
Name names. List dates. Ifyou get a response and the
response is just anothersmoke screen, then they've given you
more ammunition for a letter to the elected official who is the
supervisor's boss.
Covering onespecific problem. such a letter mlght state: "I
am sure that you will conclude that I have made every
conceivable effort to reachthis individual and to resolve my
problem withhis handling ofthe important matterthat I
brought to your department.
86 JOHN TsCHOHL
"Frankly, I believe that this employee's nonava1lability does
not meet reasonable standards for public service and does not
promote the effldenL:y ofyour department:
Government. responsible to taxpayers for spending their
money wiSely. Is bigon "efficiency:
As a result ofyour letter. your business probably will be
placed in the hands ofanotheremployee who certainly will be
eagerto display greaterInterest In resolving youroriginal
problem.
You are most likely to get the best results at any level of
government, however, If youtalkto the supervisor privately and
explain your problem.
Ask to see the supervisor or agency director. (Remember to
jot down the name and employee number of anybody who cold­
shoulders you along the way.)
Ifthe people you've been having trouble withtry to bar the
doorto Mr. or Ms. Big, wrtte to Mr. or Ms. Big. Senda copy of
your letter to the personnel officers or to the chief
administrative officer. Also send a copy to the appointed official
who's dependent upon the voters for his or her job.
HOSPITALS
Thewatchful consumer willkeep a Personal Care Log. A
log will serve as an effective tool when youdemand better
service. or if youdispute yourbill.
Inconsiderate behavior. We heard ofa patient. who
happened to be a school superintendent accustomed to giving
orders and being obeyed, who was sleeping in his hospital bed
at 4 a.m, whena nurse's aideentered his room and...loudly...
changed the water in the pitcher beside his bed.
87 THE CUSTOMER Is B055
He said nothing. He waited until the nurse's aide left.
Then he got up, put his robe and slippers on, shuffled down the
hallway to a pay phone, and called the Hospital Administrator
at 4:15 a.m,
"I just want to congratulate you onthe efficiency ofyour
staff: he told the administrator. The school superintendent's
real point was not missed.
Neglect You ring for a nurse. But, noonecomes for 15
minutes. You ring again. And again.
Thiswould be a good entryinyourPersonal Care Log.
Ifyou're in a double room, enlistthe room's other occupant
as a witness to poor service you receive. You can serve as
witnesses for each other.
LAWYERS
Want to know how to outfox a lawyer? Here are suggested
strategies:
1. Alawyer returns your calls days after you phone, or he
never calls back. Or, his secretary routinely says that
he's in court whenyouknow that some ofthe timehe
is not in court. He's just avoiding you.
Agood indication that you're being ignored is when
you're not told that the lawyer is out until after you
give your name. Ever have that happen?
It's a breachofprofessional standards for a secretary
to tell you a lawyer's in courtwhen he's sittingat his
desk.
88 JOHN TsCHOHL
Fromthe dayofyourfirst consultation or suspected
abuse. keep a log ofdates and hours that you call your
lawyer. Beside the entry, make a notationabout the
message you conveyed and whetheryou said the
matter was important.
Document your attempts to reach the lawyer in a
certified letter to him/her. Besure topoint out that
you are aware that he (she) has breached "ethical"
standards. Reference to ethicsis very motivational for
attorneys. They'll often put aside other cases to attend
to yours.
Analleged breachofethical standards Is a fine starting
point for negotiating newfees.
2. When you call to ask for a document that youwere
supposed to receive long ago, you're toldthat it's "in
the mail:
Document the exacttime envelopes were postmarked
and compare it withthe time you called and asked
about them. This matching game, brought to your
attorney's attention in a brisk letter, will become
another damning entryin your log oflegal abuses­
more fine ammunition for you whenfees are discussed.
In general, always complain first to the lawyer, even if you
believe that you won't get satisfaction. Doing so strengthens
your case ifyou must carry it further.
Only afteryour lawyer stonewalls you should youpursue a
formal grievance against him or her.
Every state has an agency or committee given the power by
the state's highest court to handle complaints against attorneys.
This agency or committee maybe part ofthe court system or It
may be a bar association COmmittee.
89
lHE CUSTOMER Is Boss
Thegrievance committee may have a booklet or fact sheet
that tells you how to complain. so ask.
Grievance committees rarely become involved in fee
disputes. Ifyou believe that a lawyer owes you money, sue In
small claims court.
MOVING COMPANIES
Ifyou can't thrash out your problem with the crew that
moves you, write a detailed. well-reasoned letter to the president
ofthe moving orvan line and mail it to company headquarters.
Any reputable company will be fair. But, ifyou get no
response or no satisfaction, call the company's "800" number.
Most ofthem have "800" numbers. For instance:
AERO MAYFLOWER TRANSIT CO.• 1-800-428-1200
ALUED VAN UNES, 1-800-854-3398
NORTIIAMERICAN VAN LINES. 1-800-348-2111
UNITED VAN LINES, 1-800-325-3870
Check "Toll Free Directory Assistance" for other moving
company "800" numbers. Just dial 1-800-555-1212 onyour
phone.
Next. contact the watchdogs. Ifyou're moving from city to
city within a state. contact the state's Public Utilities
Commission (PUC). It probably Issued the operating license and
has the power to revoke it.
Call the PUC first and follow up with a formal written
complaint In which you list your grievances In detail and
document them. Also suggest remedies. Pressure from the
PUC usually is all it takesto solve a sticky squabble with a
moving company.
90 JOHN TsCHOHL
Once your furnishings and belongings crossthe state line,
the complaint becomes a federal matter, the jurisdiction ofthe
Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). TheICC Is one ofthe
most responsive and helpful ofall federal agencies. It has
regional offices in San Francisco, Fort Worth, Chicago, Atlanta,
Philadelphia. and Boston. They dohandlecomplaints.
If you wish, write the ICC's Washington headquarters,
12th and Constitution Av. NW, Washington, DC 20243,
1-800-424-9312.
When the ICC calls an interstate mover, the mover jumps.
That's because the agency sets interstate moving rates, and it
can cancel a mover's operating permit, puttinghim out of
business.
PHYSICIANS
Fromthe time youwalkintoa doctor's office, he or she has
the upper hand. If the waiting room is jammed, youwait.
Usually youwait far past your appointment time.
And there's always a good explanation. Hewas called to
an emergency at the hospital, perhaps.
But, perhaps he is "overbooking," like airlines do. He
schedules more patients than he can handle. just in case some
people don't keeptheir appointments. Thisway all his time is
used - his income maximized.
While you'rewaiting, the nurse won't even give youa hint
ofwhenyou'll get in; and she's annoyed that you ask.
Eventually, the nurse ushers you into another room, for
another wait without even a magazine to read.
Thewayyou are processed by manyphysicians todayis
dehumanizing.
91
THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
Adoctor's waiting room is apurgatorywhere you can
waste lwurs to spend ajeu: minutes with a doctor who doesn't
have timeto listen toyour report ofsymptoms.
Oneoflife's greatest satisfactions would surelybe to
overhear a doctor complaining to an airline ticket agent about
being bumped from a flight. .. because the airline purposely
overbooked.
Fight back this way: Ask for appointments early In the
morning. Ifyou're the first patient ofthe day, it's unlikely that
you will be kept waiting.
But, the reality is that no matterwhenyou are scheduled
to see the doctor, you'll still probably find a waiting room full of
people who have beengrantedappointments at exactly the
same timeas your
So, go a step further. When youmake your appointment,
leave your phone numberand ask to be advised ofa delay
before you leave home. Give the receptionist the time that you
will leave.
Unless the doctor Is called away onanemergency, the
receptionist won't call you. But, you have accomplished one
thing, nevertheless: You've begun to establish the basis forthe
rest ofthe fight-backplan we'll suggest.
Just before youleave for the doctor's office, phone and
confirm the appointment. Then, be prompt...forsure. Don't
give the doctor a chanceto claimthat you didn't show up on
time.
Unbeknownst to the doctor, she/he will be playing "beat
the clock." Money is being lost every second that ticks by,
becausefor every quarter-houryouwaitfor him (her) youwill
deduct from his (her) billa pro-rated amount equalto your
hourly pay, You'll almost certainly bekept waiting, despite your
planning.
92 JOHN TscHOHL
Send yourpayment with a letter explaining that you were
careful to confirmand to beon time and even torequest a
simple notice ofdelay; but, stl1l you losttwo hours (or whatever
the amount oflosttime) fromyourwork at an hourly rate of
$_, You would like a pro-rated amount, that you speclfy,
deducted from yourbill,
Thistactic definitely is used by patients. It's not so far­
fetched. We've never heardofa casesuch as this, In which the
patient was reasonable, where the doctor refused the requested
deduction.
There are otherreasons to complain to doctors, as you
know. How about the quick going-over that the doctor gives you
in his examining room. He's in a hurry, you see.
Don't accept that kind oftreatment. Don't let yourself feel
that because the doctor is busyyou are oblJged to tolerate only
a quick going-over.
Ifyou are billed the sameamount for a fifteen-minute
exam as for a three-minute exam. you have something to
complain about. You deserve yourdoctor'sjidl attention. Don't
settlefor anything less.
Ifyou really feel that you didn't get the medical careyou
paid for. discuss it with your doctor. Again, ask for an
adjustment.
Another alternative is to contact yourlocal medical society.
Almost all ofthem have a grievance committee staffed by
doctors who want to knowabout members who are hurtingthe
image oftheir profession. Some ofthese committees are
kangaroo courts, where the patienthas little chance ofwinning.
But, most ofthem really are fair. Some invite the public to hear
grievances and to arbitrate complaints.
93
THE CUsroMER Is Boss
RAILROADS
Thenational network ofrailroads run byAmtrak has a
consumer complaint department for all rail service problems.
Contact: Adequacy ofservice Bureau. Amtrak. 955L'Enfant
Plaza North. SW. Washington, DC 20024.
REALTORS
Ifyou have a service complaint against a real estate agency
or realtor, describe your complaint in a letterto the firm. If the
realtoris located In a state different from the state In which the
subject transaction took place, sendthe complaint letterto:
OFFICE OF INTERSTATE LAND SALES REGISTRATION
451 7th Street SW
Washington, DC 204IO
Also send the letterto the real estate regulatory agency. If
there Is one, for the state In which the land Is located. These
state agencies have various names such as Real Estate
Commission, Department ofRegistration and Education, or
Department ofState. Ifyou are In doubt as to the right place
and the right name, contact the state attorneygeneral's office
for the nameand addressofthe proper agency.
REPAIR SERVICES
DickYoungblood, businesscolumnist for the Star TribWle
ofMinneapolis/St. Paul, thinks that the service economy is a
hoax upon the public, as reported earlier. One ofthe reasons
for his belief Is that home repair services have not adjusted their
service to accommodate the large proportion ofhomes in which
all the occupants are absent during the day. They, too, work
only during the day.
94 JOHN TsCHOHL
Ifyouwantyourwashing machine repaired during the day,
you have Uttle recourse otherthanto stay home andwaitfor the
service company. As a result, you take a lossofpay, In most
cases. (You donot wish torisk burglary bY leaving yourhouse
keyunder the carpet on the door step.)
But, more home repairservices are providing evening and
Saturdayservice, reports MACAP (Major Appliance Consumer
Action Panel), an Industry-backed organization that mediates
service complaints between consumers and major appliance
manufacturers.
So, it Is less and less necessary to wait at home hoping
that the servicepersonwill show upwhen scheduled - or to
haul your own washing machlne orvacuumcleaner down to the
repairshopon yourway towork.
Encourage evening andweekend repairservice bycalling
your repair service and suggesting it... before you need service,
But, if yourproblem 18 a repair service that puts in time,
bills you for the time, but doesn't fix the appliance, well, It's
timeto complain. Start, ofcourse, with the repair service,
If the repairservice disagrees with you, approach your
local consumer affairs bureau and state attorney general's
office.
If the repair shopIs a factory-authorised outlet, contact the
authonztng manufacturer, too.
Ifyou still can't get results, then go toMACAP. They tryto
find a mutually satisfactory compromise for consumer
complaints. MACAP Islocated at 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago, IL
60606. Phone: 312-236-3165.
95 THE CUsroMER Is Boss
Nearly one-third ofall households inAmerica experienced
at least one signiftcant consumer problem during the year
before. according to the National Consumer Swvey's (NCS)
survey sponsored bythe U.S. Office ofConsumer Affairs. Of
households reporting problems. more than 60 percent told of
losses averaging $142. Nearly 15percent ofthe losses Involved
lost time from work (waiting for repair people, mainly).
RESTAUUNTS
About halfthe American food dollar is spent In
restaurants.
Themajority ofrestaurant owners realize that a sterling
reputation takesyears to build, but that it can be tarnished Ina
flash when people start complaining to neighbors. friends.
relatives. and co-workers.
So. all you need to do is to threaten to complain...to
neighbors, friends. relatives. and co-workers.
But. that strategy doesn't work every time.
In the restaurant business it's practically standard
operating procedure (SOP) to maneuver patronsinto the bar
where they areIna position to buydrinks, thereby adding to
the restaurant's revenues for that day.
How often have you heard this: "Wouldn't you like to walt
in the bar?"
Ifyou want a drink, fine. But. ifyou hate being
manipulated, take a seat Inthe lounge but order only a glassof
water.
Fifteen minutes past the time ofyour reservation, tell the
maitre d' that you're leaving, tell him why you're leaving...
and go.
96 JOHN TscHOIll..
You might endup eating pizza, but at least you'll feel good
about yourself for striking a blowfor consumer rights, Ot won't
hurt youto eat pizza once in a whfle.)
One restaurant reviewer makes an absolutely Inspired
suggestion for avoiding the bar-herd hassle. Getting a table
right away is simple, he says: "TIp the maitre d' when you
anive."
Now, why didn't wethink ofthat?
Another reviewer (these arevery creative people) saysthat
whenever service is slow or sloppy, "I ask the waiter if he's an
actor. He's always flattered. Then I say, Would youmind
acting like a waiter tonight?" [Nasty. isn't It?1
After you leave a restaurant that's treated you with
disrespect. youcan always write a clear, unemotional complaint
letter to the manager. Sometimes you'll receive a coupon for a
free meal.
Go onestep farther, 1£ youwish, and send copies ofthe
letter to local restaurant reviewers. Some ofthemwill ca1l the
restaurant and maybe even write a story. Most ofthemwill at
least file the letterand use it whentheyreceive more complaints
about the same restaurant.
Your best revenge, though, is to patronize competitors.
In restaurants, the use oftipping to comment on service is
effective. Use tipping bothto complain andto commend. \TIPS
is an acronym for "To Insure Prompt Service.)
Ifyour complaint about poor service isn't satisfied, don't
tip, Let the waiter/waitress know why you didn'ttip. Look the
personIn the eye and. without raising yourvoice. tell himor her
that the service was badand describe exactly what was wrong,
When you tip 15 percent for badservice just because the
waiter rivets you tothe chair witha laser glare. youare
endorsing bad service. Tipping when youget bad service is the
ultimate cop-out.
97
THE CusroMER IsBoss
If the service was great, then tip more than 15 percent, If
you wish,
RETAILING
Here's a tip onwhat todo immediately when salespeople
are argumentative, when theyinsultyour taste, or when they
'serve' you with snail-like deliberation and disinterest.
Don't waste time arguing with a salesclerk. Go to the
executive offices and asktospeakto an executive onan "urgent
matter," Onthe way, prepare your case inyour mind.
When an executive comes out to meet you, be polite. And
be specific. Talk quietly. Convey byword andfaetal expression
that you simply want to obtain the service or merchandise you
came in tobuyrather than punish the offensive salesperson,
even though you wouldn't object If the employee got a dressing
down. Saysomething like:
"I'veJust spent a good 10minutes waiting for a salesperson
who for all I know is still talk1ng onthe phone abouther
boyfriend, Bobby. I'm not tIy1ng to get anyone in trouble, but I
amtIy1ng tobuya sweater andI can't get anyhelp.
"Now, 10minutes may not seem like a longwait, but it is
when you're pressed for time as I amtoday. I would appreciate
it If you would help me get my sweater so I canbe on my way."
The executive (let's saythe officer is a female) may takeyou
down to the department where you found the sweater that you
want to payfor. Her first stepwillbeto find a clerk,
The clerk's colleagues may lie to support the clerk's alibi.
But, Ifyou remain calmand avoid name-call1ng and
accusations, the supervisor most likely willbelieve your
account. Sherealizes that the store actually does have an
occasional employee who is rude, lazy, and even incompetent.
98 JOHN TsCHOHL
RETAIL STORE DELIVERY SERYICES
Some businesses assumethat once you've waited seven or
eight weeks for a delivery, you won't cancel the orderand go
through the same tiresome expertence with another storeor
manufacturer. So, they become deodedly apathetic.
So. arrangeto charge your purchase toyour credit
account. If you don't have one, open one for tbls purpose.
When the order Signed states delivery will be made in "Four
to SixWeeks" and it doesn't arrive on time, some energetic
consumers rent the same merchandise such as furniture for
use until the purchasearrtves. When theyreceive their
statement from the businesstheybought the merchandise
from, theydeduct the amount that theypaidto rent the
furniture. They paythe balance and enclose a note explaining
what they've done. They enclose a copy (not the Original) ofthe
rental receipt.
Thestore, ofcourse, will reply in horror, protesting that it's
"not our policy" to compensate customers for the inconvenience
theycausewiththeir unrealistic delivery dates. They'll saythat
they can't be held responsible for manufacturer delays.
But, stubbornly refuse to delete compensation for furniture
rental from the store'sstatement. Remind the store's
representative that it was the store that promised the delivery
date, not the manufacturer.
Tell the employee that you'd happily go to court. The fact
is that the store really has breached the contract implied in
giving a delivery date. Ajudgeprobably would find in your
favor.
The store representative probably would be smart enough
to know that. Ajudge probably will order the storeto allowyou
to deduct most or all ofthe disputed amount.
99 THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
You'll undoubtedly be better off withholding the money and
foisting the burden of collection onto the store instead of paying
and then suing the store for the amount that you spent renting
furniture.
Be sure to send a copy ofyour letter noting that you've
subtractedthe cost ofrental to the company president. Point
out the business's liability and express yourwillingness to drag
the casethroughthe courts, If necessary.
Most presidents decide in favor ofelostng the books on
such matters, if the rental expense isn't overwhelming - larger
than the cost ofthe furniture, for instance.
SUPERMARKETS
Some supermarket managers think they are good
businesspeople when theyintentionally understaff checkout
linesso customers are exposed longer to impulse items that line
the corridor leading to the checkout counter - items such as
Bic lighters, SCotch tape, mini-magazines with horoscope
readings, nail clippers, and bubble gum.
But, sometimes supermarkets really are caughtshort­
handed because ofillness ofcheckout personnel. The store has
overlooked the need to cross-train otheremployees sotheycan
fill in at checkout counters.
When linesare long and othercheckout registers are going
unused, ask a checker to requestthat another register be
opened. If your requestfalls on deafears. summon the manager
and ask himor her to have someone open a register.
Usually, that's all it takes. The manager will open a
checkout line...and you will bejlrst in line.
100 JOHN TsCHOHL
But, 1f the manager claims that all the clerks are busy
stocking shelves, get assertive: Tell the manager that if he
doesn't take care ofcustomersflrst. the clerks won't have to
wony about stocking shelves becausehe'll losea lot ofbusiness
once you're through telling your neighborhood how long the
linesare In H1nky Dinky Supermarket.
Ifyou're treated really Inappropriately, and you are very
angry, threaten to leave your full shopping cart in the checkout
aisle and to walk out. Thestore will need to return your items
to the shelves.
Sounds petty, yousay? You're right. But. tactics such as
this are sometimes justified because theygiveyou, the brow­
beaten consumer, much-needed satisfaction and the motivation
to continue fighting for service.
Thesefight-back tactics might lower your blood pressure
and savethe family dog from assault and battery, too.
When everybody, including the manager, gives you the cold
shoulder, there's nothing else youcan do but to strikebackwith
a harmless "guerilla tactic." After you leave the supermarket
without your groceries, stop offat a convenience store and buy
the few itemsthat are absolutely essential. Complete your
shopping at a competitiVe supermarketthe next day.
UIIIITY COMPANIES
Ifyour utility rejects your requestfor adjustment of an
obvious error, contact the local or state Public Service
Commission (sometimes called the StateUtility Commission).
Sendcopies ofyour letterstothe company, the utility
company's responses, and duplicates ofany documentation
(bills, meter readings, and so on), Thisshould motivate the
commission to InvestJgate.
101
ThE CUsroMER Is Boss
Ifthe State Utility/Public Service Commission doesn'tget
very far, you can ask the Commission to mediate your case.
The first step usually is an informal mediation hearing. If
that doesn't resolve the matter, you may receive aformal
hearingwith a referee assigned by the Commission. Most
complaints are settled before theyreachthis point. however.
Your state might also have a Consumer Advocacy Office for
utility complaints.
Ifyou strike out withthe Utility/Public Service
Commission. contactthe National Association ofState Utility
Consumer Advocates (NASUCAl to find out ifyour state has
such a "utllity consumer advocate.' Reach NASUCA at:
Florida Public Council, 202 Blount St., Rm, 624. Crown Bldg.,
Tallahassee, FL 32301. Phone: 904-488-9330.

CHAPTER 10
LIGHTS, ACTION•••
COMPLAINI

"The First Rule:
Personalize"

104 JOHNTsCHOIlL

When a service employee is rude or incompetent, tell him
or her about it. But, don't holdyour breath while youwait for
an apology and satisfaction. After all, you'reconfronting the
person who has caused your problem. TIlis person is likely to
become defensive.
The logical first step is to see the managerofthe
perpetrator ofthe service problem, at once. If you strike out
withthe manager, immediately obtainan appointment withthe
manager's boss.
Apersonal meeting is an effective ploy. Youll be talking
privately, face-to-face. It's difficult for anyone to say "No" when
you are bearing down With close eye contact.
Look the person in the eye, explain the problem, and ask:
"Canyou help me?"
Remember that your attitude and personal demeanor are
tmportant in a personal meeting. Act confident ofyour facts
and figures and of the position you've taken.
And don't approachthe personyou're meeting with hat in
hand and eyes downcast.
You are demanding a right. Your complaint is legitimate.
So, act as ifyou fully expect satisfaction.
The customer is boss.

CHAPTER 11
LIGHTS, ACTION...
COMPLAINI

"The Second Rule:
Be Persistent"

106
JOHN TsCHOHL

BUSinesspeople find it difficult to rebuff a persistent
customer. They're inhibited by a soft voice that says: "It's bad
business to say'No' to a customer."
So. persistence is the ace up yoursleeve.
Here are examples ofpersistence.
CASE: AChatsworth, California, auto repair shopfailed to
lubricate the wheel bearings during brake servicing on George
Anderson's van. It wasan oversight that a certain screeching
noisemadequite evident. As he drove the vanbackto the shop.
the rear axle twisted off.
Therepair shop refused to repair the axle at no cost; so he
was forced to towthe vantoanothergarage where he paid
$2,000to have the work done.
That made him mad. So, fur eight months he parked his
motor home on the street In front ofthe repair shop. He
decorated it withgaudy signs that accused the repair shopof
shoddy workmanship.
107
ThE CusroMER IsBoss
Anderson had the same sharply worded messages printed
on T-shirts and buttons that he wore constantly. And he
painted the messages on protest signs that his friends carried
outside the shop.
He hired a lawyer to helphim pursue a claim against the
auto repairshop. But he fired the attorney when he told
Anderson to take his "libelous" signs off the side ofthe van.
Eventually he won what he sought: Thenational
franchisor ofthe Chatsworth shop agreed to payAnderson
$5.200 to reimburse him for the cost ofaxle repairsto his van.
for a new paint job. and for damage from a break-in to the
vehicle whenit was parked outside the Chatsworth shopwhile
mechanics debated who was at fault for the axle damage.
What's more, the company promised to handle complaints
from 30 strangerswho had stopped andtold Anderson stories of
their own bad repair experiences with the shop.
CASE: Robert Imboden ofElToro, California, is typical of
nearly 100consumers who complained tothe Orange County
district attorney about ArthurM. Shubin, owner ofSanteFe
Springs Carpet & Upholstery Steam Cleaning.
For $6.50, his ads read, he would steam-clean the
carpeting in oneroom - $31.95 for five rooms. Theads were
thick with appealing offers: "No hidden charges" and "Free spot
removing and pre-manual scrubbing:
Two Shubin employees named Pat and Jose came to
Imboden's home to cleanthe carpet, Imboden said in a court
declaration. But Pat told Imboden and his wife that the carpet
was much too dirty to be cleaned for the advertised price. It
must be "preconditioned: theysaid - for $99.50.
All ofthe other complainants said theywere told the same
thing- that their carpetswere too dirty for the low price and
that they had to be "preconditioned:
108 JOHNTsCHOm..
But, Imboden insistedthat he wantedthe $6.50-per-room
price.
"FIne," said Pat. "It1l take us less than 10 minutes to do
all five rooms.'
"It did not seempossible that they could spot-clean,
manuallypre-scrub and steam-clean 900 square feet ofcarpet
in that time,• Imboden said later.
So, he ordered them to leave. When they insisted on a $10
service fee. he called police.
One womantoldthe court that after the $6.50 qutclde, she
complained to Shubin about the poorqualityofthe work.
"You get what you pay for. lady•• she was told.
Wendy Brough, Orange County deputy district attorney,
took Shubin to court and put him out ofbusiness.
"Shubin'S was a classic balt and SWitch," Broughsaid,
"You advertise one price, then use high-pressure tactics to try to
force the consumer into something moreexpensive.'
Persistencepays. Ifthese consumershad l1m1ted
expression ofthe1r indignation to yelling at employees, they'd
still be yammering to friends about their bad experiences.
Whatever you do, don't give up too soon.

CHAPTER 12
HOW TO WRITE
"THE LETTER"

"There's ajly in my McNuggets.·

110
JOHN TsCHOHL
-
In large companies, where employees commonly poreover
customer lettersthat are written in anger and letters that are
boring, vague, abusive. handwritten on grocery bags. and longer
than the Holy Bible, youhave to make yourletter stand out
Be creative.
APennsylvania housewife sent Ford Motor Co. Customer
Relations department a l2-page comic book... Original. done by
her own hand. It illustrated the sagaofrepairproblems with
her Ford Pinto and how it had strained her marriage. The
Customer Relations department returnedits own hand-drawn
comic book called "Captain Pinto to the Rescue.·
Fordfixed the car, for nothing.
Another consumer typed his complaint on toilet tissue and
sent the roll to the customer service department. Since he
maintained his senseofhumorand avoided anger and insult in
the letter. the company's servicepeople responded with a
humorous letter in which they promised to satisfy his
complaint.
III
THE CUSfOMER Is Boss
Awoman wrote to General Electric Company repeatedly to
tellthe company that her new iron didn't work. All she got in
returnwasform letter after form letter.
Disgusted. she eventually put the iron in a paper bag,
scrawled onIt "IRON NO GET HOl and mailed it to G.E. She
got a new iron for her creative communication.
FOLLOW UP MEETINGS WITH LEnERS
If a letter that you write earnsyou a meeting, wrtte another
letter, right after the meeting. In which you review all the
promises and statements made during the meeting. Send It to
your primary contact. This letter becomes a record ofthe
meeting.
Include thefirst andlast names ofevery person in addition
to the addressee that you have dealt with at the company.
including those you saw dunngyour personal visit.
Name anyone who promised to get back to you and specify
the deadline date that was given for response.
Afollow-up letter should include:
n Your name
n Your address
n Your home and work phone numbers
o Date and place ofpurchase
Cl Specific statement ofyour complaint
o Brief history ofthe problem
o Copies ofall pertinent documents.
(Do not sendongmals.l
If you want repair service. Include name and model and
serial number ofthe product to be repaired.
112 JOHNTsCHOHL
Be sure to avoid angrystatements. Anger is
counterproductive: It lowers yourchances for satisfaction,
instead ofincreasing your chances.
TYPE THE LETTER (IF POSSIBLE)
Most businesses, eager to hear from their customers, are
unconcerned about whether a letteris typed or not. And they
won't give you a poor grade because ofspelling errors. Of
course, companies consist ofhuman beings who find it easierto
readtyped letters, so they prefer them. Most progressive
companies will not neglect a letterjust because it is hand­
written, though.
Make two copies ofyourletter, whether you type it or not.
Ifyoudon't have a typewriter. perhapsyour local library has
coin-operated typewriters and you can use one ofthem.
It's important that you keep copies ofevery letteror
handwrttten notesoyoucan eitherduplicate themor use them
as guidance for future letters: You never know how many
letters you'll be sending.
AN EFFECTIVE LETTER
You are most likely to be satisfied with yourletter's results
when you:
1. Begin with a compliment. Emphasize your satisfaction
with the business...untilnow.
2. Identify the service you're complaining about. If the
bad service includes a purchase, identify the product
with serial, model or service numbers. Statewhere the
transactiontook place and include a copy ofthe
receipt.
113 THE CUSfOMER Is Boss
3. Describe precisely why you are dissatisfied.
4. Explain what you'd like the company to do.
5. Close with a pleasant request for assistance.
Near the beginnlng ofa letter. afterthe complimentary
comment, Include specifics suchas: "This letteris a request for
credit of$250on my account (Account No. 000-00-0000) as a
result ofnon-delivery ofa woman's coat purchased Dec. 4,
1992, at yourPeoria branch:
Don't get sidetracked Into long explanations about how the
problem came about. You'Ujust confuse the service rep.
Simply describe the problem. There's no need toreport that the
storenearly ruined your sister's wedding because the
bridesmaids' shoes were dyed mauve instead ofpeach.
Besure to specify whatyou want
IJ "I wantthe cost ofthe coat plustax credited to my
account."
IJ "I want the finance charges of$13 removed from my
bill:
IJ "I want to cancel the order."
Onevery piece ofcorrespondence. Include name, address,
day-time phone number, and youraccount number Inthe upper
right comer sothat youandyourproblem can be quickly
identified.
A letter should include everything that a business needs to
act immediately. Iftheyhave to searchfor this information in
their records, or call youfor more information, the response you
desire will be delayed.
Include a clearcopy ofreceipts for anyservice or
merchandise.
114 JOHN TsCHOHL
WHAT THE TEACHER SAYS ABOUT LETTER·
WRITING
Gayle Knutson teaches a class on writing effective
consumerletters. It's entitled "There's a Fly In My McNuggets
and Other Consumer Letters." These are some ofher points:
IJ Make the complaint letter short and to the point.
Explain the problem. when younoticed it, what you
didto correct it, and what you want the merchant or
manufacturer to do. Be confident. not emotional or
hostile.
IJ Specify all important facts such as date and place you
made the purchaseand anyinformation that identifies
the product. such as the serial or model number. If
you are writing to complain about a service. describe
the service and who performed it.
IJ Type your letter. Ifyou write it. be sure that it is
neat and easyto read.
IJ Sendcopies ofreceipts, not originals. (We've made
this point earlier.) Gather evidence in a file folder
- sales receipt. warranty, repair or service orders,
canceled checks, contracts. and correspondence. If the
complaint Involves shoddy workmanship, take
photographs that display the workmanship.
IJ Begin at the origin ofyour complaint and move upward
from there toward the top executive. Ifyour problem is
witha service provided bya professional (doctor.
lawyer, funeral director, accountant), yourbest bet
maybe to complain to the state board that licenses the
personif the Individual doesn't solve the problem.
115 THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
ADVICE FROM ON HIGH
Here are letter-writing tips from Richard Viguerle. You
may recognize his name. He's the magician who raised m1lI1ons
ofdollars for conservatfve political causes and campaigns,
largely with powerfully persuasive letters.
Alead paragraph, says Viguerie, should be brief - no more
than two sentences of 10to 12words each.
Begin with an opening statement such as: "r have a
problem and I need your help." Then, summarize the problem
in a dramatic way, also In the first paragraph. For example: "I
amvel)' distressed bya billing error that your company refuses
to correct:
In the second paragraph, spring a surprise. Compliment
the company! (Earlier we suggested a compliment in the first
paragraph. Take your choiee.l
Mix the sweet withthe sour, says V!guerie. You might try:
"Over the years I've been vel)' happy with your service. Every
timeI entered yourstore a salesperson would ask within a
minute or two if theycould help me."
In the next paragraph. go for the kill: "So, you can Imagine
mydismay whenI went searching for a salesperson after
waiting 10minutes and found three ofthemin an Intimate
conversational huddle, totally unresponsive to customers."
Move on to detail. Omit unnecesswy details.
Here's a letterthat contains the required detail: "On
August 12an employee, John Smith. inyour Cornucopia store
spent approximately 10minutes with anotheremployee
dtscussmg a partythe previous night while I waited to ask
where I could find an electric meat knife. I interrupted once
and was told to 'Wait a minute.'
116 JOHNTsCHOHL
"ThIs Is the thlrdtime in a month that I've found it very
difficult toget service in yourstore. It's not necessary for meto
put up with rudeand indifferent service when I can easl1y
switch my business to Smllin' Jack's EmpoI1um - which Is
exactlywhat 1am considering,"
Since most people only scana letter, present yourrequest
twice sotheyare less Jike1y to miss it. The second sentence of
the first paragraph and again at the endwould do nicely.
Keep yourlettershort. Ifyou can't keep it to onepage,
number important points sothe letter is easyto follow.
Don't produce an angry three-page, single-space letter.
Customer service representatives find long letters to be
intimidating and time-consuming. As a result, too often they
put asidea legitimate complaint for attention "next Monday."
It's a good ideato let someone else readthe letter before
you mail it. If that person thinks the message Is clear, then the
person who receives it probably will comprehend it, also.
FIVE ELEMENTS
Agood letter consists offive simple elements, whether you
arejust "calling yourattention to" or saying "I think somebody
oughtto be aware of..." They are:
1. Clear statement ofproblem. "You mistakenly debited
my account $1,200'­
2. Factsthat backup the story,
3. Request for redress: Correction ofa bill. Refund.
Repairs. Or. ifyou're merely ticked off about bad
service, request an apology.
4. Deadline for resolution ofyourproblem.
5. Awarning offurther action that will be taken if things
don't go yourway.
117 THE CusroMER Is Boss
Thls "warning offurther action· is effective. Here are
suggested actions to use:
a Tmgoing tostop payment." Ifyou carry out this
threat the company either will negotiate or sue. By law
it COJUlDt blacken your credit record or sic collection
agencies onyou untilyou admit that you owe money to
the firm or until a judge or jurydecides that you owe
money.
IJ "I'm going to spend my money elsewhere." Confirming
the effectiveness ofthis warning, the head ofthe
customer relations department for Bloomingdale's
department storein York said: "If a customer spends a
lot ofmoney inthe store, I'll tryto settle a complaint
right away,"
IJ "1'11 tell everybody who'll listen about your bad service."
Dissatisfaction with a merchant or manufacturer
spread by word ofmouth kills sales.
Recently, a Boy Scout leader calleda Safeway supermarket
to protest video games that he viewed as a corrupting Influence,
His threat (which was spoken, but could have been part ofa
letter) was: "To mobilize my Troop to picket the store."
Thevision ofa troop ofBoy Scouts marchlng Infront ofa
5afeway persuaded company executives to remove the
machines.
When dealing with utilities, your best threat Is tosaythat
you'll take your complaint to a higher authority - to an
Industry association, to the Better Business Bureau, or to state
public service commission, the government regulatory body that
approves rate increases.
118 JOHN TSCHOHL
Don't threaten a utility company withthe publicservice
commission until you've written the company president. All you
need to do to get his/her name, in most cases, is to call the
company and ask for It.
Don't send copies ofa letter to anyone other than the
contact at the company you'recomplaining to, Most ofthe time
you will get satisfactlon. Onthe few occasions whenyou are
stonewalled, then youshouldsendyour letter to state and local
consumer protectlon agencies and others.
FOLLOW-UP UTTER
Follow up an lnitlalletter witha second letter whena
company Ignores you or refusesyour request. This time,
threaten actionsuch as sending copies ofthe letter to 50 of
your friends and relatives.
Ifyou feel gullty for making threats, remind yourselfthat
you are helping other consumers who are too timid to complain,
and youare helping companies that need satisfiedconsumers
to stay in business.
You mayfeel better ifyoujust implya threat, as consultant
John McMullen. Heworked for a subsidiary ofwhat was
formerly Control Data Corporation (CDC).
McMullen found that his bags hadn't arrtved at the airport
whenhe did. In one ofthe missing bagswas his business suit.
Heneeded it for an important meeting in an hour. Hehad to
rush over toa nearbymen's store and buya suit and
accessories,
After his meeting, he went tosee the airline's managerat
the airport. With a condescending air the managerordered a
check for $25.
119 THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
When McMullen reached home, he sent a letter to the
airline noting that he'd sent a copy to Frank Borman, then
president ofthe airline, and to the ·CDC Travel service."
Theperson who read the lettermay have assumed that the
travel service, which wasjictittous, schedules hundreds of
fUghts eachyearfor CDC executives: Acheck for the full
amount ofMcMullen's purchases arrived withJn days.
LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT
It's true that it is effective to write letters to the president
or to the chairman ofa company.
Letters to presidents are effective because theypass the
letters ontothe consumer affairs/customer service
departments - and the people In those departments give royal
treatment to letters sent down by the president.
Another good reason to write the company president is that
a complaint letterprobably will startlehim or her.
Subordinates, you see, sendthe president a lot ofgood news.
But, bad news often is pigeonholed. Thepresident might be
alarmed to learnthat some customers are not overcome with
gratitude for the consistently stellar service theyreceive. He
might even pen an order note onyourletteras he forwards it to
the customer service manager.
Thepresident, after all, has a greater stake in the success
ofthe business than anyone.
Don't be stymied if you don't know the president's name
and address. Call the company and ask for it. Consult
Standard & Poor's Register ofCorporations, Directors and
Executives or Thomas' Register qfAmerican Manufacturers,
mentioned earlier. They are available in most hbrartes.
120 JOHN TscHOHL
If the corporation that runs the business isn't listed In
either directory, then it's an obscure company or very new. Tell
your friendly reference librarianwhat youwant and she most
likely will find the Information somewhere else.
When the parent corporation's namediffers from the name
ofthe company youdealwith, and when its nameor address
are not displayed onsigns, letterheads, and receipts... then ask
the store manager's office for the parent corporation's nameso
youcan look up addressand president's name. f1'ry asking for
his nameand address, to avoid the need to look it up.)
If youknow that the parent corporation is Inyourtown,
look for it Inthe phone book. Call and askthe nameofthe
president.
Sayto the operator, Ina pleasant voice: "Ineed towrite a
letter to the president. Will you give me the name and address,
please?"
In most cases she'll give you the president's name. Ifshe
doesn't, then alternatemeasures are called for. Afew hours
later, after the operator most likely has forgotten your first call,
try again witha little different approach. "I amwriting a letter
to the president and I wantto be sure to spell the name
correctly. Will you give me the correct spelling ofthe president's
name, please?"
You are implying that you already know his nameand that
youare just checking for the correct spelling. But. whenthe
operator spells the name, that's whenyou will be learning it.
All businesses committed to quality service want to know
about service problems, They realize that theycan't correct a
problem unless theyknow that it exists.
Consumers oughtto avoid the automatic beliefthat all bad
servtce is Intentional and that it is caused by a malicious
attitude toward customers. Abusinesswould be crazy to
COnsistently court customer dissatisfaction.
121 THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
Consider the likelihood that a business doesn't know when
it has problems. that front-line employees frequently
(conveniently) "forget" to report complaints to supervisors, and
that supervisors rarely report complaints to management. This
Is exactly what happens unless a company happens to have a
well-established customer service program that motivates front­
line employees to practice good service.
Acomplaint to a customer service department, to
supervisors, or to the president is a service byyou that the vast
majority ofcompanies appreciate. Don't hesitate to complain
because you think that you might make somebody "mad."
Staycalm, present the facts, ask for sattsfaction, and
you'll get it, most ofthe time.
The customer is the boss.

CHAPTER 13
LETTER SAMPLES

How to create a quality letter.

124 JOHN TscHOHL
Positive Statement
Problem
Supporting Fads
Action Requested

Hereare samples ofletters that employ the principles
discussed in Chapter 1\velve. You maybe able to use the letters
just as theyare, afterinserting facts related to your case, such
as yournameand address. Locate points at which words and
phrases should be replaced with information specific to your
case.
125
THE CUsroMER Is Boss
AIRLINE: DELAYED LUGGAGE; POOR SERVICE
POSITIVE
STATEMEIIT
DAIE/PlACE
PROBLEM
SUPPORTIIIG
fACT
COllnRUCTIVE
CRITICISM
PLUSAIIT
REQUEST FOR
RESPOIISE
July 19,19_
Mr. Smlley 8educta
Director ofCustomer Service
Albatross AIrlines
120Decibels Dr,
Wheaton, NI 00004
DearMr. Seduela:
I've fiown yourairline three times a month
for the past nineyearsand I have always beensatisfied.
But now I have a problem. I hope youcan help.
My luggage was loston my past two
fllghts. Flight 5227from Chicago toNewYork. March
10. and Flight 624from Chicago to MIami. March 21.
Theluggage didnot arrive at my hotel
until several hours afterI arrived. I had tobuya swtm
suit to replace the one In the luggage. Areceipt for
$15.90 Is enclosed, I expect payment.
Theprospect ofhaving only the clothes on
my backduring two daysofbusiness meetings InNew
York was a greatInconvenience.
Theluggage didn'tarrive unlJ1 I'dalready bought a
clean shirt. socks. and underwear for thesecond day.
There wasnoway that I wasgoing tosend my only
clothes to the hotel's laundry and risk not getting them
backIn time to wear themmy second day In New York.
Thebl1I, this time, was $47.93, enclosed. Please send
retmbursement.
Another manIfeslatlon ofbad service Is that In
neitherNew York nor Miami didyourairline
deliver myluggage. In bothcasesmyhotel picked up
the luggage. These Incidents indicate to me that your
slandard ofservice has slipped.
I suggest that youlook Into this matterbefore
youalienate a large proportion ofyour customers,
I hope that theseincidents oflost luggage and lack
ofInterest In rectifying the problems you cause are
temporary departures from yourusual good service.
Please, however, send retmbursement for my
expenses.
SIncerely,
126 JOHN TSCHOHL
ATTORNEY GRIEVANCE
Sample LettertoBar Association Grievance Conunittee
July 13. 19_
Mr. Albert Plummet, Esq.
Slip, Fall and lacerate, Ltd.
Ambulance, MU 00007
Dear Sirs:
HISTORY OnJanuary 24, 19 _. I retained the finn oflarson
and Mason, Esq., to draft a pre-nuptial agreement. As
you can see from the retatner agreement, attached, the
fee was tobe $500. The amount was paidon the date
that the firm wasretatned.
PROBLEM Once the finn obtatned the fee It seems that they
lost Interest In performing the work. The telephone
record and record oflettersmat1ed toLarson and
Mason. enclosed. show that I contacted theman average
ofonce a week, beginning In March. asking for the
agreement.
PROBLEM Thepre-nuptial agreement anived at my home
yesterday, but since I was married InJune, the pre­
nuptial agreement now is post-nuptial. What's more,
now that we are married mywife refuses tosignan
agreement - preor post.
AenON I wish tosubmit this casetoyour panel for fee
REQUESIID arbitration. (Frankly, I feel that I owe nothing because I
did not receive a pre-nuptial agreement post haste.)
Please forward to me any forms that you need to
process IhIs case.
PlOSlNT Thankyou for your help.
CONCLUSION
Yours truly,
127 THE CUsroMER Is Boss
AUTOMOBILE SERVICE
Letter to Automotive Dealer
POSITIVE
STARMINT
SUPPORTING
FACTS
AcnON
REQUESRD
PLUSANT
REQUEST FOR
RESPONSE
Mr. Big Squeeze, President
Lemon Motor CarCo.
Wassahatchle, lIT 99008
DearMr. Squeeze:
I've been a customer ofyourservice department for
about 15years, as you may know. Usually I've been
satisfied withyour work. This letterexpresses my first
complaint.
Sixweeks ago today you finished repairs to the left
front fender ofmycar. However, you didnot replace the
grill because, you said, you could not obtain the part for
another two weeks. I needed the car, so I took It
without the grtIl. Another sixweeks tothe dayafteryou
finished repairing the fender you sUll have not replaced
the grill.
I could bewrong, but grills for latemodel cars
can't be that difficult to find. If you had not begun this
repairJob and leftit unfinished, I might be inclined to
locale a grill myself. I'msure that I could find oneat a
used auto parts yard. As you know, body parts from
auto parts yards usually are In good condition.
I'masking you toget more serious, toexert more
honest effort tofind a grill, and to Install It in my car. If
you don't, you will, Mr. Squeeze, lose a long-time
customer. And that Is not the kindof thing that should
reassure you about the long-term future ofyour firm.
Thankyou for your cooperation. I expect tohear
fromyou within a week that you want my car in your
service department so you can replace the grill.
Very trulyyours,
128 JOHNTsCHOHL
BANK ERROR
November 31. 19_
Mr. Philllppe Conceete
Manager
Bank ofPhilanthropy
2222 Forked Tongue 8t.
Generosity. GT 80809
DearMr. Conceete:
POSITIVE I have been a cuslomer ofyourbank for five years,
OPENING and I have always beentreatedwell.
SUPPORTING But, now I must complain about your failure to
FACTS/ credit a $376.97 deposit that I made Oclober 13. I
BACKGROUND have lost the receipt for that deposit, however.
INFROMAIION Perhaps yearsofexperience with deposits betog
faithfully credited made me careless. But. non­
existence ofa deposit sliphas nobearing uponyour
abl1Jty 10 locate an excess toyourbalance for Oclober
13.
COMPUINT I can no longer accept yourclalm that the excess
SPECIFICS doesnot show up Inyour records. Authorities that I
have consulted tell methat the mostlikely reasonthat
you haven'tfound the excess Is that you haven'tlooked
for It. Apparently you feel that cuslomer satisfaction Is
not important.
It's not surprising that you are very efficient at
bl1ltog mefor payments on loans. It Issurprlstog,
though, that you can't seemto correct an error when
you owe money tome.
REQUEST FOR Ifyoucan't find my$376.97 I will close myaccount.
ACnON
Sincerely,
129
THE CusroMER Is Boss
BANK: POOR SERVICE
POSITIVE
STATEMINT
DATE/PlACE
OF SERVICE
SUPPORTING
FACTS
COMPUINT
HISTORY
BUSINESS
BENEFIT
PLEASANT
CONCLUSION
October 17,19_
Mr. Robert George, President
ThIrd BankofWest River
G a s ~ o , P M 00001
Re. Acct. No. IA2S3D4F
DearMr. George:
I have a problemand I need your help.
Your service has been helpful for the seven years
that I've been a customer. But that's changed.
OnOctober 10. my brother was hit by a
motorcycle as he wasriding his unicycle. He was
rushed to the Emergency Ward ofWellness General
Hospital, but the hospital wouldn't admithimunlesshe
deposited $2,000, since he had no Insurance.
My brother called and asked if he could borrow the
money from me. I rushed tothe nearest branch,
Dogpatch Branch, though I bankat the main bank, only
todiscover when I anived that I'dforgotten my
checkbook. I Intended towrite out a check toobtain
cash from my checking account.
Your cashier, Sally Insipid, ID No. 777, insisted
that she could not give mea counter check to use,
though I had plenty ofvalid Identification. She said that
yourcomputer wasnot working and that she was too
busy to make a phone call to the main bank.
Repeated appeals, citing mybrother's need, failed
to budge good Ms. Insipid.
I have not bounced a single check Inseven years,
and I have repaid eachoftwo loanson time. You have
had nearly $100,000 ofmine toInvest for yourbenefit.
I feel that I deserved better treatment.
I hope that you see that It Is Inyour Interests to
correct a clear and significant customer relations
problem that exists In the attitudeofMs. Insiptd, and
probably Inattitudesofother cashiers, assuming that
they share the sameprinciples.
Sincerely,
130
JOHN TsCHOHL
APPLIANCE REPAIR SERVICE:
NON-PERFORMANCE
June 30,19_
Mr. OscarBoxer
AAM Appliance Repalr SeIVIce
447 Someday Av.
Jeopardy, 1M 00009
Dear Mr. Boxer:
COMPLAINT I waited all morning on Tuesday, June 28. for your
service person to show up to repair mywashing
machine. He didn't corne and he didn't call to say that
he wouldn't be coming,
COMPLAINT
HISTORY
ThIs Is the second day that thtshas happened.
Thefirst day, oneweek ago, I wasable to take paid
timeofffrom work. This time I was not paid; so I lost
tncome.
EXPANSION OF I live In yourservice area and I still want to do
COMPLAINT bustness wtthyou. Thequestion Is, doyou want to do
business wtthme? Ifyou do, what actionby you do you
propose as compensation for the needlessloss of pay
that you have caused me?
ICnON Please give meyour response. My phonenumber
REQUESTED at work ts 909-0909. My home phone number ts
808-0808.
Very trulyyours,
131
ThE CUSTOMER Is Boss
RIQUIST FOR INTERVENTION
A letter to a business association when a contractorJails to live
up to terms ofacontract
July 5,19_
National Home Improvement Council (NHICj
11 East 44th Sl.
New York, NY 10017
RE: Stringer Construction, Inc.
447Surly Av.
Crooked. 1M 00009
Gentlemen:
PROBLEM Stringer Construction, Inc. and I have an ongoing
dispute over the company's compliance with the
enclosed contract between us.
COMPLAIIIT I have alsoenclosed a day-to-day log that contains
HISTORY digests ofmy conversations with Stringer's
representative and actions I've taken toInduce the
company to do the work It promised.
ACnOIl Stringer Isa member ofNHlC, thereby subscnbmg
REQUESTED toyour Code ofEthics. I would appreciate It Ifyou
would prevail upon the company to live up to Its
agreement.
REQUEST FOR Please let me know the result ofyourdiscussion of
RESPOIISE this problem with Stringer.
Very truly yours,
cc: Stringer Construction. Inc.
132 JOHN'TscHOHL
COMPLAINT TO ABONDING COMPANY
JulyS, 19_
Mr. Roger Gotrocks
Easyrnoney Bonding Company
Mlami Beach. FL 00008
RE: Poor Richard's Constructlon, lnc.
Dear Mr. Gotrocks:
BACKGROUID You are thesuretyfor Poor Richard's
Construction, Inc., according tomy state Home
Improvement Commission, As part ofyoursuretybond
you have agreed tocover losses causedby defective
work ofPoor Richard's, according tothe Commission.
COMPLAII' I may be forced to brtng suit against Poor
HIS'ORY Richard's for non-performance ofa contract between us.
Thecompany has refused todowork that they were
contracted todo.
AenOIL Ifyou wtsh toavoid a claim by Poor Richard's on
REQUESTED thetrsuretybond with you, I suggest that you useyour
Influence to persuade the company to comply with the
termsofour contract
Very truly yours,
cc: Poor Richard's Construction, inc.
133
THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
EMPLOYEE MISCONDUCT
December II, 19_
Mr. PeterRandolph. President
Bottomltne Department Store
Dogpateh, RC 00005
DearMr. Randolph:
POSITIVE
Formany years I have been sufficiently satisfied
OPENING with yourservice tocontlnue spending several thousand
dollars eachyearat yourstore. But. now I am afraid
that I must express dissatisfaction with Bottomltne
Department Store.
PROBLEM
I wish toreporta serious caseofcustomer abuse
by employees In the Ready-to-Wear Dresses department.
SUPPORTING
I stood In thedepartment for a full 15mtnutes
FAerS yesterday before an employee offered to assist me.
Durtng that time several employees walked by me,
without speaktng. Off toonesidetwo young female
employees were stocking shelves and carrying on a
laugh-and-giggle personal conversation.
Thesalesperson who eventually approached was
very patronizing and condescending. Her namewasMs.
Porous. Because I didn't know exactly the style and
color I wanted. Ms. Porous treatedmewith great
impatience.
When I asked questions she tossed off Incomplete
answers In a rude tone. I got the Impression she was
Just trying toget ridofme.
(ONSTRUerM Mr. Randolph, I'm sure that you realize that
eRlTKISM customers are the only reason that you have a store.
and a bank account.
AenON
I stlll feel decidedly Insulted bythe treatment I
REQUESTED received from Ms. Porous. Canyou assure methat
steps will be taken to prevent rude and unhelpful
behavior by youremployees In the future?
May I hear from you byJanuary 3?
Very trulyyours.
134 JOHN TsCHOHL
HOTEL SERVICE
January 29, 19_
Mr. Samuel Suave
General Manager
Midtown Hotel
2020 Boondoggle Blvd.
Old York, OY 10017
DearMr. Suave:
POSITIVE I'msure that you receive manycompl1ments on
OPENING the beauty ofyour hotel and the fancy uniformsthat
your employees wear. But. has anybody done you the
favor of suggestingImprovements?
COMPUINT I will. I havetwocomplaints.
BACKGROUND first, one hour elapsed between the limeI phoned
In myroomservice order on January 23 at 6:20 p.m,
and the time that I received It at 7:20 p.m,
Second, that same day, when I returned to my
roomafter an absenceof four hours, I found that the
bed had not been madeor the roomcleaned, and there
wereCigarette butts In the ash tray. That's a slgnJficant
point, since I don't smoke.
ACnOIl I will give you one morechance, Mr. Suave. I hope
REQUESTED that you will be able to "light a fire" under your kltchen
and housekeeping staffs and that you w1ll teach
housekeeping employees not to smokeIn the rooms.
The rooms might be occupied bynon-smokers. I ama
non-smoker.
ACnOIl If I expertence more bad service on mynext trip, I
INTEIIDED will take mybustness across the street on myfrequent
vlslts toyour clty, AndI will advlse the travel dtrector
for mycompany to avoid thls hotel when scheduling
trtps for our executives.
Sincerely,
135
THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
INSURANCE BROKER: CLAIM SETTLEMENT
POSITIVE
STAIEMENT
COMPLAINT
COMPLAINT
HISTORY/
PROBLEM
SUPPORTING
FAns
PROBLEM
AenON
REQUESRD
March 3, 19_
Mr. WIll Wrong
99 Poor House Lane
Ovennsured,AT 00005
DearMr. Wrong:
You have been my Insurance agent for nineyears.
Mr. Wrong. I have a problem that I hope you can help
mewith.
As you know, I bought homeowners Insurance
from Able Insurance Co. upon your recommendation. I
relied onyour professional judgment. alone. In dectdmg
to buy the polIcy from Able.
You told methat this company has a reputation
for timely cIatm settlements. But. I've learned from the
(name ofyour state) Insurance Department that Able
has the worst record ofanycompany In terms of
complaints per premium dollars collected.
This Is relevant because I've been trying to collect
on a claim for six months without success. A50-foot
oak treefell on mygarden sheddunng the 19_ Labor
Day hurricane while I was inside oj it. Half the building
was demolished - the halfthat I was notIn.
But Able claims that the damage to my housewas
due to my negligence In building the garden house
where the tree fell. Canyoubelieve It? Documents that
support my assertion that the company refused to pay
my claJm are enclosed.
I feel that I have been damaged byrelying upon
your advice. since Abel refused to paywhat I consider to
be a reasonable cIatm.
I urge you to use your Influence with this company
to persuade the firm to honor my clatm. Can you
resolve this matter within 10days?
Very truly yours,
136 JOHN TSCHOHL
LATE DELIVERY
March 27._
Mr. otto Orsini. President
Fatwood furniture Co.
3636 ottomonAv.
Etagere. MP 00002
RE: Contested Charge
Breach ofContract
Charge Account No. 222-33-99
Dear Mr. Orsini:
DATE/PlACE
OnFebruary 13. 19_. I bought a bedroom set
OF SERVICE fromyou. charging the $962 cost to my account.
COMPlAINT
On thesales slipyour salesperson wrote:
HISTORY "Delivery week ofMarch 7 to 13: That delivery date
was acceptable because the apartment I was furnishing
was to be occupied on March 15.
Thefurniture didnot arrtve when promised.
however. SoIt wasnecessary for metorent a bedroom
set formytenant. Thebedroomset arrtved yesterday.
14days later than promised,
PROBlEM
It Is basicIn the law that a contract Is formed
when an offer Is accepted. You made an offer to deliver
the furniture and I accepted the offer bysigning my
creditcard slip.
Then you breached an existtng contract by falling
to deliver thefurniture when promised. Your breachof
the contract was the proximate and foreseeable causeof
my rental expenses of$58.
Your billlng department says that Fatwood
FurnIture Is not responsible for myrental costsbecause
your manufacturer didnot deliver the furniture toyou
In lime foryouto deliver It tomeat the appointed lime.
Please understandthat the contract was between
youand me. Themanufacturer wasnot mentioned In
our contract. Legally. the contract was with you, and
youbreached It.
I expect you to correct mybilllng and credltmefor
ACnON
REQUESTED
the $58 rental fee.
Yours truly.
137 THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
MOVING COMPANY:
UTE ARRIVAL AND DAMAGE
June 27. 19_
Mr. Stanley Strangelove
Executive Customer service RepresentaUve
Bump-and-GrindMovlng Co.
Slow MoUon, IE 00004
DearMr. Strangelove:
POSITIVE Your employees all were very cordial durl"
6
our
STATEMENT recent move. That'swhy I amsorry toenter a claim
against Bump-and-Onnd.
COMPLAINT TheclaimIs for Inconvenience and damages
causedbyyouroverdue delivery ofmy home furnishings
and damage to furniture.
DATE/PLACE OnJune 3, your company's van left our
Okefenokee, MU, home on Its way to Wasahatchle, TP.
It did not arrive unUl June 8, though you had scheduled
It to arrive onJune 5.
That left mywife, mytwo children, and myself with
no place to stay except a motel for three nights more
than we expected.
SUPPORTING I'msure that you knowthat the lawrequires you
FAaS to cover an inconvenience claim for food and lodging.
Such a claim, withreceipts as documentation, Is
attached.
Enclosed also Is an appraisalby Sterltng & TIffany,
Inc., of the gouges made by a sharp Instrument In my
antique roll-top desk.
ACnOIl I expect your checkfor $2,222.22 Insettlement of
REQUESTED both claims wlthln 30 days.
SIncerely,
138 JOHN TsCHOHL
PHYSICIAN OVERCHARGE
December 23.19_
Dr. Francois Flawless
3 Malpractice Sq.
Mercedes Benz, FI 11990
Dear Dr. Flawless:
BACKGROUND I've beena patient ofyours for almostthree years.
POSInVE During that time I've had manyan occasion to
STATEMINT mention your friendly, competent manner to my
acquaintances. I havenever beendissatisfied withyou
before.
PROBLEM However. I must complain about an obvious
overcharge.
COMPLAINT Oldyou really intend tocharge me$60 for a three
HISTORY minute office visit? Absolutely aUthat youdidwas to
ask me how I felt and then wrtte out a prescription for
what turned out tobe a case ofthe flu.
ACTION I feel fine. now. But I wtll surelyhavea relapse-
REQUESTED an emotional relapse - unlessyoureducethis billby
half. or more. Thankyou.
Sincerely.
139 THE CUsroMER Is Boss
RIITALCAR
June 17,19_
Mr. Roger Gofortt
Timely CarRental. Inc.
2222 Languid Dr.
Thermopolis. GR 29299
Dear Mr. Golont:
POSITIVE Your automobiles are clean andyourservice Is
STATEMENT timely...most ofthe time.
COMPUINT But slow service cost medearly last week.
BACKGROUND Because It took youremployees at Dogpatch
International AIrport 20 minutes toprocess mewhen I
returneda car and another20minutes togetmeto the
termtnal, I missed my OIght. As a result. I also missed
my son's high school graduation ceremony. ThIs is
something neither he nor I ever w1II forget. It Is an
event, ofcourse, that cannot be dupl1cated In my Itfe.
I am qutte bitteraboutyourlapse ofservice. But J
w1II. for the moment, continue touseyourcars because
you are conveniently located.
ACnON I trust that the slow service to which I refer was a
INTENDED rare event. If It happens again. I wiD Inform the travel
dlrector ofmy company.
Yours truly,
140 JOHNTsCHOHL
RESTAURANT: UNJUSTIFIED DELAY IN SEAliNG
November 25, 19_
Mr. Roger Clever, Manager
Roger's Food Palace
IHI Wegotcha Lane
Cleveland, OH 92999
Dear Mr. Clever:
POSITIVE
You operate a very clean restaurantWIth a
IlA'IMlII'
pleasant, relaxing environment. ButI have a compla1nt.
COMPLAIII'
Ourparty ofsixwaited 50mlnutes past the
HISJOR'
reservation time last friday evening. Your maitre d'
suggested that we walt In the lounge.
SUPPORJlIII
You know that you could have seated us earlier,
FAas probably at the reservation time, When we were shown
toour seat we sawthree empty tables.
AcnOll
I suggest that you begin seating yourcustomers at
REQUESIED the time for which they make reservations. I promise
you that my friends and myself will spread word ofyour
poor service as wtdely as we can, and encourage our
friends todothe same. unless youchange yourpolicy.
Sincerely,
141 ThE CUsroMER Is Boss
SOFT GOODS STORE: POOR SERVICE
POSITIVE
STATEMENT/
PROBLEM
COMPlAINT
NISTORY
AenOIL
REQUESTED
November 13. 19_
Mr. Peter Warroad. President
Wonderful, Inc.
36 Marvelous Dr.
Heavenly. OH 66778
Dear Mr. Warroad:
I wish to thankyou for years ofgood service.
However, your record Isnot Intact. considering
that you have refused tocredit myaccount for a coat
that I wish toreturn because ofobviously inferior
workmanship.
I purchased the coat InSeptember. The first tlrne I
wore It. I reached for mycar door and the sleeve nearly
ripped off at the shoulder seam.
Your salesperson. Harold Wainright. refused to
accept the coat In return. He insisted upon exchanging
It. But. frankly. I amsodisgusted with the terrible
quality of the coat that I don't want to take a chance on
another coatfrom you.
I'll most likely continue to buy dresses and
accessories from you. however.
I will return thecoat; and I want the $250 costof
the coatplus tax credited tomy account, number
918273. Also, please remove finance charges of$13
from my billtng.
Sincerely.
142 JOHN'T5CHOHL
STAlE GOVERNMENT COMPLAINT
January 2, 19_
Mr. Hugh Hufuagel
Director, Motor Vehicle Services Dlvtslon
State ofAnxIety
Normal. IL 55555
DearMr. Hufnagel:
POSITIVE You, Mr. Hufnagel, are a public official. That
OPENING meansto me that you are sensitive tothe needs and
optnlons ofthe public.
COMPLAIIIT I have a strongopinion about thebad attitudes
HISlORY and the rotten service byclerks in the motor vehicle
department facility on FaI1safe Street.
SUPPORTING Let me gtve you the facts. On December 30. I sat
fAaS in yourspacious lobby ononeofyourbackless stools
for 62 minutes before my number was called. After that
I waited Inlinefor another 40 minutes. Just as I
reached theheadof the line theclerk tnumphantly and
wttha flourtsh slid her little rectangular message board
Infront of me. ·CLOSED· It read. And she wasgone,
leaving metostand there feeling stupIdand then
enraged.
EIPANSION Now, [ ask you as a politically sensitive position. Is
Of COMPLAINT this any way to treat a constituent? I doubt that Iam
the only person that this has ever happened to. Now
consider that I will be very vocal in discussing this
matterwtth my state legislator and wlth friends and
relatives.
AmON Please forcefully Impress upon yourclerks the
REQUEsrED revolutionary Idea that citizens arepeople!
Sincerely,
143
1HE CUSTOMER Is Boss
TELEVISION STATION:
MISlEADING ADVERTISING
COMPLAINT
AcnON
REQUESTED
January 19, 19_
Mr. John Smith
General SalesManager, WXYZ-TV
Farmington, MO 10101
DearMr. Smith:
I would like to know why your TV stationallowed
the blatantly misleading commercial for BBB Midtown
Hotel In New York to air last night, twice, during your
Sundaynightmovie.
J can personally attest to the fact that BBB
Midtown Hotel offers neither friendly nor efficient
service. I stayedthereseveral times, and J know.
There wasn'tan ounce oftruth In the commercial
and I would I1ke to know when It'sgoing tobe pulled
from the air and why you allowed It tobe run In the
first place.
Sincerely,
144
JOHN TsCHOHL
BUILDING CONTRACTOR: WORKMANSHIP
POSITIVE
STATEMENT
BUSINESS
BENEFIT
AcnON
REQUESTED
PLWANT
REQUEST FOR
RESPONSE
February 23, 19_
Mr. Hany Stringer, President
Stringer Construction Co.
Webulldem, MU 11229
DearMr. StrInger:
Although youworked very fast and cleaned up the
debris resulting from yourwork tn building myattached
garage, I havea complaint. Theoverhead doorcannot
be opened.
I havetalked with your foreman twice. But my
last conversatlon was nearly two weeks ago. At that
tlrne he promised to correct the garage door problem "in
two days."
I'msure that youwant to correct any problem
resultingfrom poorworkmanship to avoid developing a
bad reputation tn the community.
So, please openmy doorand do whatever must be
doneto makesure that I will be ableto openand close
It tn the future.
WlII youplease calland tell mewhenyou'll be out
toopenthe door? My phone numberIs: 461-2859.
Stncerely,

CHAPTER 14
COMPLAINING IN PERSON

"Speak softIy...but carry a big stftk.·
- AoVOCA'lED BY PRESIDENT TEDDY ROOSEVELT

146
JOHN TsCHOHL

You've done it. Your letters and phone calls have paid off
and you're gOing in for a face-to-face talk with a supervisor, a
manager. the customer service manager. or (you can't believe it)
witha corporate vice president or president.
Ofcourse. you tried ta1king to the employee who snubbed
you or misinformed you. to that person's superior, and to the
customer service department. None ofthat helped.
You're going totell the executive why yourcomplaint is
justified: and you're going to ask for satisfaction.
Prepare: Reduce the stress ofa personal meetingwithan
executive focusing uponyou from behind a hugedesk. Do it by
"role playing."
Afriend sits behind a deskor a tablelooking stern and
unresponsive. Imagine that yourfriend really is the executive
you are to meet. (No giggling, now.) Tell her or him about your
problem andwhat you expect the executive to doabout it.
147
THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
Ifyou role play, we guarantee you that you'll feel more in
control ofthe situation when youface the real executive. You
won't be as neNOUS as youwould have been without practicing
for the meeting.
Role playing isn't for everyone: but, if youhappento be
verydetermined to right a wrong, youll seethe wisdom in this
idea.
Dress well. No jeans or baggy or rumpled clothing. Hair
must be clean, neatly cut. and styled. Your statementswill
carry more weight ifyou look reliable and decisive than they will
ifyou look as ifyouwere homeless.
It helps ifyoutake someone withyou, even several friends
and neighbors, all ofthemcustomers or at least potential
customers. Theredefinitely is strengthin numbers in this
situation. An office full ofunhappycustomers very likely will
kindle visions ofdeclining sales and even spontaneous boycott
in the mind ofthe executive.
SpeaksoftIy...but. as President Teddy Roosevelt advocated.
carrya bigstick. Be flrm, Bepersistent. And don't back down.
Ifyou yell, wave your arms, and make threats that you
couldn't keep, youwill win only the executive's determination to
denyyour request.
Don't ever give the impression that youare embarrassed,
unsure ofyour facts. or having difficulty expressing yourself.
Instead, imply that you are accustomed to getting satisfaction
when you complain. State that you're not going to stop
complaining until you doget satisfaction.
You might saythat youhavea busyschedule and that you
expect the matter to be settled then and there.
148 JOHN TsCHOHL
Even ifyou're getting no response, keep talking. Use the
broken record technique: Repeat your main point. After you've
saidthe same thing in sixor seven different ways, the manager.
supervisor, or vice president probably will conclude that giving
youwhat youwant Is a lot easierthan arguing withyou.
Sometime duringa meeting ask, if necessary: "What would
you doifyou were in my shoes?" Imply that it's logical and fair
foryouto request redressfor your service problem.
Towin the executive's cooperation, saysomething like:
"I'min business, too. and I would be upset to learnthat oneof
my company's customers wastreatedas poorly as I've been
treated,"
As a last resort, exert a powerfu1impact by tell1ng the
company that it might as well "kiss oft" both your repeat
business and that ofyourfriends and neighbors. Remember.
companies depend uponrepeat customers for mostoftheir
business.
Therecapitulation: Ifyoucomplain assertively and ifyou
are persistent, there's a good chance that you'll get the
satisfaction that youdeserve.

CHAPTER 15
BETTER BUSINESS
BUREAUS

MBetter Business Bureaus aresoconvenient
that they areworth special comment.•

150
JOHN TsCHOHL

Better Business Bureausare so convenient (there's
probably an office near you) that theyare worth special
comment.
ABetterBusiness Bureau (BBB) performs two basic
functions:
1. maintaining files on companies and
2. handling gnpes,
BBBs represent manufacturers and retailers and are
funded by them.
Files consist mainly oflogs ofpublic inquiries and
complaints. But. unless a complainant names a company. no
file will be available.
Always lodge legitimate complaints with the local BBB
office to helpthemupdatetheir files and improve their service,
Bydoing soyouare doing a favor for other consumers.
151
THE CU5fOMER Is Boss
When a local bureau gets enough complaints on a
company, it "profiles" the concern. Theprofile includes the
company's record in handling consumer complaints. And it
details lawsuits that have beenfiled against the company.
Profiles and other file Information is available to consumers
without charge.
lfyou've been ripped off, fill out a BBB Customer
Experience Record ICER) form.
Filing a complaint with your local Better Business Bureau
yields the same results, generally, as going toself-regulatory
bodies set up by companies in the samebusiness. The BBB
works closely with business,
Don'texpect legal helpfrom the BBB. They won't get
involved in law suits.
Thebureau will sendyour CERform to the company and
ask for an answer. That's all. The company can answer it and
settlethe dispute, offer its own version ofthe dispute, or ignore
the form.
BBBs have noenforcement powers. Their strengthcomes
merely from its records ofcomplaints that are sharedwith
consumers.
ABBB can provide leverage when youdealwith an out-of­
state firm. This is important because some firms move very
slowly or not at all when dealing with people who live in distant
states. They know that you are unlikely to show up on their
doorsteps.
Ifyou have genuine differences with a BBB member
company, the BBB will conduct arbitration in many states.
But, both parties must agree to arbitration.
152 JOHNTsCHOHL
An attorneyis not needed. The outcome - the arbitrator's
decision - usuallyis legally binding in a court oflaw.
Don't place all yourfaith in yourlocal BBB, though. Some
are tougher than others. Some are strongly Influenced by their
business members.
Wh1le the BBB claims that 77.5percent ofall complaints
are "settled," that doesn't meanthe consumer Is always
satisfied. The BBB counts any"reasonable" offer bya company
or rejection ofan "unjustified claim" as a "settlement."
Look in the phonebook for the bureau nearestyou. Or
write: Council ofBetterBusiness Bureaus, Inc., 1150
Seventeenth 5t. NW. Washington, DC 20036, 202-862-1200.

CHAPTER 16
LOCAL MEDIA
ACTION LINES

'The court of last resort."

154 JOHN TsCHOHL

For some consumers, the media are their "courtoflast
resort." But, others look upon the media as their court ofjirst
resort,
Manynewspapers and radioand1Vstations, but not all of
them, maintainconsumer helpservices often called "Action
Line" services. They attempt to resolve problems and publish or
air reports on their efforts and results.
About 134 dailynewspapers in 130 different cities and 39
states have"reader service" editors, at last report.
The New York DailyNews receives 2500consumer
complaints a week. The paper respondsby writing to each
"offender" that a consumer complains about. Twenty
complaints a day are published in the paper withan account of
howthe complaints were resolved.
Similarservices exist at many radio and 1Vstations in the
U.S., such as WCCO-1V in Minneapolis-St. Paul. The station
receives viewer tips to widespread abuses and then produces
special programs to address them.
155
THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
Becoming "Villain ofthe Day" onthe local 1Vstationis a
frightening and motivating prospect for businesspeople. That's
why threatening to contact "Action Line" is a very good way to
elevate recalcitrant businesspeople from their chairs.
But, you must present your casein a way that excites
reading and viewing audiences. The media like action stories
involving named people and places that produce excitingly
visual1V coverage or riveting newspaper copy.
When you cite specific cases in which you were insulted,
treated rudely, or ignored by a business, you have a good
chance ofseeing your complaint in print.
As for political appointees togovernment jobs, theyall
know that there are legions ofreporters out thereitching for a
chance tobarbecue the bureaucrats over the fires ofpublic
indignation. Newspaper and electronic media consumer
services are an effective way tojar politicianS and bureaucrats
out oftheir apathy, brought onbythe fact that theyhave the
only show in town: They have no competitors. Some ofthem
are experts at the take-it-or-leave-it game.
If there's one thing a politician can't stand, it's adverse
exposure in the mass media. They all want to be admired and
flattered in the press.
To find the namesofstations, newspapers, and their
personnel who staffthese consumer services, call your city or
state consumer affairs office. It's usually listed in the white
pages ofthe telephone book underthe name ofyour city or
state.

CHAPfER 17
COMPANY HOT LINES

"Many marmJacturers ojconsumer products
maintain.free 'BOO' exchange numbers.•

158
JOHN TsCHOHL

WhirlpOOl Corporation's Cool-Line service
(1-800-253-1301 in most states) devotes most ofits resources to
answering the question: "Where can I find service for my
appliance?"
Cool-Line pioneered hot line service whenit began In 1967,
answering consumer questions.
General Electrtc started a similar service In the mid-1980s,
Called the General Electric Answer Center (1-800-626-2000),
more than three million calls were handled in 1988.
GE's is a sophisticated operation. Consumers benefit
becausethe system incorporates built-in incentives for dealers
to provide good service locally.
The Answer Center refers consumers to the dealer In their
neighborhoods because manyconsumer inquiries and
complaints (some 800,000 ofthemin a recent year) can be dealt
with best by local dealers. In effect, then, the Answer Center is
referring potential new customers to local dealers. (That's
smart)
159
THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
But, and here's the twist. dealers that are in GE's "little
blackbook" of dealerswith unsatisfactory service ratings do not
receive referrals. That's bad becausemanyreferrals leadto
sales, and dealers know It. So, GE dealerstend to work hard to
provide good service.
Atextbook case historyin bottom-line benefits of customer
service has beenwritten bythe performance ofProctor &
Gamble (P&Gl, the nation's largest producer of consumer
products. P&G prints an "800" number - 1-800-543-0485 ­
on all of its products. Other companies alsoprint "800"
numbers on their products or merchandise.
Duringthe latest annual reporting period, P&G reported
answering about a million telephone calls and letters from
customers. according to Dorothy Puccini. Manager ofConsumer
services,
Athird ofthese replies deal withgripes about products.
complaints about ads, and even withplotsofTYsoap operas
sponsoredbythe company.
Many manufacturers of consumer products maintainfree
"800" exchange numbers. More than 750 corporate complaint
lines are listed In the Conswner's Resource Handbook: most of
them are toll-free. Obtaina free copy ofthe handbook from:
Consumer Information Center, Dept. 78. Pueblo. CO 81009.
The Great 800 Directory also lists "800" numbers of
manufacturers and ofgovernment agencies. It is published by
The Great 800 Directory ce.. P.O. Box 6944, Jackson, MS
39212. The bookis available In most largerIibrartes, The
directory provides the means to call up manycompanies and, at
no charge to you, talk to a real, live person.
Here are a few often-used "800" numbers from TheGreat
800 Directory:
160 JOHNTscHOHL
a Consumer ProductSafety CommiSsion:
1-800-638-2772.
a Insurance Information Institute's Consumer Hot LIne:
1-800-821-0477.
a MACAP - Major Appliance Consumer Action Panel:
1-800-621-0477.
Your librarymayhaveanother directory that will give you
the address and phonenumber ofthe company youwishto
contact If it doesn't have The Great 800Directory. Just ask.
Standard andPoor's Register and Conswners'Index to
Product Evaluations and Information Sources, found in most
libraries, also provide name, address, and phone number
information. Standard and Poor's lists the names ofpresidents
and other corporate officers.
You can also callthe telephone company's toll-free
information number (1-800-555-1212) to find out the "800"
number ofa companyyouwishto call.
Employees staffing hot lines are trained to know policy and
procedures and to tell youwhat to doand whom to contact.
Ifyou have lost all the paper that accompanied a purchase
and If a product does not carry an addressor phonenumber.
call the Better Business Bureau. The BBB maintains a list of
manymanufacturers.
But, ifyou still can't find information needed to contact
retail or manufacturing companies. you mlght be ableto obtain
it from either of two membership groupsforcustomerservice
professionals:
161 THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
SOCIE'IY OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS PROFESSIONALS IN
BUSINESS (SOCAPj
801 North Fairfax Street. 4thFloor
A1exandrla, VA 22314
703-519-3700
INfERNATIONAL CUSTOMER SERVICE ASSN. UCSAl
401 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago. IL 60611
312-321-6800
Thememberships ofthesetwo organizations represent
most ofthe top 1,000 businesses in the United States.

CHAPTER 18
SUE THE BUMS

"1 did itJI did W"

164
JOHN TsCHOHL

If all elsefails in your attempt toget satisfaction in a
serious and flagrant case of consumer abuse by anytype of
business. file a lawsuit.
Sue in Small Cla1ms Court where the average awardIs
about $500. Or. fora higherclaim, sue in District Court. By
the way. use ofan attorneyIs not necessaryIn SmaIl Cla1ms
Court but is advisable In DIstrict Court.
Before you bring suit. though. write a "demand letter"­
a demand for the satisfaction that you desire, You mayget a
surprise in the maIl- an unexpected settlementor a
satisfactorycounteroffer.
Then you can run out the door, waving your arms and
yelllng for all the neJghbors to hear: "I cUd ttl 1did Itl"
165
THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
ARBITRATION
Ifyou can't get satisfaction working onyourown, consider
arbitration. Start with a Better Business Bureau or the
American Arbitration Association (AMI, 140 W. 51st St., New
York, NY 10020. Phone: 212-484-4000. The American
Arbitration Association maintains a Community Dispute Service
and is the largest ofa dozen or so independent arbitration
organizations. MA maintains 32 regional offices.
Arbitration Is a fast. inexpensive, and legally binding
meansofsettling claims outside ofcourt. Both parties (that
includes you) payan administration fee.
Arbitration is especially useful in problems with
contractors related to remodeling and building and in computer
disputes and insurance claims.
Arbitration doesn't come cheaply, though. According to the
American Arbitration Association, cases involving up to $20,000
require an administrative fee of3 percent ofthe amount being
sought- a minlmum of$300.
Business owners must agree to an MA hearing. It Is In
their best Interests to do so to avoid expensive, drawn-out court
hearings.
Some companies, such as Chrysler Corporation, have their
own arbitration boards.

CHAPTER 19
GET HELP

"Knowledge is power. •

168
JOHN TsCHOID.
Directories
Industry Panels
Allies
Federal AgenciesBooks
Magazine and Newspaper Articles

When a business refuses to correct a problem, we must
ask for helpfrom consumer groups andgovernment agencies.
Ifyouknowwhom to contact and how togo about
complaining. you have an advantage over consumers who either
don't know how toproceed with a complaint or who follow the
grin-and-bear-it philosophy oflife. Knowledge Is power.
Organizations listed in this chaptercan give you specific
contact and procedure information and assistance that often
spells the difference between futility andsuccess.
Most ofthese organizations will want to knowwhat you've
done already to solve a problem - letters you've sent. phone
callsyou've made. and soon. So. do everything youcan think
of- everything that youcanbe expected to doas an individual.
Keep careful records ojevery move you make and the
responses you receive.
169
THE CUsroMER Is Boss
Remember that groups set up to help you gam your rights
won't enter the fray until you've exhausted normal recourses.
They expect to see documented proofofunsuccessful efforts to
resolve the problem on your own.
One ofthe most helpful organizations Is Consumer
Federation ofAmertca, 1012 14thStreetNW. Washington, DC
20005.
TheUseful Almanac, an annual publication ofConsumer
News, Inc.• Washington, DC 20045, provides virtually all the
informationthat a consumerneedsto pursue satisfaction.
ConsumerNews alsopublishesDIrectory oj8tate and Local
Consumer Groups.
The Consumer's Resource Handbook Is available. free, from
the Consumer Information Center. Dept. 78, Pueblo, CO 81009.
You mayneedto find a telephone number, preferably a toll­
freenumber. Oneofthe best "800" directories is 1bU-Free
Digest. Thelatest Issuecontains more than 43,000 toll-free
telephone numbers. You can createa lot ofhavoc withthis
manyfree calls. A recent cost, that mayhave increased by now,
Is $17.95. (ToU-Free Digest, Box 800. Claverac. NY 12513,
518-828-6400 or 1-800-447-4700. In llllnois: 1-800-322-4400.
You can use MasterCard or Visa to payfor It.
In the ToU-Free Digest youwillfind the following under
"Business Associations":
NATIONAL ACADEMY OF CONCILIATORS
1-800-638-8242
NATIONAL RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION
1-800-424-5156
U.S. CHAMBEROFCOMMERCE
1-800-424-6746.
170 JOHN TsCHOHL
Another "800· directory is The Great 800 ToU-Free
Directory, P.O. Box 6944, Jackson, MS 39212. Contact them at
1-800-626-1033 except in Mississippi, where the number is
601-944-0123. They call themselves "thenation's largest. most
complete "800· telephone directory.· It covers the United States,
Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
This directory is arranged alphabetically and containsan
alphabetical index.
The NationalDirectory ofaddresses and telephone numbers
is published by General Information. Inc.. 401 Parkplace, SUite
305, Kirkland, WA 98033. Phone: 206-828-4777. Thelatest
information is that this directory costs $45 plus $4.50 mailing
charge. Sendcheck or money order. or use yourVisa,
MasterCard, or American Express credit card. Corporations are
listed alphabetically (52,000 of them) and byindustry
classification. The AT&TToU-Free "800· Directory costs $14.95.
Callyour phonecompany's business office to order It.
Find Federal government agencies and departments in the
U.S. Government ManUll1, publication number 022-003-00948­
5. Cost: $6.50 from U.S. Government Printing Office,
Superintendent ofDocuments, Washington, DC 20242.
Find names, addresses, and phone numbers ofsenators
and congressmen who sit on committees that oversee the
agency you're arguing within the Congressional Directory,
available for $6.50 from the Government Printing Office. When
contacting your congressman or senator, WIite to the staff
director ofeach committee and alsoto each committee member.
171
THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
INDUSTRY PANELS
To improve customer relations. many industries have
created self-regulating panels to handle consumer complaints,
These panels review details ofa complaint and offer
suggestions on howthe problemcan be resolved. Here are
some ofthem:
AMERICAN SOCIE1Y OFTRAVEL AGENTS
4400 MacArthur Blvd. NW
\Vastungton,DC 20007
703-739-2782
AUTOCAP-AUTOMOTIVE CONSUMER ACTION PROGRAM
8400 \Vestpark Dr.
Mclean, VA 22102
703-821-7000
DIRECT MAIL/MARKETING ASSOCIATION
Mail OrderAction Line
6 E. 43 St.
New York, NY 10017
212-689-4977
DIRECT SELLING ASSOCIATION
lDoor-to-Door Sales)
Director ofConsumer Affairs
1730MSt. NW, Suite 610
\VashUngton, DC 20036
202-293-5760
ELECTRONIC INDUsrRIES ASSOCIATION.
Office ofConsumerAffairs
2001 1St. NW
\VashUngton, DC 10006
202-457-4900
172 JOHN TsCHOHL
FICAP - FURNITURE INDUS1RY CONSUMER
ACTION PANEL
P.O. BoxHP7
High Point, NC 27261
919-884-5000
(lCAP) INSURANCE CONSUMER ACTION PANEL
640 investment Building
Washington, DC 20005
202-628-1300
INTERNATIONAL·FABRICARE 1NS1ITUTE
(Dry Cleaners)
12251 Tech Road
Silver Spring, MD 20904
301-622-1900
JEWELERS VIGILANCE COMM1ITEE
919 Third Av.
NewYork, NY 10022
212-753-1304
MACAP-MAJOR APPLiANCE CONSUMER ACTION PANEL
20 North Wacker Dr.
Chicago, IL 60606
1-800-621-0477
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF STATE UTILITY
CONSUMER ADVOCATES
c/o Florida Public Counsel
Crown Bldg.
202 Blount St., Rm. 624
Tallahassee,FL 32301
904-488-9330
NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE
EXCELLENCE
202-833-9646
173 1HE CUsroMER Is Boss
To find the names ofcertified auto repair shops in your
area, you canalso contact the local office oftheAmerican
Automobne Association,
PHOTO MARKETING ASSOCIATION
3000 Picture Place
Jackson, MIT 49201
517-788-8100
THANACAP-FUNERAL SERVICE CONSUMER
ACTION PANEL
11121 W. OklahomaAv.
~ w a u k e e , ~ 53227
404-541-7925
TIRE DEALERS AND RETREADERS ASSOCIATION
Field Operations Department
1343 LSt. NW
Washington, DC 20005
202-638-6650
Indiana: 317-631-8124
Wisconsin: 414-774-6590
Here are a few contacts for financial institution matters:
NATIONAL BANKS
Comptroller ofthe Currency
Director ofConsumer Activities
Department ofthe Treasury
490 L'Enfant Plaza SW
Washington, DC 20219
202-287-4265.
STATE BANKS & TRUST COMPANIES
Board ofGovernors ofthe Federal Reserve System
Division ofConsumer and Community Affairs
Washington, DC 20551
202-452-3946
174 JOHN TsCHOHL
ALL OTHER BANKS
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
Office of Consumer Affairs
550 17th Street NW (FI30)
Washington, DC 20429
CREDIT BUREAUS
FederalTrade Commission (FTC)
Division of Credit Practices
6th and Pennsylvania Av. NW
Washington. DC 20580.
The FTC keeps comp1alnts on file. Ifa file grows large they
investigate. Regional FTC offices are listed in the government
pages ofthe telephone book. Or. request specific information
about the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, Truth-In-Lendlng Act,
Fair Credit BillingAct. and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
CREDIT CARDS
Bankcard Holders ofAmerica
560 Herndon Parkway, Suite 120,
Herndon. VA 22070
703-481-1110.
Educational publications designed to help you manage and
save money and solve your credit problems. Discloses features
ofthe Fair Creditand Charge Card Disclosure Act.
SAVINGS AND LOAN ASSOCIATIONS; SAVINGS BANKS
Office ofThrtft Supervision
ConsumerAffairs
1700GSt. NW
Washington, DC 20552
175
ThE CUSTOMER Is Boss
ALLIES
Find "allies" - collaborators - L1 your search for problem
resolution. Ahotel concierge is the classic example of a
powerful ally. Many airlines have "flight-service directors" or
"passenger-service agents" charged with resolving passenger
problems on the spot.
More than 60 percentofhospitals in the United States
have "patient advocates.· They intervene for patients when
meals are served cold or when theyfeel they've beenbrushed off
by a doctor.
Many department stores havepersonal shoppers who call
around to find a preferred sizeor color.
FEDERAL AGENCIES
For a free guide listing federal agencies and local corporate
consumercontacts, write for the Conswner's ResoW'Ce
Handbook, Consumer Information Center, Dept. 78, Pueblo, CO
81009.
Theseare some ofthe entriesIn the Handbook:
CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFEIY COMMISSION
Office ofPublic Affairs
Washington, DC 20207
1-800-638-2772
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
Correspondence Branch
6th St. & Pennsylvania Av. NW
Washington,DC 20580
202-326-3128
176 JOHNTscHOHL
Also In the Conswner's Resource Hanclbook Is contact
Information for:
Q U.S. Postal Service
Q U.S. Dept. ofHeahh & Human Services
Q Consumer Information Center ofthe General Services
Q Admlnlstratlon
Q United StatesOffice ofConsumer AffaIrs.
BOOKS
These reference books for consumers can be purchased
through book stores. Many libraries have them, too.
You Can NegotiDte Anything, by Herb Cohen.
The Art ofNegotinJing, by Herb Nierenberg.
Getting People tD Say Yes. by Stephen Pollan.
Reader's Digest Conswner Advisor. AnAetion Guide.
Reader's Digest Assn.• Inc. lists state attorneys general offices.
BBB offices by state: and state offices ofconsumer affairs.
Fighting Back, by Dana Shilling. Contains sample
consumer complaint letters for every imaginable Situation:
services, utilities, landlords, credit and banking, media, and
government.
Conswner Source Book. by Gale Research Co., Detroit.
Lists consumer organieations at every level ofgovernment and
virtually every private consumer group.
Satisfaction Guaranteed: The Ultimate Guide toConswner
177
THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
satisjactfDn Guaranteed; The Ultimate Guide tD Conswner
SelfDejense, Linden Press/Simon &Schuster,
Quality CustDmer Service, by William B. Martin.
Getting What You Deserve, by StephenA. Newman and
Nancy Kramer.
FightBudd, by David Horowitz.
Consumer Revenge, by Christopher Gilson. Linda Cawley.
and Rick Schmidt. G.P. Putnam's Sons.
GetEven: The Complete Book ojDirty Tricks, by George
Hayduke, PaladinPress.
MAGAZINE AND NEWSPAPER ARTICLES
Magazines and newspapers often containvery useful
articles. The media named here can be found in largeor
medium-size libraries. Or, you can write to the magazine
publishers (Circulation Dept.) or newspapers (Library or
Circulation Dept.) and ask forcopies. You will be charged.
1. Fortune, "What Sam Walton taught America," by Bill
Saporito. May 4, 1992.
2. Ladies Home Journal, "How to UseConsumerClout,"
by Melanie Berger. March 1992. ABSTRACT:
Complaining about a product or service that doesn't
measure up will oftenget results. Thevarious steps of
the complaint processdescribed. Always start with the
merchant who sold you the product.
178 JOHN TsCHOHL
3. Mpls.-St PaulMagazine. "Wresting the Best Froma
Restaurant," by CarlaWaldemar. March 1992.
ABSTRACT: Tips on getting good service at a
restaurant include communicating withthe server,
asking questions about the menu, tipping
appropriately. and lettingthe staff know in
advance if it is a special occasion. Alist ofpointers
from a restaurateur is included.
4. Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine. "Howto Getthe
Service You Deserve," by Kristin Davis. February
1992. ABSTRACT: Tips on getting qualityservice are
provided.
5. PC-Computing, "Shoddy Service? Don't Get Mad, Fight
Back!" by Wendy Taylor. March 1991.
6. Consumers' Research Magazine, "How to Handle Your
Own Complaint," July 1989.
7. Flower& Garden Magazine, "How to be a Good SeIVI.ce
Customer." by Doc Sprockett. April 1989.
8. Money, "Best ways to get your money back," by Sylvia
Nasar. April. 1989. State-by-state guide to small
clalmscourt.
9. Qmswners Digest. March-April 1987, "Guide to
Washington Consumer Advocacy Groups." Includes
FederalAgencies.
10. Washingtonian, February 1986, "How to Get Help:
ADirectory ofWhere to Complain. "
179
'!HE CUSfOMER 15 B055
11. Washingtonian, February 1986, "When bad service
turns you into awimp, tIy these sure-fire strategies."
12. Consumers Digest. November-December 1984, "What
Drives Us Nuts: How to SUIVive In Today's
Supermarket."

CHAPTER 20
YOUR OWN
CONSUMER GROUP

"You still canfight City Hall and win.·

182
JOHN TsCHOHL

Sometimes, afteryou've beenforced to escalate your
complaint to consumer organizations and government
consumeragencies, you'll find that it's difficult to find someone
who's willing to act onyour complaint when it is a seroice
complaint.
If a product doesn't work or it's dangerous, ifyou don't get
what you payfor, if a product breakswithin a warrantyperiod,
if a shyster bilks you, or even if advertised claims are
misleading, there are plenty ofagencies, departments, offices,
bureaus and commissions to helpyou get redressfor the
wrongs Visited uponyou.
Plenty oforganizations fight forsafety. For quality. For
non-polluting products. Forproducts that don't violate this law
or that.
But, virtually no organizations fight for seroice. Few
organizations fight against rudeness, ignorance, and companies
prowling in the shadows oflegitimate businessenterprise by
promising and reneging. misleading and price-gouging.
183
THE CUSTOMER IsBoss
This should encourage you to start your own organization,
Remember that bad service is one area in which personal
initiative still is effective: You still can fight City Hall and win,
Perhapsthe absence ofgroupsthat help consumers resolve
poor-service complaints will encourage you to form your own
consumer group.
There is strength in numbers. Look for friends or
acquaintances who are as disgusted as you withservice bya
particularbusiness or industry, Then, complain... eachofyou,
Independently. You'll create a very loud noise that your target
business certainly will hear.
Even two people complaining have a greater impact than
one lone voice ofcomplaint. Asingle dissenter could bejust a
whiner having a bad day, a businessowner might reason. A
manager might be ableto rationalize away your complaint by
saying to himself/herself: "Aw, this customer Just got up on the
wrong Side ofthe bed thismorning:
But, two or three or four complainers together, or a
delegation that represents a group ofhundreds...that's a bad
sign, for sure.
Before beginning to organize your own consumer group,
.checkaround to see if a groupWith the samegeneral objectives
as yours already exists. It would be easierfor you to start with
an existing organization. unless it's a group With a bad image,
than it is to build a groupfrom scratch.
Furthermore, If other people inyour community have
organized into a groupto fJght issues similar toyourissues,
carefully consider joining the existing group Instead ofstarting
another one. It's better to enlist their help and to tap their
experience and good will than to arousetheirjealousy by
forming another group.
184 JOHN TsCHOHL
To find such groups, check local newspapers and Interview
reporters who've covered consumer issues. Check with local
government agencies and the largest churchand social service
organizations.
Also, gotoyourlocal library and check:
Directory of State and Local Conswner Groups, published by
Consumer Federation ofAmerica, 1012 14th St. NW,
Washington, DC 20005.
HELP: TheUseful Almanac, which is an annual publication
ofConsumer News, lnc., Washington, DC 20045.
Acity or county consumer protection office can tellyou the
names and give you the contact information for existing local
consumer groups.
Theconsumer protection office can be found under the
name ofthe city or county Inthe phone book. Call the office
and obtaintheir mailing address.
State consumer protection offices are listed in the phone
book, under the nameofthe state.
If youcan't find the phone numberofthe city, county or
state consumer protection office, get help by calling the general
number for your city or state government offices.
Now, let's say that you've learned that there are no
consumer groupsInyour area with substantially the same
objectives as you. You're ready to begin forming your own
group. Here's how to proceed:
1. Visit any remotely similar groups within about a
radius to find out how theyare organized, how they
started, andwhat their most effective tactics are.
2. Hold an organizational meeting as soon as you have
several people Interested in participating, not just
"jOining." Set an agenda. Don't dominate the meeting:
Let others add agenda Items and make suggestions.
185
Tfjg CUsroMf:R Is Boss
3. Decide on the type of activity you want to pursue
first. Don't dIssipate your energies by tackling
too many things at once,
4. Assign specJflc tasks to people in line withtheir
experience, abilities. and willingness to work. Share
responsibility and anyglory: It's a mistake for the
whole operation to depend upon one person.
5. Set small, reachable goals. Achieve quantifiable goals
as soon as possible. Achievement motivates.
6. Don't be concerned about ratsmg money, at first.
Fund-raising is time consuming. RaisIng money is
easier after you have a couple ofconcrete
accomplishments to point to as reasons why people
should contribute. Meet In someone's home and chip
In or share costofphoning, supplies. and
transportation. Sharing can bind a group together.
Meet witha few neighbors and friends toget started. Give
your organization a name. Perhaps buybuttonsthat say50S
(Save Our Service) or something else that you like.
Thentarget the worst service and go seethe manager of
the business. When he or shelearns that you represent a
group, you'll get much better resultsthan you would as an
Individual.
Your consumer group needn't be a separate organization,
remember. You can set it up as sort ofa committee ofyour
existing Neighborhood Association - or service club, employee
association, union. or precinct or ward political organization.

CHAPTER 21
GET TOUGH:
GUERILLA TACTICS

"When the going gets tough,
the tough getgoing."
- NATIONAL ADVERn'lER

188 JOHN TsCHOHL

'here's value In that adage, Getting "tough" is what a
consumer must do when all legitimate, ordinary methods of
achieving satisfaction have beenrebuffed by hardnosed
business people.
But: Don't interpret "getting tough" as "getting mean."
Don't use an Innocent employee as a whipping post.
Don't say nastythingsto salespeople as an emotional
release.
In otherwords, bend over backward to avoid being
unreasonable.
You can find justification for a charitable attitude toward
business, government departments, or non-profit organizations
in a little test. Point out dissatisfaction (instead ofletting
dissatisfaction seethe and bubble within you) to five different
businesses and take note oftheirresponses.
189
DiE CUSTOMER Is Boss
You'll probably leave eachplace ofbusiness - or, at least.
four out offive - either with a smile onyourface or warmth in
your heart. The businesses will have hurried to correct your
problem.
By"complaining" you will illustrate the spirit ofthis book
for yourself. Businesses, government departments, and non­
profit organizations concerned with quality service usually
correct faults when theyknow aboutthem. In most Instances
faults that go uncorrected are those that neither employees nor
customers told mansgers about.
Ofcourse, exceptions exist. Some business people who are
very aware ofthe service dissatisfactions oftheir customers still
spendnothing for a service system. However, theymay spend a
great deal onnewbuildings, ona newfleet ofdelivery trucks, or
onstoreremodeling, fancy merchandise displays. andfull-page
ads that tout their "Personal Service With a Smile."
It's classic head-In-the-sand behavior. The problem ofbad
service clearly exists. Many studies prove it. yet. some
businesspeople resist correcting badservice tothe death­
their businesses' death.
Some businesses seem to get by for years onskinflint
service. (They certainly don't develop a large following ofloyal
customers that way. however.) They provide service that's just
barely good enough to hold enough customers to keep themIn
business.
But. theycertainly leave themselves vulnerable to
downturns Inthe economy, to new competition. andto
demographic changes.
Eventually. many ofthem disappear from the economic
scene.
Thenwe don'thave towony about their badservice
anymore.
190 JOHN TsCHOHL
Now that we are committed to decency and fair play, even
for businesspeople who deliberately Ignore customers and
overlook the bad service that theyprovide, hereare some
effective "get tough" tactics - "guerilla tactics. "
THE MUG SHOT
TheGet Tough consumer carries a Polaroid camera. If a
salesperson gives bad service, pullit out, snap a picture ofthe
employee, and say: "I need a picture to send In with my
complaint."
What you're really after Is service thenand there. You
wantthe employee's attention soyou canpoint out a problem.
A micro-size tape recorder can record a surly clerk's actual
words and convict him "out ofhis own mouth, "ifyou decide
that service was badenough towarrant a visit tohis or her
supervisor;
THE BROKEN RECORD
Another successful technique was developed by specialists
In assertiveness training. It's called "The Broken Record."
There you are in the camera department. Business is
brisk and, obviously, your salesperson is overly eager to be
finished with you.
You ask: "Does this camera have an automatic focus?
How does it work?"
Thesalesman answers: "Most cameras made by this
manufacturer do."
He responds with a similar curt comment every time you
repeat the question.
191
THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
But, you are persistent. You continue to ask the question
over and over again. You change the words... sure. But,
basically, you ask the same question untilyou get a speclfic
answer - nomatter whattheseroiceperson says in response.
Sometimes, a stubborn salesperson finally will answer.
But, be alert for people who fabricate answers that sound good
but are total fiction, just toget rtd ofyou.
TIT FOR TAT
Here's a counterattack to use against complaint handlers
trained to "depersonalize" callers by instantly asking for account
numbers even before saying hello. They may even interrupt
youropening sentence tosayina crisp, efficient voice: "May I
have your account number, puh-leeze?"
So, do the same thing. After you give sucha person your
account number say: "Now, please give me your name and
employee number."
Write down the person's name. Also write down the
promises the customer service representative makes - or note
the fact that the complaint handler makes nopromises at all.
THE OLD "LOUD VOICE TECHNIQUE"
Perhaps you can use this idea: Raise the volume ofyour
voice. Sayloudly but not angrily: "I'm not moving untilyou
straJghten this out,"
Other customers become uneasy andtheyquickly evacuate
the areato avoid the unpleasant scene. Asmart employee or
supervisor does almost anything tosatisfy you andget rid of
you.
192 JOHN TscHOHL
Arlene Cantlon ofRiverdale, Illmots, really didlose her
temper in a discount outlet because the storewas making a
habit, In her opinion, offalling to have advertised goods In
stock.
"Iasked tospeak tothe salesgirl Inthe shoedepartment,
but nobody knew where she was. I waited 35 minutes while
they looked for her. Nobody could find her, so I asked to see the
store manager.
"At this point I had a crowd ofcustomers cheering me on.
Onewoman saidto me, 'It won't doanygood, but go for ttl"
Cantlon finally got her audience with the manager and
some ofthe merchandise she wanted as well.
It was a notable Victory: and it need not be rare. Follow
Arlene Cantlon's example and you will get satisfaction.
Oneirate customer caused a half-hour shutdown ofa
department In a major retail store. Thecustomer had ordered a
product and received the wrong item: so he returnedit. Again
he received the wrong item: and againhe returnedit.
He endedup receiving the wrong item eleven times In a row
and returningit eleven times. He was heard on the floor below
shoutingat a clerk: "This is the eleventh time."
When last seen he was loudly offering to fight the security
men dragging him away.
What this customer didwrong wasto become Visibly and
vocally angry. Anger is a sure way to IWt get what youwant.
Instead, allow yourself...yes, even encourage yourself...to
become "mdtgnant." That's civilized anger. The dictionary calls
Indignation "anger aroused bysomething unjust."
193 THE CUsroMER [s Boss
COMUNICATE: JUST THE FACTS, MA'AM
Sometimes all you need to do is present your case to a
person who has authority to make decisions.
Ahousewife reported that the service contract on her
family's personal computer expired before a renewal ofthe
contract had been offered by the retailer. Although only six
days had elapsed, a salesman insisted that the equipment had
to beinspected at the store (for $25) or at home ($100) before
anothercontract could be Issued.
But, when the housewife phoned the manager, hewaived
the rulesand renewed - without inspection.
PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN
Ifyou are committed tobuying at a place nearyour home
because It Is much closer thananyother business ofItskind,
you have a stake in good service. This nearby business may
think that "service" is mere "maintenance" - fixing your lawn
mower, for instance.
Clearly, It'sbest when the consumer confronts businesses
with their complaints. But for people who are really
uncomfortable expressing theircomplaints verbally - who
would instead simply leave andnot ever come back- thereIs
anotherway to pursuethe problem.
Forthose people a long-term propaganda campaign may be
just the ticket.
Have yourneighborhood fast-print shop printinexpensive
cardsthat you distribute inthe store - andin other stores.
They bear pointed messages suchas:
"I hope you enjoyed your chat. 1didn't." (SeIVice
employees sometimes keep customers waiting while theyhash
over last nlght's partyoryesterday's game.)
194 JOHN TsCHOHL
"Forgive me for Imposing onyourtime."
"Quick! Give meonegood reasonwhy youshould take out
your bad mood on me."
"I don't have to come hereto get inSulted. I can get
insulted at home."
"Please accept mysincerestapologies for having the nerve
to ask youa question about the product/service that you sell."
"Your Ignorance (Of the Products You Sell) Is Not MyBliss."
Spot the cards in conspicuous places as close as possible
to the point where poor service occurred.
After noticing the cards over a period ofdays, managers
and supervisors might get the point: They have a dissatisfied
customer or maybe even a lot ofdissatisfied customers.
You can't help it, can you, if your activity gives the
Impression that a group ofpeople are "carding" the store? You
areJust a modem-dayJohnnyAppleseed serving society.
Your print shop can set intotype the smallamount ofcopy
on the cards. Anartist who works for the shop can drawsimple
figures that you might want as illustrations.
You could have the printing done on 3M "Post-it Notes" to
make it easyto stickthemtodisplay cases, to cash registers
and to counters without permanently marring surfaces, "Post-it
Notes" are stickyon the back.
Or, print on pressure-sensitive adhesive labels in rolls.
They can be peeled offeasily sothey won't permanently mar a
business's property, either.
In these ways youcan attract a lot ofattention for a few
dollars.
Another type ofstickercan be used on envelopes
containing your monthly payments. (Ask the print shop for
suggestions.) These stickers can bear messages such as:
"Letter Enclosed: Please NOTICE it." Or: "Credit Previous
Payment. Please."
195 THE CUSfOMER Is Boss
Hereare examples ofillustrated messages that oneirate
consumer printed on tent-shaped "mini-billboards· that she left
at restaurants:
IJ "The Food Was Cold." (illustration: Icicles hanging
from a plate offood.l
IJ "One Could Grow Old Waiting For Service."
Ullustration: Customer's long beardwound around a
leg ofthe tableat which he's seated.)
This is all perfectly harmless. Most employees have a
sense ofhumor and will derive a sardonic sense ofpleasure
from the mini-billboards.
Don'tever put stickers on boxes ofmerchandise or on
merchandise itselfbecause doing so mJght delay sale ofthe
merchandise. Your object should be to inform the business that
it has unhappycustomers and to give the business a hint ofthe
reason for the unhappiness, witlwut being destructive.
Instead ofposting cards and mini-billboards arounda
business, you might want to hand themto service employees
directly. Make steadyeye contact as youdoso. They will know
that you are serious.
If youare going nowhere with front-line people, write on
the backs ofthe cards: "TO: Store Manager" (or other
appropriate title). Leave cards at customer service desks or
checkout counters- or marchintothe executive office area
and hand them to a receptionist.
Don'tget carried away with thissortojcu:tivity, tlwugh.
Be determinedly constructive. Criticize constructively.
The daya business discovers that customers have rights
and begin honoring themis the daythat you stopyour
propaganda campaign.
196
JOHN TsCHOHL
This is the same day, too, that the owners, managers, and
other employees ofthe business should find you and give you a
gift certificate for the favor you've done them. (We're only
kidding.)
MORE GUERILLA TACTICS
Ifyou've spoken tothe salesperson responsible for your
disgust. and ifyou've had a meeting witha manager. supervisor.
or even withthe president or owner; Ifyou've called the
business; If you've sent well-documented letters; and ifyou have
only brush-offs and insultsto showfor it. then it may be time to
bring up the heavy guns. Now may be the time for...GuerUIa
Tcu:tics
Guerilla tactics are appropriate if you've been stonewalled
bya company determined to prove that it is right, that you are
wrong. and that it was nervy ofyou even to ask for correction of
an error, for apology for an insult. for replacement ofa product,
or for your money returned.
Consider the following guerilla tactics or fashion yourown
creative variations. But. please note; Do not damage property.
Doing so is illegal, You could be sued or charged in criminal
court,
And keep in mind at all times that you are dealing witha
throwback. a pariah in the business world, a business that's
headed for financial trouble. Most businesspeople are your
friends. They would never do anything to alienate you on
purpose.
Bad service often is an oversight. Or an error. Ifyou've
never made a mistake, only then are you justified In
condemning a business' every blooper.
197 THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
RESTAURANf - Apacked restaurant foyer isadead
giveaway that overbooking is business-as-usual here or that
this is a very "hot" restaurant.
Ifyou're kept waiting 20 minutes or so for a reserved table.
what can youdo besides telling the maitre d' that youdon't
intendto wait any10ngeI1 (WaIking out isn't very satisfying.)
First ask the maitred' if hewilltempt the people loitering
at the table reserved for you to leave by offering to buythem an
after-dinner drink at the bar.
Here's anotherideato try, but only if it fits your
personality: Propose to the members ofyourgroup that eachof
them call in a reservation tothe restaurant for the mostpopular
seatingtimeonthe same evening. You agree among yourselves
on the reservation night. Your friends willgive assumed names.
And youall agree that no one willshowup.
Themaitred' willwonder what cursehas beenvisited upon
his restaurant. About a halfhour afterthe time for which the
reservations were made call the maitre d' and gloat.
Or. dropin onthe nearly empty restaurant and accept
immediate seating.
In restaurants. the best guerilla tactic. though, maybe no
tIp...or an insultingly small tip. But. in America. restaurant
patrons often are too embarrassed to leave a small tip or no tip.
So, theytip even thoughservtce wasinsulting and slow. Their
tip reinforces and rewards slow, insulting service, making it
more likely that future patronsalsowill receive bad service,
Thepropertactic is to tip generously - 15to 20 percent
- forgood service, Consider pocketing tips that you do rwt
give to a waitperson who gives bad service. saving it to give to
the nextwaitperson who gives outstanding service,
Food critic JeremyIggers says: "I usually tip in the 15to
17percent range; but dinersshould basetheir tips onthe
198 JOHN TsCHOHL
quality ofservice.
"Bad service - when you can determine that the server Is
at fault - deserves a minimal tip, or none. When you receive
exceptionally good service, especially at an inexpensive
restaurant, it may be appropriate totip more than 20 percent."
This business ofundertipping is something that a lot of
people hesitate to do because waiters andwaitresses aregood at
tossing an insult at you as you leave.
But, be fair aboutIt. Be surethat the poor service is not
the chefs fault Instead ofthe wattperson's fault.
HOME IMPROVEMENI' CONI'RACTOR - Acontractor does
some home tmprovement work for you and the workmanship Is
shoddy. Very shoddy. Water runs down yourwalls. But,your
check has beencashed andthe contractor is uncooperative.
Most contractors would "make it light," but this book Is
not written to help you In yourdealings with legitimate, service­
oriented businesses that appreciate yourbusiness and want
you to return to buy again.
Ifyou encounter an obstinate business that doesn't seem
to careif It never seesyou again, senda copy ofan adthat
you've had set intotype, ready for placement in a newspaper.
The ad copy mJght read: "Have you had a problem with
Jackal Construction Co.? Ifso, please call todiscuss a class
action suit against this contractor toseeksubstantial
compensation for damages. (Your phone number.)"
You hope that the contractor seesthe light after you show
htm the ad. You don't really want to spend the money to run
the ad.
Unless you place the ad, you see, you haven't harmed the
contractor, even though he deserves punishment for his
incompetency and for his hard-headed obstinacy.
199
THE CUsroMER Is Boss
Some situations Justify an "open letter" to the president of
an offending company. Newspapers sometimes publish them In
the "Letter to the Editor" section,
Send a copy tothe president ofthe company with a note
gMng the dateonwhich you'll mall the letter. Businesses
cringe at the thought ofnegative publicity, soyou may get
satisfaction.
NEWSPAPER DEUVERY - One homeowner's dally
newspaper seemed to end up in a puddle outside the door every
time it rained. Even though the paper arrived in a plastic bag.
he still resented the need to bend over and remove the paper
from dirty water. After weeks offuming and calling the
newspaper's circulation department, the homeowner hada
brainstorm,
He sent the next subscription check tothe newspaper
floating in a transparent plastic bagfull ofwater, with a note
explalningthe significance ofthe unusual packaging.
Suddenly, prodded by the circulation manager, the
newspaper delivery person discovered dryspots in which to
drop the ingenious consumer's newspapers.
Another homeowner had a similar newspaper problem.
Thepaperended up inthe bushes almost every evening.
So, the homeowner cut out the newspaper's ad promising
front-door delivery, wrote a message onit, andsent it to the
president ofthe newspaper publishing company.
The publisher didn't reply. But.i.surprtse, surprise...the
paperbegan appearing onthe front step. Also, realizing the
foolhardiness ofmaking a promise they probably couldn't keep,
the newspaper deleted the promise offront-door delivery from
ads.
200 JOHN TsCHOHL
PAYMENr BYMAIL - Aconsumer couldn't get a response
from a human being [justa computer) when she complained, as
she did frequently, about a payment that the computer refused
to credit.
So, she sent the company a checkfor $000.00.
Acheck for nodollars and nocents caughtthe attentionof
the computer. Now it was In the best interestsofthe
computer's keeper to call the consumer. Thecallwas made
withina week.
Over the phone came the soundofan unrecorded human
voice. The consumer made her point, forcefully, and, voilal, the
credit she had beenseeking for months appeared on her next
statement.
Nobody was hurt. Theconsumer washelped.
PICKETING; LEAFLETING
APhiladelphia consumer group, Consumers Education and
Protective Association International, Inc., finds that more than
90 percent ofcomplaints are resolved after a hostile and obtuse
business is picketed - or afterleaflets or booklets describing a
problemwiththe businessare distributed to passers-by or
shoppers.
PIcketing Is more effective thanleafleting In attracting
public attention, and often media attention. But leafleting can
present more detail about a complaint than Is mentioned on
picket signs, and a leaflet can be taken home and read.
Before settingup a picket or leafleting project, give the
business plentyofopportunity tosettleany service complaint.
Ifyouget no satisfaction and decide to proceed, here are several
basic legal requirements to observe, in addition to local laws:
201
THE CusroMER Is Boss
[J N.least one picketer or person represented bythe
picketers must have agenuine dispute with the seller.
a What pickets seek must not be unlawful, nor can the
objective beclosing ofthebusiness. It canbethe
resolution ofa particular complaint or the changing of
a specific bad practice.
IJ Picket signs must not contain false claIms or
exaggerations.
Forexample. it is permissible tostatethat the car you
bought from a dealer is a lemon andthat the dealer
refused to render satisfaction; but it Is not all rlght to
state that the dealer sells only lemons and always
stonewalls his unhappy customers.
IJ Picketers may not use violence or abuswe language or
"breach the peace." Too many picketers or too much
involvement with passers-by may be COnsidered
"breach ofthe peace."
IJ Picketers may not prevent people fromwalk1ng onthe
sidewalk or entering andleaving the store.
IJ Location ofpicketing or leafleting should be related to
its purpose. Demonstrating at the offending storeIs
appropriate. Demonstrating at the owner's home
usually Is not appropriate.
'fly to have a lawyer associated with your group. He or she
should make sure that yourgroup doesn't violate the law.
Notify police that you will bepicketing/leafleting and that
you have taken stepsto make sure that you arenotviolating
the law.
202 JOHNTscHOHL
The purpose ofthese "guerilla" tactics land you probably
can come up with some prize-winning variations) is to call
attention to poor service. When business is aware ofbad
service theyw1ll almost always take steps to stop it.
Whenever you walk the extra mile to inform a business
that service stinks. youare making a personal contribution toa
guarantee ofgood service that is the right ofevery consumer
who spends money tohelp support a business andits
employees.

CHAPTER 22
BLAME THE MACHINES

"Machines are great at acting,
but legions ofconsumers will swear,
they are incompetent when it comes
to reacting to anything but routine needs."

204
JOHNTsCHOHL

As need for service nses, the amDWlt ofpersonal service
delivered declines. Why? Because business, preoccupied with
short-term savings. turns over muchservice delivery to
machines.
Let's look at voice mall systems, a perfect example ofnon­
service. There's no service in voice mail for many customers.
Just for the sponsoring company. The telephone company
benefits, too, because callers often endup making more than
onephone call afterreaching a dead-end and a disconnect,
according to a studyofthese systems.
Themanufacturer ofthis kind ofequipment benefits. of
course. The manager in charge ofsystems at the user company
benefits also because he/she becomes a hero by saving much
money in the elimination ofhumanoperators.
Finally, the personnel department benefits because the
payroll declines.
205
THE CusroMER Is Boss
The only loser is the customer who is put to a lot of trouble
trytng to complete a call. One waits 30 seconds for a recorded
message and then another 30 seconds for another message
before giving up.
Machines are greatat acting but, legions ofconsumers will
swear, theyare incompetent when it comes to reacting to
anything but routine needs.
When a transaction proceeds according to a computer
program, then the machine purrs along smoothly.
But. when a consumer holds up a handandsays"That's
not what1ordered" or"I don't wantto know my balance, the
amount ofmy last deposit orpayoff amount" thenthe machine
stU! purrs along contentedly...dumbly...unresponsively.
Of course, we can't blame the machines. The people who
operate the machines are at fault. Service is only as good, as
complete. accurate andfast as the people who run the
machines.
Part ofthe blame must be accepted bybusiness decision­
makers, the bosses ofthe people who operate the machines.
Often theyaddtechnology strictly for their own benefit. Orso it
seems to consumers victimized by computers that dial their
phones and then speakto them. ("Sequential dialing" phone
equipment is usedto reachmore prospects at less cost. even
thosewho have unlisted numbers.)
Onthe otherhand. many companies are attracted to high­
techequipment bytheirpotential to provide better customer
service, That's a fact. Thatwasthe motivation for banksto
begin installing teller machines onstreetsandin retail stores.
Still, some business executives act as iftheyare blinded by
the glitter oftechnology. They automate to save money or to
make more money - not to improve service to their customers.
Not even to avoid a decline in the present level ofservice,
206 JOHN TsCHOHL
Often they don't stopto ask the bigquestions: "How will
this automated procedure affect our customers?" 'Will their
needs bemea" "What problems will this automation create?"
Funds are transferred electronically. Robots take over
from people on the assembly line. Computers do all the
calculating and feeding information to printers that print
invoices and account statements. Millions oftransactions every
dayill insurance companies, banks, and other financial
lnstitutions are handled electronically,
But, business has failed to achieve customer comfort with
the machines ofthe electronic age, a fact that diminishes their
capability to deliver service,
A cartoon expresses the consumer predicament. It
shows a man wearing an anxious expression standing belly-up
to a curb-side teller machine. His expression says that he's
hoping against hopethat the gadget, over which he has no
control, will dispense money from his account when he punches
ill the right numbers.
The cartoonist leaves us to wonder whether the machine
paid off.

CHAPTER 23
HOW TO GET
ROYAL TREATMENT
EVERY TIME YOU BUY

"The Golden Rule:
Treat emplDyees the way
you want to be treated."

208 JOHNTsCHOHL

Imagine service witha smile, employees who rush to help
youquickly and to answer every question withcertainty.
Imagine never getting into hassleswithemployees or harangues
with their supervisors.
Onewayto achieve this state ofblissIs to patronize only
businessesthat provide fabulous service at all times. Since
there aren't enough businesses likethat togoaround, take
matters into your own hands. Make good service happen.
Let there be no doubt: You cando somethingyourself to
improve the level ofservice that you receive.
Consider these meansofmaking good service happen:
209 THE CUSTOMER Is B055
1. Change your attitude about service employees,
Many employees were conditioned inthe 1980s soc1al
cllmate to feel that it is much better to be the boss
than the bossed. They believe. and theysay: "Nobody
tellsmewhat to dol" They are proponents ofthe belief
that the customer is always wrong in any encounter
with a service delivery employee.
To manyofthem service is sort ofaninsultingword,
Providing service is demeaning. They are
determined that theywon't doonewhit more for you
than theymust do to keep you from complainlng to
their supervisors.
Now. understand that people are a product oftheir
environments, They learned theirvalues and
behaviors from family and friends, from all the people
they've come in contact with, and from preva1llng soctal
standardsthat theysee acted out around themevery
day. So, be tolerant toward service people: They're
just acting out theirsoctal conditioning.
Set out to reeducate them.
Sure, service people ought torush up to you with a
smile ontheirfaces and say, "Is there anything I can
doto helpyou?" But,iftheydon't, don't become
angry. TIY to Influence their behavior. Even turn them
into friends.
2. Act in a friendly manner toward service employees,
Asalestransaction basically is a soctal
transaction. You earn good service the sameway you
make friends. by applying the Golden Rule. You
receive in direct proportion to what you give. So. do
this:
210 JOHN TsCHOHL
Cl Smile when you approach a service employee.
Use good eye contact. Call the employee byname If
you know it orIf you canread It ona name badge.
Greet the person with a fr1endly comment.
Cl Compliment employees on knowledge, helpfulness,
dress, grooming...anything. One way to sustain
good service Is totell a helpful or friendly or
knowledgeable clerk that you appreciate theirgood
service. Service people receive kind words so rarely
that their memories ofcompliments and
complimenters arevery acute.
Cl Look pleasant. Don't scowl. Despite training,
employees may hesitate to approach a customer
who looks like he or sheate clam shells for
breakfast. George LaMarca ofDes Moines, whose
occupation Is handling disputes between
consumers and businesses, gives an example of
"the friendly approach" Inaction. He suggests that
instead ofyelling at a waitress about poorly cooked
meat or cold hot apple pie, win her over with
friendliness, even if you don't feel fr1endly.
She'll carryyour message to the chefand say
something like: 'There's a gentleman out there
who's unhappy with his meal." ThatWill get much
betterresultsfor you than: "Ihere'san old grouch
out there who's been giving mean earfull..."
Ifyoutreat employees brusquely and If you Indicate
byyour manner that you feel that they are
obligated to respond toyourevery outrageous
whim, then you will receive the service equtvalent
ofa chop to the solar plexus.
211
ThE CUSTOMER Is Boss
3. Ask for good service; "I really need your help. Idon't
know anything about VCRs" lor perennial flowers: or
hiking boots; or boom boxes).
Every human being loves to be asked for help. It
makesthem feel worthwhile. Needed. Arequest for
help is a compliment, implying that youthink that the
personaddressed is capable ofhelping.
At Byerly's supermarkets in the Minneapolls-St. Paul
metro area, every employee Is required to answer
every request or to write It down on a notepadthat all
employees carry, and to obtain the answer immediately
from a supervisor.
Thesupermarket chain'scustomer service reputation
is so good that advertising, except byword ofmouth, is
unnecessary. Thechain's only advertising [with a few
inexpensive exceptions) is free - word-of-mouth
recommendation by pleased customers. Is it possible
that exceptional service has won this reputation for
Byerly's?
4. Avoid askingquestions endlessly and unnecessarily.
Don't, for instance, ask price, sizes, colors, and so on
when the information requested is prominently
displayed on price tags or signs.
Stories are told about people - male and female ­
who try on every shoein a shoestore before buying.
Aconsumer has a certainresponsibility to know
what she or he wants before askinga salesperson to
sell It.
212 JOHN T5cHOHL
5. Act as Ifyou expect good service. suggests Jane
O'Brien ofthe Los Angeles Better Business Bureau.
"The main thing," saysO'Brien. "is to give
salespeople the benefit ofthe doubt. Feel as If
everything is gOing togoall right untilit doesn't
"And practice the Golden RuIe: Treatemployees the
way you want tobe treated."
6. Dress neatly and cleanly.
Just as people dressed like bankers get more
respect than people dressed like The Three Stooges. so
does a customer get more respect - and more
attentive service - if he or she is dressed neatly In
clothes without soup stains onthem.
The storyis told In a Pittsburgh department store
ofa middle-aged woman who Violated just aboutall the
Rules for Royal Treatment By Salespeople.
As she entered the Daywear department a look of
anger spreadover her face. It was as if someone was
standing at the entrance withan invisible paint brush
andswabbed the look ofdisgust onher face as she
passed. Perhaps she was remembering past bad
treatment. lfso, she was assuring herself ofmore of
the same.
The lady wore a faded dress, muddy shoes, and a
hair-do that looked like it was home to a family of
wrens,
She looked aroundand spied a clerk atopa stool,
reaching high toplace some boxes onan uppershelf.
The clerk hadn't noticed the customer, yet.
213 THE CUSTOMER Is Boss
Thescowling customer walked to within 10feet of
the clerkand said, "Hey, you. Have yougot timeto
wait on somebody today?"
Shegot exactly the service she deserved,
Customers are not always right, thoughsome
businesspeople exhort employees to act as If they are
always right. Some customers don't know what they
want and they also are overbearing, rude. and
Insulting.
Often these are the same customers who complain the
loudest about poor service. It's a mystery to themwhy
so manysalespeople are...rude, overbearing, and
Insulting.
Another reasonthat people receive badservice is that
theysignal to clerks bytheir mannerisms. by eye and
body movements, and by the tonesoftheir voices that
they expect service to be terrible.
Perhaps theycan't be blamed for expecting poor
service, though. The only good service they've ever
known may have beenprovided by their mothers when
they were children.
But, ask them iftheywould rather have service with a
smlle and eager salespeople who treat them like
friends and they'll say. "Sure, but where doyou find
service like that?"
Maybe you don't "find" service. Maybe you make it
happen. Force yourself to realize that you can do
something about the level ofservice you receive. It is
possible toget attentive. friendly service nearly all
the time ifyou treat salespeople as friends.
214 JOHNTsCHOHL
Ifyouchange your attitudes toward salespeople.
and Ifyou act as Ifyou expect good service, your
chances ofreceiving good service improve immensely.
Afriendly attitudetoward salespeople is so rare
that clerks treated respectfully Jump to attention and
serve you as if youwere a celebrity.

CHAPTER 24
WHAT'S IN IT
FOR BUSINESS

"We canhelp theseorganizations see the light.
Thafs goodfor us andfor them. •

216
JOlIN TscHOHL

Don·t feel sorryforbusiness. government. or non­
profit groupswhenyou compla1n about bad service.
You're dotng them a favor by complamtng,
How elseare theyto knowwhat causes customer or client
dissatisfactiOn?
How elseare they to stay In business except by satisfYing
compla1nts and by leamtngabout the needsand wants of
customersso they can prevent compla1nts - thereby generating
the maximum number of satisfied customers possible?
Hereare benefits ofquality service for business, someof
which also applyto government and to non-profit organlzanons:
217
THE CusroMER Is Boss
1. Increase in market shareandreturnon sales.
Dominance in their markets.
2. More frequent sales. Repeat business. Larger sales.
Order upgrading. Reordering.
3. More customers. including more new customers.
4. Savings in marketing-adverusmg-promotion budgets.
When present customers remain loyal. companies
don't have to spend as much money attracting new
customers.
5. Fewer complaints. More word-of-mouth
recommendation of the company toothers.
6. Positive company reputation. This pays off bothin
attracting new customers andin making It easier to
hire employees with customer service skills.
7. Differentiation from competitors. Often there's l1tt1e
difference among competitors in theirproducts or
merchandise. So. quality service becomes the reason
that consumers choose one company over another.
8. Improved employee morale and productivity because
customers respond positively to them.
9. Better employee communication: Staff members get
along bettertogether because theyare in better moods.
doing work theymore often enjoy,
10. Fewer employee grievances. absenteeism and
tardiness.
11. Less employee turnover. Lower retraining costs for
veteran employees.
218 JOHN TsCHOHL
Here's a clear expression ofthe benefits ofgood
customerservice: Satisfied customers return. This Is
significant because 65 percent ofthe businessofan
established company. on the average, comes from customers
that return again and again, according to the Amertcan
Management Association.
When you complain. you can feel that you helped the
business you complained to by prodding the company Into
better service.
So. feel goodaboutcomplaining. You are doing a business.
government, or non-profit organization a favor whenyou
complain.
Some business, government, and non-profit organizations
provide outstanding customer service. But. many otherstreat
customers and clients as if theyare obstacles or Inconveniences
Instead ofthe sourceoftheir financial survival.
We customers and clients can help these organizations see
the light. And that's good for us and for them.

219
THE CUSfOMER Is Boss

If you havethoughts. comments or ideas about this book,
I'd love to hear from you. (please no requests for personal
advice.) Write to me at the following address:
John Tschohl
service Quality Institute
920I East Bloomington Freeway
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55420 USA
Phone: (612) 884-3311
Fax: (612) 884-8901

"Customers must take action to get the servire they deserve. The Customer Is Boss is a quality guide that shows consumers how to get good customer service every time. "
GERRI DE1WEILER

ExEclJlJVE DIRECTOR. BANKCARD HOWERS OF AMERICA

"The voice oftheconsumer has never been nwre powerful than in today's competitive and complex global market. Businesses know that if they are to succeed.

then they must beable to react to theconsumer's needs. In The Customer Is Boss, John Tschohl offers a road map. detailing how consumers can let businesses know the quality they expect inservices and products."
ELIZABETH DOLE
FORMER UNITED STA'lES SECRETARY OFlABoR

"A simple. no nonsense book that can definitely help thefrustrated consumer who isn't getting the satisfaction they deserve from a product or service."
JEAN M. Om:

PREsIDENT.

SocIEIY OF CuSTOMER AFFAIRS PROFESSIONALS

VICE PREsIDENT.

QuALnY AssURANCE NATIONAL CAR RFNrAL

"John Tschohl has done a great
servirefor the average under-serviced.
consumer. Here is the true art
of complaining - how to. who to. when to ­
with pra£ticaUy guaranteed results.·

JERRY NOACK

PuBusHER. T1IAIMNG MAGAlJNE

"A bill of rights and a guide to action for customers; contains thought

provoking ideas for business managers."
DR. WU.JlAM 8YHAM
CEO. DEVEWPMENr DiMENSIoNS lNrERNA7YONAL
Co-AUlHOR. ZilPP

~CustomerfflB~sisahe~~g~ftr

taking care of your most valuable asset - your customers."
KEN BlANCHARD
Co-AUlHOR, THE ONE M!NuIE MANAGER

"The Customer Is Boss is a treasure chest of

practical informatiDn about earning good seroice.
I highly endorse the strategies in
John Tsclwhl's excellent bookr

PAULJ. MEYER

FbUNDER. SOCCESS MOllVATION lNs'ImnE. INc.
AND lD.DERSHIP MANAGEMEl'If, INc.

"John Tsclwhl has done it againl Now the conswner has a personal handbook to guarantee receiving excellent seroicefrom store clerks to attorneys; every quality consciDus owner and manager slwuld have their customers read this book."
DR. ROBERT E. HUNTER
PREsIDENT, DELTA DENTAL P1JlN OF MAssACHUSEITS

"Excellent book - John Tsclwhl has included not only the what but also thelww - the'lww' to get good sensce. I know whatgood seroice looks Wee. This book wiu help me get more of it.•
Ai WALKER. CSP, CPAE
PREsIDENT, NATIONAL SPEAKERS AssocIATION

LurnERAN BRalHERHOOD "An educated consumer that lets us know our strengths and weaknesses is our greatest aJ.• "The 'customer' nwvement in business is now reoching even the nwstresistant pockets of government. need constructivejeedbock to give better service.l theqUfl1ity and efficiency they deseroe. We." RoBERT GANDRUD PREsmENr. DollAR SYsrEMs • .· GARY PAXI'ON PREsmENr. Tschohl tells them how. in business. But it won't be complete anywhere WltU paying customers demand aJ.· ARNE CARLSON GoVERNOR OF MINNEsarA "A refreshing approach to handling service irwitations.ly in our questjor total customer satisjoction.

I greatly appreciate it. THE CUSTOMER . The price of the book will be repaid many times over by the savings it will render. John Tschohl offers practical steps for both registering a complaint andgetting satisfaction. VIDEOmM CoRPORATION. WIITfELY VICE 1'R£sIDENT.fight back against the aU too.• OLEG URALOV PREsIDENT." CAVE'IT RoBERT • . • RICHARD C.finest books ever written in the important. especially in Russia.• "The Customer Is Boss will help consumers. RUSSIA "I sincerely beUeve that The Customer Is Boss is one of the.DRlVEN CoMPANY "This book is very concrete and reaUstic.frequent product and service abuses they suffer. Don't pass up theopportunity to absorb thesefabulous ideas. AurnOR. It's entertaining enough to make it digestible and the poweifuI prindples are presented withthe divinity of simplicity.field ofcustomer service. and greatly neglected. THE FoRUM CoRPORATION.

. I support the ideas and pradke proposed in this book. SERVING ThEM RIGHT • . M!KHAIL KABATICIlENKO. CHAIRMAN. Yes. . ED. quality service is attainable. EoOCA1URS FOR PFACE AND UNDERSI'AND1NG INRlISSlA M MMany books are wrtttenfor bosses on how to provide good service. and The Customer Is Boss is the initiative that can make it happenr M BERNIE TRACHl'ENBERG PuBUSHER. It returns control back to the customer.a unique and important difference. This does not guarantee exceUent service for the customer. Now John Tschohl gives the customer the toUs to get super/Dr service .with clarity ofpurpose and simply-stated logic. he's created the consumers' MBiU ofRights when it comes to better customer service. HUMAN RmJURCE ExEclll7VE MAGA2JNE 'This book is very usejulfor all people in Russia.• 'Tschohl does it again. M lAURA IlSWOOD AVIHOR.D. who really is the boss.

AUSlRIA THOMAS MEINL -At last. John Tschohl has provided an exceUentJormat and increased customer satisJaction. Customer service pays huge dividends and customers who are persistent. in business. to do an even betterjob in seroing our customers to their complete satisJaction. Juuus MEINL.• -John Tschohl's exceUent book motivates us.· PREsIDENT. HOME VAW • ." RUDY BOSCHWITZ UNllED STA'1ES SENA1E CHAIRMAN. CPAE -John Tschohl's new book is a primerJar every buyer­ and seUer. The Customer Is Boss teUs them how. NATIONAL SPEAKERS AssocIATION NAOMI RHODE CSP. firm and reasonable will get their way.· PREsIDENT ErEcr.a book that helps the consumer recognize their privilege ojgood seroice and their responsibility to reward those who give it by their businessl Again.

lNDVSlRIAL ORGANIZATIONAL Psl'cHOIJXJIsr • .8RAzlL MJohn Tschohfs titles make you think. ATKINSON GoVERNMENf AND 1NDus7RY AFFAIRS OFFICER. this book to really understand why The Customer Is Boss. PH.D. GREEN.• MA practical blueprintJor solving problems." ANDRE PALO HERMANN me. his examples make youJeel and his /ogic makes you aqtee." DEE J. KEMPER NATIONAL INsURANCE CoMPANIES MIn BraziL every consumer should read. it is his concept that makes you act! The Customer Is Boss is a quick read with workable ideas." PAUL C.: But.

and how to address the latter. STEW LeONARD'S • . good seroice.just what the buying public needs. Bu1LDING SUPPLY HOME CENlERS "Must read/ Tschohl tells you how to create happy customers.· STEW LEONARD PREsIDE:Nf. No more caveat emptor (let the buyerbeware). Thank youJohn Tschohlfor champilJning the fight-back crusade. Now Tschohl is to be salutedfor shoWing us how to be aware ofgood seroice and bad seroice. This book is going into our manager's success library at Stew's.• "A wonderjUl A to Z game plan on how to demand. Thisfast­ read book is a 'must read'for us all." PATRICIA COLEMAN VICE PREsIDENT/AssocIATE PuBUSHER.

CasrA RICA MEveryone has received poor customer service at one time or another. UNIVERS1DAD LA17NOAMERlCANA.• MIjoundJohn Tschohl's new book really helpji. In The Customer Is Boss. W ALVERO CASTRO HARRIGAN REcroR UIAcn. I strongly recommend itjorcustomer service seminars and courses.Jl in transmitting the idea oj 'the customer is first' to people working directly with students in my University. W BILLMACK ScUlPTOR • . myfriend John Tschohl telu:hes conswners how to change poor customer service into the quality customer service they deserve.

THE CUSTOMER IS BOSS APRACTICAL GUIDE FOR GETTING WHAT YOU PAID FOR AND MORE • John Tschohl • jl BESTSEllERS I~ -PUBLISHING .

Phone: (612) 888-7672 and Fax: (612) 884-8901 Publisher's Cataloging-in-PublicationData Tsehohl.5. John.T 1993 381. HF5415.dc20 92-076103 CIP . For Information address Best Sellers Publishing. p. Customer Service. Minneapolis.33 . I. Pnnted and bound In the United States of America. Title. No part of this book may be used or reproduced In any manner or form without written permission from the publisher except In the case of brief quotations In articles and reviews. MN 55420. 9201 East Bloomington Freeway. ISBN 0-9636268-0-9 1. The customer is boss: a practical guide for getting what you paid for and more / by John Tschohl.Copyrlght © by John Tschohl. em. All rights reserved.

PAGE 43 WE DON'T COMPLAIN ENOUGH CHAPrER 5 .TABLE OF CONTENTS • CHAPrER 1 .PAGE 31 FIGH'I'ING BACK PAYS OFF CHAPrER 3 -PAGE 37 SHOULD YOU COMPLAIN? CHAPrER 4 .PAGE 57 PREPARATION: JUST IN CASE CHAPrER 7 .PAGE 61 THE WORKING DOCUMENT CHAPrER 8 .PAGE 51 COMPLAINING PROTOCOL: USE OIL INSTEAD OF VINEGAR CHAPrER 6 .PAGE 65 HOW TO COMPLAIN EFFECTIVELY: STRATEGIES • .PAGE 17 SERVICE: HOW BAD IS IT? CHAPrER 2 .

• CHAPTER 9 . ACTION.PAGE 109 HOW TO WRITE 'THE LEnER' CHAPTER 13 ..PAGE 105 LIGHTS.PAGE 149 BmER BUSINESS BUREAUS CHAPTER 16-PAGE 153 LOCAL MEDIA ACTION LINES • .PAGE 123 LEnER SAMPLES CHAPTER 14-PAGE 145 COMPWNING IN PERSON CHAPTER 15 ..COMPlAINI THE FIRST RULE CHAPTER 11. ACTION.COMPlAINI THE SECOND RULE CHAPTER 12.PAGE 77 EFFECTIVE COMPlAINING: BUSINESS BY BUSINESS CHAPTER 10-PAGE 103 LIGHTS...

PAGE 163 'SUE THE BUMS' CHAPTER 19.PAGE 157 COMPANY HOT LINES CHAPTER 18.PAGE 207 HOW TO GET ROYAL TREATMENT EVERY TIME YOU BUY CHAPTER 24.PAGE 181 YOUR OWN CONSUMER GROUP CHAPTER 21.PAGE 203 BLAME THE MACHINES CHAPTER 23 .PAGE 167 GET HELP CHAPTER 20 .• CHAPTER 17.PAGE 215 WHAT'S IN IT FOR BUSINESS • .PAGE 187 GET TOUGH: GUERILLA TACTICS CHAPTER 22 .

.

Steve coordinated the communication program for Service Quality Institute for some seven years. and to Steve Franzmeter. general interest magazine editors. who assisted me in the writing ofthis book and who co-authored my other book. To my wife. Pat. "Thank you" for tolerating my obsession with excellence in customer service. Christina and Matthew. DUring that time he managed to persuade hundreds oftrade and business magazine editors. electronic media program directors and others that the articles and news stories that he submitted to them were worthy oftheir media. who has been my assistant for more than 19years. My Service Quality Institute staff. Thejob that is too difficult for Hazel has not yet been invented.ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS • My special thanks go to Hazel Brown. syndicated writers. • . Achieving Excellence Through Customer Service. and to my children.every one ofthem­ has been extremely cooperative in obtaining information requested from them and in validating details.

.

but in America today when we get good seroice we are surprised by it. they don't demaIld it.PREFACE SOLUTION TO BAD SERVICE: COOPEUTION • MIt's a shame. IBM • .F." . and they settlefor a lDt less than they should. (BUCK) ROOOEI5 /ibmerCorporate VIce PreSident oj Market1ng. G. People don't expect it.

.2 JOHN TsCHOHL • F the past 12years I have been teaching businesses how or to provide quality service. Business must offer good service to consumers who are determined to both prevent and reject bad service. consumers know whattheycan doto obtain quality service.. 1. Only then will our economy achieve the service ideal sought by most people. when business Is motivated to provide quality service. and. 2. . During that time I learned that a true service-oriented culture in America is possible only when.

product knowledge. and the ability to actually solve your problem. 2. courtesy.. What is my justification for making this promise to you? Over the years I have worked with thousands ofpeople called "consumers. no matter what your complaint.. and in supermarkets. you. prevent badservice: or. and places In between. I will teachyou methods that have been effective for men and women just like yourself in big cities. it will be repaired or replaced to your satisfaction. convenience. You will experience a boost In the respect shown you by professionals such as physicians. to change bad service to good service." I've learned why salespeople and others in service positions treat you poorly and what you can do to. I have come to know not only the frustrations of consumers but the causes ofpoor service by some businesses. cangain satisfaction in the marketplace If you refuse to accept service that doesn't meet your needs or desires In terms ofpromptness. You need no longer feel that you are doomed to be a vtctim the rest ofyour consuming life. the consumer. I. in restaurants. You will feel secure and fearless in the knowledge that tf you purchase a product that fails through no fault ofyour own. . small towns. When you follow the Simple guidelines In this book. This book is dedicated to the principle that consumers and business benefit when consumers demand good service In a reasonable manner and when they exercise informed and effective cIiticism ofbadservice in this service economy. dentists and attorneys. you will gainbetter service in department stores.THE CUSTOMER Is Boss 3 No matterwhat your problem.

4 JOHNTsCHOIlL Aloud. threatening approach is uncalled for. • . It's easier for you to feel that you are Justified In complaining If you complain for the right reasons. Instead ofencouragtng an openness to listening and a desire to solve your problem. problem-solving dialogue. reasoned. table-pounding. government. effective manner. Read on and discover that complaining can be an honorable avocation if you do It constructively and for legitimate reasons. So. You. We hope that this book will promote reasoned cooperation through which much more will be achieved than could be done through confrontation. Theproblem ofbad service can be solved through cooperation between consumers. and business. You must be as fair as you want business to be. as an individual. have power . This book shows you how to challenge bad service Ina calm. on the one hand." Remember that friendliness with salespeople has a way of begetting friendliness (and good service) by salespeople. It's also counterproductive because.fight back and to improve service for yourself and for other consumers who have tolerated rotten service far toolong. Read on and learn that you are rwt helpless Inthe marketplace. and private organizations on the other.power to. this approach puts the person on the defensive and closes out any possible chance for having a constructive. one ofwhich is rwt "revenge. read on.

~ ~Personal service has • ..INTRODUCTION • become a maddeningly rare co1Tl1TlDdity in the marketplace. and now they want it back. customers know service when they miss it..

supervisors. Complaints bycustomers often are the first hint for a business that its employees are alienating customers. not the rule. every customer would feel complete satisfaction so that theywould return to buy again. Here's where you come In. Consider this reasoning: Abusiness cannot correct a service defiCiency untilit is aware that a deficiency exists.6 JOHN TsCHOHL • Good service is as muchthe responsibility ofconsumers as It Is ofbusinesses.at leastto yourself. But. But. supervisors can't stand around and watch their service employees at work all day. Too many ofus have accepted bad service as a normal part ofeveryday life. If supervisors had theirway. Thisbook points out that you. You must call bad service to the attention ofmanagers. also have a responsibility . . as a consumer. owners and othersto whom front-line service employees report. working at cross­ purposes with management. It should be an exception.

to be an unwelcome Interruption In an otherwise pleasant day...you encourage a repeat performance for unsuspecting future customers. too. the customer.or don't provide.. You should instead complain to the wattperson's supervisor. Do not ever allow an outrage or an oversight to slip by without telling a service person about it. consumers must "complain". Things have gotten so badthat service workers expect tips no matterhow rotten the service they provide.constructively. Every time youtip a waitperson who didn't notice you for 20 minutes and then brought your steakwell done Instead of medium rare.THE CUsroMER Is Boss The message inthJs book is: You can obtain redress for wrongs visited upon you by those businesses interested only in 7 the shortest or fastest route to your wallet and who feel they can't be bothered to provide service also. don't ever excuse it. If they do not apologize or correct a problem.. as you ordered It. it costs business nothing extra to be friendly. Every time you let bad service go bywithout objecting. . unlessyou consider the costofpersuading employees that they should provide service and showing them how to do It. You can obtain satisfaction for Insulting treatment by salespeople and byclerks who consider you. Complain before dissatisfaction degenerates Into anger. You're making It acceptable for them to not beinterested In dOing a good job. Fight back! Resign from the sllent majority.. then tell theirsupervisors. After all. You're rewarding employees for being lazy. Don't ever feel guilty aboutcomplaining. So. When a business gives you surly service. you're encouraging It. You pay for good serviCe. You deserve good service.. We urge you now to resolve never to accept Insults or Indifference by people you're buying from.

yet. Complaining is appropriate and necessary. you are more orlessforced to tip everywhere you go. Or. you must complain. Agood point to make to bustnesspeople is that theysave money on new advertising and promotion when theykeep more ofthe customers won byprevious advertising and promotion. Tadashi Nishimura of Osaka: "I don't mind tipping. So. you will continue to get bad service and suffer frustration in the form ofsplitting headaches. positive impact upon the bottom line. There is satisfaction in winning fair treatment when all around you consumers are shaking their heads and grinding theirteeth. following the guidelines in this book for claiming the service that you payfor pays off. One way that consumers can influence business to provide good service is to educate business owners and managers to the fact that a proper service attitude and satisfied customers have a strong. .8 JOHN TsCHOHL Said a Japanesevisitor to America. It shows you 1ww to gettogether With otherconsumers to bring stronger pressure to bearupon reluctant businesses and theirstaffs. It canbe a competitive edge." In a business environment that is becoming more impersonal and automated than ever before. but services I got in America were so bad that on a number ofoccasions I could not reward them with money. upsetstomachs and brooding anger. Some businesspeople don't reallze that good service is profitable. It shows you 1ww to strike a blow for service. BENEFITS OF FIGHTING BACK There is solace for the spirit In fighting back. This book tells you 1ww to fight back. It can be the only reason that they survive in bad economic times.

. . byall means. Do rude or ignorant and indifferent service workers anger you? If so. and now theywant it back. your spouse andyour relatives but merely glare at offensive service employees? If so.· Never forget that you ought to complain.) TIME magazine wrote in a cover story on customer servrce: "Personal service has become a madden1ngly rare commodity in the marketplace. Your money buys the right to respectful treatment.notjust the right to spend yourmoney andgetthe goods. then this book Is for you. Do you rage about rotten service to your friends.THE CUSTOMER Is Boss a presentcustomer.. This book shows you how to complain effectively. the right to be informed. thenyou should read this book. Call It "constructive criticism. then you should read this book." !fyou feel this way. because the costofa purchase should pay for both the merchandise and the service.customers know service when theymiss it. 9 at costsfive times as much to obtain a new customer as to keep ACTION FOR SATISFACTION This book also shows you how to earn good service when you make a purchase and how to obtain satisfaction when business orgovernment agencies provide bad service. assisted and respected . You ought to take action to win satisfaction because by doing so you help fellow consumers obtain good service In the future.

• . after all. Businesspeople. They don't oppose the notion ofproviding good service. more companies will adopt that philosophy." With yourhelp. theyare often so narrowly focused uponprofit that they tend to overlook service. don't intentionally seekcustomer dissatlsfaction. One company displays a large signwith the words: "We love it when you give us the business. But.10 JOHN TsCHOHL You will also be helping business.

THE BUSINESS POINT OF VIEW • "Consumers are not the only losers in the perilous world ofcaveat emptor (let the buyer beware). soare the companies that rejiLse to recognize positive benefits ofresponsive consumer policy." -JACKGIlL5 Consumer Fedemlion ojAmerica • .

Surveys consistently show that consumers think they receive bad service . Office ofConsumer Affairs and by corporations themselves. but we don't think theyare. That's possible. but the signlficant point for business Is that poor service Is perceived as a problem by consumers.12 JOHN TsCHOHL • What we have In the marketplace today Is a problem Business often argues that the problem is exaggerated. by the U. . Their views appear In reports on surveys by leading customer service research firms.S. Consumers could be wrong.a lot ofit.

byvarious business scamsand by underfinanced businesses so absorbed with day-to-day survival that theyhave no time to build a service organization. Leading companies always "take care ofyou" or correct a problem without question. can be written about creative service strategies in business . These are the times that consumers can doa favor for themselves and for the business bypointing out the deficiency to the business. The company does not exist that wants you. Nevertheless. vitamin therapy . I've written that book already. to take yourbusiness to its competitors. It's entitled Achieving Excellence Through Customer Service and it was published In 1991 byPrentice Hall. aveIY large one. there always seem to be some businesses In "hot" fields . don't make the news very often. Actually. In the realworld deficiencies do occur.computers and software." They do a lotofbusiness without providing good service. too. strangely. But. Throughout this book. Also. environmental sanitation. we've credited business for some outstanding service achievements that. .that have tapped a vein ofgreatconsumer demand and then become complacent l1ke the Cheshire cat In "Allce In Wonderland.aboutemployee training to head off customer dissatisfaction and complaints and to resolve any unavoidable complaints to the satisfaction of customers. we've reminded readers that most businesspeople and employees ofgovernment and private organizations go out of their way to win the totalsatisfaction oftheir customers and clients. Poor service often is perpetrated byfly-by-nJght operators.ThE CUSTOMER Is Boss 13 THE BAD EGGS: GOOD BUSINESS REPUDIATES THEM Aseparate book. Customer satlsjoction Is the goal ofvirtually every business owner. the consumer.

Remember when the employee at the insurance office sounded so friendly when you called with a question aboutyour premium? Remember how pleased you were when you received the requested information the next day? Remember that waitress who made you feel at home and rushed to get the extra sour cream you asked for? She deserved the bigtip you left. To be fair. we must judge each businessindividually. Tell yourfriends about it.not paint all businesses with the same brush. most businesspeople krww that long-term customer loyalty.14 JOHN TsCHOHL But. Applaud it. Or service practices have grown old and weak because they've become routine. Abusiness hasn't yet trained employees or begun a formal service program. their chickens come home to roost and are eaten by the Cheshire cat! The don't-give-a-damn attitude shown by some businesses toward consumers is rejected just as vehemently bythose businessesalready providing good service to consumers. That's good service. Still. is worth far more than any brief benefits gained from arranging matters for a company's convenience . Enthusiasm has waned.. Service faults usually are faults ofomission. eventually. Ifwe are to come as close as possible to the truth. .. Managers don't review and reinforce service practices or demonstrate their own commitment to quality service.and for customers' inconvenience. won withgood service. we should not generalize. Remember the building supplies store salesman who carried that boxoftileto your car? You could have carried it yourself.

let's have a little recognition for those businesses In which we consistently find unfailing smiles." says Gillis. alertness and enthusiasm. public affairs director for the Consumer 15 Federation of America. The story is told ofBillie Burns. renowned for Its good service. broad product knowledge. So. • . is perceptive enough to see the wider significance of poor service: "Consumers are not the only losers in the perllous world ofcaveat emptor Oet the buyer beware). He waswaiting on the curboutside the store when the man's car screeched to a stopand paused Just long enough for a fast exchange. former men's clothing department manager at a Nordstrom department store. friendly patience. Burnsgathered up a bag full ofblazers. and underwear and charged them to the customer's account. competence. "So are the companies that refuse to recognize positive benefits ofresponsive consumer policy.TflE CUsroMER IsBoss Jack Gillis. slacks." Most companies know It. Burns received a call from a regular customer who was hurrying to the airport and needed some clothes.

.

CHAPTERl SERVICE: HOW BAD IS IT? • 'This is supposed to be 'the service society.' So where's the service?" • .

I want to complain." . Tuesday: "With my shoes still squishmg I head to the office. which had been repaired on Monday. I can't get anyone at ourBoston office to answer the phone. When it shows up therearen't enough seals and the heaterhas gone berserk.m. Not to worry. said the helpful person at the appliance store. Someone will be over 'between 8 a. The copier is out again.m. and 4 p.18 JOHN TsCHOHL "We could get a lot more done around here if we didn't have all these customers bothering us. "Things aren'tanybetter when I finally get to work. flooded the kitchen floor again." • Aman who lives In a suburbofBoston wrote this plaintive account of his service expertence on one very badday: "The dishwasher. and my lunch plans go awry when the fancy French restaurant 'loses' my reservation. but no one answers the transit department's toll-free customer-service number. But. the train Is late.

. is the only time that manyservice businesses operate. . Your pharmaCiSt gfves you the wrong prescription. low. You can't find your morning paper because It's nestled behind the bushes." Thewaitress bringS you a well-done steakwhen you ordered rare. know how bad service is. here comes anotherone.. too. or a blouse labeled "Machine Washable" shrinks. Youngblood points out. You most likely experience bad service every day. the reader. crtpes. TheVCR runs only in reverse. Paul.and circles. the refrigerator freezes the lettuce but not the ice cream. yourbaggage has beenput on another plane to yet another destination. By the time you land. Your flight takes off late. Just when we ordered a pizza. thinks that the service economy is a 19 hoax.ThE CUSTOMER Is Boss Dick Youngblood. He lambasted "those troglodytes [anyone who lives in a primitive. business columnist for the Stnr Tribune of Minneapolis-St. Because traffic Is stacked up. or degenerative fashion] ofthe service sector who insist on keeping 9-to-5 working hours" despite the large number offamilies in which everybody works and nobody's home durIng the day. the plane circles. You. Employees act as if they think: "We could get a lot more done around here if we didn't have all these customers bothering us. You've encountered problems ranging from indifferent sales clerks to rude waiters to the purchase ofexpensive items which not only fail to work but also seem impossible to service." You walk into a business and you notice an employee peeking around the edge ofa display rackwearing an expression that says: "Oh. You may have a cache of personal horror stories stored in a comer ofyourmind. Daytime.

according to the National Consumer Survey (NCS) sponsored by the U. This1s whatyou deserve. or to buy something at the deli. Nearly one-third ofall households in America experienced at least one stgnifiront consumer problem during the year before. . You stop afterwork to cash a check.whose patronage pays them. This is whatyou should expect. In the supermarket. moving one place forward every five minutes.20 JOHN TsCHOHL Thefurniture you ordered with six-week guaranteed delivery hasn't arrived aftertwo months. They should be attentive and listento you. Of households reporting problems. Office ofConsumer Affairs. more than 60 percent told of losses averaging $142. you oughtto let somebody know about it. or to pick up a gift: at one ofthose all-purpose drug stores. People who earn their incomes providing service to customers . and her feeble greeting soundsmore like a grunt. And if you don'tget it. don'tyou think? They should move qUickly.S. The only signoflife the clerk shows is to take your money and to drop your change in your hand. They should be helpful and know enough about their product or service to answer questions. She doesn't look at you.' So.should be courteous. We are justified in remarking: "This is supposed to be 'the service society. where's the service?" These experiences and many othersare uncomfortably familiar to everyone. several checkout lanes stand closed while you wait in one ofthe open lines.

and this time you lose a day's pay. But. He doesn't call to sayhe won't be able to show up. Nearly 15 percent ofthe problems Involved lost time from work while Waiting for repair people. helpful personal service. Asurvey reported that more than 70percent ofsome 100. One study discovered that one out offour purchases results in a problem.THE CusroMER IsBoss 21 That $142 was the sum of commerCially done work such as clothes washing and dIying while an appliance wasn't working. you'd never know it from the difficulty consumers experience In findlng genuinely friendly. is service people who treat them like road kill. Instead." or who quickly disappear when they seea customer approaching. Will you pay me for the time I lose from work waiting for you?" Otherresearch supports these NeS findings.. inoperable or ineffective product that was not returned for refund or exchange. Does the plumber reimburse you? Don't ask! THIS IS ASERVICE ECONOMY? Economists call ours a service economy. So you stayhome a second day. either. This Isa common variety ofbad service: You stayhome from work to letthe plumber In and to lock up after heleaves. or who seem to be"out to lunch. "We'll bethere between 9 a. What consumers aregetting. . But the plumber doesn't show up. You ought to say: "Oh.m.m.000 respondents experienced problems with grocery products ­ from a bug In thejamto spoiled oranges. aren't you wonderful. and 4 p. cost ofrepair or replacement when no free repairor replacement was available and uncompensated time lostfrom work waiting at home for service people." says the very friendly service scheduler on the phone.

. Ifyou forego those things. the customer Is barely tolerated. former CBS News commentator. believes that service in our "service economy" has worsened.22 JOHN TsCHOHL Business Week magazine wrote: "At manydepartment stores these days the customer Isn't always right. point out that retailing oftengives "no distingUishing service" and. where employees buzzed around a car with liquid glass cleaner." they really ought to say "some retailers.. patience with others is what makes a democratic. has "reaped the reward . common courtesy. In their popularbook A Passlonjor Excellence." No doubt. That bothers him.Is the exception. what have yougot?" Tom Peters and Nancy Austin. chamois and water can as if theywere competing for a Service Attendant ofthe Year award. civilized society operate. Civility. In fact.." They write: "Common decency.. . He says: "The decline ofservice goes along with the decline of civility. mostbad service is given by the same retailers over and over again." When Peters and Austin refer to "retailing." Ertc Sevareld. kindness. as a result. People under 25 maynever have seen a service station attendant wipe windshields except In the 1983 movie Back to the Future.fed-up customers. That leaves a sizable number of retailers whose names never show up negatively in consumer surveys.

depressed. And experts in customer service say that service in our service society generally stinks. checking oiland waterlevels. . Maryland. They scurry about swiftly pumping gas. Hands fly among the hoses and belts. They become angry. or insecure when salespeople ignore them. I believe. so statiStics on service level don't exist. No government agency maintains a Helpfulness Index. and shouting for the driver to unlatch the car's hood." How many consumers have experienced service so bad that they felt like complaining about it? Nearly all ofthem. they make afeature story out ofit. snap at them or hurry to get rid of them. cleaning every Inch ofglass. A drop ofsweat falls from one employee's forehead and lands on the front bumper. to wait in long linesand to have clerkssay "I don't know" and "Sorry. Kroger Food Storessurveyed consumers and found that more than half expected that they would be miStreated in some way. I'mgoing on break. They expected to be ignored. Two Eastham attendants nm toward every car that pulls up to the pumps. Quickly he bends over and wipes it offwith a clean cloth. Can you believe it? The entire service process lasts aboutthree minutes. however. Bad service is seen by manyconsumers as a personal insult.THE CUsroMER Is Boss 23 When the media hear about a service station With service. They are offended whensalespeople haven't considered their customersimportant enough for them to learn the answers to common questions about the merchandise or service they sell. We are left to the opinions ofexperts. "Good mornmgl" theyyell out to the driver. Newspapers raved about Eastham's service station on Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda.

Although the salesperson lowered his voice. deliberately arriving afterthe lunch-hour rush. "Looker. He went to the store on a Tuesday afternoon. We can'tgo taking outthe spec sheets unlessyou know which one you want to buy. He planned to look at the vartous systems. then walked back to the other clerk." the salesman said. One approached him eagerly.000 sale. When Jason wasready to ask questions. at a time when he thought business probably would be slow. listen to how they sounded. "The signs saywhat you get. Jason heard him derisively say." saidJason. .24 JOHN TsCHOHL Jason had been saving his money for more than a yearto buy an expensive home entertainment center. theywere notbusy. There were two salesclerks on the floor when Jason arrtved and. never reaI1zIng how close he came to making a $1. He said nothing. knowing he would have to try again somewhere eise on another day. as he hoped. Guess U's going to be anotherbad week for my paycheck." Theclerk's smile froze. saying. "Another slow week. s!r?" "Not right now. He left. "I just want to look around for a while. and then ask a salesperson to explain features of the various systems that he found most desirable In his price range." Then the two clerks proceeded to talk to eachother abouta movie theyhad seen. the clerk dismtssed him with a wave ofthe hand saying. "Can I help you." Jason was as disappointed as he was angry.

. lady. "Just a minute. Sipping coffee and cheering the home team on. 2. She knew the features she wanted and the general price range she could afford.at a different dealership. Home electronics or computer salespeople. Mary understood the loyalty. Yet when she tried to get someone to wait onher. She hadno questions to ask. It was another three weeks before shecould take time again to look for a new car.fWe minutes. She was a fanherself and had hoped to watch the game. TALK ABOUT BAD SERVICE Bad service takes many forms.ThE CUsroMER Is Boss 25 MaIY was In the market for a new carwhen shewent to the showroom of alocal dealership." What they didn't anticipate was that Mary's patience lasted only. But this was the only time she had to get the car and shehoped that she could make her purchase and leave quickly. The salespeople were gathered around the set. or auto parts store employees who arecondescending toward you because you ask questions about a product's features and applications. High school students working at minimum wage in a local hardware store who are so uninformed about products that any question other than "How much does It cost?" is met with a blank stare. How many ofthese characters and situations do you recognize? 1. They tossoff incomplete or unbelievable answers to your questions like they would throw scraps to a dog. But when she arrived a football game was onthewidescreen television in the waiting area set aside for customers having theircars serviced. the sales staff kept saying.

if they can't avoid responding toyou. Or. reflects the rise in dining out and the decline ofcommon courtesy. thereby "encouraging" you to wait in the bar for yourtable and to buy expensive chinks. applIance store. says Money. . They usually glance at you. But. They give crisp. rarely establishing eye contact with you. boutique. you see. 5. cold. employees walk byyouas if you're a mannequin. for sure. Bankswith long lines and teller windows that close just whenit's your turn. because they realize that they must be helpful and friendly since that's theirjob. Money magazine observed that some restaurants have come to be noted for their"hors deals" rather than their "hors d'oeuvres. or government office.26 JOHNTsCHOHL 3. In a department store. 4. they're not going to doany more than they must do to keep you from complaining to the manager. Doctors who are always "1UI1Itlng late. they speakwhile continuing to fill in records or to stock shelves. 7." The service situation in restaurants. Salespeople who obviously feel that playing the customer-is-always-right role is degrading. Restaurants that overbook or understaff. 6. just barely avoiding rudeness. but you haven't seen the doctor at that time in ten years. Doctors apparently overschedule to maximize their incomes: Some patients might not keep their appointments." Their office secretaries make appointments for specific times. Service is not something theygive with great enthusiasm. and abrupt service.

and he could have apologized.from "Do you have the time?" to "Please pass the salt".he always said: "It's not myjob. over-50. As a service to people who are Indecisive and hesitant about complaining. the maitre d' could have shown some concern. "However: she said. 27 ANew York City restaurant that caters to employees on Publishing Rowandto the arts crowd also is well known for bad service. Three security people converged on her. over-50. Next to the unaccompanied child sent out to buy something at the last minute for a harried parent. but. with no apology for the long wait. "Don't bother. and overlooked" females to buy from mail-order catalogs. and faded females are the most ignored customers In the world. and a bit flabby?" asks BarbaraS. Sometimes diners dinelonger than a restaurant expects. Bach ofIndianapolls. Thisis not the way things ought to be In a Civilized SOciety." "Have you ever triedto buy something In a fashionable shop if you are a female.ThE CUSTOMER Is Boss A restaurant InWest Los Angeles is notorious for overbookings that result In waits ofup to an hour. overweight. Salesclerks will avoid you as if you have the plague. gray-haired." She couldn't get anyone to waiton her so she finally picked up the skirt and headed for the door. The late comedian Freddie PrInze chose the problem of Indifference as a comedic trademark. An hour later theywere given a table. fat. No matterhow simple a request . here are valid grounds for complaint: . One man and his guest were shown Into a tinywaiting alcove whenthey showed up for a reservation that had been confirmed and then reconfirmed. "they didn't offer to wait on me: She urged "over-50.

CARELESS SERVICE: To some servtce employees you are an unwelcome interruption. I interrupt them until I get their attention. thinking that shunning will encourage you to leave. . you give up. ortoo busy shelf-stocking to be bothered bya mere customer.28 JOHN TsCHOHL CJ UNWILUNGNESS TO ANSWER QUESTIONS. partialanswers to questions like scraps to a dog. working on them. handed off and passed all over the field. CJ COLD. CJ AVOIDING. They disappear as you approach.. Service is crispand abrupt. vowing revenge. CJ FAST. Some hospitals and doctors treat patients like cadavers. chatting on the phone. Service employees give the appearance ofhelpfulness. IGNORING: Employees seem to be on perpetual coffee break. IGNORANCE OF MERCHANDISE: Some salespeople give flippant. stock shelves. or talk witha friend. They want to finish with you quickly so theycan get on with more "important" business like discussing last night's date. IMPERSONAL MANNER. Some government employees seemto be very good at giving the brush-off." CJ THE BRUSH-OFF: You're treated like a football.. Sometimes theywalk byyou without even looking at you. not onewhit better than necessary to avoid the Ire ofsupervisors. You find them absorbed in personal conversations. Sometimes theyignore you.never speaking to them. After you've become tired offeeling like a pigskin. talking over them. One veteran female consumer says: "I never leave. while continuing to fill out forms.

• .THE CUSTOMER Is Boss Cl PROMISES NOT KEPI': Attorneys say: "It's in the 29 mail. Appliance repair technicians promise to come onTuesday. o FAILURE TO RETURN PHONE CALLS: You call and leave messages repeatedly. and you set up housekeeping in a motel. Moving companies promise an arrival datefor yourbelongings and miss it by days." Furniture stores schedule adelivery date. then Ignore it without telling you. You deserve better. Your calls aren't returned because you are a problem that the business does not wish to solve. but they don't show up and don't call.

.

CHAPrER2 FIGHTING BACK PAYS OFF • "Fight back! You don't have to take itJ" .­ ..... ..

43. Minnesota." "CBS This Morning..(But now) I use the telephone and the typewriter. mother of four. I get resuUs. By return mail she received a certificate authorizing her to have the windows repaired. ofBloomfield Hills. At last report noneofthem had withdrawn sponsorship: but stillMs.. so Gayle Knutson ofSt. paid by Ford. I used to throw them away." -DAWNSOVA Women's Day Mogaztne • Twowindows fell out ofher Ford. Rikolta gotresults. corwinced that to complain would only draw form letters. Shewrote letters to all 45 sponsors ofthe show. objected to the way female characters were treated in a certain1V situationcomedy. Teny Rikolta. items arrived broken orfood spoiled. wrote to the Ford Motor Company about it.campaigning for her position. . The cost ofthe window work and other repairs was about $500.32 JOHN TsCHOIlL "When products proved poorly made." and "Entertainment Tonight" . Louis Park. MichJgan. She appeared on the network 1Vshows "Nightline.

Others simply don't have the self-esteem or personality type to confront others. find that 33 most businesses settle complaints graciously. Fight bacld You don't have to take it . Consumers wield great influence here. that only 10 percent ofpeople disgusted with service actually complain. in fact. items arrived broken or food spoiled. Instead.(But now) I use the telephone and the typewriter. Eve. far more people complain among themselves than complain to an offending business.. They decided that they would confront the manager. even when they are certain that their complaints are justified. They must make complaining the rule instead ofthe exception. Or.. COMPLAIN EVERY TIME If the inclination to shut up instead ofto speak up is ever going to change. then more businesses will realize that good service Is in their best Interests and will provide it. Look at it this way: It's logical to complain in our society. convinced that to complain would only draw form letters. Amajor national survey found. consumers must undergo an attitude change. poorly amplified sound track. What happened? He gave them free movie tickets. I used to throw them away. still. Why? Some people are too polite to complain. If large numbers of consumers consistently press their displeasure upon business.THE CUsroMER Is Boss Joe Ctmmet. One night they went to their local theater." But. they spentthe night straining to hear a scratchy. and his wife. expecting arelaxing evening. I get results. Dawn Sova wrote in Woman's Day magazine: "When products proved poorly made. freelance artist. they think that only yahoos complain.

You ought to complain becauseit's right to do so ­ because businesses are wrong to makeyouwait for 20 minutes. and also headaches..34 JOHN TsCHOHL There Is benefit to the splrttin fighting back.and for the sake of the majOrity ofbusinesses that will almost always jump through a hoop to satisfytheir customers.. Don'tallow them to intimidate you into silence whenyou know very well that even by business's own standards you are being poorly served.or service that they specifically pay for.as soon as they know that the customer is dissatisfied..O.. Fighting back may be a sJgn ofthe times. complain to avoid injustice. Fight back! Demand service. and the waybusiness Is conducted. you're being cheated whenyou get neglect and eveninsults. When an employee treats you as if you have B.•fight baJ:k forthe sake of all other consumers.. . One ofyour obstacles in your fight-back crusade will be managers and executives who believe that customersdeserve onlymerchandise . There'san upsurgein personalaction throughout our society. There's pleasureand satisfaction in winning fairtreatment.. People believe more than everthat they can change government. So. wrong to turn loose salespeople who know little more about the merchandise they'reselling than how to turn it on and off. social and economic conditions. and hypenrentilation... FIGHTING BACK IS IN STYLE More people are fighting back. Don'tlet a single example of rudeness or socializing at your expense go unreported. And they're doing it So. hlgh blood pressure. confront businesspeople who continually Ignore you. Since you pay for service.

the businesspeople believe. These are likely to be the same businesspeople who say "Caveat emptor!" ("Let the buyer beware. too.. We aren't gOing to hand over our money without msrsttng that we get full product or service value. • . "Caveat emptor!" We will beware. as if it is the ultimate rationale for bad service. business better beware.. let's pick it up.fine." We will consider a transaction incomplete until we are satisfied. And when we beware. Well."]. If they want to throw down the gauntlet. "Full value" means "full service.THE CUsroMER Is Boss 35 Any pre-sale or post-sale service is a bonus that customers have no right to expect and are unjustified in criticizing.

.

" .ThE OFFICE OF CoNSUMER AFFAIRS • .CHAPTER 3 SHOULD YOU COMPLAIN? • "Complaints areopportunities to rectify customers' problems.

Ifyou readthe newspapers you've seen it happen many times: Multinational corporations seeking even more profit take over companies whose assets theycovet. but not a centto maintain or to develop courteous. corporate downsiztng and plant closings have displaced (de-employed) more than two million workers every yearsince the late 1970s. According to the National Planning Assn.38 JOHN TSCHOHL • You should complain. Leveraged buyouts and hostile takeovers never are consummated for the purpose of improving service. They spend millions on the finanCial transaction itself. Complain to organizations whose poor service is part of their lean-and-mean management plan that reduces the number ofemployees who make person-to-person contact with consumers. helpful service. .• a Washington­ based business research organization.

Theway that poor service develops. You aren't hurting an organization bycomplaining.THE CUSTOMER Is Boss 39 Afew months later poor servlce reaps its reward: Apublic outcry in the press. As a result ofmergers and unwillingness ofcompanies to spend money to develop quality service. businesses cannot correct. So. They become disillusioned.. . who have their own storiesto tell. don't biteyourlip and letthe bile lise. Quite the contrary: You're helping. immediately. Why? Because you're bringing a problem to the attention ofmanagement. then businesses can correct. or government pressure forces a company to hire a vice president ofcustomer service. or clamp your mouth shut and let the pressure build up. That's because when customers complain. If customers don't complain. Service declines. and unmotivated. a service that will be appreciated by mostexecutives.. The best organizations know that it is in theirinterestsfor customers who are dissatisfied to complain. is through the "demotivation" ofemployees. Prevent a heart attack by letting management know. After a merger or takeover their fear ofbeing fired distracts them from theirwork. sometimes. unless you swear at themwhile you're describing the problem. to announce a new customer service program. about bad service. people keep coming up with new horror stories to telltheir friends.or even to provide better service. DON'T BE EMBARRASSED There's no need to be embarrassed about complaining. ademonstration outside corporate headquarters. dispirited.

That cost is five times higher than the costof keeping existing customers. .. The Office ofConsumer Affairs states: "Although many managers view complaints as a drain on resources. When customers complain they are more likely to continue buying from the organization theycomplain to." NO EXCUSES SERVICE Most retailers operate on profit margins ofabout l-to-S percent. Good service prevents the need for a company to spend money to attract new customers and clients to replace those that bad service has alienated.. whencustomers complain and goad organizations into service improvements. there's still no excuse for shabbytreatment at the hands ofrude salespeople. Add to meager profit the apparent mass flight of competent salespeople. This may seem strange. or for appliances or furniture with six-week-guaranteed delivery that are still"on the way· aftertwo months. even if they don't receive total satisfaction. the sort oflist that the president ofthe International Customer Service Association would read from the podium at the group's annual meeting: "Satisfled customers return.. theyare helping them save money.40 JOHNTsCHOHL Here's a concise list ofthe benefits ofgood customer service for business.complaints maybe an extremely valuable marketing asset.. or for roadblocks thrown in your path when you try to get replacement or repair service for a new product that doesn't work. Asolid base ofsatisfied. calculated bya standardgenerally accepted by customer service pros. So. and it's a wonder that retailing survives. This said. but it's true. loyal customers minimizes the cost ofattracting new customers.Complaints are opportunities to rectify customers' problems.

complain1ng is good for business. When minor complaints were resolved to the consumer's satisfaction. California. shoes. There's simply no excuse for surly. before the recession that began in 1991.. when theylisten to customer complaints and when they work hard at reducing the number ofreasons for complaining.THE CUsroMER Is Boss 41 "Companies that respond to these 'opportunities' are rewarded through continuing brand loyalty. competent service. has proved that retailers candovery well.. $310. The company enjoyed the highest salesper square foot ofanydepartment store in the country. . you see. So. the highly regarded. Nordstrom has stores in more than 40 cities in the Pacific Northwest. the same National Consumer survey found that only about a third ofcustomers with minor problems who didn't complain at all said theywould repurchase. That was $160 more than the average. generally in direct proportion to the degree oftheir responsfveness. In its National Consumer Survey the U." Nordstrom Ine.if theywant to. 70 percent of complainants reported that they would keep onbuying. uninformed service. 46 percent still indicated that they would repurchase the problem product or service. indeed. and eastern cities. Among those whose minor complaints were not satisfactoIily resolved. and soft goods retailer that's been in business since 190I.. But. Office of Consumer Affairs found a strong relationship between complaining and brand loyalty. Feel good about complaining. Seattle-based apparel. Any business can train and motivate theiremployees to provide friendly. Consumers have always known that good service yields competitive advantage.S. Minneapolis.

you aren't patient. and non-profit organizations provide outstanding customer service." Every oncein a while a recorded voice says." But. Here's an example ofa problem that could be solved more easily if business would simply change a procedure . manyothers treat customers and clients as if they are obstacles or inconveniences Instead ofthe source oftheir survival. • ." you feel like blowing a high-pitched whistle into the phone receiver even if you know that the voice you hear is recorded. It's up to customers and clients to helpthese organizations see the light. "Thank you for being patient. remember that organizations that treat customers as 'adversaries' instead ofas friends are beneficiaries ofyour complaints. good service can be achieved withjust a simple change in attitude by front-line seIVice people led by managers and executives .42 JOHN TSCHOHL Indeed. government. preventing this aggravation would require only scheduling the same stafffor more hours during peak calling periods so that real people could answer the phones promptly. In this case: You're on the phone listening to a repetitious message that says.plus changes In procedure that expedite service. Somebusiness.staffing level. But. If you hesitate to complain. After the seventh or eighth "Thank you for being patient. In many cases. Hearing a voice expressing the assumption that you are patient whenyou aren't is likebeing thanked for your vote by a politician you voted against. not victims ofthem. "All service representatives are busy.

.CHAPTER 4 WE DON'T COMPLAIN ENOUGH • "I'm mad as heU..and I'm not going to take it anymore!" FRoM mE MOVIE NE1WORK • .

4.44 JOHNTsCHOm. eatingfood from a supermarket. They don't know how or where to complain. Complaining isn't worth their time and effort. or shopping for clothing. but not one minuteto correct overpricing." -lNrRODUCTIONto A Publll: CU1Zen's Action Marnud • Some consumers spend thousands ofhours driving a new automobile. 3. And those people who abdicate. "telling off the salesperson In their imaginations. shakingtheir heads. Shoppers are sheep! Consumers feel that: 1. They just walkaway. and visualizing themselves relatingtheir experience to their long-suffering spouses or frtends. They mlght be embarrassed if they complain. and hazards associated with these products! Service Is bad largely becauseconsumers allow business. "It's no wonder that in the marketplace or in the haUs oj government those who are organized and knowledgeable {get] their way. . government units. It won't do any good. fraud. or vegetate are taken. and private organizations to get by with it. delegate. 2.

theydon't even botherto complain anymore. no one complained to the cashier or to the manager: said Shade. no salesperson broke away from a group to take her payment." And she wentbackto exchanging chtld-reanng anecdotes with two otherwomen. so." This extreme tolerance for bad service can be explained by the fact that some consumers have received bad service for so long that they expect it. Finally. the picture would look even worse for business. "Although six otherpeople waited as long or longer than we did. She also cancelled her charge account. newspaper told a story about a woman who waited at an untended cash register for a full 10 minutes. it wasn't ready until 7:40. The customer complained to the department manager. Hisfamily ordered a pizza at 6:25 p. said: "Just a minute. One ofthe salespeople. Bored salespeople stood around in clusters. If they did. honey. Minnesota. she approached a group ofsalespeople talking animatedly. New Jersey. Yet.m. a woman. That's when Shadeasked to see the manager. Finally. got mad at a pizza parlor. But. Even then a clerk told the family that they'd have to wait another 10 minutes while she made the garlic bread. even though it was obvious that the woman had finished her shopping and was looking for someone to help her. and theywere told that it would be ready at 7:00. She asked for assistance. "Not one person. She was the only customer in the Lady's Dresses department. and for private organizations. AHackensack.1HE CUSTOMER Is Boss 45 We do not complain enough even though most of us experience bad service regularly. . she yelled loudly enough to turn a few heads: "WI1l somebody please take mymoney?" Another woman tellsofan experience in Bamberger's department store. for government. Gary Shade ofApple Valley.

saysMs. And only a fraction ofthe complainers pursue a solution to their problem beyond the seller .to the manufacturer. Perhaps more people would express their dissatisfaction if they knew that 56 percent of all complaints result in satisfaction for the complainer.46 JOHN TsCHOHL Here's one more Incident that indicates that consumers don't complain often enough: Every time Bette Schwartzberg shopped at a certain A&P store on the East Coast. according to onestudy.or to government agencies and consumer groups...' In a neighborhood Grand Union store. "1 can remember several times wanting only a few things and deciding to just leave and buythem at a convenience store even thoughtheycost more there.or something else: she Said. The manager himself opens a new cash register whenever lines get more than three people long: Ms. "I am invariably impressed. "Never again. she vowed. An oft-cited survey ofconsumers with service problems found that more than 70 percent ofconsumers fully justified in complaining don't do so. whether it was because only onecheckout register was open with a long line in front ofit. Schwartzberg. which she did as seldom as possible. .' "1 Simply could not get out ofthat store without being aggravated... Schwartzberg's experiences demonstrate that businessescan provide good service if theywantto and that it Is every customer's duty to make themwantto. THE FACTS: PEOPLE DON'T COMPLAIN Astudy found that only oneout of26 customers who are dtssattsfied actually complain.

THE CUsroMER Is Boss

47

Still another study determined that a fourth of the average business's customers are willing to switch to competitors. That ought to strike fear Into the hearts ofbusmesspeople.
However. many dissatisfied customers never get around to "voting withtheir feet." Says James Donnelly Jr., author of Close to the Customer: "I've had people tellmethat they hate their bank, but they haven't left yet. Or, they hate a certain airline, but they continue to fly it." If switching yourbusiness is intolerably inconvenient, then apply the strategies described In this book. Switching yourbusiness to a competitor remains one ofthe best recourses for consumers. But. businesses who give bad service know that most dissatisfied customers don't complain. Thedeafening silence from their customers gives thempermission to continue the same poor service policy. When you think about it, what motivation does a businesswithuncomplaining customers have to provide service? It's up to you to motivate these companies. Service becomes even lessimportant to these businesses the daythat they realize that customers that switch to competitors are replaced by competitors' customers switching to them. Poor service wastes yourtime. That'sIntolerable when two- income families are common. Both wage-earners fight the clock. Husbands and wives are so rushed to get home to do their family chores that organizations that waste theirtime win their enmity. So, it's not surprising that people feel that complaining Is too expensive and time-consuming. This was proved by a survey of2400 randomly chosen households. Thesurvey was reported In the book When Conswners Complain. by Dr. Arthur Best ofthe New York Law School

48

JOHN TscHOHL

Otherstudies find low ratesofsatisfaction with the results ofcomp1aln1ng. ANational Consumer Survey reported more than 40 percent ofhouseholds experiencing consumer problems were unhappy with action that business took to resolve their complaints. So they stopcomp1aln1ng.

EMBARUSSMENT
Consumers don't wantother shoppers or service employees to look at themwith disdain. They don't wantto be called whiners orjerks for comp1ainlng...even If an Incompetent employee was guilty ofbeing rude and lazy. Bad-service employees have this embarrassment shUck down pat. Just by to getaway without Upping a cab driver and he'll teachyou true embarrassment, quickly. If you leave a small tip, a waitperson might follow you to the door with it - even Into the street - and throw the money at you, proclaiming In a loud voice: "Here, you need this more than I dot" In the mind ofmany service workers, a Up is due for any service, whether it is friendly and wll1lng or surlyand reluctant.

CONSUMERS EXPECT BAD SERVICE
One consumer authority says: "In some industries people have gotten mediocre service for so long that theytake it for granted. Take the New York subway system. People are so happy to survive the trip that dirty cars are notimportant.' Amajor retail food chain surveyed consumers, In focus groups, and found that nwre than half expected that service would be bad and that theywould be mistreated.

THE CUsroMER Is Boss

49

They expected to be ignored and to wait In long lines. They
expected to have checkout people say. "Sony, I'mgoing on break." People who expect bad service are rarely surprised when the antictpated bad service occurs. Nor are theylikely to do anything about it.

IS POOR SERVICE YOUR OWN FAULT?
Gary Shade. the astute consumer from Apple Valley.

Minnesota. who complained aboutslow pizza delivery. said: "It amazes methat as Americans we can sit backand truly believe that the current trade imbalance is not our fault, that it is the fault ofthe Japanese or our own government. when we accept service like this. "The more I experience poor service the more I believe that it is our fault. It's our fault when we don't raise our voices when confronted with exceptionally poor service or quality. Have we become so accustomed or conditioned to bad service that we accept it without challenge? "How is a company to know, without consumer feedback, that they must change?" Shadeconcluded. With the proper attitude, you can getgood service almost every timeyou buyanything. Sayto yourself: "I am gOing to demand good service." So. ask for the service that you expect. Use phrases such as "Would you mind...?" Or: "Will you please...?" Complete these phrases withwords that describe the servtce you require. You'll get what you ask for, almost every time, unlessyou ask for something unreasonable. But,you will know when you are being unreasonable; so you won't really expect to get what you ask for.

50

JOHN TSCHOHL

If a miracle occurred and every consumer complained

every time they didn't get what was ordered...or had to wait half an hour for somebody to acknowledge their existence...or had to argue through lunch hour to get a service employee to acknowledge an obvious billing error ...or needed a blood hound just tofUld a service worker ...if every one ofthese people would complain every time, then the bad businesses, the inconsiderate government. and the sleepy private organizations would "get the message" overnight. Go ahead, America. Just likein the movie Network, lean out your windows and yell: "I'm mad as hell...and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

AMERICAN FRoNTIERSMAN • .CHAPTER 5 COMPLAINING PROTOCOL: USE OIL INSTEAD OF VINEGAR • "Be sure you are right. then go ahead: DAVY CROCKEIT.

knowledgeable. and in that faith let us to the end dare to do our duty as weunderstand it. and knowledgeable service workers as there are indolent. you have Abraham Lincoln behindyou.52 JOHN TsCHOHL • If you are right. . helpful. The problem is that the bad onesare so very noticeable that they block our view oftheir friendly. you don't believe that Crockett and Lincoln were referring to complaining about bad service?) We interpret Lincoln and Crockett to mean. insulting. He said in his Second Inaugural Address: "Let us have faith that light makes might." Now. what better guidance could a consumer complainer want? (What. friendly. In modem terms: Make sure that you havea valid case and that it is not you who is at fault. Maintain a calm and reasoned frame ofmind by reminding yourselfperiodically that there are at least as manyalert and helpful. and msouctant service workers. and professional co-workers.

Here are some gutdelmes that a level-headed person who wantsto avoid burning his/her bridges behind themmight wantto follow In complaining. Inform their superiors and the president ofthe company or even publtc or private watchdog groups when badservice is very gratuitous and Insulting.DiE CUSTOMER Is Boss 53 But....shallwe say. go out ofbusiness. thereby dampening the desire ofeven the competent service employees and theirsupervisors to answer yourrequests and solve your problems. try to notice the good service.. and by calling bad service to the attention ofperpetrators. a chain ofrestaurants.. you'll criticize unfairly. One ofyour functions should be (shouldn't it?) to encourage good service so that you will see more ofit.lose credibility. Be constructive. replace your purchase. relating to Irate. Don't let anticipation ofbadservice cloud yourjudgment. Do this by complimenting good service people.. You wil1judge harshly and unreasonably. appealing. negotiating.) Don't let your face droop Into an expectant scowl whenever you entera store. or constructively criticizing: . complaining consumer showed a store manager ta1k1ng to a complainer: "Would it satisfy you if we would refund your money.." Answer for yourself the question: Just how accommodating do you expect business to be? This accommodating? Asign. and shoot the manager?" Or this accommodating? "Ifwe don't get you your pizza In five minutes we'll make your car payment.' (Radio commercial for Gung Ho Stir Fry. If you don't accentuate the positive. You wI1l.

Anger and sarcasm merely put your opponent on the defensive. it's important to avoid being critical. Spiteful letters and hand-waving haranguesin person are counterproductive. Then. forcefully. Pat Bear. 4. don't threaten the room clerk with: "Since you won't honor my room reservation I'll just sack out in your lobby. who runs an information retrieval firm in New York City..'" (The seamsin her bootstore open. 2. Ifyou really want satisfaction and you aren't just letting off steam. She reports: "I went to the buyer at Saks Fifth Avenue and said: 'Everything I ever boughtfrom Saks has been terrific. JOHN TsCHOHL BEREASONABLE. If you are angry. I'll put on my pajamas.54 1. In a hotel. AVOID ANGER. appeal. I'll. Just present the facts. clearly.) 3. Sarcasm and excessive cleverness also detract from your message. people fmd it harder to tune you out." . COMPLIMENT. Skillful complainers agree: An effective tactic is to present yourself as a reasonable person who needs help. starts her complaints with a compliment. Criticism puts people on the defensive. Besides. First. Don't try to get your way by creating a disturbance. people focus on your angerinstead ofon your problem. Saks exchanged them. So. I was surprtsed when this happened. If you appear to be reasonable. strongly negative emotions tend to gtve you a headache. Don't demand. soberly.. AVOID DRAMATIC DISPLAYS. at first.

steady but reasonable voice in presenting your case." says the national manager ofAutocap. Don't use a waitress or a salesclerk as a convenient whipping post.THE CUSTOMER Is Boss 55 Parkingyour car in front ofthe dealership from which you bought it and mountJng a signthat says "I bought this lemon from SmithAuto Co: definitely will harden the negotiating position ofSmith Auto Co. Stickto poor-service issues. Rage just makes it easy for a businessto dismiss youas a crank. Or because you'rehaving marriage problems oryour boyfriend or girlfriend left you. a tradegroupthat handles thousands of complaints from disgruntled car owners every year. . Save your indignation for timeswhen it is really justified. Theirloud. "Many people gripe just to get something offtheir chests. A calm approach almost always is effective. threatening manner is false bravado. Or they're uneasy. Speak firmly but calmly. Don't threaten or attack a serviceperson orally. manypeople lapse into a tirade the moment theyopentheir mouths to complain. don'tget mad and demand to see the manager afterfive minutes ofwaiting because you had a bad day. That's because they're afraid. Just lock eyeswiththe personin authority who receives your complaint and speakin a firm. Unfortunately. When you complain. as an escape valve for the angeryou feel because you had an argument withyourboss. be firm but be pleasant. Or because your team lost a game. Don't become prematurely indignant. When you'rein a restaurant. There's always time to get hard-nosed afteryou've tried the softsell.

said. Herb Nierenberg uses the word "negotiate.56 JOHNTsCHOHL To be very sure that you are reasonable and blameless. who wrote Getting People toSay Yes. think that you were "done wrong. by all means." • . Stephen Pollan. Ifthey. New York." then. Dr." No matterwhat words you use. in referring to poor service: "It's important to remember that most'mjunes' are inflicted impersonally (and) without malice. Edward D. believes there's value in "appeal" instead of"complain. fix in your mind the inadvertent nature ofmostpoor service. recite the facts ofyour experience to a good friend or family member. Joseph. psychiatrist at Mt. Some customer service professionals find that the very word "complain" is counterproductive." You might like the term "constructive cntlctsm." He wrote the book The Art of Negotiating. proceed withyourcomplaint. too. Sinai Medical Center.

CHAPTER 6 PREPAUTION: JUST IN CASE • "Anyone can gatherfacts andftgures and present them in a clear and logical way." • .

cancelled checks. and cosmetic productswhen theypurchase them. customers must be informed ofthe name and address ofevery manufacturer offood. if doing so becomes necessary. drug. So. too. product tags. credit card receipts. Many otherproducts have this information. repairorders. then keep all yoursales slips. and even keep company advertising.58 JOHN TsCHOHL • If you want to stop being apologetic and fearful to service and manufacturing businesses that make it corporate policy to intimidate or to confuse you. copies oflettersthat you send to the company or store. careinformation sheets. Keep any piece ofpaper that comes with a purchase Under law. one thing you accomplish bysaving the paper that accompanies a purchase is that you have the information you would need to write a letterto the manufacturer. . Keep cash register receipts. labels or warranties.

or refer you to the proper individual and location in the company. to quality ofproducts purchased.THE CUSTOMER Is Boss 59 If your experiences with rotten service have made a fanatic out ofyou. are included in a Zip Code section in most phone books. He lives alone and he wastraveling during the time the calls were made. you could expand your income tax record-keeping system to routinely include notes about your reactions to treatment you receive. GET THE FACTS Besides accurate and complete information about your buying experiences. Thephone company wouldn't accept his claim that he didn't make the calls. He was hit withan exorbitant phone bill for calls billed to his home phone number. Mike Berger. The easiest place to find phone numbers and locations of the businesses you deal withat a retail level is in the telephone directory. have penand paper handy so you can jot down names and titles ofpeople you speakwith as well as phone numbers and dates ofcalls. When you make that first phone call to a business whose service you are dissatisfied with. a computer Journalist. local distribution centers. Zip Codes for the addresses you find in phone directories. prepared. So. by the way. regional offices. Thetrouble was that he didn't make the calls. presented his case. The PUC obliged. and asked for a public hearing. . also obtain names and titles ofpeople you meet while purchasing. so you can address any letters or make phone calls to individuals by name. he contacted the state Public Utilities Commission. Company headquarters. and sales offices that can befound in phone books often WIll handle your problem locally .

the regulatory body Instructed the phone company to delete the cost ofthe calls from his billing. Not many people can use a computer to coerce business into fairness.60 JOHN TscHOHL Berger went home and threw himself Into preparations for the hearing. using his computer. Then he prepared computer-generated graphs to illustrate that the expensive phone calls he was billed for were a deviation from his normal calling pattern as shown by the graphs. He analyzed his btlls for a year. So. Success will be much easierwhen you keep all the paper that you receive whenyou make a purchase. • . but anyone can gather facts and figures and present them in a clearand logical way. Berger convinced the PUC that he didn't make the calls.

names and arguments pertaining to your situation." • .CHAPTER 7 THE WORKING DOCUMENT • "A working document is a statement oj aU the joas.

and arguments (appeals) pertaining to your situation. Atyped document Implies competency and often wins faster company response if for no other reason than that it's easierto read than a hand­ written communtcation. . • • One fine form ofpreparatlon for a by-phone or In-person meeting with a company representative Is a "working document: Aworking document is a statement of all the facts. The document should contain date. it should also contain a careful descnption ofCircumstances surrounding the event that caused your complaint. Companies will conclude that you are a person to be reckoned with. Ofcourse.62 JOHN TsCHOHL "You are a person to be recokoned with. names. If you can type the document. This will be yourguide when you make phone calls and write letters. time. fine. and topics of phone calls and latervisits to the store or office and names of contacts.

treatment. With your working document and with the papers you've saved. you're ready to begin a complaint process. Companies want to hear about customer dissatisfaction sothey can prevent future dissatisfaction. • . if slower.THE CUSTOMER Is Boss 63 Ahand-written document still is likely to receive fair.

.

CHAPTER 8 HOW TO COMPLAIN EFFECTIVELY: STRATEGIES • TenGuidelines forEffective Complaining: 1. 4. State that you are unwilling to let the matter be prolonged. • . 9. 2. Be clear about what you want. Escalate your complaint quickly. 5. Have your facts straight. 10. Keep clear copies ofevery letteryou send. 8. 3. 7. Write to the president if other calls fail. Speak finnly. Conclude phone calls with a restatement of any agreement that you reach. 6. Never talk to anyone who doesn't have the authority to do what you want. Set a reasonable time limit for action.

Why? Because employees know that their bosseswould disapprove. the boss often will lean heavily in yourdirection. If the employee refuses yourrequest and refuses to provide rwrmal sennce. government office. Attempt to get yourcomplaint satisfied bythe offending employee by making a direct requestto the employee for satisfaction. As a consumer. You can use that behavior as a lever to pry good service out ofa store.66 JOHNTsCHOHL • Let's say that you receive rude or incompetent service from a front-line servtceperson. or other organization. you know by experience or byinstinct that when you go to the boss after the employee has given you the cold shoulder. Aservice employee is not very likely to say "No" to a direct request.their own behavior. you have an effective weapon to use against them . . you are unl1kely to receive complete satisfaction from that employee. Since that employee is part ofthe problem.

They have fine reputations for service.or clearly rude. no matter how well established it is now. Consumer organizations such as those listed In Directory ofStateand Local Consumer Groups. if a manager or supervisor succeeds in persuading the president that yourcomplaint is notworth responding to.. for Instance. afterthe consumer had waited a month before contacting MACAP. If this kind oftreatment continues. (State consumer protection offices often are located In the attorney general's department. in sequence: 1. convince him or her that you are only the first complainer in a long line of dissatisfied customers. Maybe it's clear. such as the Furniture Industry Consumer Action Panel (F1CAP) or the Major Appliance Consumer Action Panel (MACAP). But. continue complaining untilyou reachthe president ofthe company.THE CUSTOMER Is Boss Sometimes the bosswill say"No. Theindustry's self-regulatory body. When you complain to a president. usually this 67 will happen only when you are clearlywrong . then go on to these organizations. you can say. if you're really determined to solve yourproblem. 2. cut through red tape and found a consumer's mtssing living room suiteIn a large store's warehouse. Point out that salesclerks who handled your purchase badly most likely are treating other customers the sameway.) . available in most libraries. But. It was delivered within three days."too. the business will be in danger. contact the Better Business Bureau or a local or state consumer protection agency. that you wereJust looking for a way to express youranger about the speeding ticket you got onyour way to the store. If nobody listens to you. too. Or.. MACAP.

. If he or she doesn't. So. you will get perfectly good results bygoing to a customer service department in person or by calling a company's customer service "800' number. In some circumstances. find somebody who does.they are being given greaterresponsibility for satisfying your request . If you suspect that you are being given the brush. call a halt witha threat to continue accosting the company until they respond appropriately.or they know how to bring your case to the attention oftop management.68 JOHNTsCHOHL 3. Customer service employees either canhandle your problem directly . try arbitration. You might strike out in trying to resolve a service problem by dealing with someone at the location where you received poor service. Afederal government agency. perhapsyou're tooreserved to confront employees face-to-face. Always make sure that the person you see has the authority to make a decision. Finally. bounced from personto person. Small Claims court. though. like a balloffa bumperin a pin ball machine. You are a good judgeofsituations that ought to be brought to the attention ofan organization's customer service department. Or. gohome and launchyour campaign there. Onewoman began to occupy so muchofthe time available on a mail-order clothing company's fax machine that a manager ordered the customer service department to solve her problem immediately. or even a lawsuit. such as the Food and Drug Administration or the Federal Trade commtseton. if you are clearly in the light and if a company has repeatedly refused you.

in effect. These modern. or the president. Play back the recording for the customer service rep. Most complaints are resolved long before they reach top executives such as store managers. that you get lost. Businessshould be given creditfor this. it's company policy" and they suggest. GET THE FACTS Make sure that you have accurate and complete information before you Initiate a complaint. then you'll have the goods on them. You might even be so annoyed that you carry a microcassette recorder in the top pocket ofyour blouse or shirt and record a repetition ofthe same awful service. To encourage good service. however. (You're a good citizen. When an employee says something like. "Sony. Just nonchalantly reach insideyour pocket and press the record button.. the few complatnts that must be carried to the top because you couldn't get favorable response from first-contact employees are precisely the complaints that cause most high blood pressure and gastro-tntestmal upsets among consumers. .) Send the transcrtptton to the place ofbusiness with a note sayingwhen and where the good service occurred. helpful responses bysalespeople. supersensitive micro-recorders pick up vo1ces clearly about 10 feet away in a relatively noisy environment. The exceptional serviceperson will hear about it and benefit from the recognition. You will need to obtainnames and titles in preparation for calling or wnttng anyone. transcribe any recordings of cheery. if you need more details. company vice presidents. But.THE CUsroMER Is Boss 69 It isn't fair to assume that you wUIbe rebuffed at the purchase location.

if you've lost all sources ofa manufacturer's name or phone number. they11 usuallyrefer youto someone who can. 4th Floor Alexandria. If people that you reach at these numbers can't handle your problem. TheBBB lists many manufacturers. Final resources for Information that you need to contact retail or manufacturing companies are two membership groups for customer service professionals: SOCIE1Y OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS PROFESSIONALS IN BUSINESS (SOCAP) 801 North Fairfax Street.70 JOHN TsCHOHL Find phone numbers in local phonedirectories or dial the information number (Area Code + 555-1212) for the city In whichthe company facility you are trying to reach is located. Many companies have set up toll-free "SOO' numbers. One way to determine where a company is located is to look at the product tags or labels or on warranties or printed product information and care information sheets that accompany merchandise. Standard and Poor's lists the names ofcompany presidents and other corporate officers. Most libraries carry oneor both ofthese reference books. VA 22314 703-519-3700 . but not all ofthem. But. Othersources of this information are Standard and Poor's Register and Conswners' Index to Produ£t Evaluations and Information Sources. Call the telephone company's toll-free information number (1-S00-555-1212) to find out if the company you wishto call has an "SOO' number. Employees working these hot lines are trained to know policy and procedure and to tellyou what to do and whom to contact. Often this hot line number is listed on packages or labels. try the Better Business Bureau. too.

whenever documents are available. 2. with a determined tone In yourvoice. Don't threaten. Be persistent. 4. 5." GUIDELINES Here are 'Ten Guidelines for Effective Complaining": 1. Persistence is the ace up your sleeve. This is more effective than going Into an aimless tirade. you see. Support your statements with documentation. UCSAl 401 North Michigan Avenue Chicago. and specific Incidents. if repeated phone callsto a supervisor or the customer service department fail. find it difficult to rebuff a persistent customer. Demand a specific remedy. They're hampered by a voice in theirminds saying: "It's bad business to say 'No' to a customer. Escalate yourcomplaint quickly to higher ups. names. oneof the basic rules for successful complaining. Businesspeople. IL 60611 312-321-6800 It's effective strategy to speak firmly but calmly Instead of screaming and waving yourarmswhen you complain. Speak firmly. . Never talk (or write) to anyone who doesn't have the authority to dowhat you want. Have yourfacts straight. 6. either. Write to the president ofthe company. Don't deal with anyone who won't give you his or her name and title. Refer to dates.THE CUSfOMER Is Boss 71 INTERNATIONAL CUSTOMER SERVICE ASSN. 3. Be clear aboutwhat you want.

If someone appearsunable or unwilling to help right away."J So. Successful quality service businesses are very good at "making it right: even by phone. Ask for details on what's being done about your complaint. such as two weeks. If you don't hear from anyone by then. Sometimes you w1ll succeed on the phone." 10. Attach a copy ofthe orlginal letter. go above hls or her head. write a letter: Send complaint letters directly to decision-makers. (If the personyou're speaking with was stricken with a case oftotal honesty.10 working days Is a rule ofthumb. Conclude your letters by requesting a response withln a reasonable time. Conclude phone calls with a restatement ofany agreement that you reach: "So. 1have eight other calls waiting. 7. Normally the president w1ll relayyour complaint to the person in charge of the department in which the complaint originated. prlmarily to the president ofa company. When an employee receives a letterofcomplaint that has been forwarded by the president ofthe company. 8.. You don't have to fight very hard.72 JOHN TsCHOm. she or he would say something like: "I don't have ttme to talk withyou now. 9. "I understandthat a refund w1ll be mailed to me within a week. but you might also be skillfully put off. the message war be noticed and war be acted upon. Set a reasonable time l1m1t for action . Keep clear photocopies or carbonsofevery letteryou send. 1 can expect delivery by Tuesday?" Or. . State that you are unwilling to letthe matter be prolonged indeftnitely or to repeat yourstory countless times. send another letter.

so sometimes they shortcut what could be a tedious process when they don't have time to deal with a complex complaint. they didn't. or shuffled you around until you became discouraged. with honesty: "I followed procedures. flatly refused your request. 73 Whether you have kept paperwork or you must tediously assemble it. We've heard of cases where a customer service rep functioned as a mediator between an angry customer and an employee who quickly regretted his or her actions and apologized. send a box full ofpapers [photocopies only) to your contact. 1nperson. So. (Who does?) They know that when theygive satisfaction to customers the company wins in the long run. so you can tellhigher-ups. then set up an appointment to meet with someone." When that happens. such as a consumer service rep. . at the offending company. give the customer service rep or the department manager a real chance to make things right. you might getthe samecheery-voiced cooperation wttlwut sending the papers after you say on the phone: "Why don't I pop up there and show you everything. for instance. It's important to begin at lower levels. with the customer servtce office." Areminder: Follow up every meeting [or phone call) with a letter to the person with whom you metor spoke. That person mJght satisfy your complaint just so he/she can avoid reading your pile ofpapers! Or. stop to remind yourself that they could have stonewalled you. The fact is that most companies want you to be satisfied. But.THE CUSfOMER Is Boss If you don't receive satisfaction to the letter-writing campaign.

broken studs. These 1V. and nails and screws laying in a home owner's driveway retrieved the junk pile within two hours aftera call from a city consumer protection office. a consumer organization mJght be eager to helpyou. then report results. Forguidance in dealing with the media.) Acontact with a government consumer protection office. Consumer groups affiliated with city or county government are listed in the phone book among the entries for your city or county offices. To find private consumer groups in your area. the weather. and the others.74 JOHN TsCHOHL If your complaint involves service that disappoints many other people. A home Improvement contractor who left a pile ofInsulation pieces. or the Better Business Bureau. and sports. It ranks rightafter personal gossip. (You know that others are frustrated and angry because XYZ Co. smashed sheet rock panels. Is one ofthe main topics of conversation in yourdaily lunchgroup. The consumer reporter ofa metro 1Vstation obtained refunds for consumers who had beenbilked bya basement­ waterproofing company. . and newspaper services accept and investigate complaints from consumers. too. can payoffImpressively. He was found guilty of consumer fraud and sentenced to prison. Thereporter. radio. see the Direcwry ojState and Local Conswner Groups in the library. too. acting on tips from consumers. ran stories on the company's practices untilthe company president was indicted. see Chapter Sixteen about Action Lines.

consumer specialist at WCCO-lV in Minneapolis. • . says Silvia Gambardella.THE CUSTOMER Is Boss 75 More and more 'IV stations are setting up these consumer help services. Gambardella does regular on-air reports about consumer complaints and how they were resolved.

.

CHAPTER 9 EFFECTIVE COMPLAINING: BUSINESS BY BUSINESS • a a a a a a a a a Airlines Auto Repair Services Banks Bus Companies Funeral Directors Government Hospitals Lawyers Moving Companies a a a a a a a a a Physicians Railroads Realtors Repair Services Restaurants Retailing Retail Store Delivery Supermarkets Utility Companies • .

for nearly every different rotten-service situation there exists a distinctive reaction that is more effective than other reactions that might occurto you. ." the man said. BAD mistake. Mistake. the proper reaction probably is to leave. But. The retort lit the part-owner's flre. Just leave. on their wayto another restaurant. That's what the male lunchers did.78 JOHN TsCHOHL • Anewspaper carried a columnist's outraged report about the repulsive behavior ofthe part-owner ofa fine new restaurant in a prestigious downtown building. One offour businessmenarrfvtng for lunch asked to be seated In the back but was told that the space was for guests with reservations. I have a reservation. "But. "Ifyou can't take a jokeyou can take your (obscenity) out on the street and (obscenity) yourselves: In a case such as this.

DC 20036." . Washington. obtain an estimate. ACAP doesn't resolve individual complaints. call the Consumer Affairs office at 202-366­ 2220 or write to Consumer Affairs. says Kenneth Zmo. It monitors the airline industry. instead ofpaying a $1. Federal Aviation Administration. Washington. Washington. include a return address and a daytUneterephonenumbe~ AUTOMOBILE REPAIR SERVICES Pick a mechanic like you pick a surgeon: Get a second opinion.ThE CUSTOMER Is Boss 79 AIRLIBIS If an airline will not resolve acomplaint.O. Also. former mechanic who is editor of Motor magazine: "Don't be submissive. Also send a copy ofyourcomplaint. DC 20428.000 bill only to have the problem occur again. if you wish. but it provides useful information concerning your rights. a private consumer organization. This office will review your complaint to determine if FAA rules have beenviolated. to the Aviation Consumer Action Project (ACAP). and the Project supports you in youreffort to obtain satisfaction. To record a complaint with the Department of Transportation. They encourage phone calls. Some disputes must be settled In court. write to the Bureau of Consumer Protection. even if you must payfor it. Box 19029. DC 20590. Most Important of all. They'll also tellyou whatyourrights are. 1-25. P. Sometimes it's even worth having yourcar towed out ofa shop if you lose confidence In the work being done. Be assertive. Department of Transportation. though. but if you write.

give the personyou speakwith the number on your deposit record." So.you call the president'soffice and explain the problem. The employee will tell you that it'lltake "10days. "women do better than men In dealing with mechanics becausethey're open. callthe bank executive whose name you were given and tell his or her secretarythat you've been referred there by the president's office forfast action on your problem.. There's a lot ofpaperwork to go through. Ifthey don't understand something they ask the mechanic to explain. because dollar signs representing overdraft penalties are swimming around In your head. But. not you. You call the bank. So. Explain that you can't be expected to wait for your money when it was the bank. the bank knows nothingabout it.that you needyour money immediately. you can't wait that long because you've already written checks on the amount that you deposited. ofcourse.' sometimes less." BANKS Let's say that you've deposited money in an automatic teller machine on Monday. Men.. that made an error.80 JOHN TsCHOHL "In myexperience: says Zino. Saythat the 10-day poliey Is unacceptable . yousay: "Then. but when you check on Thursday. for an Investigation. please give me the name of an executive who has authorityto correct the error and report back to me by tomorrow morning. we know everything about cars. even If you can only get the prestdent's secretary." You'll most likely get a name. Tell the person that If you don't hear back by noon the . and ask what happened to your money. Now. She maysay: "I'm afraid that's howlong it takes. Mechanics tell you it's easier to deceive a man than a woman askingquestions.

If others in your line look annoyed about spending their lunch hour Inching toward theirmoney.ThE CUSTOMER Is Boss 81 next day you'll hold the bank liable for an "consequential damages" that you suffer from issuing checks against your "valid deposit." The specter ofthe bank president hovering over himundoubtedly will move the bankexecutive you're dealing with to bump yourcase ahead ofother work. Long lines is another common banking problem. Forotherbank problems. three active tellers when other bank employees are standing around. Ifyou find yourself waiting endlessly In a long line for one of. the general rule Is to approach bank officers directly. a confrontation with a run-of-the­ mill customer Is likely to catch the officer's attention and render himor her very cooperative. let's say. Go to the chief teller and ask that another window be opened. In a pleasant but frustrated tone: "Would anyone herehelp me persuade the manager to open up another teller window?" Most customers don't like to bethe first to complain: but some ofthem will gladly support your effort. Officers are tnsulated from all customers but the largest depositors and borrowers: so. If this reasonable request is smilingly ignored. you might also wantto ask the other waiting customers. . ask the person behind you to save your place. seethe manager. The manager who senses an Insurrection general1y will open one or more teller stations. Loss or delay ofa deposit is only one ofthe problems that people have with banks.

If you get no satisfaction from underlings. You might also lodge a complaint with the National Funeral Directors Association ofthe United States. try the InternationalOrderofthe Golden Rule. 2nd St.217-544-7428. 929 S.82 JOHNTsCHOHL BUS COMPANIES Contact your state's transportation department. Washington. (Look In the telephone yellow pages under "Associations. Or. Sprtngfie1d. WI 53227. if the problem Involves only interstate service. 414-541-2500.") Or.lL 62704. 1-800-424-9312. GOVERNMENT Whendealing withgovernment bureaucracy. . another funeral directors' association. at 11121 West Oklahoma Avenue.. contact a local funeral directors' trade association. Serious complaintsthat the state transportation department can't or won't handle can be referred to the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). a letter to the elected official detailing a legitimate complaint usually will yield instructions to the department you're dealing with to see to it that you receive satisfaction. Milwaukee. These groups really do want to police the unprofessional operators in their midst. They might bring down more government scrutiny and regulation upon all of them. you always have the advantage ofan appointed official who is interested in being reelected. The Better Business Bureau can also provide this Information. FUNERAL DIRECTORS After you've talked with the owner ofthe funeral home. ask any funeral director for the name ofthe local business association. DC 20423.

you might own your own business or be independently wealthy. the bureaucrat would getcold chills. As far as the bureaucrat knows.find time to testify. This is a practical approach only when the appropriation hearing is near. self-employed.is to write a letter in which you tell ofyour plan to testify before the legislative committee that considers that department's next appropriation request. Testimony may take no more than an hour if you arrange with a legislative committee orsubcommittee chairperson to appear at a speCific time. Include in the letter the actual dateand time ofthe next hearing. You may be a salesperson. The elected officJa1 does not exist who does not fear exposure ofhis department's callous disregard for the rights ofcitizens In a Letter to the Editor. Beprepared to carry out the threat if your letter In which you announce your intention to testify before the appropriations committee goes unanswered and your problem unresolved. your outrage might motivate you to. when you've been sertously wronged. Next to his own job. so you can afford to take the time needed to testify before a legislative committee. if it has been set.even when that person Is an unelected. the closest thing to a bureaucrat's heart is his department budget. ofcourse. Is the press. address. hired bureaucrat .'n!E CUSfOMER Is Boss 83 Your ultlmate weapon. or the name. Oryou may be a homemaker who canjuggle your schedule. . meanwhile. and phone number ofthe agency that will schedule the appropriation hearing. but. or a worker with access to a dayof discretionary time off or a backlog ofvacation or sickleave days. You might get cold feet. Even if you are rwt Independently wealthy. To strengthen your threat. Another effective way toget the attention ofthe topperson In a government agency or department .

But. or with the dog catcher. Elected officials are paying more attention to the people. when you're locked in battlewith a front-line government department such as one that handles driver licensing. Why? Because your complaint will be a matter ofrecord. And don't hesitate to write to the governor. and gutters.fi1e on the Stubbornly Obstructive Bureaucrat (SOB) . Generally.84 JOHN TsCHOHL Type out a news release that explains yourcomplaint. the easier it is to fight backsuccessfully. Your complaint letterwon't hit the trash can. zoning and planning. alert the press that you will be testifying. and equip the press to report on your testimony by giving them copies ofthe news release. So. they are more likely to be sensitive to constituent complaints. write to the governor's appointee heading the department.build yourcase. curbs. Ifyour beefis withthe state and underlings are unwilllng to take responsibility for yourcomplaint. making the revenge-minded bureaucrat a logical suspect as the perpetrator ofthe retaliation. In most states the governor's staffwill forward yourletter to the appropriate department or agency chief. It is far more likely that the person will notretaliate. build a. the hlgher you take yourcomplaint in government. Such people are not career civil servantswiththe attendantjob security. Resist the thought that the government department or individual bureaucratthat caused yourcomplaint will retaliate. When you are dotng battle with a commission. . public utilities such as streets. write to the director and send a copy to all commissioners.

So. Some ofthem seem to use whatever energy theyhave to prevent you from getting whatyou want. In building your file you'll be given an advantage bythose government workers who carelessly convict themselves out of their own mouths.or months. such a letter mlght state: "I am sure that you will conclude that I have made every conceivable effort to reach this individual and to resolve my problem withhis handling ofthe important matterthat I brought to your department. but I can't find him. Insert in your file names ofpeople you asked for and spoke with. Their greatest joyin life seems to derive from the mouthing ofthe word "No." "He's gone for the day. SOBs. Covering onespecific problem." Then.1HE CUSTOMER Is Boss 85 You must be ableto document yourcasebecause some bureaucrats are hlghly motivated obstructionists. . five minutes later: "Somebody said he was here. then they've given you more ammunition for a letter to the elected official who is the supervisor's boss. You can tty later. Name names." "He's not backfrom lunchyet. Incorporate these responses in a letter to the supervisor." Thiscan goon for weeks.." "Let me check." Go ahead and feel like a private investigator. They also lounge about theirwork places as if they had just dropped in on theirway to the country club.. They may be so loose-mouthed and lazy because the Civil Service system makes discharge ofa government employee as difficult as bringing a Middle Easternterrorist tojustice. Write down responses such as: "He's on breaknow. List dates. If you get a response and the response is just anothersmoke screen.

wrtte to Mr.. however.86 JOHN TsCHOHL "Frankly. changed the water in the pitcher beside his bed. Send a copy of your letter to the personnel officers or to the chief administrative officer. who was sleeping in his hospital bed at 4 a. I believe that this employee's nonava1lability does not meet reasonable standards for public service and does not promote the effldenL:y ofyour department: Government. Is bigon "efficiency: As a result ofyour letter. or if you dispute yourbill. (Remember to jot down the name and employee number of anybody who cold­ shoulders you along the way. Also send a copy to the appointed official who's dependent upon the voters for his or her job. You are mostlikely to get the best results at any level of government. HOSPITALS Thewatchful consumer will keep a Personal Care Log.. Ask to see the supervisor or agency director. We heard ofa patient.loudly. or Ms. Big.. responsible to taxpayers for spending their money wiSely. .. Big. your business probably will be placed in the hands ofanotheremployee who certainly will be eagerto display greaterInterest In resolving youroriginal problem. or Ms. who happened to be a school superintendent accustomed to giving orders and being obeyed. when a nurse's aide entered his room and. A log will serve as an effective tool when youdemand better service. If you talk to the supervisor privately and explain your problem.) Ifthe people you've been having trouble with try to bar the doorto Mr.m. Inconsiderate behavior.

He's just avoiding you. This would be a good entryin yourPersonal Care Log. or he never calls back. his secretary routinely says that he's in courtwhenyou know that some ofthe time he is not in court. And again. put his robe and slippers on. You ring again. Alawyer returns your calls days after you phone. If you're in a double room. Neglect You ring for a nurse. and called the Hospital Administrator at 4:15 a. shuffled down the hallway to a pay phone. LAWYERS Want to know how to outfox a lawyer? Here are suggested strategies: 1. no onecomes for 15 minutes. Agood indication that you're being ignored is when you're not told that the lawyer is out until after you give your name. Then he got up. He waited until the nurse's aide left.m. You can serve as witnesses for each other. Or. But.THE CUSTOMER Is B055 87 He said nothing. . enlistthe room's other occupant as a witness to poor service you receive. Ever have that happen? It's a breach ofprofessional standards for a secretary to tellyou a lawyer's in courtwhen he's sittingat his desk. "I just want to congratulate you on the efficiency ofyour staff: he told the administrator. The school superintendent's real pointwas not missed.

brought to your attorney's attention in a brisk letter. Every state has an agency or committee given the power by the state's highest court to handle complaints against attorneys. even if you believe that you won't get satisfaction. In general. you're toldthat it's "in the mail: Document the exacttime envelopes were postmarked and compare it with the time you called and asked about them. make a notationabout the message you conveyed and whetheryou said the matter was important. will become another damning entryin your log oflegal abuses ­ more fine ammunition for you whenfees are discussed. Doing so strengthens your case if you must carry it further. Only afteryour lawyer stonewalls you should you pursue a formal grievance against him or her. always complain first to the lawyer.88 JOHN TsCHOHL Fromthe day ofyourfirst consultation or suspected abuse. Document your attempts to reach the lawyer in a certified letter to him/her. Reference to ethicsis very motivational for attorneys. . This agency or committee maybe part ofthe court system or It may be a bar association COmmittee. This matching game. 2. keep a log ofdates and hours that you call your lawyer. Besure to point out that you are aware that he (she) has breached "ethical" standards. Beside the entry. When you callto ask for a document that youwere supposed to receive long ago. They'll often put aside other cases to attend to yours. An alleged breach ofethical standards Is a fine starting point for negotiating newfees.

• 1-800-428-1200 ALUED VAN UNES. Pressure from the PUC usually is all it takes to solve a sticky squabble with a moving company. Any reputable company will be fair. call the company's "800" number. well-reasoned letter to the president ofthe moving orvan line and mail it to company headquarters. Just dial 1-800-555-1212 onyour phone.lHE CUSTOMER Is Boss Thegrievance committee may have a booklet or fact sheet that tells you how to complain. Most ofthem have "800" numbers. 1-800-348-2111 UNITED VAN LINES. so ask. For instance: AERO MAYFLOWER TRANSIT CO. Next. But. 1-800-325-3870 Check "Toll Free Directory Assistance" for other moving company "800" numbers. Ifyou're moving from city to city within a state. Call the PUC first and follow up with a formal written complaint In which you listyour grievances In detail and document them. 89 MOVING COMPANIES Ifyou can't thrash out your problem with the crew that moves you. Grievance committees rarely become involved in fee disputes. 1-800-854-3398 NORTIIAMERICAN VAN LINES. contact the state's Public Utilities Commission (PUC). It probably Issued the operating license and has the power to revoke it. If you believe that a lawyer owes you money. if you getno response or no satisfaction. contact the watchdogs. Also suggest remedies. sue In smallclaims court. . write a detailed.

perhaps. If you wish. putting him out of business. He schedules more patients than he can handle. If the waiting room is jammed. you wait. just in case some people don't keep their appointments. for another wait withouteven a magazine to read. write the ICC's Washington headquarters.his income maximized. The wayyou are processed by manyphysicians today is dehumanizing.90 JOHN TsCHOHL Once your furnishings and belongings cross the state line. NW. Philadelphia. and she's annoyed that you ask. The ICC Is one ofthe most responsive and helpful of all federal agencies. It has regional offices in San Francisco. perhaps he is "overbooking. Fort Worth. 12th and Constitution Av. the complaint becomes a federal matter. When the ICC calls an interstate mover. . 1-800-424-9312. And there's always a good explanation. They do handle complaints. and Boston. Usually you waitfar past your appointment time. Atlanta. and it can cancel a mover's operating permit. Hewas called to an emergency at the hospital. Chicago. PHYSICIANS Fromthe time you walkinto a doctor's office." like airlines do. the jurisdiction ofthe Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). DC 20243. Eventually. But. the mover jumps. the nurse won't even give you a hint ofwhen you'll get in. the nurse ushers you into another room. Washington. he or she has the upper hand. That's because the agency sets interstate moving rates. This way all his time is used . While you're waiting.

for sure. But. Don't give the doctor a chanceto claim that you didn't show up on time. You'll almost certainly be kept waiting. go a step further. it's unlikely that you will be kept waiting. Then. becausefor every quarter-houryouwaitfor him (her) you will deduct from his (her) billa pro-rated amount equalto your hourly pay. the receptionist won't call you. leave your phone numberand ask to be advised ofa delay before you leave home. be prompt.. One oflife's greatest satisfactions would surelybe to overhear a doctor complaining to an airline ticket agent about being bumped from a flight. If you're the first patient ofthe day. you'll still probably find a waiting room full of people who have beengranted appointments at exactly the same time as your So.THE CUSTOMER Is Boss 91 Adoctor's waiting room is apurgatory where you can waste lwurs to spend ajeu: minutes with a doctor who doesn't have time to listen to your reportofsymptoms.. nevertheless: You've begun to establish the basis forthe rest ofthe fight-back plan we'll suggest. But. Just before youleave for the doctor's office." Money is being lost every second that ticks by. despite your planning. the reality is that no matterwhenyou are scheduled to see the doctor. Unbeknownst to the doctor. she/he will be playing "beat the clock. Fight back this way: Ask for appointments early In the morning. because the airline purposely overbooked. you have accomplished one thing. phone and confirm the appointment. . When you make your appointment.. . Give the receptionist the time that you will leave. Unless the doctor Is called away on an emergency.

You deserve yourdoctor'sjidl attention. ask for an adjustment. stl1l you losttwo hours (or whatever the amount oflosttime) from yourwork at an hourly rate of $_. Don't letyourself feel that because the doctor is busyyou are oblJged to tolerate only a quick going-over. In which the patientwas reasonable. Some invite the public to hear grievances and to arbitrate complaints. How about the quick going-over that the doctor gives you in his examining room. Ifyou really feel that you didn't get the medical care you paid for. where the doctor refused the requested deduction. deducted from yourbill.92 JOHN TscHOHL Send yourpayment with a letter explaining that you were careful to confirm and to be on time and even to request a simple notice ofdelay. Thistactic definitely is used by patients. If you are billed the sameamount for a fifteen-minute exam as for a three-minute exam. Almost all ofthem have a grievance committee staffed by doctors who want to know about members who are hurtingthe image oftheir profession. . Again. Some ofthese committees are kangaroo courts. You would like a pro-rated amount. most ofthem really are fair. It's not so far­ fetched. you have something to complain about. that you speclfy. but. But. We've never heard ofa casesuch as this. where the patienthas little chance ofwinning. you see. He's in a hurry. Another alternative is to contact yourlocal medical society. There are otherreasons to complain to doctors. discuss it with your doctor. Don't accept that kind oftreatment. as you know. Don't settlefor anything less.

If the realtoris located In a state different from the state In which the subject transaction took place. work only during the day. Contact: Adequacy ofservice Bureau. REPAIR SERVICES Dick Youngblood. DC 204IO Also send the letterto the real estate regulatory agency. If you are In doubtas to the right place and the right name. Washington. If there Is one. Department ofRegistration and Education. Paul. contact the state attorney general's office for the nameand address ofthe proper agency. for the state In which the land Is located. SW. describe your complaint in a letterto the firm. sendthe complaint letterto: OFFICE OF INTERSTATE LAND SALES REGISTRATION 451 7th Street SW Washington. as reported earlier. or Department ofState. thinks that the service economy is a hoax upon the public. These state agencies have various names such as Real Estate Commission. They. DC 20024. . REALTORS Ifyou have a service complaint against a real estate agency or realtor. too. Amtrak. One ofthe reasons for his belief Is that home repair services have not adjusted their service to accommodate the large proportion ofhomes in which all the occupants are absent during the day. 955 L'Enfant Plaza North. business columnist for the Star TribWle ofMinneapolis/St.THE CUsroMER Is Boss 93 RAILROADS The national network ofrailroads run byAmtrak has a consumer complaint department for all rail service problems.

reports MACAP (Major Appliance Consumer Action Panel). If the repairservice disagrees with you.. you have Uttle recourse other than to stay home and waitfor the service company. MACAP Islocated at 20 N. more home repairservices are providing evening and Saturdayservice. Start. In most cases. So. ofcourse. As a result. They try to find a mutually satisfactory compromise for consumer complaints. It's timeto complain. contact the authonztng manufacturer.) But. Phone: 312-236-3165. before you need service.or to haul your own washing machlne orvacuum cleaner down to the repairshop on yourway to work. then go to MACAP. Ifyou still can't get results. Chicago. if yourproblem 18 a repair service that puts in time. IL 60606. If the repair shop Is a factory-authorised outlet.94 JOHN TsCHOHL If youwantyourwashing machine repaired during the day. too. (You do not wish to risk burglary bY leaving yourhouse keyunder the carpet on the door step. it Is less and less necessary to wait at home hoping that the serviceperson will show up when scheduled .. . you take a loss ofpay. approach your local consumer affairs bureau and state attorney general's office. But. Wacker Dr. Encourage evening and weekend repairservice by calling your repair service and suggesting it.. bills you for the time. an Industry-backed organization that mediates service complaints between consumers and major appliance manufacturers. well. but doesn't fix the appliance. with the repair service.

The majority ofrestaurant owners realize that a sterling reputation takesyears to build. friends. relatives. So. But. all you need to do is to threaten to complain. relatives. that strategy doesn't work every time.to neighbors. and co-workers. thereby adding to the restaurant's revenues for that day... Fifteen minutes past the time ofyour reservation. and go. more than 60 percent told of losses averaging $142. But. . Nearly 15percent ofthe losses Involved lost time from work (waiting for repair people. RESTAUUNTS About half the American food dollar is spent In restaurants.THE CUsroMER Is Boss 95 Nearly one-third of all households in America experienced at least one signiftcant consumer problem during the year before. tell the maitre d' that you're leaving. Office ofConsumer Affairs. In the restaurant business it's practically standard operating procedure (SOP) to maneuver patronsinto the bar where they are In a position to buy drinks. take a seat In the lounge but order only a glass of water. but that it can be tarnished In a flash when people start complaining to neighbors. mainly). if you hate being manipulated. fine. Of households reporting problems. How often have you heard this: "Wouldn't you like to walt in the bar?" Ifyou want a drink.. friends. tell him why you're leaving. and co-workers. according to the National Consumer Swvey's (NCS) survey sponsored bythe U.S..

and send copies ofthe letter to local restaurant reviewers. Then I say. he says: "TIp the maitre d' when you anive. you are endorsing bad service. tell him or her that the service was bad and describe exactly what was wrong. Your best revenge. In restaurants.96 JOHN TscHOIll. Go one step farther. He's always flattered. don't tip. Sometimes you'll receive a coupon for a free meal. Use tipping both to complain and to commend. though. you can always write a clear.. You might end up eating pizza. Getting a table rightaway is simple. Look the person In the eye and.) One restaurant reviewer makes an absolutely Inspired suggestion for avoiding the bar-herd hassle. Some ofthem will ca1l the restaurant and maybe even write a story. unemotional complaint letter to the manager. is to patronize competitors." Now. Let the waiter/waitress know why you didn'ttip. Would you mind acting like a waiter tonight?" [Nasty. but at leastyou'll feel good aboutyourself for striking a blow for consumer rights. When you tip 15 percent for bad service just because the waiter rivets you to the chair witha laser glare. 1£ youwish. \TIPS is an acronym for "To Insure Prompt Service. why didn't we think ofthat? Another reviewer (these are very creative people) saysthat whenever service is slow or sloppy. without raising yourvoice. Tipping when youget bad service is the ultimate cop-out. . isn't It?1 After you leave a restaurant that's treated you with disrespect. "I ask the waiter if he's an actor.) Ifyour complaint about poor service isn't satisfied. Most ofthem will at least file the letterand use it whentheyreceive more complaints about the same restaurant. the use oftipping to comment on service is effective. Ot won't hurt you to eat pizza once in a whfle.

Talk quietly. and even incompetent. then tip more than 15 percent. Go to the executive offices and ask to speak to an executive on an "urgent matter. prepare your case in your mind. but it is when you're pressed for time as I am today. RETAILING Here's a tip onwhat to do immediately when salespeople are argumentative. the supervisor most likely will believe your account. The clerk's colleagues may lie to support the clerk's alibi.THE CusroMER Is Boss 97 If the service was great." The executive (let's saythe officer is a female) may takeyou down to the department where you found the sweater that you want to payfor. be polite. but I am tIy1ng to buya sweater and I can'tget anyhelp. Bobby. Her first step will be to find a clerk. I'm not tIy1ng to get anyone in trouble. lazy. If you wish. "Now. If you remain calm and avoid name-call1ng and accusations. Convey byword and faetal expression that you simply want to obtain the service or merchandise you came in to buy rather than punish the offensive salesperson. And be specific. even though you wouldn't object If the employee got a dressing down. But. Sherealizes that the store actually does have an occasional employee who is rude. . I would appreciate it If you would help me get my sweater so I canbe on my way. when theyinsultyour taste. Don't waste time arguing with a salesclerk." Onthe way. When an executive comes out to meet you. 10minutes may not seem like a longwait. Saysomething like: "I've Just spent a good 10 minutes waiting for a salesperson who for all I know is still talk1ng onthe phone abouther boyfriend. or when they 'serve' you with snail-like deliberation and disinterest.

protesting that it's "not our policy" to compensate customers for the inconvenience they causewith their unrealistic delivery dates. When the order Signed states delivery will be made in "Four to SixWeeks" and it doesn't arrive on time. When theyreceive their statement from the businessthey bought the merchandise from. The store representative probably would be smart enough to know that. arrangeto charge your purchase to your credit account. So. ofcourse. stubbornly refuse to delete compensation for furniture rental from the store's statement. not the manufacturer. Thestore. Remind the store's representative that it was the store that promised the delivery date. Ajudgeprobably would find in your favor. they become deodedly apathetic. They pay the balance and enclose a note explaining what they've done. They enclose a copy (not the Original) ofthe rental receipt. If you don't have one. . they deductthe amount that they paidto rent the furniture. open one for tbls purpose. some energetic consumers rent the same merchandise such as furniture for use until the purchasearrtves. you won't cancel the orderand go through the same tiresome expertence with another store or manufacturer.98 JOHN TsCHOHL RETAIL STORE DELIVERY SERYICES Some businesses assumethat once you've waited seven or eight weeks for a delivery. Ajudge probably will order the storeto allow you to deduct most or allofthe disputed amount. They'll say that they can't be held responsible for manufacturer delays. Tell the employee that you'd happily go to court. But. will reply in horror. So. The fact is that the store really has breached the contract implied in giving a delivery date.

ask a checker to requestthat another register be opened.. Most presidents decide in favor ofelostng the books on such matters. for instance. Usually. SCotch tape. and bubble gum. If your requestfalls on deafears.and you will be jlrst in line. The store has overlooked the need to cross-train otheremployees so they can fill in at checkout counters.. SUPERMARKETS Some supermarket managers think they are good businesspeople when they intentionally understaff checkout lines so customers are exposed longer to impulse items that line the corridor leading to the checkout counter . When linesare long and othercheckout registers are going unused. if the rental expense isn't overwhelming . summon the manager and ask him or her to have someone open a register.items such as Bic lighters. that's all it takes.larger than the cost ofthe furniture. The manager will open a checkout line.THE CUSTOMER Is Boss 99 You'll undoubtedly be better off withholding the money and foisting the burden of collection onto the store instead of paying and then suing the store for the amount that you spent renting furniture. sometimes supermarkets really are caughtshort­ handed because ofillness ofcheckout personnel. nail clippers. If necessary. But. Point out the business's liability and express yourwillingness to drag the case through the courts. mini-magazines with horoscope readings. Be sure to send a copy ofyour letter noting that you've subtracted the cost ofrental to the company president. .

When everybody. Sounds petty. These fight-back tactics might lower your blood pressure and save the family dog from assault and battery. including the manager. the clerks won't have to wony about stocking shelves because he'll losea lot ofbusiness once you're through telling your neighborhood how long the lines are In H1nky Dinky Supermarket." After you leave the supermarket without your groceries. you say? You're right. Complete your shopping at a competitiVe supermarketthe next day. But. threaten to leave your full shopping cart in the checkout aisle and to walk out. gives you the cold shoulder. The store will need to return your items to the shelves. UIIIITY COMPANIES If your utility rejects your requestfor adjustment of an obvious error. Ifyou're treated really Inappropriately. 1f the manager claims that all the clerks are busy stocking shelves. tactics such as this are sometimes justified because they give you. stop offat a convenience store and buy the few items that are absolutely essential. . and you are very angry. contact the local or state Public Service Commission (sometimes called the State Utility Commission). too. and so on). and duplicates ofany documentation (bills. meter readings. the utility company's responses. This should motivate the commission to InvestJgate. Send copies ofyour letters to the company. much-needed satisfaction and the motivation to continue fighting for service. get assertive: Tell the manager that if he doesn't take care ofcustomersflrst.100 JOHN TsCHOHL But. the brow­ beaten consumer. there's nothing else youcan do but to strike back with a harmless "guerilla tactic.

• . contactthe National Association ofState Utility Consumer Advocates (NASUCAl to find out if your state has such a "utllity consumer advocate. Ifyou strike out with the Utility/Public Service Commission. Crown Bldg.' Reach NASUCA at: Florida Public Council. If that doesn't resolve the matter.. The first step usually is an informal mediation hearing.ThE CUsroMER Is Boss 101 If the State Utility/Public Service Commission doesn'tget very far. Phone: 904-488-9330. you can ask the Commission to mediate your case. Most complaints are settled before they reach this point. 624.. Tallahassee. 202 Blount St. you may receive aformal hearingwith a referee assigned by the Commission. FL 32301. Your state might also have a Consumer Advocacy Office for utility complaints. however. Rm.

.

CHAPTER 10 LIGHTS. ACTION••• COMPLAINI • "The First Rule: Personalize" • .

After all. Look the person in the eye. • . So. If you strike out with the manager. tell him or her about it. you'reconfronting the person who has caused your problem. And don't approach the personyou're meeting with hat in hand and eyes downcast. and ask: "Canyou help me?" Remember that your attitude and personal demeanor are tmportant in a personal meeting. don't holdyour breath while you wait for an apology and satisfaction. act as if you fully expect satisfaction. at once. The customer is boss. A personal meeting is an effective ploy. It's difficult for anyone to say "No" when you are bearing down With close eye contact. The logical first step is to see the managerofthe perpetrator ofthe service problem. But.104 JOHNTsCHOIlL • When a service employee is rude or incompetent. face-to-face. TIlis person is likely to become defensive. Act confident ofyour facts and figures and of the position you've taken. You are demanding a right. explain the problem. Youll be talking privately. immediately obtain an appointment with the manager's boss. Your complaint is legitimate.

COMPLAINI • "The Second Rule: Be Persistent" • . ACTION..CHAPTER 11 LIGHTS..

the rear axle twisted off. It was an oversight that a certain screeching noisemadequite evident. fur eight months he parked his motor home on the street In front of the repair shop. So.000to have the work done. He decorated it withgaudy signs that accused the repair shop of shoddy workmanship. . California. CASE: AChatsworth. persistence is the ace up yoursleeve. That made him mad." So. Here are examples ofpersistence.106 JOHN TsCHOHL • BUSinesspeople find it difficult to rebuff a persistent customer. The repair shop refused to repair the axle at no cost. auto repair shop failed to lubricate the wheel bearings during brake servicing on George Anderson's van. They're inhibited by a soft voice that says: "It's bad business to say 'No' to a customer. As he drove the van back to the shop. so he was forced to tow the van to anothergarage where he paid $2.

But Pat told Imboden and his wife that the carpet was much too dirty to be cleaned for the advertised price.that their carpetswere too dirty for the low price and that they had to be "preconditioned: . is typical of nearly 100consumers who complained to the Orange County district attorney about ArthurM.50.ThE CusroMER Is Boss 107 Anderson had the same sharply worded messages printed on T-shirts and buttons that he wore constantly. he would steam-clean the carpeting in oneroom .50. CASE: Robert Imboden ofElToro.$31. Eventually he won what he sought: Thenational franchisor ofthe Chatsworth shop agreed to payAnderson $5. For $6. his ads read. But he fired the attorney when he told Anderson to take his "libelous" signs off the side ofthe van. California. The ads were thick with appealing offers: "No hidden charges" and "Free spot removing and pre-manual scrubbing: Two Shubin employees named Pat and Jose came to Imboden's home to cleanthe carpet.for $99. Imboden said in a court declaration. owner ofSante Fe Springs Carpet & Upholstery Steam Cleaning. He hired a lawyer to help him pursue a claim against the auto repairshop. What's more.95 for five rooms.200 to reimburse him for the cost ofaxle repairsto his van. Shubin. And he painted the messages on protest signs that his friends carried outside the shop. and for damage from a break-in to the vehicle when it was parked outside the Chatsworth shop while mechanics debated who was at fault for the axle damage. the company promised to handle complaints from 30 strangerswho had stopped and told Anderson stories of their own bad repair experiences with the shop. for a new paint job. It must be "preconditioned: theysaid . All ofthe other complainants said they were told the same thing .

50 qutclde. "Shubin'S was a classic balt and SWitch. took Shubin to court and put him out ofbusiness. Whatever you do. she complained to Shubin about the poorqualityofthe work. he ordered them to leave.' Persistencepays.108 JOHNTsCHOm. When they insisted on a $10 service fee. manuallypre-scrub and steam-clean 900 square feet of carpet in that time. Wendy Brough.' "It did not seem possible that they could spot-clean.. So. Orange County deputy district attorney. "You get what you pay for. Imboden insistedthat he wantedthe $6. If these consumershad l1m1ted expression ofthe1r indignation to yelling at employees. One womantold the court that after the $6. then use high-pressure tactics to try to force the consumer into something moreexpensive. they'd still be yammering to friends about their bad experiences. he called police." Brough said. "FIne. lady•• she was told.• Imboden said later. don't give up too soon. But. "You advertise one price.50-per-room price. "It1l take us less than 10 minutes to do all five rooms. • ." said Pat.

· • .CHAPTER 12 HOW TO WRITE "THE LETTER" • "There's ajly in my McNuggets.

The Customer Relations department returned its own hand-drawn comic book called "Captain Pinto to the Rescue. Since he maintained his sense ofhumorand avoided anger and insult in the letter. done by her own hand. .· Fordfixed the car. for nothing. It illustrated the saga ofrepairproblems with her Ford Pinto and how it had strained her marriage. Another consumer typed his complaint on toilet tissue and sent the roll to the customer service department. vague. abusive. the company's servicepeople responded with a humorous letter in which they promised to satisfy his complaint. you have to make yourletter stand out Be creative. Original..110 JOHN TsCHOHL - In large companies. where employees commonly poreover customer letters that are written in anger and letters that are boring.. APennsylvania housewife sent Ford Motor Co. handwritten on grocery bags. Customer Relations department a l2-page comic book. and longer than the Holy Bible.

Disgusted. wrtte another letter. This letter becomes a record ofthe meeting. including those you saw dunngyour personal visit.l If you want repair service. . She got a new iron for her creative communication. scrawled on It "IRON NO GET HOl and mailed it to G. Send It to your primary contact. Name anyone who promised to get back to you and specify the deadline date that was given for response. In which you review all the promises and statements made during the meeting. (Do not send ongmals.THE CUSfOMER Is Boss III Awoman wrote to General Electric Company repeatedly to tellthe company that her new iron didn't work. All she got in return wasform letter after form letter. Afollow-up letter should include: n Your name n Your address n Your home and work phone numbers o Date and place ofpurchase Cl Specific statement ofyour complaint o Brief history ofthe problem o Copies ofallpertinent documents. FOLLOW UP MEETINGS WITH LEnERS If a letter that you write earnsyou a meeting. Include the first and last names ofevery person in addition to the addressee that you have dealt with at the company.E. right after the meeting. Include name and model and serial number ofthe product to be repaired. she eventually put the iron in a paper bag.

Most progressive companies will not neglect a letterjust because it is hand­ written. so they prefer them. Begin with a compliment. TYPE THE LETTER (IF POSSIBLE) Most businesses. though. AN EFFECTIVE LETTER You are mostlikely to be satisfied with yourletter's results when you: 1. Emphasize your satisfaction with the business. Ifyou don't have a typewriter.. It's important that you keep copies ofevery letteror handwrttten note so you can eitherduplicate them or use them as guidance for future letters: You never know how many letters you'll be sending.112 JOHNTsCHOHL Be sure to avoid angry statements. Identify the service you're complaining about. identify the product with serial. companies consist ofhuman beings who find it easierto read typed letters. Of course. are unconcerned about whether a letter is typed or not. instead ofincreasing your chances. Statewhere the transactiontook place and include a copy ofthe receipt. And they won't give you a poor grade because ofspelling errors. perhapsyour local library has coin-operated typewriters and you can use one ofthem. whether you type it or not. Anger is counterproductive: It lowers yourchances for satisfaction. If the bad service includes a purchase. 2. model or service numbers.untilnow. . Make two copies ofyourletter. eager to hear from their customers..

" IJ "I want the finance charges of$13 removed from my bill: IJ "I want to cancel the order.THE CUSfOMER Is Boss 3. 5. at yourPeoria branch: Don't getsidetracked Into long explanations about how the problem came about. 113 Near the beginnlng ofa letter. You'Ujust confuse the service rep. Close with a pleasant request for assistance. afterthe complimentary comment. 1992. A letter should include everything that a business needs to act immediately. or call youfor more information. Include name. 4. Be sure to specify whatyou want IJ "I wantthe cost ofthe coat plus tax credited to my account. Include specifics such as: "This letteris a request for credit of$250 on my account (Account No. If they have to searchfor this information in their records. Include a clearcopy ofreceipts for any service or merchandise. 000-00-0000) as a result ofnon-delivery ofa woman's coat purchased Dec. Simply describe the problem. 4. There's no need to report that the store nearly ruined your sister's wedding because the bridesmaids' shoes were dyed mauve instead ofpeach. . the response you desire will be delayed. address. Describe precisely why you are dissatisfied. Explain what you'd like the company to do. day-time phone number." On every piece ofcorrespondence. and youraccount number Inthe upper right comer so that you and yourproblem can be quickly identified.

be sure that it is neat and easyto read. when you noticed it. and correspondence. lawyer. Explain the problem. IJ Begin at the origin ofyour complaint and move upward from there toward the top executive. Be confident. and whatyou want the merchant or manufacturer to do. repair or service orders. accountant)." These are some ofher points: IJ Make the complaint letter short and to the point. describe the service and who performed it. IJ Specify all important facts such as date and place you made the purchase and any information that identifies the product. not emotional or hostile. not originals. If you are writing to complain about a service. yourbest bet maybe to complain to the state board that licenses the person if the Individual doesn't solve the problem.sales receipt. It's entitled "There's a Fly In My McNuggets and Other Consumer Letters. If your problem is witha service provided by a professional (doctor. IJ Type your letter. Ifyou write it. IJ Sendcopies ofreceipts. whatyou did to correct it.) Gather evidence in a file folder . . warranty. contracts. such as the serialor model number. funeral director. (We've made this point earlier. take photographs that display the workmanship. canceled checks.114 JOHN TsCHOHL WHAT THE TEACHER SAYS ABOUT LETTER· WRITING Gayle Knutson teaches a class on writing effective consumerletters. If the complaint Involves shoddy workmanship.

says V!guerie. Take your choiee. A lead paragraph. Every time I entered yourstore a salesperson would ask within a minute or two if they could help me. says Viguerie. You may recognize his name.THE CUSTOMER Is Boss 115 ADVICE FROM ON HIGH Here are letter-writing tips from Richard Viguerle.no more than two sentences of 10to 12words each. go for the kill: "So.' ." Then. Compliment the company! (Earlier we suggested a compliment in the first paragraph. spring a surprise. For example: "I am vel)' distressed by a billing error that your company refuses to correct: In the second paragraph. also In the first paragraph. You might try: "Over the years I've been vel)' happy with your service. I interrupted once and was told to 'Wait a minute. summarize the problem in a dramatic way. largely with powerfully persuasive letters. Omit unnecesswy details. He's the magician who raised m1lI1ons ofdollars for conservatfve political causes and campaigns." In the next paragraph. Here's a letterthat contains the required detail: "On August 12an employee. in your Cornucopia store spent approximately 10 minutes with anotheremployee dtscussmg a partythe previous night while I waited to ask where I could find an electric meat knife. totally unresponsive to customers. should be brief . Begin with an opening statement such as: "r have a problem and I need your help. you can Imagine my dismay when I went searching for a salesperson after waiting 10minutes and found three ofthem in an Intimate conversational huddle." Move on to detail. John Smith.l Mix the sweet withthe sour.

4. Or." They are: 1.116 JOHNTsCHOHL "ThIs Is the thlrdtime in a month that I've found it very difficult to get service in yourstore. if you're merely ticked off about bad service. Refund.." It's a good ideato letsomeone else read the letter before you mail it.which Is exactly what1am considering. single-space letter. Request for redress: Correction ofa bill. too often they put aside a legitimate complaint for attention "next Monday. FIVE ELEMENTS Agood letter consists offive simple elements. Clear statement ofproblem. then the person who receives it probably will comprehend it. Deadline for resolution ofyourproblem. 5. If you can't keep it to onepage. Keep yourlettershort." Since most people only scan a letter. As a result. request an apology.200'­ 2. If that person thinks the message Is clear. The second sentence of the first paragraph and again at the endwould do nicely. Awarning offurther action that will be taken if things don't go yourway. number important points so the letter is easyto follow. Don't produce an angry three-page. Factsthat backup the story. present yourrequest twice so they are less Jike1y to miss it. Customer service representatives find long letters to be intimidating and time-consuming. "You mistakenly debited my account $1. whether you arejust "calling yourattention to" or saying "I think somebody oughtto be aware of. also. 3. It's not necessary for meto put up with rude and indifferent service when I can easl1y switch my business to Smllin' Jack's EmpoI1um .. Repairs. .

When dealing with utilities. .to an Industry association. a Boy Scout leader called a Safeway supermarket to protest video games that he viewed as a corrupting Influence." Thevision ofa troop ofBoy Scouts marchlng Infront ofa 5afeway persuaded company executives to remove the machines. Here are suggested actions to use: a Tm going to stop payment." Confirming the effectiveness ofthis warning. but could have been part ofa letter) was: "To mobilize my Troop to picket the store. Recently. your bestthreat Is to saythat you'll take your complaint to a higher authority ." Ifyou carry out this threat the company either will negotiate or sue. the head ofthe customer relations department for Bloomingdale's department storein York said: "If a customer spends a lot ofmoney in the store. I'll try to settle a complaint right away. IJ "I'm going to spend my money elsewhere." Dissatisfaction with a merchant or manufacturer spread by word ofmouth kills sales.THE CusroMER Is Boss 117 Thls "warning offurther action· is effective. to the Better Business Bureau." IJ "1'11 tell everybody who'll listen about your bad service. or to state public service commission. the government regulatory body that approves rate increases. By law it COJUlDt blacken your credit record or sic collection agencies onyou untilyou admit that you owe money to the firm or until a judge or jurydecides that you owe money. His threat (which was spoken.

With a condescending air the managerordered a check for $25. Ifyou feel gullty for making threats. Heworked for a subsidiary ofwhat was formerly Control Data Corporation (CDC). This time. is to callthe company and ask for It. . FOLLOW-UP UTTER Follow up an lnitlalletter with a second letter when a company Ignores you or refusesyour request.118 JOHN TSCHOHL Don't threaten a utility company withthe publicservice commission until you've written the company president. Most ofthe time you will get satisfactlon. as consultant John McMullen. All you need to do to get his/her name. remind yourselfthat you are helping other consumers who are too timid to complain. He had to rush over to a nearby men's store and buy a suit and accessories. He needed it for an importantmeeting in an hour. in most cases. McMullen found that his bags hadn't arrtved at the airport when he did. After his meeting. then you should send your letter to state and local consumer protectlon agencies and others. he went to see the airline's managerat the airport. On the few occasions whenyou are stonewalled. You mayfeel better if youjust imply a threat. In one ofthe missing bagswas his business suit. Don't send copies ofa letter to anyone other than the contact at the company you're complaining to. and you are helping companies that need satisfiedconsumers to stay in business. threaten action such as sending copies ofthe letter to 50 of your friends and relatives.

and the people In those departments give royal treatment to letters sent down by the president. which wasjictittous. Directors and Executives or Thomas' Register qf American Manufacturers. Don't be stymied if you don't know the president's name and address. you see. schedules hundreds of fUghts eachyearfor CDC executives: Acheck for the full amount ofMcMullen's purchases arrived withJn days." 119 Theperson who read the lettermay have assumed that the travel service. LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT It's true that it is effective to write letters to the president or to the chairman ofa company. They are available in most hbrartes. bad news often is pigeonholed. Consult Standard & Poor's Register ofCorporations. mentioned earlier. sendthe president a lot ofgood news. then president ofthe airline. Call the company and ask for it.THE CUSTOMER Is Boss When McMullen reached home. has a greater stake in the success ofthe business than anyone. and to the ·CDC Travel service. he sent a letter to the airline noting that he'd sent a copy to Frank Borman. . But. Thepresident might be alarmed to learnthat some customers are not overcome with gratitude for the consistently stellar service they receive. Letters to presidents are effective because they pass the letters on to the consumer affairs/customer service departments . Thepresident. He might even pen an order note onyourletteras he forwards it to the customer service manager. Another good reason to write the company president is that a complaint letterprobably will startle him or her. Subordinates. after all.

Call and ask the nameofthe president. Tell your friendly reference librarian what youwant and she most likely will find the Information somewhere else. When the parent corporation's name differs from the name ofthe company you dealwith. then it's an obscure company or very new. Will you give me the correct spelling ofthe president's name. A businesswould be crazy to COnsistently courtcustomer dissatisfaction. after the operator most likely has forgotten your first call. please?" You are implying that you already know his name and that you are just checking for the correct spelling. "I am writing a letter to the president and I wantto be sure to spell the name correctly. They realize that they can't correct a problem unless they know that it exists. Ina pleasant voice: "Ineed to write a letter to the president. and receipts.whenthe operator spells the name. letterheads.. that's whenyou will be learning it.. then alternate measures are called for. to avoid the need to look it up. Sayto the operator. f1'ry asking for his name and address. Will you give me the name and address. .120 JOHN TscHOHL If the corporation that runs the business isn't listed In either directory. Ifshe doesn't. try again with a little different approach. Consumers oughtto avoid the automatic belief that all bad servtce is Intentional and that it is caused by a malicious attitude toward customers. Afew hours later.) If youknow that the parentcorporation is In yourtown. All businesses committed to quality service want to know about service problems. and when its nameor address are not displayed on signs. But. look for it In the phone book. then ask the store manager's office for the parent corporation's nameso you can look up address and president's name. please?" In most cases she'll give you the president's name.

This Is exactly what happens unless a company happens to have a well-established customer service program that motivates front­ line employees to practice good service. and you'll get it.THE CUSTOMER Is Boss 121 Consider the likelihood that a business doesn't know when it has problems." Staycalm. to supervisors. The customer is the boss. that front-line employees frequently (conveniently) "forget" to report complaints to supervisors. present the facts. Acomplaint to a customer service department. • . Don't hesitate to complain because you think that you might make somebody "mad. or to the president is a service by you that the vast majority ofcompanies appreciate. most ofthe time. ask for sattsfaction. and that supervisors rarely report complaints to management.

CHAPTER

13

LETTER SAMPLES

How to create a quality letter.

124

JOHN TscHOHL

Positive Statement
Problem
Supporting Fads
Action Requested

H are samples ofletters that employ the principles ere
discussed in Chapter 1\velve. You maybe able to use the letters just as theyare, afterinserting facts related to your case, such as yourname and address. Locate points at which words and phrases should be replaced with information specific to your case.

THE CUsroMER Is Boss

125

AIRLINE: DELAYED LUGGAGE; POOR SERVICE

July 19,19_
Mr. Smlley 8educta Director ofCustomer Service Albatross AIrlines 120Decibels Dr, Wheaton, NI 00004

DearMr. Seduela: I've fiown yourairline three times a month for the past nineyearsand I have always beensatisfied. But now I have a problem. I hope youcan help. My luggage was loston my past two DAIE/PlACE fllghts. Flight 5227from Chicago to New York. March 10.and Flight 624 from Chicago to MIami. March 21. Theluggage didnot arrive at my hotel PROBLEM until several hours afterI arrived. I had to buya swtm suit to replace the one In the luggage. Areceipt for $15.90 Is enclosed, I expect payment. Theprospect ofhaving only the clothes on my backduring two daysofbusiness meetings In New York was a greatInconvenience. Theluggage didn'tarrive unlJ1 I'd already bought a clean shirt. socks. and underwear for thesecond day. There was no way that I was going to send my only clothes to the hotel's laundry and risk not getting them back In time to wear them my second day In New York. Thebl1I, this time, was $47.93, enclosed. Please send retmbursement. Another manIfeslatlon ofbad service Is that In SUPPORTIIIG neitherNew York nor Miami didyourairline fACT deliver my luggage. In both cases my hotel picked up the luggage. These Incidents indicate to me that your slandard ofservice has slipped. COllnRUCTIVE I suggest that you look Into this matterbefore CRITICISM youalienate a large proportion ofyour customers, I hope that theseincidents oflost luggage and lack ofInterest In rectifying the problems you cause are temporary departures from yourusual good service. Please, however, send retmbursement for my PLUSAIIT REQUEST FOR expenses.

POSITIVE STATEMEIIT

RESPOIISE

SIncerely,

126

JOHN TSCHOHL

ATTORNEY GRIEVANCE
Sample Letter to Bar Association Grievance Conunittee

July 13. 19_
Mr. Albert Plummet, Esq.
Slip, Fall and lacerate, Ltd.
Ambulance, MU 00007

Dear Sirs:

HISTORY

PROBLEM

PROBLEM

AenON REQUESIID

PlOSlNT CONCLUSION

OnJanuary 24, 19 _. I retained the finn oflarson and Mason, Esq., to draft a pre-nuptial agreement. As you can see from the retatner agreement, attached, the fee was to be $500. The amount was paidon the date that the firm was retatned. Once the finn obtatned the fee It seems that they lost Interest In performing the work. The telephone record and record oflettersmat1ed to Larson and Mason. enclosed. show that I contacted theman average ofonce a week, beginning In March. asking for the agreement. The pre-nuptial agreement anived at my home yesterday, but since I was married InJune, the pre­ nuptial agreement now is post-nuptial. What's more, now that we are married mywife refuses to sign an agreement - pre or post. I wish to submit this case to your panel for fee arbitration. (Frankly, I feel that I owe nothing because I did not receive a pre-nuptial agreement post haste.) Please forward to me any forms that you need to process IhIs case. Thankyou for your help. Yours truly,

THE CUsroMER Is Boss

127

AUTOMOBILE SERVICE

Letter to Automotive Dealer

Mr. Big Squeeze, President Lemon Motor Car Co.

Wassahatchle, lIT 99008 DearMr. Squeeze: I've been a customer ofyourservice department for about 15years, as you may know. Usually I've been satisfied withyour work. This letterexpresses my first complaint. Sixweeks ago today you finished repairs to the left SUPPORTING FACTS front fender ofmy car. However, you did not replace the grill because, you said,you could not obtain the part for another two weeks. I needed the car, so I took It without the grtIl. Another sixweeks to the dayafteryou finished repairing the fender you sUll have not replaced the grill. I could be wrong, but grills for latemodel cars can't be that difficult to find. If you had not begun this repairJob and left it unfinished, I might be inclined to locale a grill myself. I'msure that I could find oneat a used auto parts yard. As you know, body parts from auto parts yards usually are In good condition. I'masking you to get more serious, to exertmore AcnON REQUESRD honest effort to find a grill, and to Install It in my car. If you don't, you will, Mr. Squeeze, lose a long-time customer. And that Is not the kindof thing that should reassure you about the long-term future ofyour firm. Thankyou for your cooperation. I expect to hear PLUSANT REQUEST FOR from you within a week that you want my car in your RESPONSE service department so you can replace the grill.

POSITIVE STARMINT

Very trulyyours,

128

JOHN TsCHOHL

BANK ERROR
November 31. 19_
Mr. Philllppe Conceete
Manager
Bank ofPhilanthropy
2222 Forked Tongue 8t.
Generosity. GT 80809

DearMr. Conceete:

POSITIVE I have been a cuslomer ofyourbank for five years, OPENING and I have always been treatedwell. SUPPORTING But, now I must complain about your failure to FACTS/ credit a $376.97 deposit that I made Oclober 13. I BACKGROUND have lost the receipt for that deposit, however. INFROMAIION Perhaps yearsofexperience with deposits betog
faithfully credited made me careless. But. non­ existence ofa deposit slip has no bearing upon your abl1Jty 10 locate an excess to yourbalance for Oclober 13. COMPUINT I can no longer accept yourclalm that the excess SPECIFICS does not show up Inyour records. Authorities that I have consulted tell me that the mostlikely reason that you haven'tfound the excess Is that you haven'tlooked for It. Apparently you feel that cuslomer satisfaction Is not important. It's not surprising that you are very efficient at bl1ltog me for payments on loans. It Is surprlstog, though, that you can't seemto correct an error when you owe money to me. REQUEST FOR Ifyou can't find my $376.97 I will close my account.

ACnON
Sincerely,

THE CusroMER Is Boss

129

BANK: POOR SERVICE

October 17,19_
Mr. Robert George, President ThIrd BankofWest River
Gas~o,PM

00001

Re. Acct. No. IA2S3D4F

DearMr. George: I have a problem and I need your help. Your service has been helpful for the seven years that I've been a customer. But that's changed. DATE/PlACE On October 10. my brother was hit by a OF SERVICE motorcycle as he wasriding his unicycle. He was rushed to the Emergency Ward ofWellness General Hospital, but the hospital wouldn't admithim unless he deposited $2,000, since he had no Insurance. SUPPORTING My brother called and asked if he could borrow the FACTS money from me. I rushed to the nearestbranch, Dogpatch Branch, though I bankat the main bank, only to discover when I anived that I'dforgotten my checkbook. I Intended to write out a check to obtain cash from my checking account. COMPUINT Your cashier, Sally Insipid, ID No. 777, insisted that she could not give me a counter check to use, HISTORY though I had plenty ofvalid Identification. She said that yourcomputer wasnot working and that she was too busy to make a phone call to the main bank. Repeated appeals, citing mybrother's need, failed to budge good Ms. Insipid. BUSINESS I have not bounced a single check Inseven years, BENEFIT and I have repaid each oftwo loanson time. You have had nearly $100,000 ofmine to Invest for yourbenefit. I feel that I deserved better treatment. I hope that you see that It Is Inyour Interests to PLEASANT CONCLUSION correct a clear and significant customer relations problem that exists In the attitude ofMs. Insiptd, and probably In attitudes ofother cashiers, assuming that they share the same principles.

POSITIVE STATEMINT

Sincerely,

130 JOHN TsCHOHL APPLIANCE REPAIR SERVICE: NON-PERFORMANCE June 30. COMPLAINT ThIs Is the second day that thts has happened. COMPLAINT Very truly yours. Boxer: I waited all morning on Tuesday. HISTORY The first day. My home phone number ts 808-0808. My phone number REQUESTED at work ts 909-0909. Jeopardy. June 28. I was able to take paid timeofffrom work. so I lost tncome. oneweek ago. 1M 00009 Dear Mr. EXPANSION OF I live In yourservice area and I still want to do COMPLAINT bustness wtthyou. He didn't corne and he didn't call to say that he wouldn't be coming. for your service person to show up to repair mywashing machine. The question Is. do you want to do business wtthme? If you do. OscarBoxer AAM Appliance Repalr SeIVIce 447 Someday Av. .19_ Mr. This time I was not paid. what action by you do you propose as compensation for the needlessloss of pay that you have caused me? ICnON Please give me your response.

thereby subscnbmg REQUESTED toyour Code ofEthics. Inc. 1M 00009 Gentlemen: Stringer Construction. COMPLAIIIT I have alsoenclosed a day-to-day log that contains HISTORY digests ofmy conversations with Stringer's representative and actions I've taken to Induce the company to do the work It promised. 447 Surly Av. ACnOIl Stringer Is a member ofNHlC. Inc. New York. Inc. cc: Stringer Construction. Crooked. . PROBLEM Very truly yours.ThE CUSTOMER Is Boss 131 RIQUIST FOR INTERVENTION A letter to a business association when a contractorJails to live up to terms ofa contract July 5. REQUEST FOR Please let me know the resultofyourdiscussion of RESPOIISE this problem with Stringer. NY 10017 RE: Stringer Construction. I would appreciate It Ifyou would prevail upon the company to live up to Its agreement. and I have an ongoing dispute over the company's compliance with the enclosed contract between us.19_ National Home Improvement Council (NHICj 11 East 44th Sl.

. As part ofyoursurety bond you have agreed to cover losses causedby defective work ofPoor Richard's. Gotrocks: You are the suretyfor Poor Richard's Construction. BACKGROUID COMPLAII' HIS'ORY AenOIL REQUESTED Dear Mr. according to the Commission. Thecompany has refused to do work that they were contracted to do. cc: Poor Richard's Construction.. I suggest that you use your Influence to persuade the company to comply with the terms ofour contract Very truly yours. Roger Gotrocks Easyrnoney Bonding Company Mlami Beach.132 JOHN'TscHOHL COMPLAINT TO ABONDING COMPANY JulyS. FL 00008 RE: Poor Richard's Constructlon. according to my state Home Improvement Commission. If you wtsh to avoid a claim by Poor Richard's on thetrsurety bond with you. inc. Inc. I may be forced to brtng suit against Poor Richard's for non-performance ofa contract between us. lnc. 19_ Mr.

(ONSTRUerM Mr. I'm sure that you realize that eRlTKISM customers are the only reason that you have a store. RC 00005 DearMr. When I asked questions she tossed off Incomplete answers In a rude tone. Porous treatedmewith great impatience. I stood In the department for a full 15mtnutes SUPPORTING yesterday before an employee offered to assist me. Can you assure me that steps will be taken to prevent rude and unhelpful behavior by youremployees In the future? May I hear from you byJanuary 3? POSITIVE OPENING Very truly yours. Because I didn't know exactly the style and color I wanted. . Off to onesidetwo young female employees were stocking shelves and carrying on a laugh-and-giggle personal conversation. 19_ Mr. But. I wish to reporta serious caseofcustomer abuse PROBLEM by employees In the Ready-to-Wear Dresses department. now I am afraid that I must express dissatisfaction with Bottomltne Department Store. FAerS Durtng that time several employees walked by me. Her namewasMs. I got the Impression she was Just trying to get ridofme. Randolph. PeterRandolph. Ms.THE CUSTOMER Is Boss 133 EMPLOYEE MISCONDUCT December II. Porous. I stlllfeel decidedly Insulted by the treatment I AenON REQUESTED received from Ms. and a bank account. Randolph: Formany years I have been sufficiently satisfied with yourservice to contlnue spending several thousand dollars each yearat yourstore. without speaktng. Thesalesperson who eventually approached was very patronizing and condescending. President Bottomltne Department Store Dogpateh. Porous.

Old York. Suave. POSITIVE OPENING Sincerely. and the time that I received It at 7:20 p. since I don't smoke. when I returned to my room after an absence of four hours. and there wereCigarette butts In the ash tray. Mr. 19_ Mr. one hour elapsed between the lime I phoned In my roomservice order on January 23 at 6:20 p. BACKGROUND first. ACnOIl I will give you one more chance. I INTEIIDED will take my bustness across the street on my frequent vlslts to your clty. I have twocomplaints.m. ACnOIl If I expertence more bad service on my next trip.134 JOHN TsCHOHL HOTEL SERVICE January 29. That's a slgnJficant point. Suave: I'msure that you receive many compl1ments on the beauty ofyour hotel and the fancy uniformsthat your employees wear. SamuelSuave General Manager Midtown Hotel 2020 Boondoggle Blvd. I hope REQUESTED that you will be able to "light a fire" under your kltchen and housekeeping staffs and that you w1ll teach housekeeping employees not to smoke In the rooms. has anybody done you the favor of suggestingImprovements? COMPUINT I will. I found that the bed had not been made or the room cleaned. Second. But. I am a non-smoker.m. The rooms might be occupied by non-smokers. that same day. . AndI will advlse the travel dtrector for my company to avoid thls hotelwhen scheduling trtps for our executives. OY 10017 DearMr.

I have a problem that I hope you can help mewith. Wrong: You have been my Insurance agent for nineyears. I've learned from the HISTORY/ (name ofyour state) Insurance Department that Able PROBLEM has the worst record of any company In terms of complaints per premium dollars collected. I bought homeowners Insurance COMPLAINT from Able Insurance Co. But. Half the building was demolished . POSITIVE STAIEMENT Mr. As you know. I relied on your professional judgment. This Is relevant because I've been trying to collect on a claim for six months without success. since Abel refused to paywhat I consider to be a reasonable cIatm. 19_ Mr. I urge you to use your Influence with this company AenON REQUESRD to persuade the firm to honor my clatm. upon your recommendation.AT 00005 DearMr. But Able claims that the damage to my house was SUPPORTING due to my negligence In building the garden house FAns where the tree fell. WIll Wrong 99 Poor House Lane Ovennsured. . I feel that I have been damaged by relying upon PROBLEM your advice. You told me that this company has a reputation COMPLAINT for timely cIatm settlements. A50-foot oak treefell on mygarden shed dunng the 19_ Labor Day hurricane while I was inside oj it.the halfthat I was notIn. Can you believe It? Documents that support my assertion that the company refused to pay my claJm are enclosed. alone.THE CUSTOMER Is Boss 135 INSURANCE BROKER: CLAIM SETTLEMENT March 3. Can you resolve this matter within 10days? Very truly yours. Wrong. In dectdmg to buy the polIcy from Able.

On the sales slipyour salesperson wrote: COMPlAINT "Delivery week ofMarch 7 to 13: Thatdelivery date HISTORY was acceptable because the apartment I was furnishing was to be occupied on March 15. Your billlng department says that Fatwood FurnIture Is not responsible for my rental costsbecause your manufacturer did not deliver the furniture to you In lime foryou to deliver It to meat the appointed lime. otto Orsini. President Fatwood furniture Co. Legally. 14 days later than promised. . Etagere. You made an offer to deliver the furniture and I accepted the offer by signing my credit card slip. Themanufacturer was not mentioned In our contract. Your breachof the contract was the proximate and foreseeable cause of my rentalexpenses of$58. REQUESTED Yours truly. Then you breached an existtng contract by falling to deliver the furniture when promised. 3636 ottomonAv. MP 00002 RE: Contested Charge Breach ofContract Charge Account No. Orsini: On February 13. 19_. I expect you to correct my billlng and credltmefor ACnON the $58 rental fee. Please understandthat the contract was between youand me. and youbreached It. charging the $962 cost to my account. Thefurniture did not arrtve when promised. So It was necessary for me to rent a bedroom set formytenant. 222-33-99 Dear Mr. It Is basic In the law that a contract Is formed PROBlEM when an offer Is accepted. the contract was with you.136 JOHN TSCHOHL LATE DELIVERY March 27. Thebedroom set arrtved yesterday. however._ Mr. I bought a bedroom set DATE/PlACE OF SERVICE from you.

Strangelove: Your employees all were very cordial durl" 6 our recent move. ACnOIl I expect your checkfor $2.22 In settlement of REQUESTED both claims wlthln 30 days. your company's van left our Okefenokee. TP.. . Slow MoUon. IE 00004 POSITIVE STATEMENT COMPLAINT Dear Mr. It did not arrive unUl June 8. 19_ Mr.THE CUSTOMER Is Boss 137 MOVING COMPANY: UTE ARRIVAL AND DAMAGE June 27. Inc. though you had scheduled It to arrive on June 5. The claim Is for Inconvenience and damages caused by youroverdue delivery ofmy home furnishings and damage to furniture. and myself with no place to stay except a motel for three nights more than we expected. SUPPORTING I'm sure that you know that the lawrequires you FAaS to cover an inconvenience claim for food and lodging. my two children. with receipts as documentation. Enclosed also Is an appraisal by Sterltng & TIffany. Stanley Strangelove Executive Customer service RepresentaUve Bump-and-Grind Movlng Co.222. DATE/PLACE OnJune 3. Such a claim. of the gouges made by a sharp Instrument In my antique roll-top desk. Is attached. That left mywife. MU. That's why I am sorry to enter a claim against Bump-and-Onnd. SIncerely. home on Its way to Wasahatchle.

I feel fine. Thankyou. . However. Oldyou really intend to charge me $60 for a three minute office visit? Absolutely aU that you did was to ask me how I felt and then wrtte out a prescription for what turned out to be a case ofthe flu. Francois Flawless 3 Malpractice Sq. POSInVE During that time I've had many an occasion to STATEMINT mention your friendly.unlessyou reduce this bill by half. Mercedes Benz. or more.138 JOHN TsCHOHL PHYSICIAN OVERCHARGE December 23. now. FI 11990 Dear Dr. competent manner to my PROBLEM COMPLAINT HISTORY ACTION REQUESTED acquaintances. I must complain about an obvious overcharge. Sincerely. But I wtll surely have a relapsean emotional relapse . Flawless: BACKGROUND I've beena patient ofyours for almostthree years.19_ Dr. I have never beendissatisfied with you before.

most ofthe time. Inc. I also missed my son's high school graduation ceremony.19_ Mr. ThIs is something neither he nor I ever w1II forget. Thermopolis. It Is an event. I trust that the slow service to which I refer was a rare event.THE CUsroMER Is Boss 139 RIITALCAR June 17. But J w1II. Roger Gofortt Timely Car Rental. If It happens again. COMPUINT But slow service costmedearly last week. Yours truly. I am qutte bitteraboutyourlapse ofservice. continue to use yourcars because you are conveniently located. ACnON INTENDED . Golont: POSITIVE Your automobiles are clean and yourservice Is STATEMENT timely. 2222 Languid Dr. I wiD Inform the travel dlrector ofmy company. that cannot be dupl1cated In my Itfe.. I missed my OIght. As a result. BACKGROUND Because It took youremployees at Dogpatch International AIrport 20 minutes to process mewhen I returneda car and another20 minutes to getmeto the termtnal. GR 29299 Dear Mr.. ofcourse. for the moment.

unless youchange yourpolicy.140 JOHNTsCHOHL RESTAURANT: UNJUSTIFIED DELAY IN SEAliNG November 25. SUPPORJlIII FAas probably at the reservation time. I promise you that my friends and myself will spread word ofyour poor service as wtdely as we can. Clever: You operate a very clean restaurantWIth a pleasant. Manager Roger's Food Palace IHI Wegotcha Lane Cleveland. relaxing environment. Your maitre d' suggested that we walt In the lounge. You know that you could have seated us earlier. When we were shown to our seat we saw three empty tables. OH 92999 Dear Mr. . ButI have a compla1nt. Our party ofsixwaited 50 mlnutes past the reservation time last friday evening. POSITIVE IlA'IMlII' COMPLAIII' HISJOR' Sincerely. 19_ Mr. Roger Clever.and encourage our friends to do the same. I suggest that you begin seating yourcustomers at AcnOll REQUESIED the time for which they make reservations.

COMPlAINT I purchased the coat InSeptember. however. and I want the $250 costof AenOIL REQUESTED the coatplus tax credited tomy account. POSITIVE Sincerely. OH 66778 Dear Mr. Harold Wainright.ThE CUsroMER Is Boss 141 SOFT GOODS STORE: POOR SERVICE November 13. But. However. . your record Is not Intact. Your salesperson. I'll most likely continue to buy dresses and accessories from you. Peter Warroad. Warroad: I wish to thankyou for years ofgood service. Heavenly. President Wonderful. Also. refused to accept the coat In return. frankly. considering STATEMENT/ PROBLEM that you have refused to credit my account for a coat that I wish to return because ofobviously inferior workmanship. please remove finance charges of$13 from my billtng. 19_ Mr. The first tlrne I NISTORY wore It. I will return the coat. number 918273. I am so disgusted with the terrible quality of the coat that I don't want to take a chance on another coatfrom you. I reached for my car door and the sleeve nearly ripped off at the shoulder seam. He insisted upon exchanging It. Inc. 36 Marvelous Dr.

Now consider that I will be very vocal in discussing this matterwtth my state legislator and wlth friends and relatives. That meansto me that you are sensitive to the needs and optnlons ofthe public. Hufnagel. After that I waited Inlinefor another 40 minutes. AmON Please forcefully Impress upon yourclerks the REQUEsrED revolutionary Idea that citizens arepeople! Sincerely. Hufnagel: You. I sat fAaS in yourspacious lobby on oneofyourbackless stools for 62 minutes before my number was called. ·CLOSED· It read. And she wasgone. Hugh Hufuagel Director. leaving me to stand there feeling stupIdand then enraged. are a public official. EIPANSION Now. Just as I reached the headof the line the clerk tnumphantly and wttha flourtsh slid her little rectangular message board In front of me. Motor Vehicle Services Dlvtslon State ofAnxIety Normal. Mr. IL 55555 DearMr. COMPLAIIIT I have a strongopinion about the bad attitudes HISlORY and the rotten service byclerks in the motor vehicle department facility on FaI1safe Street. POSITIVE OPENING . 19_ Mr. On December 30. Is Of COMPLAINT this any way to treat a constituent? I doubt that Iam the only person that this has ever happened to. SUPPORTING Let me gtve you the facts.142 JOHN'T5CHOHL STAlE GOVERNMENT COMPLAINT January 2. [ ask you as a politically sensitive position.

I stayedthereseveral times. twice. WXYZ-TV Farmington. .1HE CUSTOMER Is Boss 143 MISlEADING ADVERTISING January 19. during your Sundaynightmovie. Smith: I would like to know why your TV station allowed the blatantly misleading commercial for BBB Midtown Hotel In New York to air last night. 19_ Mr. John Smith General SalesManager. J can personally attest to the fact that BBB Midtown Hotel offers neither friendly nor efficient service. and J know. MO 10101 TELEVISION STATION: COMPLAINT AcnON REQUESTED DearMr. Sincerely. There wasn'tan ounce oftruth In the commercial and I would I1ke to know when It'sgoing to be pulled from the air and why you allowed It to be run In the first place.

• . WlII you please calland tell mewhenyou'll be out PLWANT REQUEST FOR to open the door? My phone number Is: 461-2859. Hany Stringer. At that BENEFIT tlrne he promised to correct the garage door problem "in two days." I'm sure that youwant to correct any problem resultingfrom poorworkmanship to avoid developing a bad reputation tn the community. RESPONSE Stncerely. President Stringer Construction Co. Webulldem.144 JOHN TsCHOHL BUILDING CONTRACTOR: WORKMANSHIP February 23. But my BUSINESS last conversatlon was nearly two weeks ago. 19_ Mr. I havetalked with your foreman twice. StrInger: Although youworked very fast and cleaned up the POSITIVE debris resulting from yourwork tn building myattached STATEMENT garage. Theoverhead doorcannot be opened. please openmy doorand do whatever must be AcnON REQUESTED done to makesure that I willbe ableto openand close It tn the future. MU 11229 DearMr. I havea complaint. So.

· .AoVOCA'lED BY PRESIDENT TEDDY ROOSEVELT • ..CHAPTER 14 COMPLAINING IN PERSON • "Speak softIy.but carry a big stftk..

Prepare: Reduce the stress ofa personal meeting with an executive focusing uponyou from behind a hugedesk. Your letters and phone calls have paid off and you're gOing in for a face-to-face talk with a supervisor. (No giggling. now. you tried ta1king to the employee who snubbed you or misinformed you." Afriend sits behind a deskor a tablelooking stern and unresponsive. and to the customer service department. . None ofthat helped. to that person's superior. the customer service manager.) Tell her or him aboutyour problem and what you expect the executive to do about it. Do it by "role playing. a manager. Ofcourse.146 JOHN TsCHOHL • You've done it. or (you can't believe it) with a corporate vice president or president. You're going to tellthe executive why yourcomplaint is justified: and you're going to ask for satisfaction. Imagine that yourfriend really is the executive you are to meet.

but. Dress well. you will win only the executive's determination to denyyour request. Ifyou yell.. . if you happento be verydetermined to right a wrong. or having difficulty expressing yourself. unsure ofyour facts. youll see the wisdom in this idea. Instead. No jeans or baggy or rumpled clothing. and make threats that you couldn't keep. neatly cut. It helps ifyou take someone withyou. even several friends and neighbors. as President Teddy Roosevelt advocated. Hair must be clean.THE CUSTOMER Is Boss 147 Ifyou role play. You might say that you have a busy schedule and that you expect the matter to be settled then and there. and styled. SpeaksoftIy. carry a bigstick. wave your arms. Bepersistent.. all ofthem customers or at least potential customers. You won't be as neNOUS as you would have been without practicing for the meeting. Don't ever give the impression that you are embarrassed. Role playing isn't for everyone: but. An office full ofunhappy customers very likely will kindle visions ofdeclining sales and even spontaneous boycott in the mind ofthe executive. imply that you are accustomed to getting satisfaction when you complain. Your statements will carry more weight ifyou look reliable and decisive than they will ifyou look as ifyou were homeless. State that you're not going to stop complaining until you doget satisfaction. Be flrm. we guarantee you that you'll feel more in control ofthe situation when you face the real executive. And don't back down. There definitely is strength in numbers in this situation.

To win the executive's cooperation. the manager. there's a good chance that you'll get the satisfaction that you deserve. After you've said the same thing in six or seven different ways. The recapitulation: If you complain assertively and if you are persistent. companies depend upon repeatcustomers for mostoftheir business. keep talking. Use the broken record technique: Repeat your main point. if necessary: "What would you do if you were in my shoes?" Imply that it's logical and fair foryou to request redressfor your service problem. Sometime duringa meeting ask. too.148 JOHN TsCHOHL Even if you're getting no response. and I would be upset to learn that oneof my company's customers wastreated as poorly as I've been treated. or vice president probably will conclude that giving you what youwant Is a lot easier than arguing withyou. • . say something like: "I'm in business. Remember. supervisor." As a last resort. exert a powerfu1impact by tell1ng the company that it might as well "kiss oft" both your repeat business and that ofyourfriends and neighbors.

CHAPTER 15 BETTER BUSINESS BUREAUS • MBetter Business Bureaus areso convenient that they are worth special comment.• • .

BBBs represent manufacturers and retailers and are funded by them. But. A BetterBusiness Bureau (BBB) performs two basic functions: 1. maintaining files on companies and 2. no file will be available.150 JOHN TsCHOHL • Better Business Bureaus are so convenient (there's probably an office near you) that theyare worth special comment. unless a complainant names a company. Files consist mainly oflogs ofpublic inquiries and complaints. . Bydoing so you are doing a favor for other consumers. Always lodge legitimate complaints with the local BBB office to help them update their files and improve their service. handling gnpes.

But. Profiles and other file Information is available to consumers without charge. both parties must agree to arbitration. generally. Filing a complaint with your local Better Business Bureau yields the same results. Their strengthcomes merely from its records ofcomplaints that are sharedwith consumers. The company can answer it and settle the dispute. Don'texpect legal helpfrom the BBB. Thebureau will sendyour CER form to the company and ask for an answer. They know that you are unlikely to show up on their doorsteps. Theprofile includes the company's record in handling consumer complaints.THE CU5fOMER Is Boss 151 When a local bureau gets enough complaints on a company. lfyou've been ripped off. That's all. . The BBB works closely with business. This is important because some firms move very slowly or not at all when dealing with people who live in distant states. as going to self-regulatory bodies set up by companies in the same business. If you have genuine differences with a BBB member company. offer its own version ofthe dispute. They won't get involved in law suits. fill out a BBB Customer Experience Record ICER) form. A BBB can provide leverage when you dealwith an out-of­ state firm. it "profiles" the concern. the BBB will conduct arbitration in many states. or ignore the form. BBBs have no enforcement powers. And it details lawsuits that have beenfiled against the company.

Some are strongly Influenced by their business members. Wh1le the BBB claims that 77. Washington. The outcome . Some are tougher than others." Look in the phone book for the bureau nearestyou.usually is legally binding in a court oflaw. Inc.. 202-862-1200. Or write: Council ofBetterBusiness Bureaus. DC 20036.the arbitrator's decision . though." that doesn't meanthe consumer Is always satisfied. • . Don'tplace all yourfaith in yourlocal BBB.152 JOHNTsCHOHL An attorney is not needed. The BBB counts any"reasonable" offer bya company or rejection ofan "unjustified claim" as a "settlement.5percent ofall complaints are "settled. NW. 1150 Seventeenth 5t.

" • .CHAPTER 16 LOCAL MEDIA ACTION LINES • 'The court of last resort.

154

JOHN TsCHOHL

For some consumers, the media are their "courtoflast
resort." But, others look upon the media as their court ofjirst resort, Manynewspapers and radio and 1V stations, but not all of them, maintain consumer help services often called "Action Line" services. They attempt to resolve problems and publish or air reports on their efforts and results. About 134 dailynewspapers in 130 different cities and 39 states have "reader service" editors, at last report. The New York DailyNews receives 2500 consumer complaints a week. The paper responds by writing to each "offender" that a consumer complains about. Twenty complaints a day are published in the paper with an account of howthe complaints were resolved. Similarservices exist at many radio and 1Vstations in the U.S., such as WCCO-1V in Minneapolis-St. Paul. The station receives viewer tips to widespread abuses and then produces special programs to address them.

THE CUSTOMER Is Boss

155

Becoming "Villain ofthe Day" on the local 1Vstation is a frightening and motivating prospect for businesspeople. That's why threatening to contact "Action Line" is a very good way to elevate recalcitrant businesspeople from their chairs. But, you must present your casein a way that excites reading and viewing audiences. The media like action stories involving named people and places that produce excitingly visual1V coverage or riveting newspaper copy. When you cite specific cases in which you were insulted, treated rudely, or ignored by a business, you have a good chance ofseeing your complaint in print. As for political appointees to government jobs, they all know that there are legions ofreporters out there itching for a chance to barbecue the bureaucrats over the fires ofpublic indignation. Newspaper and electronic media consumer services are an effective way to jar politicianS and bureaucrats out oftheir apathy, brought on by the fact that theyhave the only show in town: They have no competitors. Some ofthem are experts at the take-it-or-leave-it game. If there's one thing a politician can't stand, it's adverse exposure in the mass media. They all wantto be admired and flattered in the press. To find the namesofstations, newspapers, and their personnel who staffthese consumer services, call your city or state consumer affairs office. It's usually listed in the white pages ofthe telephone book underthe name ofyour city or state.

CHAPfER

17

COMPANY HOT LINES

"Many marmJacturers ojconsumer products
maintain.free 'BOO' exchange numbers.•

000 ofthem in a recent year) can be dealt with best by local dealers. General Electrtc started a similar service In the mid-1980s.158 JOHN TsCHOHL • WhirlpOOl Corporation's Cool-Line service (1-800-253-1301 in moststates) devotes most ofits resources to answering the question: "Where can I find service for my appliance?" Cool-Line pioneered hot line service whenit began In 1967. GE's is a sophisticated operation. then. The Answer Center refers consumers to the dealer In their neighborhoods because manyconsumer inquiries and complaints (some 800. more than three million calls were handled in 1988. Consumers benefit becausethe system incorporates built-in incentives for dealers to provide good service locally. (That's smart) . answering consumer questions. Called the General Electric Answer Center (1-800-626-2000). the Answer Center is referring potential new customers to local dealers. In effect.

More than 750 corporate complaint lines are listed In the Conswner's Resource Handbook: most of them are toll-free. That's bad because many referrals lead to sales. Other companies also print "800" numbers on their products or merchandise. Box 6944. CO 81009. complaints about ads. at no charge to you.1-800-543-0485 ­ on all of its products.O. A textbook case history in bottom-line benefits of customer service has been written by the performance ofProctor & Gamble (P&Gl. Jackson. P. Manager ofConsumer services. A third ofthese replies deal withgripes about products. talk to a real. Obtain a free copy ofthe handbook from: Consumer Information Center. So. It is published by The Great 800 Directory ce.. Dept. 78. MS 39212. The directory provides the means to call up manycompanies and. and dealers know It. dealers that are in GE's "little black book" of dealers with unsatisfactory service ratings do not receive referrals. P&G reported answering about a million telephone calls and letters from customers.THE CUSTOMER Is Boss 159 But. Many manufacturers of consumer products maintainfree "800" exchange numbers. and even with plots ofTY soap operas sponsored by the company. Pueblo. live person. Here are a few often-used "800" numbers from The Great 800 Directory: . the nation's largest producer of consumer products. The Great 800 Directory also lists "800" numbers of manufacturers and ofgovernment agencies. GE dealerstend to work hard to provide good service. Duringthe latest annual reporting period. according to Dorothy Puccini. The book is available In mostlargerIibrartes. P&G prints an "800" number . and here's the twist.

Just ask. Employees staffing hot lines are trained to know policy and procedures and to tellyou what to do and whom to contact. The BBB maintains a list of manymanufacturers. Insurance Information Institute's Consumer Hot LIne: 1-800-821-0477. found in most libraries. also provide name. address. a MACAP - Your librarymay have another directory that will give you the address and phone number ofthe company you wish to contact If it doesn't have The Great 800 Directory. You can also callthe telephone company's toll-free information number (1-800-555-1212) to find out the "800" number ofa company you wish to call. Standard and Poor's lists the names ofpresidents and other corporate officers. you mlght be able to obtain it from either of two membership groupsforcustomerservice professionals: . and phone number information. Major Appliance Consumer Action Panel: 1-800-621-0477. Standard and Poor's Register and Conswners'Index to Product Evaluations and Information Sources. Ifyou have lost all the paper that accompanied a purchase and If a product does not carry an address or phonenumber. if you still can't find information needed to contact retail or manufacturing companies. call the Better Business Bureau.160 JOHNTscHOHL a a Consumer ProductSafety CommiSsion: 1-800-638-2772. But.

• .THE CUSTOMER Is Boss SOCIE'IY OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS PROFESSIONALS IN BUSINESS (SOCAPj 801 North Fairfax Street. 4thFloor A1exandrla. UCSAl 401 North Michigan Avenue Chicago.000 businesses in the United States. VA 22314 703-519-3700 INfERNATIONAL CUSTOMER SERVICE ASSN. IL 60611 312-321-6800 161 The memberships ofthese two organizations represent most ofthe top 1.

.

CHAPTER 18 SUE THE BUMS • "1 did itJI did W" • .

an unexpected settlementor a satisfactorycounteroffer. file a lawsuit. waving your arms and yelllng for all the neJghbors to hear: "I cUd ttl 1did Itl" . Sue in SmallCla1ms Courtwhere the average award Is about $500. sue in District Court. write a "demand letter"­ a demand for the satisfaction that you desire. fora higherclaim. Or. use ofan attorney Is not necessaryIn SmaIl Cla1ms Court but is advisable In DIstrict Court. Then you can run out the door. You mayget a surprise in the maIl. By the way. Before you bring suit.164 JOHN TsCHOHL • If all elsefails in your attempt to get satisfaction in a serious and flagrant case of consumer abuse by any type of business. though.

Some companies. 51 st St. Arbitration Is a fast. 140 W. Both parties (that includes you) payan administration fee. have their own arbitration boards. • . and legally binding meansofsettling claims outside ofcourt. Business owners must agree to an MA hearing. MA maintains 32 regional offices. Start with a Better Business Bureau or the American Arbitration Association (AMI. cases involving up to $20.. though. Phone: 212-484-4000.a minlmum of$300.THE CUSTOMER Is Boss 165 ARBITRATION If you can't get satisfaction working onyourown.000 require an administrative fee of3 percent ofthe amount being sought. inexpensive. According to the American Arbitration Association. drawn-out court hearings. such as Chrysler Corporation. Arbitration doesn't come cheaply. It Is In their best Interests to do so to avoid expensive. NY 10020. New York. Arbitration is especially useful in problems with contractors related to remodeling and building and in computer disputes and insurance claims. The American Arbitration Association maintains a Community Dispute Service and is the largest ofa dozen or so independent arbitration organizations. consider arbitration.

.

CHAPTER 19 GET HELP • "Knowledge is power. • • .

Knowledge Is power. Most ofthese organizations will want to know what you've done already to solve a problem .everything that you can be expected to doas an individual. you have an advantage over consumers who either don't know how to proceed with a complaint or who follow the grin-and-bear-it philosophy oflife. we must ask for helpfrom consumer groups and government agencies. Ifyouknow whom to contact and how to go about complaining. . do everything you can think of. Keep careful records ojevery move you make and the responses you receive. Organizations listed in this chaptercan give you specific contact and procedure information and assistance that often spells the difference between futility and success. So.168 JOHN TsCHOID. phone calls you've made. Directories Industry Panels Allies Federal AgenciesBooks Magazine and Newspaper Articles • When a business refuses to correct a problem.letters you've sent. and so on.

Pueblo. 518-828-6400 or 1-800-447-4700. The Useful Almanac. They expect to see documented proofofunsuccessful efforts to resolve the problem on your own. In the ToU-Free Digest you will find the following under "Business Associations": NATIONAL ACADEMY OF CONCILIATORS 1-800-638-8242 NATIONAL RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION 1-800-424-5156 U. DC 20045. One of the most helpful organizations Is Consumer Federation ofAmertca.95. You can create a lot ofhavoc with this manyfree calls. CHAMBER OFCOMMERCE 1-800-424-6746. Claverac. In llllnois: 1-800-322-4400. Washington. NY 12513. A recent cost. preferably a toll­ free number. . Inc. You may need to find a telephone number.000 toll-free telephone numbers. an annual publication ofConsumer News. (ToU-Free Digest.S. You can use MasterCard or Visa to pay for It. CO 81009. free. Dept. from the Consumer Information Center. The Consumer's Resource Handbook Is available. that mayhave increased by now. 1012 14th StreetNW. 78. The latest Issue contains more than 43. DC 20005. Box 800.• Washington. Is $17. provides virtually all the information that a consumerneedsto pursue satisfaction.THE CUsroMER Is Boss 169 Remember that groups set up to help you gam your rights won't enter the fray until you've exhausted normal recourses. ConsumerNews also publishes DIrectory oj8tate and Local Consumer Groups. One ofthe best "800" directories is 1bU-Free Digest.

The NationalDirectory ofaddresses and telephone numbers is published by General Information. Jackson. This directory is arranged alphabetically and contains an alphabetical index.S.S. Government ManUll1. MasterCard. Washington. 401 Parkplace. DC 20242.000 of them) and by industry classification. Callyour phone company's business office to order It. and phone numbers ofsenators and congressmen who sit on committees that oversee the agency you're arguing within the Congressional Directory. WIite to the staff director ofeach committee and also to each committee member. SUite 305. available for $6. Send check or money order. WA 98033.O. Phone: 206-828-4777. Inc. Find names. The AT&TToU-Free "800· Directory costs $14. most complete "800· telephone directory. MS 39212. Government Printing Office. Puerto Rico. publication number 022-003-00948­ 5. Kirkland. and the Virgin Islands. P. When contacting your congressman or senator. or use yourVisa. Find Federal government agencies and departments in the U.170 JOHN TsCHOHL Another "800·directory is The Great 800 ToU-Free Directory.50 mailing charge. .. Superintendent ofDocuments. or American Express credit card.50 from U. where the number is 601-944-0123. Box 6944. They callthemselves "the nation's largest.50 from the Government Printing Office. Contact them at 1-800-626-1033 except in Mississippi.95. The latest information is that this directory costs $45 plus $4. Cost: $6.· It covers the United States. Corporations are listed alphabetically (52. addresses.

many industries have created self-regulating panels to handle consumer complaints.THE CUSTOMER Is Boss 171 INDUSTRY PANELS To improve customer relations. VA 22102 703-821-7000 DIRECT MAIL/MARKETING ASSOCIATION Mail OrderAction Line 6 E. DC 10006 202-457-4900 . 43 St. Here are some ofthem: AMERICAN SOCIE1Y OFTRAVEL AGENTS 4400 MacArthur Blvd. These panels review details ofa complaint and offer suggestions on howthe problem can be resolved. NW \VashUngton.DC 20007 703-739-2782 AUTOCAP-AUTOMOTIVE CONSUMER ACTION PROGRAM 8400 \Vestpark Dr. NW \Vastungton. NY 10017 212-689-4977 DIRECT SELLING ASSOCIATION lDoor-to-Door Sales) Director ofConsumer Affairs 1730 MSt. New York. Mclean. NW. DC 20036 202-293-5760 ELECTRONIC INDUsrRIES ASSOCIATION. Suite 610 \VashUngton. Office ofConsumerAffairs 2001 1St.

FL 32301 904-488-9330 NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE EXCELLENCE 202-833-9646 . NC 27261 919-884-5000 (lCAP) INSURANCE CONSUMER ACTION PANEL 640 investment Building Washington. BoxHP7 High Point. 624 Tallahassee.FURNITURE INDUS1RY CONSUMER ACTION PANEL P.O. NY 10022 212-753-1304 MACAP-MAJOR APPLiANCE CONSUMER ACTION PANEL 20 North Wacker Dr. MD 20904 301-622-1900 JEWELERS VIGILANCE COMM1ITEE 919 Third Av. 202 Blount St.172 JOHN TsCHOHL FICAP . Rm.. NewYork. DC 20005 202-628-1300 INTERNATIONAL·FABRICARE 1NS1ITUTE (Dry Cleaners) 12251 Tech Road Silver Spring. IL 60606 1-800-621-0477 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF STATE UTILITY CONSUMER ADVOCATES c/o Florida Public Counsel Crown Bldg. Chicago.

DC 20219 202-287-4265. PHOTO MARKETING ASSOCIATION 3000 Picture Place Jackson.1HE CUsroMER Is Boss To find the names ofcertified auto repair shops in your area. you can also contact the local office oftheAmerican 173 Automobne Association. MIT 49201 517-788-8100 THANACAP-FUNERAL SERVICE CONSUMER ACTION PANEL 11121 W.~ TIRE DEALERS AND RETREADERS ASSOCIATION Field Operations Department 1343 LSt. 53227 404-541-7925 ~waukee. DC 20005 202-638-6650 Indiana: 317-631-8124 Wisconsin: 414-774-6590 Here are a few contacts for financial institution matters: NATIONAL BANKS Comptroller ofthe Currency Director ofConsumer Activities Department ofthe Treasury 490 L'Enfant Plaza SW Washington. DC 20551 202-452-3946 . STATE BANKS & TRUST COMPANIES Board ofGovernors ofthe Federal Reserve System Division ofConsumer and Community Affairs Washington. NW Washington. OklahomaAv.

VA 22070 703-481-1110. Herndon. Fair Credit Billing Act. DC 20552 . NW Washington. SAVINGS AND LOAN ASSOCIATIONS. Discloses features ofthe Fair Creditand Charge Card Disclosure Act. Truth-In-Lendlng Act. NW Washington. The FTC keeps comp1alnts on file. DC 20429 JOHN TsCHOHL CREDIT BUREAUS FederalTrade Commission (FTC) Division of Credit Practices 6th and Pennsylvania Av. Regional FTC offices are listed in the government pages ofthe telephone book. request specific information about the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. Educational publications designed to help you manage and save money and solve your credit problems.174 ALL OTHER BANKS Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Consumer Affairs 550 17th Street NW (FI30) Washington. Or. DC 20580. CREDIT CARDS Bankcard Holders ofAmerica 560 Herndon Parkway. SAVINGS BANKS Office ofThrtft Supervision Consumer Affairs 1700 G St. Ifa file grows large they investigate. and Fair DebtCollection Practices Act. Suite 120.

Consumer Information Center. FEDERAL AGENCIES For a free guide listing federal agencies and local corporate consumercontacts. More than 60 percentofhospitals in the United States have "patient advocates.DC 20580 202-326-3128 . CO 81009. Many airlines have "flight-service directors" or "passenger-service agents" charged with resolving passenger problems on the spot.collaborators .L1 your search for problem resolution. DC 20207 1-800-638-2772 FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION Correspondence Branch 6th St. & Pennsylvania Av. Dept. Many department stores havepersonal shoppers who call around to find a preferred sizeor color.ThE CUSTOMER Is Boss 175 ALLIES Find "allies" .· They intervene for patients when meals are served cold or when they feel they've beenbrushed off by a doctor. write for the Conswner's ResoW'Ce Handbook. These are some ofthe entries In the Handbook: CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFEIY COMMISSION Office ofPublic Affairs Washington. Ahotel concierge is the classic example of a powerful ally. NW Washington. 78. Pueblo.

Satisfaction Guaranteed: The Ultimate Guide to Conswner . You Can NegotiDte Anything.S. Conswner Source Book. Dept. by Stephen Pollan. Detroit.176 JOHN TscHOHL Also In the Conswner's Resource Hanclbook Is contact Information for: Q Q Q Q Q U. media. by Herb Nierenberg. Lists consumer organieations at every level ofgovernment and virtually every private consumer group. BBB offices by state: and state offices ofconsumer affairs.S. Getting People tD Say Yes. Reader's Digest Assn. ofHeahh & Human Services Consumer Information Center ofthe General Services Admlnlstratlon United States Office ofConsumer AffaIrs. Fighting Back. by Herb Cohen. Contains sample consumer complaint letters for every imaginable Situation: services. by Gale Research Co. utilities..• Inc. too. Reader's Digest Conswner Advisor. Postal Service U. landlords. by Dana Shilling. lists state attorneys general offices. The Art ofNegotinJing. and government. credit and banking. BOOKS These reference books for consumers can be purchased through book stores. AnAetion Guide. Many libraries have them.

G.) or newspapers (Library or Circulation Dept. you can write to the magazine publishers (Circulation Dept. by William B. March 1992. Linden Press/Simon &Schuster. The Ultimate Guide tD Conswner SelfDejense. Or. by Christopher Gilson. "How to UseConsumerClout. "What Sam Walton taught America. and Rick Schmidt. Getting What You Deserve. 1. Putnam's Sons. Always start with the merchant who sold you the product. Quality CustDmer Service. Martin. . GetEven: The Complete Book oj Dirty Tricks. You will be charged. Newman and Nancy Kramer. The media named here can be found in large or medium-size libraries. Consumer Revenge.THE CUSTOMER Is Boss 177 satisjactfDn Guaranteed. 1992. MAGAZINE AND NEWSPAPER ARTICLES Magazines and newspapers often containvery useful articles. by George Hayduke. Thevarious steps of the complaint processdescribed. ABSTRACT: Complaining about a product or service that doesn't measure up will oftenget results.P. PaladinPress. 2." by Bill Saporito. by David Horowitz. FightBudd. Linda Cawley.) and ask forcopies." by Melanie Berger. by Stephen A. May 4. Ladies Home Journal. Fortune.

6. asking questions about the menu. "How to Get Help: ADirectory ofWhere to Complain. Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine. "How to be a Good SeIVI. 10. "How to Handle Your Own Complaint." by Sylvia Nasar." . Fight Back!" by Wendy Taylor. April.-St PaulMagazine. "How to Getthe Service You Deserve. 9. March-April 1987." July 1989. "Guide to Washington Consumer Advocacy Groups. 1989. ABSTRACT: Tips on getting qualityservice are provided. PC-Computing. "Wresting the Best From a Restaurant. ABSTRACT: Tips on getting good service at a restaurant include communicating with the server." by Kristin Davis. State-by-state guide to small clalmscourt." by Doc Sprockett. Money." Includes FederalAgencies.ce Customer. Flower & Garden Magazine. Alist ofpointers from a restaurateur is included. 5. "Shoddy Service? Don't Get Mad. Qmswners Digest. Mpls. 4. tipping appropriately. "Best ways to get your money back. Consumers' Research Magazine. March 1992. 8. February 1986. February 1992. March 1991. Washingtonian. 7. and lettingthe staff know in advance if it is a special occasion.178 JOHN TsCHOHL 3." by CarlaWaldemar. April 1989.

"When bad service turns you into a wimp. February 1986. "What Drives Us Nuts: How to SUIVive In Today's Supermarket. November-December 1984." 12." • . Consumers Digest. tIy these sure-fire strategies. Washingtonian.'!HE CUSfOMER 15 B055 179 11.

.

CHAPTER 20 CONSUMER GROUP • YOUR OWN "You still canfight City Hall and win.· • .

182 JOHN TsCHOHL • Sometimes. offices. and companies prowling in the shadows oflegitimate business enterprise by promising and reneging. ignorance. . if you don't get what you payfor. if a product breaks within a warrantyperiod. If a productdoesn't work or it's dangerous. virtually no organizations fight for seroice. you'll find that it's difficult to find someone who's willing to act on your complaint when it is a seroice complaint. or even if advertised claims are misleading. Forproducts that don'tviolate this law or that. afteryou've beenforced to escalate your complaint to consumer organizations and government consumeragencies. For non-polluting products. misleading and price-gouging. Few organizations fight againstrudeness. there are plenty ofagencies. For quality. if a shyster bilks you. But. Plenty oforganizations fight forsafety. bureaus and commissions to helpyou get redressfor the wrongs Visited uponyou. departments.

It would be easierfor you to start with an existing organization. this customer Just got up on the wrong Side ofthe bed this morning: But. Remember that bad service is one area in which personal initiative still is effective: You still can fight City Hall and win.. Then. a businessowner might reason. complain. There is strength in numbers. Independently.. or a delegation that represents a group ofhundreds. each ofyou. If other people in your community have organized into a groupto fJght issues similar to yourissues. A manager might be able to rationalize away your complaint by saying to himself/herself: "Aw. Perhaps the absence ofgroupsthat help consumers resolve poor-service complaints will encourage you to form your own consumer group. . Before beginning to organize your own consumer group. Look for friends or acquaintances who are as disgusted as you withservice by a particularbusiness or industry. carefully consider joining the existing group Instead ofstarting another one.THE CUSTOMER IsBoss 183 This should encourage you to start your own organization. for sure. Furthermore. Asingle dissenter could bejust a whiner having a bad day.. . two or three or four complainers together. You'll create a very loud noise that your target business certainly will hear.that's a bad sign. It's better to enlisttheir help and to tap their experience and good will than to arouse theirjealousy by forming another group. Even two people complaining have a greater impact than one lone voice ofcomplaint.checkaround to see if a groupWith the samegeneral objectives as yours already exists. unless it's a group With a bad image.. than it is to build a groupfrom scratch.

HELP: The Useful Almanac. Hold an organizational meeting as soon as you have several people Interested in participating.184 JOHN TsCHOHL To find such groups. published by Consumer Federation ofAmerica. Here's how to proceed: 1. You're ready to begin forming your own group. Washington. 1012 14th St. A city or county consumer protection office can tellyou the names and give you the contact information for existing local consumer groups. Visit any remotely similar groups within about a radius to find out how theyare organized. State consumer protection offices are listed in the phone book. Don't dominate the meeting: Let others add agenda Items and make suggestions. Call the office and obtaintheir mailing address. how they started. Washington. DC 20005.. goto yourlocal library and check: Directory of State and Local Conswner Groups. county or state consumer protection office. and what their most effective tactics are. Check with local government agencies and the largest church and social service organizations. If you can't find the phone numberofthe city. Now. . notjust "jOining. get help by calling the general number for your city or state government offices. 2. DC 20045. The consumer protection office can be found under the name ofthe city or county In the phone book. NW. lnc. let's say that you've learned that there are no consumer groupsInyour area with substantially the same objectives as you. Also. check local newspapers and Interview reporters who've covered consumer issues. under the nameofthe state. which is an annual publication ofConsumer News." Set an agenda.

reachable goals.Tfjg CUsroMf:R Is Boss 185 3. Fund-raising is time consuming. Set small. Sharing can bind a group together. supplies. 5. employee association. You can set it up as sort ofa committee ofyour existing Neighborhood Association . or precinct or ward political organization. abilities. Then target the worst service and go see the manager of the business. Decide on the type of activity you want to pursue first. at first. RaisIng money is easier after you have a couple ofconcrete accomplishments to point to as reasons why people should contribute. Share responsibility and anyglory: It's a mistake for the whole operation to depend upon one person. Perhaps buy buttonsthat say50S (Save Our Service) or something else that you like. Don't dIssipate your energies by tackling too many things at once.or service club. Assign specJflc tasks to people in line withtheir experience. Achieve quantifiable goals as soon as possible. you'll get much better results than you would as an Individual. Don't be concerned about ratsmg money. remember. When he or she learns that you represent a group. Meet In someone's home and chip In or share costof phoning. Meet with a few neighbors and friends to get started. union. • . 4. 6. Your consumer group needn't be a separate organization. Achievement motivates. and willingness to work. and transportation. Give your organization a name.

.

NATIONAL ADVERn'lER • .CHAPTER 21 GET TOUGH: GUERILLA TACTICS • "When the going gets tough." . the tough getgoing.

188 JOHN TsCHOHL • 'here's value In that adage. . In otherwords. ordinary methods of achieving satisfaction have beenrebuffed by hardnosed business people. bend over backward to avoid being unreasonable. Point out dissatisfaction (instead ofletting dissatisfaction seethe and bubble within you) to five different businesses and take note oftheirresponses. government departments. Don't say nasty things to salespeople as an emotional release. or non-profit organizations in a little test. But: Don't interpret "getting tough" as "getting mean." Don't use an Innocent employee as a whipping post. You can find justification for a charitable attitude toward business. Getting "tough" is what a consumer must do when all legitimate.

(They certainly don't develop a large following ofloyal customers that way. on a new fleet ofdelivery trucks. The businesses will have hurried to correct your problem.DiE CUSTOMER Is Boss 189 You'll probably leave eachplace ofbusiness . The problem ofbad service clearly exists. or on storeremodeling. Some business people who are very aware ofthe service dissatisfactions oftheir customers still spend nothing for a service system. But. they certainly leave themselves vulnerable to downturns In the economy. Thenwe don'thave to wony abouttheir bad service anymore. however. theymay spend a great deal on new buildings. four out offive . Eventually.either with a smile onyourface or warmth in your heart. By"complaining" you will illustrate the spirit ofthis book for yourself. many ofthem disappear from the economic scene. Some businesses seem to get by for years on skinflint service. Businesses. some businesspeople resist correcting bad service to the death­ their businesses' death. In most Instances faults that go uncorrected are those that neither employees nor customers told mansgers about. fancy merchandise displays. and non­ profit organizations concerned with quality service usually correct faults when theyknow aboutthem.) They provide service that's just barely good enough to hold enough customers to keep themIn business. to new competition. . at least. and to demographic changes. yet. and full-page ads that tout their "Personal Service With a Smile." It's classic head-In-the-sand behavior. However. Ofcourse.or. exceptions exist. government departments. Many studies prove it.

obviously. If a salesperson gives bad service. and say: "I need a picture to send In with my complaint. snap a picture ofthe employee. your salesperson is overly eager to be finished with you. It's called "The Broken Record. You wantthe employee's attention soyou can point out a problem. "if you decide that service was bad enough to warrant a visit to his or her supervisor. ."guerilla tactics." What you're really after Is service then and there. pullit out." THE MUG SHOT TheGet Tough consumer carries a Polaroid camera. THE BROKEN RECORD Another successful technique was developed by specialists In assertiveness training. Business is brisk and. even for businesspeople who deliberately Ignore customers and overlook the bad service that theyprovide." There you are in the camera department. A micro-size tape recorder can record a surly clerk's actual words and convict him "out ofhis own mouth. You ask: "Does this camera have an automatic focus? How does it work?" Thesalesman answers: "Most cameras made by this manufacturer do." He responds with a similar curt comment every time you repeat the question. hereare some effective "get tough" tactics .190 JOHN TsCHOHL Now that we are committed to decency and fair play.

Sometimes.THE CUSTOMER Is Boss 191 But. efficient voice: "May I have your account number. Asmartemployee or supervisor does almost anything to satisfy you and get rid of you. TIT FOR TAT Here's a counterattack to use against complaint handlers trained to "depersonalize" callers by instantly asking for account numbers even before saying hello.nomatter whatthe seroiceperson says in response. You change the words. please give me your name and employee number. Sayloudly but not angrily: "I'm not moving untilyou straJghten this out. After you give sucha person your account number say: "Now." Write down the person's name.. But. do the same thing. sure. you ask the same question untilyou get a speclfic answer . be alertfor people who fabricate answers that sound good but are totalfiction. you are persistent. puh-leeze?" So. . You continue to ask the question over and over again. basically.. THE OLD "LOUD VOICE TECHNIQUE" Perhaps you can use this idea: Raise the volume ofyour voice.or note the fact that the complaint handler makes nopromises at all. They may even interrupt youropening sentence to say in a crisp. Also write down the promises the customer service representative makes . a stubborn salesperson finally will answer. But. just to getrtd ofyou." Other customers become uneasy and theyquickly evacuate the area to avoid the unpleasant scene.

Follow Arlene Cantlon's example and you will get satisfaction." . It was a notable Victory: and it need not be rare. so I asked to see the store manager. He was heard on the floor below shouting at a clerk: "This is the eleventh time... He ended up receiving the wrong item eleven times In a row and returning it eleven times." When last seen he was loudly offering to fight the security men dragging him away. I waited 35 minutes while they looked for her. even encourage yourself.. What this customer didwrong was to become Visibly and vocally angry. Onewoman said to me." That's civilized anger. One irate customer caused a half-hour shutdown ofa department In a major retail store.yes. of falling to have advertised goods In stock. "At this point I had a crowd ofcustomers cheering me on. 'It won't do anygood. The dictionary calls Indignation "anger aroused bysomething unjust. Thecustomer had ordered a product and received the wrong item: so he returned it. "Iasked to speak to the salesgirl In the shoedepartment.. Again he received the wrong item: and againhe returned it. Nobody could find her. Illmots. Instead. allow yourself. Anger is a sure way to IWt getwhatyou want. In her opinion.192 JOHN TscHOHL Arlene Cantlon ofRiverdale.to become "mdtgnant. really did lose her temper in a discount outletbecause the storewas making a habit. but go for ttl" Cantlon finally gother audience with the manager and some ofthe merchandise she wanted as well. but nobody knew where she was.

But.thereIs anotherway to pursuethe problem. But for people who are really uncomfortable expressing theircomplaints verbally . PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN If you are committed to buying at a place nearyour home because It Is much closer than anyother business ofItskind.THE CUsroMER [s Boss 193 COMUNICATE: JUST THE FACTS. Ahousewife reported that the service contract on her family's personal computer expired before a renewal ofthe contract had been offered by the retailer." (SeIVice employees sometimes keep customers waiting while they hash over last nlght's partyoryesterday's game.and in other stores. when the housewife phoned the manager.) . Clearly. he waived the rules and renewed . It'sbestwhen the consumer confronts businesses with their complaints. They bear pointed messages such as: "I hope you enjoyed your chat. MA'AM Sometimes all you need to do is present your case to a person who has authority to make decisions.without inspection.fixing your lawn mower. Have yourneighborhood fast-print shop printinexpensive cardsthat you distribute in the store . a salesman insisted that the equipment had to be inspected at the store (for $25) or at home ($100) before anothercontract could be Issued.who would instead simply leave and not ever come back. for instance. Forthose people a long-term propaganda campaign may be just the ticket. you have a stake in good service. This nearby business may think that "service" is mere "maintenance" . 1 didn't. Although only six days had elapsed.

) These stickers can bear messages such as: "Letter Enclosed: Please NOTICE it." "Please accept mysincerest apologies for having the nerve to ask you a question about the product/service that you sell. Another type ofsticker can be used on envelopes containing your monthly payments. After noticing the cards over a period ofdays. I can get insulted at home. can you. In these ways you can attract a lot ofattention for a few dollars. to cash registers and to counters without permanently marring surfaces. Or.194 JOHN TsCHOHL "Forgive me for Imposing on yourtime. either. Anartist who works for the shop can drawsimple figures that you might want as illustrations. if your activity gives the Impression that a group ofpeople are "carding" the store? You are Just a modem-day Johnny Appleseed serving society. Your print shop can set intotype the smallamount ofcopy on the cards." Spotthe cards in conspicuous places as close as possible to the point where poor service occurred. You can't help it." Or: "Credit Previous Payment. managers and supervisors might get the point: They have a dissatisfied customer or maybe even a lot ofdissatisfied customers." "I don't have to come here to get inSulted. "Post-it Notes" are stickyon the back. Please. print on pressure-sensitive adhesive labels in rolls." ." "Your Ignorance (Of the Products You Sell) Is Not My Bliss. You could have the printing done on 3M "Post-it Notes" to make it easy to stick them to display cases. (Ask the print shop for suggestions." "Quick! Give me onegood reason why you should take out your bad mood on me. They can be peeled offeasily so they won't permanently mar a business's property.

The day a business discovers that customers have rights and begin honoring them is the daythat you stop your propaganda campaign." Ullustration: Customer's long beardwound around a leg ofthe table at which he's seated. They will know that you are serious. witlwut being destructive. Don'tget carried away with this sortojcu:tivity. Leave cards at customer service desks or checkout counters.or march into the executive office area and hand them to a receptionist. Make steady eye contact as you do so. Don'tever put stickers on boxes ofmerchandise or on merchandise itselfbecause doing so mJght delay sale ofthe merchandise. Your object should be to inform the business that it has unhappy customers and to give the business a hint ofthe reason for the unhappiness." (illustration: Icicles hanging from a plate offood. Criticize constructively. tlwugh.) This is all perfectly harmless. . Most employees have a sense ofhumor and will derive a sardonic sense ofpleasure from the mini-billboards. Be determinedly constructive.l IJ "One Could Grow Old Waiting For Service. write on the backs ofthe cards: "TO: Store Manager" (or other appropriate title). you might want to hand them to service employees directly. If you are going nowhere with front-line people. Instead ofposting cards and mini-billboards around a business.THE CUSfOMER Is Boss Hereare examples ofillustrated messages that oneirate 195 consumer printed on tent-shaped "mini-billboards· that she left at restaurants: IJ "The Food Was Cold.

and if you have only brush-offs and insults to show for it. and other employees ofthe business should find you and give you a gift certificate for the favor you've done them. too.. Doing so is illegal. then it may be time to bring up the heavy guns. Most businesspeople are your friends. Or an error. or for your money returned.GuerUIa Tcu:tics Guerilla tactics are appropriate if you've been stonewalled by a company determined to prove that it is right. managers. You could be sued or charged in criminal court. and that it was nervy ofyou even to ask for correction of an error. But. a business that's headed for financial trouble. And keep in mind at all times that you are dealing witha throwback. If you've called the business.196 JOHN TsCHOHL This is the same day. and if you've had a meeting witha manager. Bad service often is an oversight. or even withthe president or owner. for apology for an insult. please note. Consider the following guerilla tactics or fashion yourown creative variations. that you are wrong. Now may be the time for. If you've sent well-documented letters. (We're only kidding. If you've never made a mistake. only then are you justified In condemning a business' every blooper. for replacement ofa product. Do not damage property.. that the owners. supervisor.) MORE GUERILLA TACTICS If you've spoken to the salesperson responsible for your disgust. They would never do anything to alienate you on purpose. . a pariah in the business world.

Apacked restaurant foyer is adead giveaway that overbooking is business-as-usual here or that this is a very "hot" restaurant. Food critic JeremyIggers says: "I usually tip in the 15to 17percent range. restaurant patrons often are too embarrassed to leave a small tip or no tip. Here's anotherideato try. But. in America. what can you do besides telling the maitre d' that you don't intend to wait any10ngeI1 (WaIking out isn't very satisfying. insulting service. saving it to give to the nextwaitperson who gives outstanding service.. but only if it fits your personality: Propose to the members ofyourgroup that each of them call in a reservation to the restaurantfor the mostpopular seatingtime on the same evening. maybe no tIp. If you're kept waiting 20 minutes or so for a reserved table.) First ask the maitred' if he willtemptthe people loitering at the table reserved for you to leave by offering to buy them an after-dinner drink at the bar. Or. making it more likely that future patronsalso will receive bad service. And you all agree that no one willshow up. Thepropertactic is to tip generously .. Their tip reinforces and rewards slow. You agree among yourselves on the reservation night. they tip even thoughservtce was insulting and slow. About a halfhour afterthe time for which the reservations were made call the maitre d' and gloat.15 to 20 percent . Themaitre d' will wonder what curse has beenvisited upon his restaurant.forgood service. dropin on the nearly empty restaurant and accept immediate seating. though. or an insultingly small tip.THE CUSTOMER Is Boss 197 RESTAURANf . Consider pocketing tips that you do rwt give to a waitperson who gives bad service. Your friends will give assumed names. the best guerilla tactic. So. but dinersshould basetheir tips on the . In restaurants.

But. Water runs down yourwalls. Most contractors would "make it light." This business ofundertipping is something that a lot of people hesitate to do because waiters and waitresses are good at tossing an insult at you as you leave. especially at an inexpensive restaurant. Be sure that the poor service is not the chefs fault Instead ofthe wattperson's fault. service­ oriented businesses that appreciate yourbusiness and want you to return to buy again. The ad copy mJght read: "Have you had a problem with Jackal Construction Co.? Ifso.deserves a minimal tip. send a copy ofan ad that you've had set intotype. ready for placement in a newspaper.your check has been cashed and the contractor is uncooperative.198 JOHN TsCHOHL quality ofservice." but this book Is not written to help you In yourdealings with legitimate. Unless you place the ad. (Your phone number. or none. But. please call to discuss a class action suit against this contractor to seeksubstantial compensation for damages. You don't really want to spend the money to run the ad. When you receive exceptionally good service. you see. . be fair aboutIt. even though he deserves punishment for his incompetency and for his hard-headed obstinacy. Ifyou encounter an obstinate business that doesn't seem to care if It never seesyou again. Very shoddy.when you can determine that the server Is at fault . you haven't harmed the contractor.Acontractor does some home tmprovement work for you and the workmanship Is shoddy. it may be appropriate totip more than 20 percent.)" You hope that the contractor seesthe light after you show htm the ad. HOME IMPROVEMENI' CONI'RACTOR . "Bad service .

surprise. But. realizing the foolhardiness of making a promise they probably couldn't keep. So. NEWSPAPER DEUVERY .surprtse. . the newspaper delivery person discovered dryspots in which to drop the ingenious consumer's newspapers. Another homeowner had a similar newspaper problem.. the homeowner had a brainstorm. Send a copy to the president ofthe company with a note gMng the date onwhich you'll mall the letter. Even though the paper arrived in a plastic bag. and sent it to the president ofthe newspaper publishing company.i.. Businesses cringe at the thought ofnegative publicity. Thepaperended up in the bushes almost every evening.THE CUsroMER Is Boss 199 Some situations Justify an "open letter" to the president of an offending company. soyou may get satisfaction. Also. Newspapers sometimes publish them In the "Letter to the Editor" section. After weeks offuming and calling the newspaper's circulation department. wrote a message on it. prodded by the circulation manager. the newspaper deleted the promise offront-door delivery from ads. Suddenly.the paperbegan appearing onthe front step.One homeowner's dally newspaper seemed to end up in a puddle outside the door every time it rained. with a note explalning the significance ofthe unusual packaging. he still resented the need to bend over and remove the paper from dirty water. He sent the next subscription check to the newspaper floating in a transparent plastic bag full ofwater. The publisher didn't reply. the homeowner cut outthe newspaper's ad promising front-door delivery.

she sent the company a checkfor $000. as she did frequently. The callwas made withina week. Inc. about a payment that the computer refused to credit. The consumer was helped. finds that more than 90 percent ofcomplaints are resolved after a hostile and obtuse business is picketed . Before setting up a picket or leafleting project. Nobody was hurt. PICKETING. A check for no dollars and no cents caughtthe attention of the computer.Aconsumer couldn't get a response from a human being [justa computer) when she complained. Now it was In the best interests ofthe computer's keeper to call the consumer.200 JOHN TsCHOHL PAYMENr BY MAIL . LEAFLETING A Philadelphia consumer group. and often media attention..00. the creditshe had been seeking for months appeared on her next statement. But leafleting can present more detail about a complaint than Is mentioned on picket signs. If youget no satisfaction and decide to proceed. give the business plentyofopportunity to settleany service complaint. and. forcefully. here are several basic legal requirements to observe. in addition to local laws: . voilal. So.or afterleaflets or booklets describing a problem withthe business are distributed to passers-by or shoppers. PIcketing Is more effective than leafleting In attracting public attention. and a leaflet can be taken home and read. The consumer made her point. Over the phone came the sound ofan unrecorded human voice. Consumers Education and Protective Association International.

Demonstrating at the owner's home usually Is not appropriate. IJ Picketers may not use violence or abuswe language or "breach the peace." Too many picketers or too much involvement with passers-by may be COnsidered "breach ofthe peace. it is permissible to statethat the car you bought from a dealer is a lemon andthat the dealer refused to render satisfaction. Notify police that you will be picketing/leafleting and that you have taken steps to make sure that you are notviolating the law.THE CusroMER Is Boss [J 201 N. He or she should make sure that yourgroup doesn't violate the law. Demonstrating at the offending store Is appropriate. It can be the resolution ofa particular complaint or the changing of a specific bad practice. a What pickets seek must not be unlawful. but it Is not allrlght to state that the dealer sells only lemons and always stonewalls his unhappy customers.least one picketer or person represented bythe picketers must have agenuine dispute with the seller. Forexample. IJ Picket signs must not contain false claIms or exaggerations. nor can the objective be closing ofthe business. IJ Location ofpicketing or leafleting should be related to its purpose. 'fly to have a lawyer associated with your group. ." IJ Picketers may not prevent people from walk1ng on the sidewalk or entering and leaving the store.

202 JOHNTscHOHL The purpose ofthese "guerilla" tactics land you probably can come up with some prize-winning variations) is to call attention to poor service. When business is aware ofbad service theyw1ll almost always take steps to stop it. Whenever you walk the extra mile to inform a business that service stinks. youare making a personal contribution to a guarantee ofgood service that is the right ofevery consumer who spends money to help support a business and its employees. • .

but legions ofconsumers will swear.CHAPTER 22 BLAME THE MACHINES • "Machines are great at acting." • . they are incompetent when it comes to reacting to anything but routine needs.

a perfect example ofnon­ service. The telephone company benefits. the personnel department benefits because the payroll declines. too. Just for the sponsoring company. turns over muchservice delivery to machines.204 JOHNTsCHOHL • service delivered declines. preoccupied with short-term savings. of course. The manufacturer ofthis kind ofequipment benefits. the amDWlt ofpersonal . The manager in charge ofsystems at the user company benefits also because he/she becomes a hero by saving much money in the elimination ofhuman operators. Let's look at voice mall systems. As need for service nses. Finally. according to a studyofthese systems. There's no service in voice mail for many customers. because callers often end up making more than one phone call afterreaching a dead-end and a disconnect. Why? Because business.

The people who operate the machines are at fault. the bosses ofthe people who operate the machines.not to improve service to their customers. ("Sequential dialing" phone equipment is used to reachmore prospects at less cost. Service is only as good. we can't blame the machines. They automate to save money or to make more money .. One waits 30 seconds for a recorded message and then another 30 seconds for another message before giving up. Thatwas the motivation for banksto begin installing teller machines onstreets and in retail stores. Still. Machines are greatat acting but. Of course. Part ofthe blame must be accepted bybusiness decision­ makers.dumbly. Not even to avoid a decline in the present level ofservice. legions ofconsumers will swear. . accurate and fast as the people who run the machines...unresponsively. That's a fact.THE CusroMER Is Boss 205 The only loser is the customer who is put to a lot of trouble trytng to complete a call. When a transaction proceeds according to a computer program. Orso it seems to consumers victimized by computers that dial their phones and then speakto them. they are incompetent when it comes to reacting to anything but routine needs. many companies are attracted to high­ tech equipment by their potential to provide better customer service..) Onthe otherhand. then the machine purrs along smoothly. even those who have unlisted numbers. some business executives act as if theyare blinded by the glitter oftechnology. as complete. the amount of my last deposit orpayoff amount" then the machine stU! purrs along contentedly. But. when a consumer holds up a hand and says"That's not what1ordered" or"I don't wantto know my balance. Often they addtechnology strictly for their own benefit.

His expression says that he's hoping against hopethat the gadget. The cartoonist leaves us to wonder whether the machine paid off. a fact that diminishes their capability to deliver service. A cartoon expresses the consumer predicament. over which he has no control. But. It shows a man wearing an anxious expression standing belly-up to a curb-side teller machine. and other financial lnstitutions are handled electronically. will dispense money from his account when he punches ill the right numbers. banks. • . business has failed to achieve customer comfort with the machines ofthe electronic age. Millions oftransactions every day ill insurance companies.206 JOHN TsCHOHL Often they don't stop to ask the big questions: "How will this automated procedure affect our customers?" 'Will their needs bemea" "What problems will this automation create?" Funds are transferred electronically. Robots take over from people on the assembly line. Computers do all the calculating and feeding information to printers that print invoices and account statements.

" • .CHAPTER 23 EVERY TIME YOU BUY • ROYAL TREATMENT HOW TO GET "The Golden Rule: Treat emplDyees the way you want to be treated.

Letthere be no doubt: You can do something yourself to improve the level ofservice that you receive. employees who rush to help you quickly and to answer every question with certainty. Since there aren't enough businesses like that to goaround. Consider these meansofmaking good service happen: . take matters into your own hands. Onewayto achieve this state ofbliss Is to patronize only businesses that provide fabulous service at all times.208 JOHNTsCHOHL • Imagine service witha smile. Make good service happen. Imagine never getting into hassles withemployees or harangues with their supervisors.

be tolerant toward service people: They're just acting out theirsoctal conditioning. So. Act in a friendly manner toward service employees. You receive in direct proportion to what you give. 209 Many employees were conditioned in the 1980s soc1al cllmate to feel that it is much better to be the boss than the bossed. if theydon't. understand that people are a product oftheir environments. Providing service is demeaning. They learned theirvalues and behaviors from family and friends. do this: . from all the people they've come in contact with. Asales transaction basically is a soctal transaction. They are determined that theywon't do onewhit more for you than they must do to keep you from complainlng to their supervisors. don't become angry. Change your attitude about service employees. They believe. Now. So. 2. and theysay: "Nobody tellsmewhatto dol" They are proponents ofthe belief that the customer is always wrong in any encounter with a service delivery employee. You earn good service the sameway you make friends. Set out to reeducate them. TIY to Influence their behavior. "Is there anything I can do to helpyou?" But. and from preva1llng soctal standards that theysee acted out around them every day. To manyofthem service is sort of an insulting word. by applying the Golden Rule. Even turn them into friends. service people ought to rush up to you with a smile on theirfaces and say.THE CUSTOMER Is B055 1. Sure.

anything. Despite training. win her over with friendliness. whose occupation Is handling disputes between consumers and businesses.. One way to sustain good service Is to tell a helpful or friendly or knowledgeable clerk that you appreciate theirgood service. . helpfulness. Service people receive kind words so rarely that their memories ofcompliments and complimenters are very acute." If you treat employees brusquely and If you Indicate by your manner that you feel that they are obligated to respond to yourevery outrageous whim. Cl Compliment employees on knowledge. Call the employee by name If you know it or If you can read It on a name badge. Don't scowl. George LaMarca ofDes Moines. then you will receive the service equtvalent ofa chop to the solar plexus. grooming. gives an example of "the friendly approach" In action.210 JOHN TsCHOHL Cl Smile when you approach a service employee. Greet the person with a fr1endly comment. Use good eye contact.. even if you don't feel fr1endly. employees may hesitate to approach a customer who looks like he or she ate clam shells for breakfast. Cl Look pleasant. She'll carryyour message to the chefand say something like: 'There's a gentleman out there who's unhappy with his meal. dress... He suggests that instead ofyelling at a waitress about poorly cooked meat or cold hot apple pie." That Will get much betterresultsfor you than: "Ihere'san old grouch out there who's been giving mean earfull.

A consumer has a certainresponsibility to know what she or he wants before askinga salesperson to sell It. ask price.word-of-mouth recommendation by pleased customers. The supermarket chain'scustomer service reputation is so good that advertising. Paul metro area. Idon't know anything about VCRs" lor perennial flowers: or hiking boots. Every human being loves to be asked for help. colors. It makesthem feel worthwhile. Needed. except byword ofmouth. Avoid asking questions endlessly and unnecessarily. At Byerly's supermarkets in the Minneapolls-St.male and female ­ who try on every shoe in a shoe store before buying. for instance. or boom boxes). and to obtain the answer immediately from a supervisor. every employee Is required to answer every request or to write It down on a note pad that all employees carry. Don't.ThE CUSTOMER Is Boss 211 3. Stories are told about people . "I really need your help. implying that you think that the person addressed is capable ofhelping. sizes. . Ask for good service. The chain's only advertising [with a few inexpensive exceptions) is free . is unnecessary. Is it possible that exceptional service has won this reputation for Byerly's? 4. and so on when the information requested is prominently displayed on price tags or signs. Arequest for help is a compliment.

Dress neatly and cleanly. so does a customer get more respect . Feel as If everything is gOing to go all right until it doesn't "And practice the Golden RuIe: Treatemployees the way you wantto be treated. and a hair-do that looked like it was home to a family of wrens. She looked aroundand spied a clerk atopa stool. It was as if someone was standing at the entrance with an invisible paint brush and swabbed the look ofdisgust on her face as she passed. "The main thing. The story is told In a Pittsburgh department store ofa middle-aged woman who Violated just about all the Rules for Royal Treatment By Salespeople.and more attentive service . Perhaps she was remembering past bad treatment. suggests Jane O'Brien ofthe Los Angeles Better Business Bureau. Just as people dressed like bankers get more respect than people dressed like The Three Stooges. The lady wore a faded dress. lfso.212 JOHN T5cHOHL 5.if he or she is dressed neatly In clothes without soup stains onthem. ." 6. The clerk hadn't noticed the customer. "is to give salespeople the benefit ofthe doubt. muddy shoes. Act as If you expect good service. yet." says O'Brien. she was assuring herself ofmore of the same. As she entered the Daywear department a look of anger spread over her face. reaching high to place some boxes on an uppershelf.

"Hey. by eye and body movements. thoughsome businesspeople exhort employees to act as If they are always right.. rude. Some customers don'tknow what they want and they also are overbearing. and by the tones oftheir voices that they expect service to be terrible. "Sure. overbearing. The only good service they've ever known may have been provided by their mothers when they were children. Another reason that people receive bad service is that they signal to clerks bytheir mannerisms. but where doyou find service like that?" Maybe you don't"find" service. It is possible to get attentive.rude. Often these are the same customers who complain the loudest about poor service. Have yougot timeto wait on somebody today?" She got exactly the service she deserved. you. It's a mystery to them why so many salespeople are. though.. Perhaps they can't be blamed for expecting poor service. ask them if theywould rather have service with a smlle and eager salespeople who treat them like friends and they'll say. and Insulting. Maybe you make it happen. and Insulting. . friendly service nearly all the time if you treat salespeople as friends. Force yourself to realize that you can do something about the level ofservice you receive.THE CUSTOMER Is Boss The scowling customer walked to within 10feet of the clerkand said. 213 Customers are not always right. But.

Afriendly attitude toward salespeople is so rare that clerks treated respectfully Jump to attention and serve you as if youwere a celebrity.214 JOHNTsCHOHL If you change your attitudes toward salespeople. your chances ofreceiving good service improve immensely. • . and If you act as If you expect good service.

CHAPTER 24 FOR BUSINESS • WHAT'S IN IT "We can help theseorganizations see the light. • • . Thafs goodfor us andfor them.

or non­ profit groupswhenyou compla1n about bad service. some of which also applyto government and to non-profit organlzanons: .thereby generating the maximum numberof satisfied customers possible? Hereare benefits ofquality service for business.216 JOlIN TscHOHL • Don·t feel sorry forbusiness. government. You're dotng them a favor by complamtng. How else are they to know what causes customer or client dissatisfactiOn? How else are they to stay In business except by satisfYing compla1nts and by leamtng about the needs and wants of customers so they can prevent compla1nts .

absenteeism and tardiness. Positive company reputation. This pays off bothin attracting new customers andin making It easier to hire employees with customer service skills. Lower retraining costs for veteran employees. Dominance in their markets. . Less employee turnover. 6. Reordering. More frequent sales. So. More customers. 5. 4. Fewer complaints. More word-of-mouth recommendation of the company to others. 3.THE CusroMER Is Boss 1. 9. Larger sales. including more new customers. Often there's l1tt1e difference among competitors in theirproducts or merchandise. Differentiation from competitors. Fewer employee grievances. Savings in marketing-adverusmg-promotion budgets. Order upgrading. 8. Repeat business. Better employee communication: Staff members get along bettertogether because theyare in better moods. 11. 10. 7. 217 2. When present customers remain loyal. doing work theymore often enjoy. quality service becomes the reason that consumers choose one company over another. Increase in market shareand return on sales. companies don't have to spend as much money attracting new customers. Improved employee morale and productivity because customers respond positively to them.

you can feel that you helped the business you complained to by prodding the company Into better service. or non-profit organization a favor whenyou complain. comes from customers that return again and again. And that's good for us and for them. according to the Amertcan Management Association. This Is significant because 65 percent ofthe businessofan established company. government. and non-profit organizations provide outstanding customer service. many otherstreat customers and clients as if they are obstacles or Inconveniences Instead ofthe sourceoftheir financial survival. But. We customers and clients can help these organizations see the light. You are doing a business. on the average. government. • . feel goodaboutcomplaining.218 JOHN TsCHOHL Here's a clear expression ofthe benefits ofgood customerservice: Satisfied customers return. When you complain. So. Some business.

(please no requests for personal advice.) Write to me at the following address: John Tschohl service Quality Institute 920I East Bloomington Freeway Minneapolis. comments or ideas about this book. Minnesota 55420 USA Phone: Fax: (612) 884-3311 (612) 884-8901 • .THE CUSfOMER Is Boss 219 • If you have thoughts. I'd love to hear from you.

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
scribd
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->