How to Deal with Bad Customer Service

By Mitch Lipka, dealnews writer

No matter how much research you do, or how familiar you are with a seller or what you're buying, there's always a chance something can go wrong.

Luckily, you shop with an advantage on dealnews; the site's editorial guarantee notes that the editors won't list any merchant with a poor record of customer service.

But what happens when your new laptop shows up with a scratch on the screen, or the black dress shoes you ordered mysteriously morph into a pair of blue boat shoes? Or you receive nothing at all?

Most companies will swiftly resolve simple matters like that with a return label or by sending out a new item once you've registered the complaint via email, phone, or online form. Companies including Amazon, TigerDirect, Meritline, and Zappos have won excellent reputations for resolving such problems.

But not every experience will be that easy. So what do you do if the company isn't helpful or turns aggressive?

Never give up on the first try. Perseverance is often rewarded. Remember, you're dealing with people, and not everyone is as good at their job or as flexible as the next person.

If you're convinced you're in the right and you're getting nowhere, the best plan of action is to escalate. When the customer service representative tells you they can't help, ask for a supervisor. The supervisors are typically empowered to do more than the customer service representatives and, at many companies, would rather resolve a situation on the spot than create more conflict.

However, not every business makes it easy to connect with that person. So, if you fail at that level or can't find the supervisor, it's time to super-escalate.

Check out this list of corporate contacts, specifically compiled to aid consumers in complaints. When a well-founded complaint hits the corporate offices, you have a new and better shot at resolving the problem without a third party's involvement.

If you're done fighting with the company — that can happen at any point along the way depending on how your situation has been handled — it's time to go beyond. To get an intermediary involved, consider filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. The BBB is of particular value when the company you're dealing with cares about its BBB rating. Not every company does.

You can also complain to your state attorney general or local or state consumer affairs office. (You can find a list of contacts here.) They often have a mechanism to help mediate disputes.

And if your troubles stem from a vendor that dealnews has listed, by all means, voice your grievances here. While the site isn't responsible for the claims or conduct of various merchants, your situation will help the editors decide which stores aren't worth listing. You'd be doing a service to other readers, which may provide a silver lining to a frustrating shopping experience.

Photo credits: Front page, Google Images; this page, Jeremy Daccarett via Flickr

Mitch Lipka is editor of and a longtime consumer columnist and consumer advocate who worked for, Consumer Reports, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, among other places. Follow him on Twitter — @mitchlipka or on Facebook. You can also sign up for an e-mail alert for all dealnews features.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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I agree with most of what you've said in your article, especially about getting someone from Corporate involved.  However, my experience is that while the BBB at one time did try to resolve issues, now they simply pass the complaint on to the business.  If the issue does not get resolved, which it won't because you've already tried working with the company, it just gets recorded in the "the company tried to resolve the issue" category.  I really can't agree that the BBB really "gets in there" anymore.  Fortunately there are sites like Dealnews that will help.
Hi there;

Very informative posting. I wanted to share an experience that I encountered a BAD costumer care.

4 months ago I bought a watch from BLINGDAILY.COM . They sent me a watch which doesn't work. I tried to reach them to address the issue but nobody replied my emails. I told them If they don't respond me about issue , I am going to fight against them in various ways , Like complaint on BBB, posts on the scamalert websites , complaint notification to deal websites like dealnews and dealstobuy.

Anyway they didn't care about me. So I did everything to knock them down :)

Two weeks later I got an email from them about returning the watch. VICTORY!!!

Never Quit or let it go.