Six reasons why it pays to pay attention - Congratulations on providing the worst customer service experience of my life
AJ: Customer service is incredibly important to me. I am continually startled and appalled when I am promised one thing but what is delivered doesn’t align with that. I can appreciate an opportunist as much as the next Gen Y’er, but not at my expense! Since customer service doesn’t always mean your interests are protected, here are six reasons why it pays to pay attention to your finances.

Check your receipts against what is actually charged
We keep our receipts for absolutely everything. Kirby catalogs them in Quicken and checks them against our credit card statements and we have found numerous errors. We have been to several bars and restaurants where manually-entered items have been accidentally double charged or one of my personal favorites, where a server tips themselves an extra $20 by creatively squeezing a “2” in front of your “$5.00” tip. Billing errors are a really prevalent, really unnecessary way to lose money. Retailers aren’t overly concerned about whether their register accidentally charged your card twice, that’s up to you.

Get quotes and estimates in writing
Notice my emphasis on the “in writing” part. I jokingly say “trust no one” all the time, but really and truly, not everyone has your best interests at heart. If you’re having work done ask for a simple written statement of work. If you’re negotiating lower rates on a service you’re currently paying for, request an email confirmation of the discussion you had. If you’re committing to a series of something (lawn care, chiropractor visits, months of service), ask for a contract that both parties sign that clearly details the terms of the agreement.

Don’t pay for services you didn’t receive
If you pay for TV and internet monthly and consistently have 5 days a month where your internet is out, make them pay you back for the days of service you pre-paid for when their service didn’t deliver. If you ordered something online and it arrived damaged, make them replace the item and reimburse the shipping you paid.

Just because a store has a 30 day return policy does not mean they won’t replace damaged or defective items. So long as you don’t abuse the system, most retailers will be more than willing to at least replace the item with something similar if they don’t have the exact item you’re looking to replace.

This makes Kirby very uncomfortable but dang near everything is negotiable. Here are a few tips to help you better negotiate:

  • Leverage price comparisons to get the price you want on goods (tires, mattresses, cars, tools, etc). Even companies that don’t publicize price matching as an option will oftentimes work with you in order to keep your business.
  • Make a deal! Offer to purchase more of something in exchange for a per-unit discount.
  • Get sad veggies, meats and seafoods for less. Just because it doesn’t have a 50% off sticker on the package doesn’t mean you can’t ask the butcher or the produce manager for a discount. They’re not canned goods, they won’t last forever and they want to sell as much as possible!

Be reasonable
The old adage about flies and honey is especially true when working with customer service agents. They are used, abused and yelled at on a regular basis, so if you’re willing to be patient, remain calm and treat them with respect you should brace yourself to be blown away. Kindness to a customer service representative resulted in a home improvement store paying for all of our blinds due to the 3+ months of incorrect orders being fulfilled, our cell phone provider completely replacing my broken screen free of charge, and all kinds of other great discounts. My grandparents were big letter writers, and I think they passed that down to me. I am fiercely loyal to brands and companies, and I take it personally when what I have been promised isn’t what I receive. Companies need to know when otherwise great service fails terribly at providing a good experience.

Review your monthly statements
KJ: We had recently posted about a month where we canceled our TV and internet, and while it was challenging, it was more challenging to deal with the bill afterwards! After many conversations with our cable provider, I was finally able to get them to refund the services we didn’t actually use. Who would have known it would be so difficult? It was a bit more challenging when you add in that we were moving at the time too, but had I not been paying attention, they would have charged me for the month I had it canceled plus charge me an extra $8 for an unreturned remote – which we still needed at the new home with the SAME package we had before! Even those regular water, electric, mortgage, insurance, and other statements we receive – that 9 times out of 10 are very straightforward – should at least be reviewed, so you can find if there’s anything unexpected that cropped up – especially if you have it on auto-pay and may not otherwise notice.

    How close attention do you pay to your bills?
    What was the most shocking thing you came across?
    Tell us about what you do to keep on track.

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2 thoughts on “Six reasons why it pays to pay attention

  1. Tom Thumb is, and always has been, my favorite grocery store. Here’s why: many years ago, their advertising boasted about their meat department. “If you don’t like your Thanksgiving turkey, bring back the bones, and we will replace it or refund your money.” I never had a problem with the turkey, but I bought a nice pork roast, with the plan to have company for a Sunday dinner. To my dismay, it was nearly 50% bone. (Cleverly disguised by the way it was packaged.) We made it through the dinner, but I wrapped up the bones and returned to the meat department the next day, merely intending to just let the butcher know that I was disappointed. As the butcher argued with me about how one should know what to expect by the label, the store manager happened by. He asked what the problem was, and I explained in a few words. His response to the butcher? “Give her the money back.” I left the store with a full refund and an appreciation for that manager’s level of committment to his customers. Never be afraid to ask. Good stores want their customer’s loyalty and appreciation.

    • Excellent point. It never hurts to ask! Stores and companies want to make sure their customers are being taken care of – otherwise they won’t be around for long – so don’t be afraid to voice your opinion if the service wasn’t up to your expectations. Be sure to tell them too though when they’re doing a good job!

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