Once every few months, I will purchase an item at the store, take it home, and discover a serious problem with it. The bread has a very odd taste, or the tortilla chips are very stale, or the salsa is very very watery, or the Glade plug-in doesn’t work. Most people I know react to this by simply tossing the product, chalking it up as a loss, and moving on with life, and that’s what I used to do as well. Others return it to the store, but usually just get a duplicate flawed product from the same group. There is another way, however: a few moments of your time can recoup that loss (and often much more).
If you find yourself with a product with an obvious flaw, look on the package and find the customer service number and do what it takes to get a live person on the phone (usually, this involves hitting “0″ a lot to get through the automated services). Tell the person in explicit detail what’s wrong with the package and tell them that you’ve been happy with the purchase of this product in the past and you want to alert them to potential problems with a shipment and you might have concerns with buying the product again (as you should).
What happens (almost always) is that the customer service representative will offer to send you some vouchers in the mail. These vouchers are usually coupons good for a free replacement product. Even better, I usually receive several of these vouchers whenever I make a call like this. Once, I received about twenty vouchers for containers of Yoplait yogurt (I bought a container, opened it up, and it smelled rather ominous); another time I received about ten $5 voucher coupons for Lienenkugel’s beer (I bought a bottle, opened it, and it smelled kind of skunky, not what Honey Weiss should smell like). Another nice touch is that for most non-technology companies, their call centers are based in native English speaking nations, which means that many of the communication problems you might have with a customer service call to Dell aren’t an issue.
Before you get excited and start dialing numbers, a few words of warning. Only call these numbers when you have a legitimate product complaint, as I have been asked some very detailed questions about the purchase in the past. Also, don’t call very frequently: many companies share a database of frequent callers to their customer feedback hotline and if you call with heavy frequency, you’ll get fewer vouchers in the mail.
Remember, though, you don’t have to accept a flawed product, and you deserve compensation for problems in the product. If you buy something at the grocery store and it is flawed, don’t just chuck it; take a few minutes and call and the effort will pay you back (and often more).