When You Don't Get No Sat-is-fac-tion...

by Claudia Carver

Most of us scroungers and savers do a pretty good job of careful spending. But we often have difficulty returning items that don't live up to the manufacturer's promises or our expectations. Here's a little list of helpful hints to assist in getting the most bang for your buck.

  • Be creative and light-hearted about it. I have had the best response when I've written an amusing letter to manufacturers explaining, for example, that my husband's new shirts had not turned up in my ironing basket because the collars had shrunk and he was letting them hang unworn in his closet. I received a full refund for the three shirts. I must have learned this from my mother who once wrote to a big tire manufacturing company telling them that she had one of their tires hanging (in shreds) on display in her driveway, with a large sign indicating to any passersby that "This is a six-week-old, blank-blank tire."
  • Do sweat the small stuff. Every little bit counts. When I bought a basket of peaches last summer, I quickly found after trying three of them that they were inedible. I figured the grocery store would like to know that they were selling poor quality fruit, so I didnĀ¹t hesitate to ask for a refund. The woman at the check-out seemed a little puzzled by my assertiveness, but I've found that small vendors are usually more anxious to please. When I was buying some large Spanish-type onions at my local farmers' market, I praised the farmer for the sweetness of the onions I'd purchased from him the previous week. He said a customer had brought one back that morning because it had started to rot inside and he had been happy to replace it. Because he had brought the matter up, I told him I had had one rotten onion in the last bunch I'd bought, and without skipping a beat, he added another large onion to my bag. You can bet I'll be shopping at his stall from now on.
  • You won't know if you don't ask. When I went to the post office, I was rather shocked when the clerk told me that the postage rate to send a simple calendar overseas was going to cost me more than the calendar itself. When I looked at her in disbelief, she checked her prices and said she could send it for two dollars less.
  • Don't worry if it's already opened. My husband bought me a CD for my birthday. It was an artist that I had previously enjoyed, but this particular disc didn't have one song on it that I liked. I knew it would never be played again. I was bemoaning my fate to a friend when she advised me to take it back. "My son does it all the time," she said. "He just tells them it wasn't what he had expected and they shrink wrap it again." When I trekked off to my local music store, I was surprised and pleased to discover she was right. It was a no-hassle return. I'll certainly be returning to that store in the future.
  • It might not necessarily be a male/female thing. Although my husband is the absolute worst at returning anything, I don't think that's necessarily true of all men. My daughter's boyfriend, for example, once returned a non-stick frying pan that had a three-year warranty. (I'm not sure how close to the three-year limit he was.)
  • Be persistent. The very same boyfriend returned a book that was supposed to teach him how to work a computer program. It didn't do the trick and he finally, after many, many emails, got his money back. Now there's a man after my own heart.
  • If you have a flair for the dramatic, consider making a spectacle of yourself. I have a friend that, many years ago, waltzed into a grocery store carrying a smelly chicken. She swung the foul fowl as she sang, "It's mainly because of the meat," which was a jingle the said store was fond of using at the time.
  • Don't become obsessive about this, especially if it is causing friction in your relationship. Maybe you need to take on the responsibility as the taker-backer in the family. Cajoling can get you just so far (not very far if truth be told) and the reluctant taker-backer may just come home with something else you're not happy with. Then you won't be able to say a thing.
  • Don't be rude or demanding. A little thoughtfulness and a smiling visage go a long way. If you don't feel you're getting satisfaction from the salesclerk, ask calmly and pleasantly if you may speak with the manager. Don't be rude with managers either.
  • On a final note, don't expect results every time. I sent what I thought was an irresistible letter to a motel, expounding on the fact that we were embarrassed to have recommended that family members stay with them. The showers didn't work properly, an ashtray had been emptied on the floor and not vacuumed up, the sheets and towels were not the best. You get the picture. I asked for a full refund and what you do think we got? You guessed it. We got a free overnight for any evening Monday through Thursday. Good for three months. Forget it.

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