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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

How to Complain

By Lisa Gerstner







Master the art of kvetching and there's a good chance you'll get what you want


Whether it fills you with dread or gets your adrenaline pumping, confronting a business about a problem with a product or service is a task that takes time and patience. Some companies have customer-service reps who are trained to ensure that you get satisfaction--up to a point. Others put you through phone-menu pinball, bouncing you around until you throw up your hands in frustration. Fortunately, even if you encounter the kind of business that hopes you give up and go away, with the right preparation, tools and mind-set, you have a good chance of getting what you want.

TAKE A DEEP BREATH

Before you pick up the phone or turn to Twitter, prepare your case. Gather information, such as account numbers, warranties, proof of purchase, and model or serial numbers. (Some items don't have the model number printed on them, so it's a good idea to save that information from a product's box or instruction manual.)

Review your contract or any related policies, and be prepared to use language directly from those documents. "The representative will realize that you know what you're talking about," says Amy J. Schmitz, professor of law at the University of Colorado. If photos would bolster your case, take pictures with your cell phone.

Next, decide what you want--say, a $10 monthly discount on your cable bill, or a replacement (rather than repair) of your malfunctioning laptop. Think of a few options that you could suggest in case your first preference isn't possible, says customer-service consultant Barbara Khozam. For instance, when Khozam contacted an airline after her flight to San Francisco had been canceled, the representative told her that the next available flight departed too late for her to make it to a meeting. So Khozam asked about flights landing at nearby airports and found one that arrived in Oakland in time for her meeting. She didn't have to pay any fees to switch flights, but she did have to change her car-rental reservation.

SPEAK UP

When you're ready to lodge your complaint, check the company's Web site to see whether it lists a procedure for complaints. How best to get in touch may depend on the nature of the complaint. For a quick fix, calling may be the answer--as long as you can slash through any phone trees you encounter (go to www.gethuman.com for phone numbers and shortcuts on how to reach a person at many companies). If you find a phone number with a local area code, dial that one first, suggests Talia Sampson, a former customer-relations representative for a major U.S. airline. It may place you with a higher-level customer-relations team than you'd reach through a toll-free number.

If you don't need immediate help, try writing an e-mail. One advantage of e-mail is that it ensures an automatic, written record of your correspondence. Keep your message succinct (agents may not have time to read an essay) and double-check for correct spelling and grammar to boost your chances of being taken seriously. Attach PDF copies of receipts, records and any other relevant materials. The same applies if you send a letter via snail mail. Note that mailed correspondence is a strategy that may better serve you later in the process if your initial efforts fall flat.


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In the age of social media, you can place your gripe on a virtual stage for your friends and followers to see. If a company has a strong social media presence, it may quickly take notice and bend over backward to help you--if only to prevent further public airings of your issue. A business may, for example, ask you to send your phone number after you post a complaint so that an agent from executive-level customer service (who likely has more leeway than reps at the basic call center) can contact you. Or it may offer you a sweetener to make up for something that it's too late to fix.

During a sleepless night at the Miami Hilton, Laura Clawson, of New York City, tweeted that the pillows in her hotel room were terrible--and got a quick result. "I was frazzled and miserable, so I just lay there and complained on Twitter at about 4:30 a.m.," says Clawson. By mid morning, Hilton had responded with several replies on Twitter, an e-mail and a phone call. It was too late to replace the pillows, but she was offered a free night at the hotel for a future date.

Social media may also achieve the fastest results if the business is dealing with a deluge of unhappy customers--say, your electric utility's phone lines are jammed because of a power outage. Find the business's Twitter page and direct your tweets to that account (check whether it has a page designated for customer service). You could also look up the company's Facebook page and tag it in your post.

KEEP IT CIVIL

If a customer-service issue has you steamed, cool down enough so you can have a civil conversation. Remember that a human is at the other end--you're likely to get better results if you don't lose sight of that. "If you're genuine, that goes a very long way," says Sampson. Be firm, but keep your interaction free of insults, shouting (or its online equivalent, using all capital letters) and cursing. Reps who feel verbally abused may refuse to assist you or flag you in their files--meaning that you'll go into future conversations with a strike against you.

Do you have anything nice to say? Launch the conversation with that, says Khozam. For example, tell a bank that you've been a satisfied customer for 25 years, or a restaurant that you usually love the meals it serves. Then explain your issue specifically and clearly, and ask the representative if she's the right person to help you with it. Keep records of your correspondence: Get the names of people you speak to, take note of the date and time of your interaction, and save online conversations of all types--you may, for instance, want to take a screen shot of any Twitter dialogue you have with a company in case it removes tweets later. If the problem isn't resolved immediately, tell the business that you plan to follow up by a certain date if you don't hear back.

If the agent asks a lot of questions about the circumstances surrounding the issue, it may benefit you to go along with the request, even if what she's asking for seems irrelevant. "Sometimes representatives can make exceptions if you phrase a problem a certain way," Sampson says.

Still, even well-meaning agents may have limits on what they can do for you. They may be required to read from a script or permitted to credit, say, only up to $25 to your account, says Guy Winch, author of The Squeaky Wheel: Complaining the Right Way to Get Results, Improve Your Relationships, and Enhance Self-Esteem. If your conversation with a lower-level representative is fruitless or you feel that his best offer doesn't do your issue justice, ask for a supervisor. You could also try asking to connect to the customer-retention or customer-loyalty department.

Unhappy enough to stop using the business's product or service? Say so. That's what Meryn Rathert of Columbus, Ind., did after a vehicle from National Car Rental broke down as she drove to the airport. The agency sent a cab, but it took 45 minutes to arrive--especially stressful given that Rathert had to catch an international flight--and she had to use much of the cash she had planned to take on her vacation to cover the fare. When she got to the airport, agents at the National desk said they didn't have any cash to pay her back and could reimburse only the $60 car-rental fee. So when she returned from the trip, she called the agency and spoke to a manager, who reassured her that she'd receive full compensation for the cab fare. Nevertheless, Rathert told him that the headache was severe enough to steer her away from National in the future. In an effort to win her back, National sent her a check for more than $200--the cash equivalent of a three-day car rental plus the cost of the cab ride.

Try offering a creative solution. When Amy Schmitz couldn't locate the proof of purchase for a malfunctioning blender, the manufacturer told her that she'd have to send it back on her dime so that the company could verify that the blender didn't work before sending her a replacement. Schmitz says the shipping fees probably would have cost more than the blender was worth. To prove that she wasn't faking the complaint in an attempt to nab a free blender, she offered to snip the blender's electrical cord and e-mail the company a photograph of it to show that it would no longer be useful. The company agreed.

If a representative does a bang-up job on your case, let him know--and his manager too, if possible. And if you took your complaint to social media, create some goodwill by telling your followers that your saga had a happy ending.

PRESS ON

If you've spoken to a manager and are still dissatisfied, or if you haven't received a timely follow-up reply, taking the problem to the corporate level is the next step. "Fight your inertia," says Schmitz. It may not be as daunting or time-consuming as you think--and persistence usually does pay off.

Look up the name of the president or owner of the company and track down his or her contact information, such as the phone number and mailing address for the corporate headquarters. If you find a CEO's e-mail address, try sending a letter there, and copy other corporate officers if you find their e-mail addresses, too. Mention that you'll notify a consumer agency if you don't hear back within a couple of weeks.

Once you have exhausted all the channels within a company, contacting a consumer agency or government bureau can be helpful. But make sure you understand its role; some organizations mediate between the consumer and business, whereas others simply collect complaints to detect patterns. In many cases, the Better Business Bureau will forward your complaint to a company and work with both parties to resolve the problem. For a list of groups that may help you out--as well as sample letters and more tips on effective complaining--go to www.consumer-action.org.

Suing a business in small-claims court is usually a last resort. Increasingly, companies are including arbitration clauses in their contracts, which may require that a dispute be taken to a third party for private review rather than to court--including small-claims court. Many big banks, for example, include arbitration clauses in agreements for credit cards and checking accounts.

SECRETS OF A SUPER COMPLAINER

Kiplinger's office manager, Glen Mayers, has a track record few can match for complaining and getting results. At work, he recently spent about six months dealing with Pitney Bowes when the company failed to refund a $1,400 deposit on a rented postage meter that he had returned (the company has finally promised to return the $1,400). One of Glen's latest water-cooler stories is his struggle to cut his family's cable bill:

"After a promotional deal from Comcast for cable TV and Internet ended, my monthly bill jumped from $89 to $150. I called Comcast's general customer-service line to reduce the bill to $110. The representative told me that even if I cut out high-definition channels and DVR service, I'd still pay $124 a month.

"So I called again the next day in hopes of reaching a different agent who might be more helpful. But I hit another roadblock: The rep tried to sell me a 'triple play' deal including cable, Internet and landline phone service. But my family relies on cell phones, and though signing up for the package would have brought the price down, it didn't meet my target.

"Finally, I turned to Twitter and corresponded with one of Comcast's Twitter reps. He soon sent me a phone number to call, and the person I dialed said she couldn't believe the other reps had given me the runaround. I'm now paying $98 a month--and I didn't lose the HD channels or the DVR.

"The bottom line for any complaint: Be persistent. I refuse to lose."


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Lisa Gerstner is Associate editor at Kiplinger's Personal Finance.



All contents copyright 2013 Kiplinger's Personal Finance . Distributed by Tribune Media Services. All rights reserved.

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