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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide | Purchasing PCs and Components | Vendor and Order Problems and Solutions | Dealing With Difficult Vendors and Order Problems ]

Standing Up For Your Rights

As someone who considers himself a consumer's advocate, I get very frustrated when I read stories of companies that treat their customers poorly. There are two reasons for the frustration I feel. First, I get annoyed at these companies that still try to take advantage of their customers, when most have now learned better. But more importantly, I notice that in almost every case the customers implicitly allow the company to do what they are doing, simply by not standing up for their rights.

In most cases where a vendor or manufacturer has refused to fulfill an obligation or is behaving in a disrespectful manner, they are doing it because they feel they can get away with it. In some cases the customer lets the seller do what they want out of ignorance of the law or of how they should be treated; after reading this Guide you should be in good position to avoid this. Other consumers simply defer to the actions of the firm because they feel that they can't do anything about it; they feel powerless. In fact, you are not powerless when dealing with even the largest of companies.

The first step to "taking control of your power" is just letting the company know that you will not tolerate their actions. Whether it's a vendor lying to you about the status of an order, or a company trying to charge a restocking fee on a defective item, or a manufacturer refusing to honor a warranty, the one thing they hope for is a passive customer who will just accept what they are trying to pull. This lets them get away with their inappropriate behavior with a minimum of fuss and cost.

Good companies treat their customers with respect; when you have the unfortunate experience of dealing with a bad company, you will have to demand that they treat you with respect. And an important step in doing this is to refuse to accept what the company is doing. You'd be surprised how few people actually will do this. And when it happens, the company has no choice but to pay attention to it. You will only get the treatment you deserve if you insist upon it; nobody will do it for you.

Another reason to fight back is that it discourages companies from this behavior. Consider for example a company that lies about the stock status of its products, charges the customer's credit card and then backorders the item for weeks. There are firms that do this as a matter of course. Well, what would happen to such a company if every time they tried this fraud, the customer canceled the order and filed a chargeback with their credit card firm and a complaint against the vendor? They'd be out of business within a few months, that's what--either that, or they would be forced to change their policies. They continue with their "technique" simply because customers let them get away with it.

Anyway, that's enough preaching, I think you get my point. :^) I get a bit worked up about this sometimes, because I think it is so important--without asserting your rights, you have no tools at all to get what you should when dealing with a firm. It is key to the other methods and tips I have mentioned in this section and the one on dealing with vendor abuses.

When you encounter a company that is trying to "pull" something, be logical, persuasive and clear. Tell the person you are speaking to that what the firm is doing is not acceptable, and then clearly indicate what you expect in terms of service and treatment. Make use of the tips in this section to get where you want to go. Be logical and persuasive, but firm in your conviction.

Next: Whose Problem Is It Anyway?

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