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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 ]

Whose Problem Is It Anyway?

A key way in which you will have to assert your rights is to make clear to the company that you are not willing to accept the consequence of their problems. When dealing with a company that wants to do something you consider unacceptable, it is common for them to justify their behavior on the basis of "issues" they are having. Some firms seem to think that any difficulty they are having is an excuse to pass along the problem to the customer.

Some common examples I hear about all the time:

  • Unacceptably slow warranty service: "Our service department is all backed up right now, so it will take about a month to repair your item"
  • Grossly inaccurate stock status leading to three-quarters of the items on your order that were supposed to be in stock being backordered: "We are experiencing temporary difficulties with our web site".
  • Repeatedly being lied to about the status of your order: "Oh, that person is new".
  • Making you hang on hold on a toll call for customer service for half an hour: "We are experiencing a temporarily high call volume". (Of course the toll-free sales line picks up immediately.)

There are dozens of others; you've probably heard them yourself. Well, the company may well be telling you the truth about these problems (though they aren't always even honest). However, the fact that they are having a problem doesn't make you responsible for its consequences.

Most of the "problems" that companies have are a direct result of their poor management decisions. They are also often due to the company refusing to spend money where they should, to provide adequate service. It wasn't you that decided to hire too few service people, or poor webmasters, or insufficient numbers of customer service representatives. Most "problems" can be corrected by getting the company to spend a bit of money that they just don't want to let go. If the problem is their fault, they should correct it at their expense, not make excuses.

I do think that if a company is being reasonable, you should try to be reasonable in return. Sometimes an otherwise good firm will experience a problem beyond their control, or have issues despite legitimate attempts to correct them. It's up to you to decide the reasonableness of the company's behavior. Just don't accept the ridiculous at face value.

A final "problem" you may run into is someone claiming that something ludicrous that they want to do is "company policy" or that they "always do it that way". These are euphemistic terms for inflexibility and habit. Putting something down in a rulebook is not justification for poor treatment; neither is a past history of unacceptable behavior reason to continue it in the future. If the person you are speaking to is chained to a policy binder, then you need to go up the chain until you find someone capable and willing to exercise some judgment.

Next: Effective Tone and Attitude

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