There’s an old expression when it comes to shopping; “you get what you pay for”. Basically, so the saying goes, if you spend up you’ll get quality merchandise, but cheap out and whatever you’re buying will fall apart like a proverbial Chinese motorcycle.
I daresay back in mid-20th century that would have been true, but in our modern international market it seems everything is faulty and nothing is built to last.
So how do you get your dollar’s worth?
Keep Those Receipts!
In a paperless world, these little bits of paper get so easily lost but they are your ticket to success in the art of complaining, so make sure you file them away as soon as you get them home. Without a receipt, companies are not obliged to deal with you as it is generally your only piece of hard evidence that you transacted with them.
Now don’t panic if you have lost your receipt. Did you pay by credit card? Eftpos? Did you scan a loyalty card at the time of purchase? Or have a memorable chat with the sales assistant whose name you remember? Maybe you had the presence of mind to register the warranty that came in the box? These are other ways of proving purchase if the all-important receipt has vanished.
Know Your Rights
If you’re going to claim entitlement to a refund, you better know on what grounds you’re entitled. As a consumer, the most important piece of legislation you should know is the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. This statute came into effect on the 1st of January 2011 and replaced all the different state laws about consumer rights with a unified law, the same throughout Australia. Anything you bought anywhere in Australia after 01/01/11 is covered by it.
When you exchange money for goods or services, you are entitled to an implied warranty that the goods or services will be fit for purpose and of a reasonable standard of quality. Basically, if you buy a waffle maker and it doesn’t make waffles, it ain’t fit for its purpose! The “reasonable quality” test is often confusing and depends on the item but generally speaking, the more you paid for an item, the longer you should expect it to last. A $10 watch from a discount variety store probably won’t last a year and if you take it back 12 months later, you may be greeted with little more than a raised eyebrow. A Tag Heuer however, at several thousand dollars a pop, ought to last you forever.
If your item doesn’t do what it’s meant to, has fallen apart or isn’t how it was described or advertised to you, you’re entitled to a refund. Not just a store credit, not just an exchange, but your cash back in your hot little hand.
If in doubt, contact the consumer rights body in your state for more information.
Now, Be Nice…
You’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar and nobody wants to do a favour for a sourpuss. It isn’t the sales assistant’s fault the item broke, so do be firm but be polite. It’s a negotiation, not a fight and while creating a scene can make you feel better at the time, it’s most likely not going to get you the result you want. Plus, if you call the manager a cantankerous old rip off merchant, you probably won’t ever be able to go back to that store again.
Write To The Right Person!
Check out the store’s details online. Do they have a customer service department? Who’s the manager? Is there a general manager? What’s their name? Sometimes when there is no information the best you can do is write your letter “attention: The Manager” but addressing someone by name packs a punch and ensures your letter doesn’t get binned by the receptionist.
Stick To The Facts
Keep it short, simple and factual. This is not a therapy session, just a business transaction, so no ranting about how upset or angry you were. If you feel you must convey your annoyance keep it to a single sentence. The shorter the letter, the more likely it is to be read and taken seriously.
Your letter should include:
- What item you bought
- Where you bought the item
- The date you bought the item
- What is wrong with the item
- When you tried to return the item in store
- Who served you when you attempted the return
- What happened when you attempted the return
- Why you are entitled to a refund
- What you want.
Where’s The Proof?
Attach any receipts, warranties or relevant records you might have. A picture is worth a thousand words so if you have photographs of the damaged item, include them! Never send your originals and always keep copies. These things have a special way of going mysteriously missing.
There’s an old saying, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get” and I find it very true. Don’t be shy about saying, “I would consider this matter resolved if you company offers me such and such” but keep in mind, they might say no. Give the company a couple of offers to choose form and you’re more likely to get one of them than nothing.
Case in point, I recently purchased a top online which arrived with a stain on it. I wrote to the shop and said they could give me a refund if they liked and I’d post it back or, I’d be happy to keep the item and try my hand at washing it if they gave me a 50% refund. In the end I got my refund, kept the top and the stain did come out in the wash. I’m happy with the result and the company maintains my business; it’s win-win.
Is That A Threat?
Don’t threaten court action if you have no intention of pursuing it, they may just call your bluff. In most Australian states it costs at least $100 just to have an action commence and if it drags out, the price can go up and up. Remember, we’re doing this to try and save money, right?
Know When to Hold ‘Em, Know When To Fold ‘Em
For most of us, time is money. Sometimes, it’s just not worth writing a plethora of follow up letters over a $3.60 bag of lollies. Most people are reasonable but some are just jerks. If you have encountered a jerk or a jerk-company, you’d be better off to just cut your losses and channel your energy into making and saving your money elsewhere.