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Effective Consumer Complaints Can Resolve Problems

LAS CRUCES -- Consumers don't have to settle for products that fall apart or accept unsatisfactory service. They can contact the company involved, said a New Mexico State University consumer education specialist.


"Most merchants are willing to help resolve complaints, which can save you money on repairs and replacements," said Susan Wright with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. "It gives merchants a chance to keep you as a satisfied customer."

Before making a complaint, Wright recommends following these tips:

* Identify the problem, what's been done to resolve it and what would be a fair settlement -- money back, the product repaired or the item exchanged.
* Gather documents regarding the complaint. Sales receipt, repair orders, warranties, canceled checks or contracts will help the company solve the problem.
* Contact the person who sold the item or performed the service. Calmly and accurately explain the problem and what action should be taken. If that person is not helpful, ask for the supervisor or manager and repeat the complaint. Allow each person a reasonable period of time to resolve the problem before contacting another source for assistance.

"If you are not satisfied with the response, don't give up," Wright advised. "If the company operates nationally or the product is a national brand, write a letter to the customer service department or direct your letter to the president of the company."

Consumers who contact the person who sold the product or performed the service still need to write a letter of complaint. Companies that are not listed in local directories may be found in Standard and Poor's Register of Corporations, Directors and Executives. It lists more than 45,000 American business firms and can be found in most libraries.

"If you don't have the name of the product's manufacturer, check your local library for the Thomas Register," Wright suggested. "It lists the manufacturers of thousands of products."

Letters should include the complainant's name, address and home and work phone numbers. They should be specific and brief. Include all the important facts such as the date and place of purchase and information about the product or service -- serial or model numbers or specific type of service. Send copies, not originals, of all documents regarding the problem. Keep a copy of all letters.

"State what you think should be done about the problem," Wright advised. "Be reasonable. Avoid writing an angry, sarcastic or threatening letter. The person reading your letter probably was not responsible for your problem, but may be very helpful in resolving it."
©2007 NMSU Board of Regents - Legal Information