“Fearless Consumer” can help settle disputes for customers
(Ca ching, ca ching, sound effect). When we spend good money on a product we may have saved a while to own, or purchased quickly out of necessity, the very least we hope for is that it works. In this two-part story we learn how to get help with what sometimes can be an exhausting and frustrating experience. Barbara Nordin of Warm Springs settles disputes between consumers and merchants who may not see eye to eye on if their transaction was fair or not. She achieves this by writing about the conflicts.
“I stared the Fearless Consumer Column in 1996 and wrote it with a several year break for two different publications until 2007. So I have a lot of experience investigating consumer problems, and intervening with a business or a large company. That’s what I’m hoping to dive in and be doing here, working with people who have a problem with a business that they haven’t been able to resolve on their own.”
Barbara restarted her column in late January, and even though her print presence is local, consumers from outside of the Allegheny Highlands can reach her easily.
“And what I’ll be able to do, because I’m writing for the Recorder when it first comes out in print, and have a media base, I can go put to the top of a company’s hierarchy to their media relations department. They really hate bad publicity, so when I call, and say, ‘Hi I’m the Fearless Consumer from the Recorder,’ they’re able to realize, ‘ok we are going to have a situation that’s going to be publicized’. They’ll do their legwork, and find out what happened on their side of the equation. I tell them what my consumer contact is telling me. And then over the course of phone calls and e-mails, we work out in most cases a resolution.”
Almost all of us remember having to return a pair of shoes or a sweater that didn’t fit. But these days, with so many transactions occurring on line, and in big box stores not known for customer service, we don’t always expect to feel satisfied, or even better, pleased with a purchase. Ms. Nordin said the product itself is not always the only reason people seek her out to contact a corporation.
“Sometime it just took the company apologizing, even if nothing happened in terms of money or replaced products, but what I was hearing about was perhaps very rude or inappropriate treatment that the company really needed to continue to think about before they continued in that vein.”
I asked what some of the typical types of conflicts were, Babara might have encountered between a consumer and a company.
“So I ran the gamut, some things were really quite trivial, and other things were really large.”
One incident was with a couple who purchased a car being assured by the salesman it would easily hold its value. They were visiting professors in a university town, and knew they’d be selling the car back in less than a year.
“So they drove it around and brought it back on their way out of the country, and he said, ‘Oh, that model has really declined radically in its blue book value, aw really depreciated. “
In the second in this pair of stories, the Fearless Consumer shares how she talks to media departments of companies to help customers resolve disputes. For part two, please stay tuned to AMR.