How a 5-Minute Email Saved Me $140

by Paul Michael on 13 September 2011 12 comments
Photo: Candie_N

Occasionally I like to share a customer service story with you. I’ve had run-ins with several big corporations in the past, including Comcast, Walmart, and Hobby Lobby.

This time, Best Buy and I almost came to blows. But thanks to a stellar customer service experience and some wonderful Best But employees, it became a story with a happy ending. Now, I’m sharing it with you with the hope that some of you may benefit from it. (See also: How to Get a Customer Service Phone Number, Fast!)

Let’s start at the beginning (which, unlike in a Tarantino movie, is usually a good place for these stories to start).

New Home, New Appliances

My wife and I finally bought a new home after almost a decade of living in one that was too small for us. With the move, we had budgeted for new appliances, and Best Buy was the store we chose. They had a stellar deal on LG and Samsung products, and it was all within our budget. It also didn’t hurt that the store is about four minutes from our new home.

The Deal

We opted for stainless steel and picked out a range, microwave, and dishwasher. The range and microwave were LG, the dishwasher Samsung. The dishwasher looked cool and was on sale, plus it had a stainless steel tub as well. We got free delivery, but I had to install the dishwasher/microwave myself or pay an extra $150 per appliance. I've done it several times before, so no problem. Everything was delivered in a timely fashion, and it all looked great!

The Grim Reality

The Samsung dishwasher sucked. I mean really sucked. Despite being hyped as quite the cleaning machine by the appliances associate at Best Buy, it left food gunk all over the dishes and sounded like a jet engine taking off. We needed an exchange.

The Exchange

We did our own homework this time. Kind of. We sought out stellar reviews of dishwashers and found one that was sold by Best Buy for almost the same price as the Samsung, in steel, but it was a GE. We went in to do the exchange and were informed that it wasn’t sold in stores. But the reviews were good, and we plumped for the exchange.

The “Special Order” Fee

As it turns out, some items that aren’t stocked by Best Buy stores, but sold through them, require a special delivery fee — $69.95 in this case. It was a bit much considering delivery is supposed to be free on appliances, but we wanted a better machine so we paid it. A few weeks later, we got the exchange done.

Bad Dishwasher, Horrendous Restocking Fee

The new GE was not good either. It looked about four years out of date for a start, the inside was cheap plastic, and the whole thing wobbled when the door opened thanks to a tough latch at the top. So much for trusting reviews. We didn’t even want to hook this one up; we thought it would be better to get it swapped out while it was still unsullied. But, one call to the store and we discovered that although the exchange would be no problem, there would be a 25% restocking fee. That’s about $140 to return it unused! And despite my polite protestations, the store associate’s hands were tied. The restocking fee had to be paid if we wanted a different machine.

Time to Contact Corporate

I did some digging, found out the email addresses of the CEO and several members of the executive team, and fired off an email explaining the situation. It wasn't snarky or aggressive. In fact, I did point out that my family has had good experiences with Best Buy in the past. As I have said before, no one likes to deal with an irate customer. And you get further treating someone with respect than some kind of corporate bellboy ready to do your bidding. At the end of the day, we're all people doing a job.

Anyway, it wasn't long at all (I think one day, in fact) before I got a reply from head office. They were very concerned about the “special order” restocking fee, and also that I had two bad experiences with dishwashers already. I was told they would look into it, and sure enough, I got a call from the local Best Buy store the following day.

The Wonderful Resolution

They say “third time's a charm” and they're not wrong. This time, the manager of my local store was a glorious example of great customer service. He instantly waived the $140 restocking fee and put me in touch with someone in the appliances department who could recommend a quality dishwasher in our price range. That person was great. Within minutes I had a new dishwasher picked out, and the old one was ready to be picked up and replaced within two days.

When the dishwasher arrived, it was everything Best Buy said it would be. The useless GE was taken away, the delivery guys were great and everything was taken care of.

The Moral of the Story

It's simple. If you have a problem, don't take the first answer as the only answer. Most of the time, the staff you are dealing with have neither the authority nor the fortitude to make the kind of decisions you're requesting. Take it to someone who can help, and then the people you were originally dealing with will have the power to help you out. Everyone wants a happy customer, and it often doesn't take a lot of effort to get one.

Do you have any similar stories? Did you go to the top and get a result, or were you turned down? Let us know.

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Guest's picture
Guest

The easiest way to avoid this is to not buy appliances from Best Buy in the first place.

Guest's picture
Guest

I had a similar wonderful experience with Vanguard (investing). We had always liked them for their no load funds. My mom had inherited some mutual funds and kept them untouched. As she was transitioning into a nursing home situation she had to liquidate her assets. It seems some of the funds were so old she no longer had certificates for them. The procedure needed to verify she owned them had been so infrequently done in the last 20 years, no one I spoke to/contacted could help. The pressure was building as there were time constraints. I was practically pulling my hair out. Like you, in desperation I wrote a note to the CEO explaining the situation and expressing appreciation for the way they did business in the past. A very kind older man, (assistant to the CEO), called me at home and walked me through the process, making sure I got the paperwork and that everything went smoothly. He was a gem. It wasn't like my grandfather had been a big time investor, he was a bricklayer, but I was treated like he had been.

Guest's picture
Kevin

So what model did you get :) We are looking at best buy right now for dishwashers in stainless steel.

Guest's picture
cmykprnt

Why didn't you at least give the name of the dishwasher brand that performed to your expectations. Not fair to blast the ones you didn't like and then say nothing about the brand you did like.

Paul Michael's picture

A good point. The model we got that is working so well for us now is a Bosch Ascenta. Very quiet, cleans superbly. It's probably the least expensive Bosch model, they can run over $1000, but this one is perfect for us.

Guest's picture
James H

I have gone up against major companies and have made it so far as to get the point across to some people about a Companies policy. I do not understand why people assume big corporations are too big to tame. I am not here to brag about the many things I have done to many major corporations as far as getting things free, fees waived, as it a project I am working on. I am going to make I get the word out in the most affected way. I am not your average person. I don't mean I'm smarter or better than anyone else, I just have a talent, that I am using to help others understand. I know my rights and I read policies. I know that most not all policies do not overide the law. If you would take the time to read a companies policy you can 90% of the time find your rights being violated. I suggest if you have a problem with with a product or service that has taken you for a ride, don't be intimidated by a giant corporations policy. I will give you one more trick that I use that also works every time. Record you calls to customer service, and let them show their a$$. It may take several calls but once you tell them "Oh by the way, I'm recording this call" , They will say I don't give you permission to record this call. Then say "It says this call may be recorded." They will say "thats for training purposes only." I say " well I'm training people about their rights." I have never had a problem after that, but what do I know. I am just like you.

Guest's picture
Guest

Great article, and thanks for mentioning you're happy with the Bosch. That's the brand my plumber recommends. I figured he would know what he doesn't have to fix, but always good to hear from a consumer.

Guest's picture
Dave

Your right, typically the first set of customer service reps aren't much help. Unless you're looking for a regurgitation of standard policy, or what little that recent hire knows about company policy, which is usually just what they overheard someone else tell a customer, you need to go higher to someone with power.

People with power are capable of assessing the situation and acting appropriately. With the appropriate part being a combination of your actual problem in combination with your attitude. If you phone a power person complaining about a situation that tends to happen a lot, and you have an attitude, you're likely to get a standard apology and nothing more. If on the other hand you call with the same problem and are pleasant to talk to, you're likely to get the gold treatment, and have the customer service rep go out of his or her way to solve the problem and make you happy. Kindness goes a long way to someone who deals with complaining people all day.

Guest's picture
KJ

Paul,

Can you also give the samsung model that was awful. I'm now worried about the stainless steel lined one we ordered.

Guest's picture
jonn

With the economy being what it is, it long overdue for all companies to amp up customer service. Customers need to respectively demand it. We can always shop elsewhere. It is also best to avoid companies with poor return policies; HSN, QVC, and Talbots to name a few. [Talbots used to have excellent customer service and return policy. It was abused by some, so the company changed to punish all. Unlike other stores that made changes to punish only the abusers.] Blogs like Wisebread can help educate consumers and spread the word about poor customer service.

Guest's picture
Darren

Exactly! i tried to return a 42-in flatscreen TV to Wal-Mart after it exploded within 3 weeks, and the customer service employee said there was a problem with my receipt and ... Sorry. i could not take this as a final answer, so i calmly and politely (important!) asked to speak to a manager. there was a problem with my serial number from the receipt not matching the one on the TV, but they had to power to give me the refund in a gift card. I graciously accepted. There is always someone who can push your refund through, and they usually do not mind giving you a gift card to their store.