Among the tips: Don't be afraid to be on hold -- and use it to your advantage.
The New York Times recently published an article of reader-collected techniques for prevailing in customer-service disputes. Here's a sampling of a few of my favorites from the article:
Use your camera. Suzanne Barchers of Stanford, Calif., always photographs any unpleasant surprises in hotel rooms, using her handy digital camera. Of a recent trip to Las Vegas hotel she writes, "When asked upon checkout how my stay was, I simply said, 'Let me show you.'" The images included some dingy towels, broken shelves and a view that was less than promised and paid for. "My bill was cut in half without any prompting."
A new website provides an outlet for AT&T wireless users who are fed up with the network's ability -- or lack thereof -- to carry calls.
A new website is setting the stage for a class-action lawsuit regarding the Apple iPhone's apparent propensity to drop calls.
The site lets iPhone users upload their internal phone data, including the number of calls that their respective phones have dropped. The site administrators plan to aggregate the data and file a lawsuit on behalf of everyone who has used the site.
The website calls the iPhone "the best portable computer ever made, while at the same time being the worst phone ever because it drops calls all the time," and urges users to "run Apple and AT&T through the ringer."
Bookstores' summer reading programs offer rewards, and public libraries offer free kids' activities.
Bookstores want your children to read this summer, and they are offering free books as an enticement.
Of course, your public libraries always have free books available, as long as you're willing to bring them back on time. Most public libraries organize free children's programs in the summers, some with prizes. Our public library will offer teens henna tattoos in addition to organizing more traditional programs around books, film and music.
- Bing: Best children's books
Libraries lend more than books, too. You can check out DVDs, videos, music and audio books.
Local independent bookstores organize free children's events and some also have summer reading programs. Many bookstores offer free regular story hours, too.
With the resort industry reeling from the recession, golfers can find bargains.
Golf course owners are still searching for the green -- and that could be good news for vacationing golfers.
After ticking down 1.8% in 2008, the number of rounds of golf played in 2009 inched south another 0.6%, according to the National Golf Foundation. Some states saw steeper declines: South Carolina, with well-known golfing destinations in Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach, saw 4.3% fewer rounds of golf played last year than in 2008, and golf rounds fell 12.8% in Hawaii.
The drop-off in business could add up to some good last-minute deals for consumers, says Bob Bruns, associate director of the PGA Golf Management program at Methodist University.
Before you spend a lot of money, investigate free or low-cost options.
Scams aren't just for the unsophisticated. Even a reasonable job seeker with an ounce of urgency might be convinced by polished, persistent schemers who are pros at overselling the value of job-search services.
To be semantically precise, these setups are more scheme-like than pure scams. Service providers don't take your money and disappear; instead, they deliver a service that may be worthless or have value that is a fraction of its fee.
- Bing: Write a perfect resume
As such, these schemes persist, especially when hawked by aggressive salespeople disguised as career-services experts. They prey on the sense of urgency and latent fears of high-achieving people who happen to be unemployed or underemployed at the moment. They exploit the idea that exclusive, high-priced services are better than readily available, free or lower-priced alternatives.
The online retailer earns praise from customers, but some think it's merely a PR stunt.
A pricing-engine mistake at a Zappos.com sister site, 6pm.com, capped all prices at $49.95 for the first six hours of Friday before the error was caught. Now, in a brilliant customer-service move, Zappos says it will honor all of the orders placed and eat the $1.6 million mistake.
Hopefully, someone somewhere got the $1,000 GPS for just under 50 bucks. Customers overall, it appears, are impressed with the company's response.
"Wow, you mean they didn't pull an Amazon and just canceled all those orders? Crazy!" a reader commented at CNET News. Amazon acquired shoe and apparel online retailer Zappos last year.
This is certainly a departure from how many online retailers handle pricing mix-ups and gaffes. For instance:
The 'sin tax' defines candy as a sweet without flour. Except some candy contains flour. It's still candy, isn't it?
Starting June 1, you'll have to pay sales tax if you buy candy or gum in Washington state. Local taxes vary, but in Seattle, for example, that's 9.5 cents more on a $1 candy bar.
Unless you buy a Kit Kat, Milky Way or Twizzlers.
Those aren't candy, according to the state's definition. Because the state and city don't tax food, those sweets are tax-free.
That doesn't mean they're better for you. It's just that those non-candy candies contain flour. And, by the state's definition, an item that contains flour isn't candy, even if it's candy.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest identifies selections at 7 popular chains that provide 'Xtreme' levels of calories and fat.
What do you get if you order the pasta carbonara with chicken at The Cheesecake Factory, followed by the Chocolate Tower Truffle Cake?
Answer: 4,170 calories and 133 grams of saturated fat -- more than the recommended limit of saturated fat for six entire days. The recommended daily caloric intake for most folks is 2,000.
These two menu items are among the Center for Science in the Public Interest's nine winners of the 2010 Xtreme Eating Awards. Is there any wonder we're an obese nation? Can the federal requirement that restaurants post calorie counts take effect soon enough to save us from ourselves?
"I wouldn't accuse California Pizza Kitchen or P.F. Chang's of being a threat to national security, but with a quarter of young Americans too heavy to join the military, these and other chains ought to get the extremes off their menus," CSPI nutrition director Bonnie Liebman said in a news release. "At a minimum, they should disclose calories on menus now, even before federal regulations make it mandatory."
Among the other "dishonorees" on the list:
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Joe Cantrell says he faces charges after trying to take advantage of the retailer's policy.