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Tips to help consumers out of a jam

Posted by Mitch Lipka  December 5, 2012 04:00 PM

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Usually, by the time someone writes in for help to solve a problem, they’ve gotten frustrated, hit a few walls and become pretty much resigned to failure. But every so often a reader will persist – working all the angles until finally emerging with an acceptable solution.

Let’s face it, not every fight can be won with even the best tactics. Sometimes, an outside party – whether it’s a newspaper, government agency or other organization – is needed.

But if you can fight your best fight and use tactics that have helped others succeed, at least you’ll know you did what you could before raising the flag to seek help.

Here are five tips learned from fellow readers who brought their A game and put one in the win column for consumers

Don’t give up. Persistence is required. But just asking over and over again is not going to do it. Make your persistence work for you by following up on requests, asking lots of questions and reminding them that you’re not just going to go away.

Remain calm. Breathe deep. Exhale. OK, now it’s time to bring it on. The more confrontational you are, the less sympathetic you’re going to be. Deliver your message in a professional demeanor, clearly explaining the situation, why you believe it’s a problem and offering potential solutions. If you want your money back, say that. If you’ll be happy getting a store credit instead, then say that.

Have evidence and be organized. Make a folder with any receipts, photos, or other documentation to help bolster your case. The more the discussion is about facts, rather than opinions, the better it will go.

A supervisor has more authority than a non-supervisor. If you can’t get a resolution that’s acceptable to you, escalate. Politely request to speak with a manager. Remember, managers also have supervisors. The chain of command can go quite some distance, particularly at large companies.

Spoken words only last for seconds. Writing lasts a lot longer. So, get it in writing. If you’ve been promised a solution in a conversation, ask them to either send you a letter to that effect or an email with what has been agreed upon.

If all that doesn’t work, my email address appears below.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Mitch Lipka is one of America's leading consumer journalists and advocates. He is an expert in product safety, recalls, scams, and helping consumers get out of jams. He is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs He lives in Worcester. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at


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