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Complaining right is key for consumers

Posted by Mitch Lipka  May 29, 2013 12:26 PM

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It can be challenging to fight for your rights as consumers. There are no guarantees of winning. The fight can be frustrating, to be sure.

But look no further than Terri Johnson of Plymouth to find an example of how working the angles and being persistent can result in a positive outcome.

Johnson had purchased a new computer set-up earlier this year – desktop, monitor, printer, etc. – and had nothing but problems. She spent hours on calls to customer service, had repair people come to her house several times, and did everything to try to get her computer working properly.

Then the computer manufacturer, Dell Inc., said rather than keep trying to fix the machine they would just replace it. And this is where many consumers get upset…the replacement was a refurbished model. If you look at most warranties, you’ll see that’s what’s you’re entitled to most of the time.

Still, after all the upset – dealing with a lemon of a computer and all the service issues for months – she demanded more. Johnson wanted a new machine.

So, she complained to the company and filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau and state Attorney General’s office. Some companies are very tuned into complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau and Dell happens to be one of them.

So, Johnson got a call from a Dell supervisor who decided to fix the situation. A new computer, monitor and printer arrived and a technician was dispatched to put it all together at no charge.

Johnson showed that if you keep at it, no matter how many obstacles you might encounter, it is possible (if a company cares about its reputation) to find a way to get a good resolution.

Clearly, it doesn’t always work out as well as it has for Johnson, but you need to take the steps she did to have a chance at a satisfactory outcome.

Follow the company’s rules of engagement. State the problem clearly. Propose a tangible solution. Ask for outside help (Better Business Bureau, state Consumer Affairs office, Attorney General, a consumer advocate, etc.) when you’re stuck. There are other angles, too, but Terri Johnson did it by the book and it worked.

Way to go.

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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