Publicizing complaints should be a last resort
by Peter Vogel
Social media has a place in consumer-retailer relations, but in my experience it is better to use it cautiously and after exhausting other viable avenues.
Recently I had occasion to resort to social media after a frustrating experience with a household item on an extended warranty plan.
Three years ago I renovated the home of an elderly relative so that he could rent it out. It wasn’t a major renovation, save for the kitchen. I bought new appliances (stove, refrigerator, dishwasher) in a package from a major local retailer.
Because the home was to be rented I decided to add on an extended warranty, four years on top of the one-year manufacturer’s warranty. The incremental cost was low, and the retailer touted the warranty as being “hassle free.” For some reason the warranty could only be extended for the stove and dishwasher, and not the refrigerator.
Fast forward three years. The dishwasher would no longer drain.
A phone call to the retailer led to the assurance that I’d be hearing from the company holding the warranty policy in short order.
What I wasn’t expecting to hear was that the company simply would not service the machine. Their rationale: that after three years, the book value of the dishwasher was less than it would cost to send out their diagnosis and repair person.
No middle ground was offered. I’d have to pay for the repair, the hassle-free warranty notwithstanding. I found this beyond the pale.
A call back to the retailer met with little in the way of help initially. After nearly three weeks of back and forth, I was offered a compromise. The retailer would make the repair but I’d be paying for the parts and labour; the retailer would pay the “diagnosis” fee.
Needless to say this incensed me. What is the point of selling an extended warranty with all sorts of fancy buzzwords if it will not be honoured?
It was time for social media. In this case I chose to use Twitter, but I was determined that the tone would be generally respectful and factual.
Here, with the vendor information removed, is the exchange and timeline.
Public tweet #1 (Friday 5:30 pm)
@BCretailer Having a frustrating time with “hassle-free” extended warranty service on appliance set bought from you. Nothing but hassle.
Public tweet #2
.@BCretailer From your site: “Guaranteed Satisfaction. If we can’t repair, we’ll replace it”, “Parts & labour coverage.” False, false.
The reply (Saturday 10:30 am)
@PeterVogel We’re very sorry to hear about your frustrations, and we’d like to help. Could you please DM us your customer #?
@BCretailer Sure. But I am not optimistic. It’s been three weeks. I cannot believe the hassle in your “no hassle” extended warranty.
@PeterVogel We’ve switched extended warranty companies as of this year. Please DM your customer#, and we’ll take a look into the situation.
.@BCretailer And you may have switched warranty companies but you are so far not doing anything about the existing extended warranty.
@PeterVogel We apologize for the inconvenience. A Customer Care agent will be contacting you within the hour to help resolve the situation.
Taking that as a signal that my issue would at least be considered, I passed along a detailed Twitter direct message (which effectively has no character limit).
The DM (Saturday 11:00 am)
I will spare you the full Direct Message. I stated my unhappiness over the treatment I’d received up to this point. And I concluded with this: “How can you take money up front for an extended warranty that you have no intention of seeing honored?”
Phone call (Saturday 11 am)
Indeed, within the hour the customer service department representative phoned and in a cordial conversation essentially agreed to cover the entire repair cost, parts and labour, as per the extended warranty terms, and the company would then try to recover that from the company holding the insurance policy.
The public thank you tweet
.@BCretailer Thank you for your intervention in this matter. I appreciate the response and look forward to a resolution.
It was clear to me that the public nature of the complaint prompted the retailer to act. Essentially the retailer agreed that the warranty holder was not acting in a way that it should have been. Furthermore, the retailer stated that it was no longer dealing with that particular warranty company.
There was just one request from the customer service agent. Would I, once the issue had been resolved to my satisfaction, consider removing the public tweets that would otherwise surface in searches by others well into the future? I agreed to this request.
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