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‘I have a problem’

What would you do if you had an issue with a local business?

Maybe the product or service you purchased wasn’t delivered or didn’t meet your expectations?

Let’s use today’s column to review some options when you encounter this situation. (Notice I said “when” not “if” — even though I’m optimistic about many things in life, I am a “realistic” optimist. I know that expectations are different on both sides of the buyer/seller relationship, so there’s a chance that there will be a time when you are disappointed or maybe encounter an outright shamster.)

Who do you call to complain about service at a local business?

On occasion the Chamber will receive calls from customers of local businesses with concerns about the service or product they purchased. We always encourage the caller to 1) start with the owner/manager of the business to allow for faster and efficient service recovery directly from the business in question. I know of no business owner who wouldn’t want the opportunity to remedy such a situation. My wish is that more people would first give a business the chance to explain or correct an error before posting on Facebook. If you are at the place of business, ask to speak to a manager who can listen to your concern. If you’ve already left the establishment, pick up the phone and share your concern.

I purchased a new lawnmower almost at the very end of the mowing season a couple years ago.

Since it was late in the mowing season when I bought it, we didn’t use it much but I was happy with it.

The next spring it wasn’t working properly — wouldn’t hold the change to allow the push button start so you had to pull the cord, not a problem, but an inconvenience. We replaced the battery and recharged. Still just not 100 percent, plus the front wheel drive was sluggish. Since it was still under warranty, I took it to the local recommended service dealer. It performed a little better, but still wasn’t 100 percent like when I had purchased it just a few months prior.

I started to wonder if I had purchased a lemon — I’m sure it happens when XYZ company manufacturers thousands of mowers, there’s bound to be a couple that just clunk out. Maybe I had that one?

I finally went back to the retailer where I purchased the lawnmower. I just wanted to find out what my options were — if indeed mine was a lemon, we’ve had it to the authorized service dealer twice now without any real improvement; would they make good?

I remember talking with the woman who oversees product returns and it wasn’t sounding good from the customer end — yes, I could still take to the service dealer to try again since it was under warranty, they could check with the manufacturer and see if they would take it and fix it, but all these options weren’t going to guarantee that I had a workable mower. I really didn’t want to shell out another $300 for a NEW mower to replace my NEW mower.

I’ll never forget what happened next.

The woman said, “Because you have been so respectful to us, have all your notes and have followed all the steps, and I know this has to be frustrating for you, let’s try one more option…” I appreciated that they didn’t just end the interaction with a “we can’t help you” mindset, but the real eye opener was when she shared that so often people are so rude, stand there yelling at them and won’t listen when they do offer alternatives. By doing what I’d hope people would do with me if we had a miscommunication, I’d maintained my cool (even though I wasn’t very happy) because I knew there was nothing to be gained by losing it in the middle of the customer service desk at this retailer.

If I had felt the local business couldn’t meet my expectations and resolve the issue or if you think you’ve been taken advantage by a business, the next step is to contact the Better Business Bureau. The BBB that serves the Mid-Ohio Valley is the Canton, Ohio office. They can be reached at (330) 454-9401 or you can enter the information at www.bbb.org and click the File A Complaint button.

The BBB accepts complaints that meet the following criteria:

* The complaint includes the complainant’s name, a postal address, and an email address

* The complaint includes the business’s name and provides sufficient information to determine the business’s location

* The complaint seeks assistance from BBB

* The complaint is from a person (or a person’s authorized representative) or entity (business-to-business) that had a marketplace “relationship”

* The complaint relates to a marketplace issue. Typically, the issue complained of must have arisen within the previous 12 months (Note: warranties/guarantees or other extenuating circumstances may supersede this criteria.)

* The complaint must allege a deficiency in the company’s marketplace performance with regard to the services or products that the business provided or allegedly agreed to provide

* The complaint is not in litigation when filed with BBB and has not been resolved by a previous court action, arbitration, or settlement between the parties

* The complaint contains no abusive language.

What happens when the Better Business Bureau gets your complaint?

Everything you submit will be forwarded to the business within two business days. The business will be asked to respond within 14 days, and if a response is not received, a second request will be made. You will be notified of the business’s response when the BBB receives it (or notified that they did not receive a response). Complaints are usually closed within 30 business days.

One more option is to reach out to the Consumer Protection and Anti-Trust Division of the WV Attorney General’s office. The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection division works to protect West Virginia consumers and citizens against consumer-related fraud on many levels as well as focusing on fair, safe business practices for individuals and companies doing business in the State of West Virginia.

The first step for consumers who believe that they have been the victim of unlawful practices in the purchases of goods and services is to fill out a Consumer Complaint Form and return it to the West Virginia Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. Individuals with questions about a complaint, or in need further assistance, are encouraged to contact the Attorney General’s Office by calling the Consumer Hotline at 1-800-368-8808. The AG’s Consumer Complaint Form can be found on-line at https://ago.wv.gov/Pages/consumercomplaint.aspx

Visit this space every other Sunday for more Chamber news. We also invite you to call us at 304-422-3588, email us at info@movchamber.org, or stop by the Chamber office at 501 Avery Street, 9th Floor in Parkersburg.

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Jill Parsons, MBA, is President/CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley.

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