How to File a Consumer Complaint

Editor’s note: Knowing how to file a consumer complaint is a necessary part of being an informed consumer. Here’s one experience from a Get Rich Slowly contributor with a list of tips and tricks anyone can use.

A few months ago, I decided that I needed new furniture. I didn’t want new furniture. My 3-year-old couch and loveseat were in great condition. On the other hand, I began to realize that I had once again been blurring the lines between being cheap and being frugal.

Since we are now free of consumer debt, my husband generously offered to upgrade our current furniture. I was stoked. After shopping at a few local stores, I quickly fell in love with a reclining sectional sofa. And this wasn’t just a reclining sectional, it was the fancy power-operated model. This meant that I wouldn’t have to endure the jarring motion of manually reclining it myself. Of course, that probably doesn’t sound like a big deal to someone who doesn’t have back problems. Yet, those of you who have experienced recurring pain can probably attest to what a big deal it really is. Being in chronic pain can make almost everything a burden, and it is often something small that has the potential to set off some sort of episode. Anyway, I was thrilled to be offered the option of “push button” reclining and I eagerly bought the couch on the spot.

The unfortunate delivery

A few weeks passed while I excitedly awaited my new furniture. In the meantime, I sold my old uncomfortable set on Craigslist and prepared my home for the new arrival. The scheduled delivery day finally came, and I was ready to enjoy some serious relaxation. Unfortunately, when my furniture was delivered I was disappointed and angry to find that the couch I received was not the one I ordered. In fact, they sent me a couch that was identical in appearance but only manually reclined.

My initial reaction was to send back the wrong couch that they had delivered. However, the customer service representative calmly assured me over the phone that I would indeed get the correct couch in a few weeks. Since I didn’t have any furniture to sit on, and since this was obviously their fault, the store even nicely offered to let me keep the couch they had delivered as a loaner. I was slightly skeptical of the situation, so I refused to sign for receipt of delivery. The furniture store seemed to understand and promised that they would make everything right. Despite my concerns, I decided to proceed. After all, it could be another month until my new couch arrived, and I didn’t want to spend it sitting on the floor.

So, what is taking so long?
Several weeks went by as I waited for my order to come in. Frustrated, I called the store to check on the delivery date and status. I was completely perplexed when they couldn’t find my order in their system. Something was definitely wrong. I pulled out all the stops as I pleaded my case for a refund or replacement. They eventually succumbed to the idea of giving me a full refund and coming to pick up their stuff. Considering the circumstances, I suppose that this is the best resolution that I could have asked for.

One would probably think that I am thrilled to have won this battle of right and wrong. You might think that I really “stuck it to the man,” or something like that. However, I am anything but happy with the entire sequence of events. I’m sad and angry. I’m deeply concerned with what has become of customer service. I also wonder what would have happened if this same situation happened to someone who was unable to state their own case. What about someone who didn’t have the energy or knowledge to fight for a rightful refund?

What is someone supposed to do when they find themselves in a situation like this? What recourse do we have if we find ourselves on the receiving end of bad customer service — or worse yet — being blatantly ripped off? There are steps you can take to ensure justice:

  • Start by asking to speak to a manager or supervisor. Speak to the highest-level person you can access and be open to resolving the situation with them. This is an important first step in customer service and might be enough to resolve an issue before it needs to be escalated any further.
  • File a report with the Better Business Bureau. For those in good standing with the BBB, this can result in quick action in your favor. Businesses who care about their reputation do not want a negative complaint on their record. You can file your complaint in the United States and Canada at
  • Contact your credit card company. If you paid with plastic, certain credit card companies can work with you to withhold payment until a resolution is reached or even resolve the issue for you. Choosing this option might be all it takes to settle a dispute. When a company’s own money is on the line, they may be more willing to negotiate.
  • File a complaint with your state. In most areas, you may be able to file a consumer complaint at the state or local level. Doing some research online can help you determine which specific consumer protection agency covers your area. Filing an official complaint may be necessary in order to reach a resolution.
  • Go online. Sites like and offer a great sounding board for you to complain about various businesses and services. Don’t be afraid to tell your story. You might just save someone else from having the same experience.
  • Be a squeaky wheel. We’ve all heard the saying, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” I have seen firsthand how a company will sometimes do what is right if you are loud enough, if only to get you to leave them alone. Don’t be afraid to speak up in order to get what you paid for and rightfully deserve.

They say that a dissatisfied customer may tell as many as 20 people about their experience, while a happy customer may tell only a few. In my case, this particular company probably didn’t realize that my words would have the potential to reach many, many more. On the other hand, we all truly have a voice. Each one of us has the opportunity to vote for services, products and the way we allow ourselves to be treated. We vote with our dollars, and, thanks to the Internet, our complaints may be much further reaching than could ever be anticipated. Don’t be scared to take matters into your own hands if you feel that you are being wronged. Don’t hesitate to speak up, loudly if needed. And don’t be afraid to be that annoying, old squeaky wheel. Just make sure to keep squeaking until you are heard.

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There are 100 comments to "How to File a Consumer Complaint".

  1. Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies says 24 January 2013 at 04:46

    Whenever I have to deal with a company’s mistake, I always make a point of confirming the details of what has been promised to me and then asking, “And when should I follow-up with you on this? How’s 1 week?”

    I pretty much get THEM to pick the date at which I can expect a full resolution or they are going to hear from me again. Then I get as much direct contact information as I can gather (to speed the process an not have to bring anyone else up to date…), and if it’s not resolved, I call back.

    More often than not it works. I often hear back from the company that my issue has been resolved BEFORE the follow-up time. Not always, but it’s a pretty decent batting average.

  2. Jen says 24 January 2013 at 04:52

    This is also a case where using a credit card gives you some clout. I had ordered a dining room table and chairs…1/2 down, 1/2 on “shipping.” But I got charged the second half and then got a run around about where my table was (damaged and had to get a new top before shipping, freak Texas snowstorm delayed everything).

    So I called Discover and wrote them a letter detailing the situation and when I had called and emailed. They did all the rest of the work, honestly. It took a few weeks to finally wrap up, but they took the charges off for that time.

  3. William @ Drop Dead Money says 24 January 2013 at 05:09

    Sorry to hear about the disappointment! You’re right, sometimes we need to squeak our wheel, even if we’re temperamentally inclined to just stay quiet. Here’s the mystifying part: didn’t Ashley Furniture want to sell you the power recliner? Now they’re out a good deal.

    Have you looked on Craigslist to see if a good couch might be for sale there? The benefit is there you see what you get…

    • Holly@ClubThrifty says 24 January 2013 at 05:15

      Hi William! I don’t know what they were thinking. You would think that they would want to honor the deal they made, but that isn’t what happened. I can’t say if it was intentional deception or just incompetency.

      I went and bought new furniture somewhere else after getting my money back from Ashley!

  4. Allison says 24 January 2013 at 05:26

    Don’t forget They seem to have lots of clout and often have good luck resolving issues for unsatisfied customers.

    • Paularado says 24 January 2013 at 13:54

      Yes, after Consumerist took up my problem when I had an issues with what I thought was a deceptive delivery date* by Lowe’s, I got about 8 phone calls from Lowe’s representatives in a couple of hours.

  5. Elizabeth says 24 January 2013 at 05:53

    Good tips! I keep a paper trail of all communications, including keeping a record of names, details of conversations and dates of any phone conversations I’ve had. Another trick I’ve learned from someone who owned her own business is always get someone to sign or initial anything that’s in writing (even if it’s your own notes of a verbal agreement) and get the representative’s name. If someone won’t put their name to the details, you know something is fishy.

    My biggest customer service issues have been with my telecommunications company. Ugh.

    • Babs says 24 January 2013 at 07:54

      I have a list of about 20 names of people at AT*T that I start calling when I need a change for the business. From experience I already know in advance it won’t be easy, even if it is a simple change or just a renewed contract. Surprisingly I have had better luck just calling the 800 number then our dedicated account manager.

    • Rhonda35 says 24 January 2013 at 22:32

      I do the same thing, Elizabeth. I keep notes of the details for any goods or services for which I’ve paid. Names, dates, times, number called, etc. I am also diligent about getting the exact item number and all descriptive info in writing – so, for example, if a dining table comes in various finishes and lengths, I make sure my choices are spelled out clearly on the receipt. Basically, I just make sure there is no room for doubt or, shall we say, personal interpretation? 🙂 Getting initials on the estimate or bill of sale is an excellent idea.

      I do believe there are still business people who give good customer service and expect it from their employees. I also think it is the responsibility of the customer to protect themselves by being clear about what they are expecting and what the business person is providing. You have to be a good customer in the sense of being clear and double-checking the details, and then being sure to thank the business after you received excellent service – you reap what you sow, right?

      Thanks for this thought-provoking post, Holly.

  6. Pauline says 24 January 2013 at 05:54

    I have an insurance on my credit card as well, and now live in a country where people are too used to accept bad service so when I raise my voice the customer rep usually oblige quickly, saying they never saw someone that angry! I don’t mind paying a high price for something but I expect to get exactly what I paid for (or a bit more, ok, that would be fine too :)).

  7. Twiggers says 24 January 2013 at 06:26

    Sorry to hear about this, but it was probably a blessing. Ashley furniture is extremely poor quality furniture. They claim to be midrange in price, but they really are overpriced. Not surprised at the poor customer service either.

    Did your receipt from the store match the power couch? This is also an instance where a visit to the store might have helped.

    • Holly Johnson says 24 January 2013 at 06:34

      That was one of the first things I checked! My receipt just said sectional couch. It didn’t specify whether it was manual or power. There was an item number but it was just a series of numbers and letters and nothing I would recognize. Most importantly, they only had a powered sectional on the floor so of course that is what I paid for and ordered! The whole thing was strange.

      • CC says 28 January 2013 at 14:39

        That’s where the problem started. The receipt was subject to interpretation.

        In Ashley’s opinion you have no proof that your bought the power model. In you opinion, it was understood because it was the display model.

        As someone who recently bought a sectional recliner, I am well aware that most models have a manual or power recliner. So if I bought the power recliner, I would have that clearly stated on the receipt with model number that matches the display or catalog. It’s been my practice that served me well. (We ended up with a manual recliner so as not to have to worry about the power breaking).

        I always check receipts – even at grocery stores. 50% of the time something is wrong. Not their fault necessarily. Just an error in ringing up or wrong price in the system.

        Never underestimate the power of a written document!

        I’m glad it worked out for you in the end.

    • Patricia says 24 January 2013 at 20:51

      I’ve been married for 45 years and have bought furniture for MANY houses. Ashley and Rooms to Go are the biggest rip-offs (poor quality, high price) I have ever come across. JMHO

      • Stephen says 30 January 2013 at 06:34

        Comcur. As soon as I started reading and saw “Ashley Furniture” I knew we were off on a bad ride. Alomst exactly the same situation with us, although we purchased significantly more furniture. Bottom line was we didn’t get what was ordered – and some was damaged – and they offered to just let us hold onto it until the new furniture came in. Weeks go by, and “Sorry sir, we aren’t aware of a discrepancy. We’ll put in a replacement order right away.” This back and forth goes on for months until they eventually agreed to pick up the bedroom suite and living room suite that had been unused but taking up storage space in my home. Even had the audacity to try to get us to pay for return shipping since we did not pay for shipping originally. Once is a mistake – this appears to be an AShley Furniture pattern.

  8. TB at BlueCollarWorkman says 24 January 2013 at 06:54

    The Better Business Bureau (BBB) will rock your world! I had a huge problem with Comcast (shocking, right?) and after fighting with them for months, I sent in a complaint to the BBB online. THE NEXT DAY a Comcast manager called and fixed the situation. Just like that. The BBB is always the way to go, as far as I’m concerned.

    • Courtney says 24 January 2013 at 07:26

      Oh my god, I have been fighting for MONTHS with Comcast after cancelling their services. They owe me about $60 in refunds and credits for horrible tech service. (Techs not showing up, not fixing the problem, etc) They also broke a $100 modem they have yet to compensate me for; threee times I have mailed in a copy of the sales receipt and all three times it got “lost”

      Around Thanksgiving, 5 months after cancelling, I sort of gave up. Maybe a complaint to the BBB is the next step…

      Writing a nasty note about Comcast on Facebook and then “tagging” them did get my issues escalated a bit quicker, but not resolved.

      • Debi says 25 January 2013 at 07:22

        I have had great experiences with the BBB in the past. All they really ask is that you make an honest and sincere effort to resolve the problem yourself before you involve them. I always start a log when addressing a problem, listing telephone numbers, names, titles, and a recap of the situation and conversation. This amount of detail usually helps when you need to go up the chain of command or when you untimately go to the BBB.

    • Megan says 25 January 2013 at 19:06

      I used the BBB to help me resolve an issue with a company that is now the manager of one of my school loans, and the BBB was so helpful and professional.
      The loan company kept putting my loans on deferment (“as a favor to our customers”) because I was in school part-time, which would cancel my auto-payment and but keep the interest accruing. I got sick of their false promises that they would no longer put my loans on deferment without my written consent after writing to them and calling over twenty times all while I was deployed to Afghanistan. So I contacted the BBB and voila!! They haven’t done it again… (Still trying to move my loans from them though, they put payments toward the interest before principle. Ugh.)

  9. Birmingham says 24 January 2013 at 07:06

    I had a terrible experience with HHGregg. My wife and I purchased new kitchen appliances in June 2012 (range top, oven, fridge, dishwasher) and they managed to mess up the entire order:
    -range top delivered 3 weeks late
    -dishwasher 2 weeks late
    -never ordered the range top
    -fridge 1 week late

    The oven was the genesis of my worst experience ever with a “customer service” department.
    -cabinets for oven mismeasured
    -did not take into account wher gas line was located
    -oven delivered 5 weeks late, did not fit space
    -second over arrived, broken glass on door
    -third oven arrived, did not work and they tried to convey it was my fault
    -after multiple discussions with local manager and making no progress I went into attack mode.

    Plan of attack- Mutiple negative posts to company Facebook page, contacted local BBB, contacted local chamber of commerce, contacted local consumer advocacy group, and emailed the COO of the company multiple times.

    After 6 months I finally received a working over, had all of my money returned, and received a personal call from the company COO.

    Needless to say I have shared my terrible experience with HHgregg with anyone who would listen. I know of several potential sales that were lost due to their lack of customer service.

    I truely belive customer service is a lost art.

    • Jane says 24 January 2013 at 09:38

      Re customer service as a lost art

      Sure, I agree in principle, but I would place the blame squarely at the feet of the upper management who underpay their workers and understaff their stores.

  10. M says 24 January 2013 at 07:14

    They dropped the ball and looks like they didn’t care. My husband manages a furniture store (from another big chain, but not Ashley)& this would have never gotten past him at the local level. Whenever something goes wrong –whether it is their fault– the salespersons or the warehouse’s fault filling it(they have a central warehouse in another state where all the furniture ships from), it would have been remedied right away within days. He would have had the new, correct couch to you in days with a discount and apology. They also refund delivery fees in that case. You were not wrong. I know when we were first married & he had a different job, we ordered furniture and the kitchen table came with a chunk of wood out of it. I didn’t make the company pick it up like I should have and regretted it for years. You did the right thing. I’m just sorry you had to deal with that. Hopefully, you will find one you like soon that will be even better.

  11. Charles Meyer says 24 January 2013 at 07:18

    I use to work for a major cell phone company in one of their retail locations. Situations like yours happened way to often but I did learn a few things about it.

    In these type of instances there seemed to be a lack of communication on both parties, the seller and consumer. Which lead to misunderstanding and confusion. Which I think sellers need to be better at clearly explaining what the consumer is purchasing. I also think the consumer should also ask questions if they are unsure of something and should always double check what they are agreeing to.

    These instances have come from my coworkers or I not explaining a detail or thinking for the customer. From the customer prospective, they assumed something was included because of misinformation from others (seller, friends, internet) or were on a buyer high and zoned out.

  12. Travis says 24 January 2013 at 07:40

    Years ago we bought furniture from Gardner White and had a horrible experience. They tried to give us two armoires because the bedroom set was discontinued and the chest of drawers (which was more expensive) was no longer available. They tried to deliver this twice to us. One we got that straightened out and our money back.

    The kicker of all this was that a year later they tried to charge us interest on the financing even though we were on 0 interest for 3 years. Even though we had all the original paperwork no one believed me or wanted to work with me. The store said it was an issue for the credit dept, and the credit dept said they can’t do anything because that comes from the store. After 3 weeks of long phone calls, faxing and certified mailings we finally got them to reverse the interest and set it to zero. We of course paid it all off before the 3 yr term but had we been like most people and trashed the paper work after receiving the furniture we would have paid ~$500 more in interest charges.

  13. Page says 24 January 2013 at 08:00

    As someone with several years of experience in customer service I can assure you that raising your voice and cocking an attitude with me is only going to make me want to help you less. More than likely the customer service rep you’re working with is not the cause of your problem and if you’re willing to be patient and courteous we will do all we can to remedy the situation. This is not the kind of content I come to GRS to read. This is just another dramatic customer service complaint. Please go to another website for this type of post.

    • Another Kate says 24 January 2013 at 08:13

      I thought of the customer service rep, too, when I read about this. That’s why I liked that she recommended talking to a manager. I remember being an admin assistant to the director of an MBA program and having a guy SWEAR at me because we had a rule about taking the GMAT, and he wasn’t doing very well on the verbal section and thought we should waive the rule for him. I had no power to help him and, believe me, there was no call for him to swear at me. I never spoke rudely to him, and he was rude to me pretty much from the moment I picked up the phone. (Also, based on his treatment of me, if I had any power at all, I would have used it to make it impossible to get admitted to our program.) As a customer who appreciates good service, I believe that we need to firmly stand up for our rights, but I also think we need to be polite, especially when talking to low-level staff who, unless they work for exceptional companies that actually empower workers to resolve customer complaints, simply don’t have the power to do much for us.

      • That Girl says 24 January 2013 at 08:23

        “having a guy SWEAR at me […’ he wasn’t doing very well on the verbal section”

        I am sorry someone swore at you. It’s always a cruddy feeling, even if you had nothing to do with the situation at hand. I’ve had customers swear at me, too, for nothing I did. You want to say you have a thick skin, but it’s usually better said than done.

        On the other hand, I think it’s hilarious that he was swearing about the verbal section. For some reason, that struck my funny bone!

      • Page says 24 January 2013 at 08:51

        Working in customer service has made me appreciate exceptional customer service so much more. I also try to be polite when I work with other peons like me because I know my problem isn’t their fault most likely. I always try to avoid sending customers straight to a manager if I can. I just feel it reflects poorly on me, as if I can’t handle the problem. If a customer curses or swears at me though I may hang up on them. CSR’s don’t deserve that kind of abuse.

        • stellamarina says 24 January 2013 at 13:18

          …..and some workers will get back at you if you are rude to them! What is that waiter doing to your soup in the back room? :0)

      • SLCCOM says 24 January 2013 at 13:25

        She started out polite. So do I. And when I get nowhere, that is when I start getting loud. If you are finding that a lot of people are getting loud with you, you need to find a more ethical organization to work for, in most cases.

    • That Girl says 24 January 2013 at 08:21

      Thank you, my thoughts exactly.

      I think this quote was extremely inappropriate: “I even threatened to contact the investigative reporter at our local news station, Raphael Sanchez.” Really? GRS is resorting to tell people to threaten companies to make good on a transaction? This was one of the most classless ways to handle a problem. I understand being upset, but there were better ways to deal with the issue.

      While the company was definitely in the wrong, I don’t think it’s right if the CSR ends the phone call thinking you’ll personally bring down the company.

      • Page says 24 January 2013 at 10:42

        I can hardly take customer’s seriously when they make these kinds of threats. I think the local news station has more important things to report on.

      • SLCCOM says 24 January 2013 at 13:27

        You need to start watching TV more often. A local station here started investigating a car repair place, and the owner is now in jail. I’m sure he felt the same way.

    • Jane says 24 January 2013 at 09:36

      Usually when I encounter bad customer service, it a marker for a company that doesn’t treat their employees well. Thus, I don’t blame the representative (per se) but rather the company. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the places where employees are most kind (Costco, anyone?) are where they have the best benefits and the highest salaries.

      I can certainly understand the psychology behind not putting forth effort when you feel you are taken for granted or not treated well. Sure, we can all say, “Well find another job!” or “Have pride in your work anyway, else you will never succeed in life.” But I think it is much more complicated than that. Certain customer service reps who feel like they are treated as drones might find the best way to “stick it to the man” is through mistreating customers. It’s unfortunate for the customer, and ultimately the best way to change it is to vote with your dollars and not shop there.

      • Holly@ClubThrifty says 24 January 2013 at 10:13

        That is a good point. A disgruntled worker is probably not one that wants to help much.

        I think that is what makes my situation even more troubling. The customer service rep that I dealt with on each occasion was the regional customer service manager, not a low level employee. The employees at the store were rather pleasant but were trained to send customer complaints to their regional manager. But like you said, she could have been unhappy with her job and not cared about the outcome. Who knows.

        • Edward says 24 January 2013 at 13:43

          I think these customer service advocates should lighten up a little bit. Holly had a right to be angry. She did absolutely *everything* right–waited ’til she could afford it, sold (didn’t throw out) the old one, tried out and chose a specific model, waited, then waited again, and still got boned. Trust me, if it was me, Holly’s anger would be a pussycat by comparison. You’d have a full-fledged wookie rampaging through your store.

          So let me ask, if you’re in customer service, but don’t want to help irate or angry customers, what good are you? Isn’t that a big part of the job description? ….Just sayin’.

          (BTW, good article, Holly! There be some haters here.)

        • Jane says 24 January 2013 at 20:29

          Yes, Edward, that is part of the job description. I think we all know that there is a failure here. No one is excusing the bad service (at least I’m not) but merely trying to round out the discussion with some points about why customer service reps might not be that helpful at times. It’s easy to just say, “People suck” “The world of service is going to hell in a hand basket” or insert whatever blanket complaint you want. It’s much harder to figure out the societal reasons why customer service has declined in the past few decades (if it indeed has).

          An as an aside, the term “haters” is rather childish. In internet-speak that usually means “people who don’t agree with me and tell me I’m wonderful.”

        • Ramblin' Ma'am says 25 January 2013 at 09:49

          “It’s much harder to figure out the societal reasons why customer service has declined in the past few decades (if it indeed has).”

          And there are also two sides to this story. I work in Customer Service, but I deal with retailers and wholesalers, not the public. Sometimes (this is not the case here, obviously) people want things they are just not entitled to. And if I can’t give it to them, I’m the bad guy. I’m not sure if this has gotten worse in recent years or if the Internet just lets us see more examples.

          For instance: “I want my order bumped to the top of your queue, and to ship before anyone else’s, but I don’t want to pay extra for shipping.” We get that question all the time. If we say no, sorry, we can’t get one order out ahead of thousands of others, then we are “not providing good service.”

          Luckily my company is very supportive, so we don’t get in trouble for this kind of thing.

    • Samantha says 24 January 2013 at 11:07

      Of course a person should never be rude (and never swear! That’s awful, Another Kate!), but when a customer is calling about a problem and they feel like they’re getting the run around, or stock answers, or the rep refuses to transfer to a supervisor, the customer is going to get angry. I’ve yelled at AT&T more times than I’d like, because although of course I know it’s not that rep’s fault that my service is down, it is so frustrating to be confronted with an issue and have a rep say there’s no problem, or they can’t fix it, or I’ll have to pay more money, or someone will be out in 12 days.

      I try not to be angry, I’m sure Holly tried not be angry, but when the rep on the phone is the only tie to the company that you have, it’s very difficult not to get frustrated.

    • AMW says 25 January 2013 at 04:59

      I don’t think being a “squeaky wheel” always translates into being rude. I think it is more of a persistence thing. Honey is always better than vinegar and usually can get things resolved faster. However, there is nothing wrong with standing your ground just be professional about it (no profanity, no screaming).

  14. EMH says 24 January 2013 at 08:05

    Also, make sure you get the person’s name and ask if they have an employee id. This makes them aware that you are not just venting but going to take action and it holds them accountable.

    The other thing I will mention is if you do get great customer service, then also mention that to the person/company. I had a wonderful agent at AT&T help me through a mess and I told her I was going to contat her manager to inform them how great she was and she gave me $25 off my bill. I have also sent quick emails to random companies to tell them that I liked a person and they have sent out coupons. The squeaky wheel doesn’t always have to be complaints.

    • Random Hangers says 24 January 2013 at 12:13

      We do this if we get good service at a restaurant, too. Usually the server is surprised when we ask to see a manager (because it’s been going so well up until this point, lol), but they’re always pleased when we assure them it’s to say NICE things.

    • celyg says 24 January 2013 at 14:07

      I heartily agree about getting names. The salesperson, the delivery person, the rep who told you a new couch was coming, etc. That gives you a lot more ammo when things go wrong.

      Heck, I get a name when I call to make a restaurant reservation, especially if it’s a busy place.

  15. Budget and the Beach says 24 January 2013 at 09:03

    I think we have all experienced something like this. My least favorite company to deal with is time warner cable, although I have a sneaking suspicion that most people feel the same way about their cable providers. I think one trick is to stay as calm as possible for as long as possible. Yelling usually gets you nowhere but high blood pressure land. Glad you got the full refund though! What a pain though.

  16. Honey Smith says 24 January 2013 at 09:22

    Having an attorney husband has come in handy a couple of times in situations like this!

    • tmr says 24 January 2013 at 10:53

      Ha! I was actually getting this author confused with you, and the whole time I was thinking, “Um, why didn’t she just have her husband send a letter on firm letterhead?”

      I’m a lawyer too, and I’ve done that on a dozen occasions, and the problem gets solved immediately.

      • LeRainDrop says 24 January 2013 at 22:22

        For lawyers considering doing this, please check your firm’s policy first. I have heard of lawyers inadvertently sending angry letters on firm letterhead to actual firm clients because they didn’t bother checking the client database (and it was against firm policy to use the letterhead for personal matters anyway) — so not good!

        • tmr says 27 January 2013 at 16:55

          Yes, we have a very, VERY strict firm policy of doing a conflict check for each of these angry letters (for exactly that reason).

  17. ImJuniperNow says 24 January 2013 at 09:45

    Ashley Furniture advertises heavily in my area, and I am so glad you wrote this, because now I will think twice about going there. Perhaps if I do go to look, I will mention to them that I’ve read they have a poor customer service record. And if I for some reason end up buying from them, I will certainly be extra careful with my paperwork!

    And that’s what these stores should worry about. But they don’t!

  18. Erin says 24 January 2013 at 09:55

    Don’t let anyone ever tell you that they are the person in charge and there isn’t anyone higher than them (even store managers), unless they are the owner or CEO. Many national chain store managers will act like the buck stops with them and what they say is final. There is always the “corporate” people you can deal with. They aren’t too happy to find out about issues such as this one that should have been handled completely differently.

    Also, social media can do wonders when you start on someone’s Facebook wall or tag them in a post. Of course sometimes they don’t get it right. Knowing how to complain is so important.

    • Elizabeth says 24 January 2013 at 10:19

      I’ve seen people post nasty things about companies without thinking of how their actions reflect on them. With more and more employers checking out current and future employees online, I think people would be wise to consider how they’re demonstrating problem solving skills (or lack thereof) in a very public forum.

    • Debi says 25 January 2013 at 07:36

      Several years ago when I had a problem with Verizon and was speaking to the CSR’s “supervisor” and still not getting my problem resolved I asked to speak to her supervisor. I was told that there was no one higher in the company than her, that she was it! I said “Oh really. You’re the majority stockholder?. It’s hard to imagine that you still take customer calls.” Keep digging, insisting, and if that doesn’t work, do some research on the internet to get to someone who might care.

  19. Brian says 24 January 2013 at 09:56

    Not to pry too much but which you’re not in the LA area are you? I’m buying new furniture and want to make sure I don’t go to the same Ashley Furniture as you! That was really a terrible thing they did to you. You handled it super well though.

    Good luck on finding a new couch!

  20. Tyler Karaszewski says 24 January 2013 at 10:11

    I even threatened to contact the investigative reporter at our local news station

    Sorry, but reasonable people stop taking you seriously when you start doing this sort of thing and just try and make you go away.

    I had a former roommate threaten to sue me once, because he didn’t think I cleaned the bathroom well enough when I moved out of the house. I’m not kidding he was yelling and angry that he had to clean the bathroom (which wasn’t cleaned when I moved in), and threatened to sue me. I clearly told him that he wouldn’t, that the idea was ridiculous, and that he had no grounds to do so, and basically ignored everything he ever said to me after that. He never sued me.

    Once, when I was much younger, and owned a mustang, someone decided he did not like the way I was driving it (I peeled out leaving a stoplight) and *followed me home* so that he could yell at me from in front of my driveway that “I’m a cop! I’m going to tell the CHP about this! Expect a visit soon!” Guess whether the CHP ever contacted me? Of course they didn’t. The guy probably never contacted them, and even if he did, why would they trust some random angry guy making unsubstantiated accusations?

    If someone threatened to call the local news because they got delivered the wrong item or had trouble getting a refund, I’d pretty much tell them to buzz off and stop being melodramatic. The local news ins’t going to plaster a headline on the front page that says, “LOCAL SHOP DELIVERS WRONG CHAIR, CUSTOMER HAS DIFFICULT SERVICE EXPERIENCE”. Get real, that’s a headline from The Onion, not a real paper.

    This doesn’t excuse your poor customer service experience, but making up empty threats never helps anyone.

    • Holly@ClubThrifty says 24 January 2013 at 10:17

      Actually, not that you would know if you’re not in my area, but this is exactly what this particular journalist does. He has featured all kinds of businesses for deceptive practices.

      “Rafael joined RTV6 in 1998 as a consumer investigative reporter. He’s focused on rooting out scams, cutting through red tape to get results, and exposing con artists.”

      • Greg says 24 January 2013 at 21:26

        No Tyler. Did we even read the same article?

        As Holly says in the article, Ashley Furniture use duplicitous “bait and switch” sales tactics. Basically the sales staff intentionally sell a similar but lower spec couch, then sit back with your hard earned dollars in their Scrooge McDuck like coffers rubbing their hands in glee, waiting for the customer to take receipt of the wrong couch. Then when the customer eventually calls up customer service to complain, the phone staff attempt to up sell the customer to the more expensive unit.

        Classic blatant rip off from big business.

    • Jane says 24 January 2013 at 11:44

      Holly’s right. Most large cities have columns in the paper or segments on the news that deal with disgruntled customers who have gotten the shaft from a company. It wouldn’t be an idle threat, except I don’t imagine Holly’s case would make it to the air. Sadly, most of the ones I see are dealing with losses to the tune of $5,000 or more. There was a case locally of an international flight that got cancelled unannounced. Because the customer bought it via an online deal site, both the airline and the site obfuscated and refused to refund. All told, I think they were out between five to six grand.

    • Tyler Karaszewski says 24 January 2013 at 12:03

      Sure, there are investigative reporters that do articles on businesses that are habitually deceptive, like auto repair places that invent repairs that customers don’t need, or places that charge more money to minorities, but they’re generally done about businesses or entire categories of businesses that are being deliberately deceptive as a matter of routine.

      It’s one thing when an auto repair shop lies to essentially all of their customers, on purpose, as a matter of course, to make money on bogus repairs. It’s entirely another when a single customer orders an item and has the wrong (but very similar) item delivered. Similarly, a clueless customer service rep who doesn’t want to accept a return hardly warrants a news story. Seriously, they’d have to dedicate the entire paper to these stories if they were going to run them, because they happen constantly.

      • That Girl says 24 January 2013 at 12:14

        Agreed. Not only that, but it seems like these investigative reporters try to solve problems for people who have had ongoing problems for a while. If Holly had called the company every day for a week and still hadn’t gotten anywhere, then I can see stepping it up to an investigative reporter. You’re really only supposed to use that as a sort of last resort; otherwise, it looks like bullying.

      • Paularado says 24 January 2013 at 14:40

        Tyler, really, how do you know what exists in every market? In our market, you can threaten to call Tom Martino, the consumer advocate. He has his own show and appears on the local news. It works wonders because he DOES feature individual businesses. I had to do this once and believe me, it worked.

        • Holly Johnson says 24 January 2013 at 14:49

          If I remember correctly, Tyler lives in California in a highly populated area….so it probably wouldn’t be news there.

          I live in the rural midwest where almost everything is news because nothing ever happens!!!! =/ My local newspaper even has a “Let it Out” section where people can complain about everything from their neighbors to problems with local businesses.

        • Jane says 25 January 2013 at 05:45

          I definitely think this is an urban/rural/small town divide. I looked at my examples (a segment on the local news called “5 on your Side”), and like I suspected and Tyler suggested, they cover much larger cases that border on fraud – several customers who paid for a roof and never got one. Or they tend towards the social justice side – a disabled boy who isn’t allowed to ride the bus. But I live in a Midwestern city with a metro population of 2 million.

          My husband grew up in a town of 5,000. Not getting the right furniture might have made it to the paper.

          So, based on their own perspective, both Tyler and Holly are right 😉

      • MelodyO says 25 January 2013 at 19:38

        That’s an awfully broad brush you’re painting with there, big fella. I live in a city of just over a million, and indeed, the local TV news has a reporter who flushes out local businesses who have done somebody wrong some. You just have to call him up or email him, and if you have a strong case you’ll end up on the six o’clock news, for-shaming the company in public.

    • SLCCOM says 24 January 2013 at 13:33

      I’m guessing that with your attitude, you end up in a lot of these conflicts. You were wrong when driving, and compounded it with your attitude. Where I live, we can call the police about the way others drive, and you will at least get a letter. And if you park illegally in a handicapped parking space and we send in a picture with your license plate clearly visible, you WILL get a very large ticket.

      • Tyler Karaszewski says 24 January 2013 at 17:07

        My anti-angry-threatening-of-customer-service-people attitude? My got-followed-home-and-yelled-at-when-I was-19 attitude? What are you even talking about? You have no idea idea what I’m like. You’re going to make personal judgements about me because I once drove too fast when I was 19 and some random college roommate of mine that you’ve never met didn’t think his bathroom was clean enough? You think that’s justified?

        • SLCCOM says 24 January 2013 at 22:41

          Tyler, take a look at your original post. It is very rare that someone will follow you home and yell at you for a minor driving error. I am guessing that it was pretty major for the person to do that, and you showed no sign that perhaps you were at fault there. Secondly, there was no way to tell (or, in this case, for me to necessarily believe)that you drove badly/carelessly/recklessly just one time in your whole life.

          The entire tone of your original post is very challenging and hostile. Other posts of yours are equally challenging and hostile. And the response you made to me is equally so.

          I was taught when something happened to take a look and see how I contributed to the problem and what I could do to either resolve the current issue or at least see what I could do to avoid such problems in the future.

          I see no indication that you have any such inclination, and this does suggest to me that you do, indeed, have an attitude problem, as supported by your posts on this thread. You might want to spend some time meditating on this topic.

        • Tyler Karaszewski says 25 January 2013 at 18:48

          Clearly, in my story about over-the-top, angry, threatening behavior towards people for minor offenses, the problem is that *I did something super-horrible*, rather than the guy who followed me home was over-reacting in a threatening way.

          Obviously you know this because you have all the details of the story and you were in fact there and witnessed the whole thing.

    • Tyler Karaszewski says 24 January 2013 at 17:01

      All you people with your local radio/TV/newspaper journalists who run stories like this *all the time*, please link me to even one of them that is comparable to this. Go ahead. Any article/report where a single customer receives the wrong item and has trouble returning it. Go ahead, I’ll come back in a little bit and look for the dozens and dozens of links that you should be able to post.

    • SLCCOM says 24 January 2013 at 22:49

      Yet another TV station gets action for fraud victims.

  21. Tina says 24 January 2013 at 10:33

    I used to work for a furniture retailer in the flooring customer service as a assistant manager. I left the job after 5 years because the stress level was so high, I would cry when I got home after work and I am a strong person. I took a lower paying job in the insurance industry because it was less stressful.

    One thing to remember when working with customer service, is that they are there to help you. I can sympathize when your living room furniture is in your kitchen and something goes wrong with your carpet, or you have no furniture to sit on but yelling at the service rep, is not the answer. I got threatened, called names, etc and no matter what the situation, the service reps don’t deserve that.

    We were taught the customer is always right, and I took care of every customer like it was my home that was inconvenienced. But making squeaks in the wheel, only drives good customer service people away and hurts others.

  22. Lea says 24 January 2013 at 10:57

    This is the kind of situation when I would gotten the customer service rep’s name, my receipt and headed to the store to talk to the manager.

  23. Marie says 24 January 2013 at 11:01

    The best furniture-buying experience I’ve had was with…Costco! Seriously! We don’t even have one locally, but I bought a bedroom suite based on the recommendation and photos of a friend online. A local family-owned delivery company dealt with shipping and set-up, and they were a delight. It isn’t museum quality or anything, but it’s reasonably well made and the experience was stress-free.

  24. Joanna @ Our Freaking Budget says 24 January 2013 at 11:04

    Way to go! I’m so glad you were able to resolve everything. And great tips on what to do in a similar situation. My husband and I have made lots of customer service complaints during our marriage, and 9 times out of 10, they get us somewhere.

  25. partgypsy says 24 January 2013 at 11:08

    Remember how possession is 95% of the law? Next time, if the furniture/item is not right, refuse delivery. Since you accepted delivery then it becomes your problem.

  26. Dona Collins says 24 January 2013 at 11:15

    I am astounded at how customer service has evolved over the past decade or so. I used to work in insurance and ultimately left the industry because I hated having to balance the needs/desires of customers vs. the needs/desires of profit-seeking companies. I never had to do anything unethical (that I’m aware of), but not being able to truly help people hurts.

    To the person who think that contacting a new station is simply an empty threat, think again. Perhaps YOUR situation was ridiculous (and it was, over a toilet), but there are a lot of people who have gotten great results with the help of investigative reporters. I also know several people who have gotten help with poor business practices and state agencies by writing to their congressional representatives. Empty threats? I think not.

    The squeaky wheel wins – every time. I think had she threatened to call the news during that first delivery call, it may have been an overreaction. Threatening weeks later seems justified. And look – she got her money back.

  27. Crystal says 24 January 2013 at 11:37

    How stressful! I’m so glad you finally got your money back. I haven’t used Ashley Furniture yet (and won’t now). We’ve been really happy with Gallery Furniture though…good luck finding a good couch.

  28. krantcents says 24 January 2013 at 11:39

    I totally agree! People give up or are bulldozed into thinking it is okay to accept anything that is given as an answer. yesterday, I renewed my anti virus software, but my subscription was to run out in 2 days. They told me my new expiration date was a year from my renewal. I asked for it to be changed using my expiration (2 days later) day. They gave me an additional 30 days. All I did was ask a question.

  29. Evan says 24 January 2013 at 11:42

    I agree about refusing delivery. Also I never would have paid the credit card until I had the right furniture. Since they had your money they had no incentive to help you.

    Once I bought a bed which I was told was in stock, I gave them my credit card. Turns out it wasn’t in stock but would be delivered soon. That soon stretched out and when the bill arrived I called the credit card company and told them I didn’t have the merchandise. They agreed with me and took the charge off my bill.

    Even with the loaner couch you still didn’t have what you ordered.

    So your biggest mistake was paying them!

  30. Kristin says 24 January 2013 at 11:43

    Maybe it’s not the highest quality furniture, but I had a great experience with Cost Plus World Market. Several years ago, I bought my first non-garage sale, non-Craiglist “real” couch at Cost Plus…it was fine, but after a year, one of the springs suddenly broke and the cushion basically collapsed. I emailed their customer service just for the hell of it—I mean, it shouldn’t break down after a year. It’s not like I jump on it or something. Anyway, they emailed me back and offered to completely replace it for its full value! They were very cool about it, too. I wanted one that was more expensive, so I had to pay the difference, but I thought it was very nice of them to take my word for how much I paid for it, and then give me a credit in full.

    My boyfriend says their furniture sucks, and he wants a new couch, but I haven’t had any problems with the replacement—works fine for my taste!

    In the LA area, I’ve also heard good things about ♪ ♫ Living Spaces! ♪ ♫

  31. Kay says 24 January 2013 at 12:09

    Not that this store has anything that would help you and your back, but I recently had a good furniture experience with IKEA – for the express reason that it’s not a store where people work on commission (I think that’s half the reason regular furniture stores are so scammy), and because they’re basically their own warehouses, there was no “delivered in X weeks” promise necessary.

    I am lucky to live just up the street from my IKEA but I managed to buy one of their top-line couch sets (no assembly required besides screwing on the legs!!!), delivered (carried up to my 3rd floor apartment), in the space of 4 hours. I sat on that couch half a dozen different times in the store. I knew what the price was going to be. I didn’t have to worry about missing a “sale” or that the couch I wanted wasn’t going to be available in a month. I could look online to see if they had the exact product I wanted in stock (and how many there were!) No pushy salesperson trying to extol the virtues of the different couches I was trying.

    Is it the most well made furniture on earth? Of course not. But was the buying experience easy and hassle free? Yes! And we got our lunch for free too!!!

    There’s something to be said for paying a premium for no hassle – whether it’s in furniture, at a car dealership, or even online.

  32. Steve says 24 January 2013 at 12:26

    This story highlights a big reason why I’m such a good saver (am “cheap”). I can’t stand buying anything anymore that costs enough for me to have to care about it. These stories are all too common.

  33. anna says 24 January 2013 at 13:21

    Thank you very much for the wonderful advise! more people complained about Ashley’s so will not do business with them.

  34. Barb says 24 January 2013 at 14:00

    I have to say, it seems like you made this MUCH more difficult than it needed to be.

    First, by accepting the furniture (and signing for it perhaps?) you were, in essence saying that you were happy with what came (unless at that time you had something written saying otherwise. Making a brief substitution instead of sitting on their couch for however long would have been a much more sensible solution. It does seem that your patience level is pretty low.

    As for the conversation itself, why did you not simply hang up the phone and go to the store and speak with the manager? A customer service person has little control, harsh words or not-and frankly a little politeness goes along way.

    While I also have a consumer problem solver at my very large paper, I can assure you the FIRST thing they are going to ask me (or you) if they are contacted is what you have done on your own to resolve the issue. They are not there to solve everyone’s consumer issues. they are there to help with long term, unsolved problems.

    sorry, but I think you made this much more difficult than it had to be.

    • Holly Johnson says 24 January 2013 at 14:33

      I did refuse to sign for delivery ( as I stated in the post) and they said that that was fine. Also, they had my $1500 for two months and I still didn’t have the furniture that I paid for. You’re right, I’m definitely not that patient! =)

  35. Melissa says 24 January 2013 at 14:25

    The majority of the inventory at Ashley is overpriced junk. Why is so hard to come across reasonably priced, decently constructed, quality furniture nowadays? People need to put their foot down and stop paying for that disposable garbage.

    • Jane says 25 January 2013 at 06:01

      I agree. I particularly feel that way about veneer. I would rather have simple pine furniture than anything veneer. I’ve seen what wear does to it, and it isn’t pretty. Real wood you can sand and make pretty again. That’s really impossible with veneer.

      We were looking at Crate and Barrel. While I love their style and it seems to be built solidly, you are still buying veneer in most cases. We found one buffet that had a solid wood top.

      Mainly for this reason (and because we’re cheap!) we buy at the antique mall. But that doesn’t help with couches, since I wouldn’t buy that vintage. Who do people think make the best, affordable couches?

      • Lea says 25 January 2013 at 07:08

        We have a Cost Plus and they have some pretty reasonably priced stuff. I bought a table and chairs their that is wood. They did make a mistake on delivery (they brought the wrong table), but I just said ‘hey this is the wrong table’ and sent it back. It took them a bit of time to get the right one there but it really wasn’t a big deal and they ended up giving me an extra chair for my trouble.

        • Jane says 25 January 2013 at 07:28

          You have to realize, though, that even solid wood furniture these days has a veneer on the top. By veneer, I don’t mean MDF. Veneer is still wood. In my experience, if the finish starts peeling off of it from moisture, you’re in trouble. Veneer just basically means that there’s a thin strip of real wood on the top. It’s very hard to sand.

          Mind you, veneer is not a new concept. The supreme authority of wikipedia says it’s an ancient art. The dining room table that we got from my husband’s grandmother (ca. 1950s) has a veneer top with solid wood legs.

          I have some great, solid wood Costco furniture that has a veneer top. I just have to be extra careful about putting glasses on it.

          A great place to buy solid wood, non-veneer furniture is an unfinished furniture store. At the one near us, you can buy stock furniture in either pine, oak, or maple.

          Edited – because I just realized you said World Market instead of Costco (that’s what I get for trying to do three things at once…). Yes, World Market does tend to sell solid wood. Our dining room chairs are from there and we love them. We bought them after much searching. Great price, great quality. They are some heavy chairs!

  36. Eric S says 24 January 2013 at 14:26

    I am sorry for what you had to go through.

    My comment is more in relation to the sectional you were SUPPPOSED to receive. My family bought a very similar product and LOVED it! We could have an infinite variety of reclined positions – I don’t know if the adults or the kids in the house liked it better. Unfortunately for us (and something for you to think about) a motor went out on one of the recliners and we were told that the company was no longer supplying replacement parts. So, we had to return our favorite furniture and get a different set of furniture which we like but is not motorized.

  37. Ann says 25 January 2013 at 06:52

    The “customer service” thing that makes me insane is when the person you’re talking to WON’T give you their name!!!

  38. Mario says 25 January 2013 at 07:00

    All good advice, but I think you’re missing another great avenue to air grievances — internet review sites (like Yelp) and social media (like Twitter). For Twitter in particular, I’ve found that companies that are otherwise pretty bad at customer service — Time Warner Cable comes to mind — are very responsive on Twitter.

  39. Deacon says 25 January 2013 at 10:19

    Sorry to hear about your experience Holly. Great tips though on how to deal with a bad customer service experience. It can happen to any of us and we need to be able to deal with it well when it does happen.

  40. Amber says 25 January 2013 at 12:01

    The BBB has zero legal power. I dealt with discount and they messed up the order, refused to acknowledge it, then said they could send me replacements a month later (well after my event date). They had other customers spam the BBB site to bring up their rating from a D to an A. Only by posting my experience on several other sites did the owner finally contact me and give me a refund.

  41. Kelly@Financial-Lessons says 25 January 2013 at 13:28

    Well this sounds like a nightmare and similar to something that I’ve heard about recently. A coworker of mind had been trying to order a special bed for his brother who was in the hospital in Puerto Rico and needed this bed by the time he was discharged. Of course, different people passed the phone around him and kept assuring him that it was on his way to his brothers house, but still hadn’t arrived by the time he was released from the hospital. I hate being the squeaky wheel in most situations, but in times like that (especially having to do with medical condition) its a must! Having said that, I never want to work in HR.

  42. Robert says 25 January 2013 at 20:47

    Many years ago my Employer sent me on an All Expenses [no questions asked] Paid Training Course on Negotiation, put on by a Third Party in a very desirable city. 5 days, 8 hours a day and Tests every other day and a Final.

    I picked up more skills there, than any other course I have taken. Skills I still use today in my Personal and Business Life.

    One thing I learned is one does not have to by a hard ass to negotiate effectively. Nor does one have to resort to any special tricks.

    Most people describe me as a nice, laid back guy. But in life things need to get done. I have found my “style” is to convince the other person/party that it is their idea to do something that needs to be done. That way they have taken ownership of the situation. I just gently prod them along, when needed, if needed.

    And everything described in the article and subsequent comments, involve some type of negotiation when all things are considered.

  43. Meghan says 27 January 2013 at 11:39

    Know what I don’t come to the comment section to read? GRS readers in a juvenile pissing contest. Get over yourselves.
    I wouldn’t personally call Tom Martino or another investigative reporter because I felt like I was ripped off because I’d guess he’d want the stories where more than one person was involved, but to each their own. In Tyler’s defense, a guy once thought I cut him off (we were merging), followed me to a restaurant north of Denver, screamed at me, and then proceeded to key my car. I didn’t cut the guy off but some people are crazy. Whatever

  44. Thomas Watson says 28 January 2013 at 00:33

    I have worked in customer service and can share the same night mare stories as anyone else but it comes down to the company putting the customer first and enabling the cs rep to solve the problem.

  45. Michelle says 13 February 2013 at 20:30

    I had a similar experience from Ashley. We bought what was in store a “real” wood bed frame for my son. The part of the box opened for us to see if it was the right style was real wood so we signed for it. Upon opening the entire box, it was particle board on back. The “ball” toppers on the 4 poster bed frame were some sort of metal material with PAINT on them. Not wood at all! WHAT? I called and complained. Why did we get “fake” wood when we were told, and even seen a “real” wood frame in the showroom? The customer rep told me it would have to be labeled “Ashley Signature Collection” on the box to be high quality real wood.. and you know what? The box DID say signature collection in multiple places. After various phone calls , they REFUSED to refund my money. We also paid for mattress protection including 4 mattress pads (bed liners, worth approx $100 if bought in store) but NEVER received them, even after going back to the store to complain. All they did was give me yet another number to call. I will absolutely never buy from them again. Complete fraud on the pricing and the showroom designs/materials. Thanks for letting me vent!

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