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3 Steps to Getting What You Pay For

  • Mary Hunt Debt-Proof Living
  • 2008 11 Nov
  • COMMENTS
3 Steps to Getting What You Pay For

It never crossed my mind that I might be failing to live according to the most fundamental of all financial principles: you should get what you pay for. That is, until I read Donna McCrohan's book.

According to McCrohan, author of Get What You Pay For or Don't Pay at All, only four percent of dissatisfied customers let a business know when they are unhappy with a product or service.

I can only conclude that 96 percent of us throw good money down the drain for clothing that doesn't fit right and appliances that don't live up to their promises, preferring to cram the stuff into closets and cupboards rather than take the time and effort to request a refund or satisfactory replacement.

When the dry cleaner ruins a favorite suit, we gripe to a friend instead of to the owner. Or when the coffee grinder doesn't grind, we mumble under our breath and don't even look for the toll free customer service number, which might well be printed right there on the infuriating little monster.

Why are we like that? We don't want to cause a scene. It's easier to say nothing than raise a fuss. We're too lazy to make the call, go back to the store or write the letter. We'll do anything to avoid a confrontation.

McCrohan says that whenever we do not get what we've paid for we should visualize the process to remedy the situation as an upward ladder. In her book, she builds a solid structure for getting where we want to go. Surprisingly, most situations can be resolved at the first level.

Rung One: Don't delay. If the service was lousy, the food awful or the product disappointing, let someone know. If you find it doesn't fit or wasn't what you expected, return it immediately. Each day you delay increases the possibility you'll never follow up.

Rung Two: Use the telephone. Find the number of the corporate headquarters or the name of a regional supervisor or the customer service department. Be gently persistent until you are able to speak with this person. Explain your situation and what you would like to have done to correct the situation. If this doesn't work, move on to the third rung.

Rung Three: Write a letter. Letters have three advantages: You avoid confrontations, you can compose your thoughts carefully and you will have a record of what you said and when you said it. Always include your name, address and phone number and a date by which you would like to receive a response. Be sure to keep a paper trail of copies of correspondence, receipts and notes of conversations.

While most problems can be solved on the first or second rung, McCrohan's ladder has eleven more rungs including enlisting allies, arbitration, mediation, litigation, small-claims court, class-action suits, elected officials and the media.

In order to make sure we always deal with courtesy and a fragrant spirit, McCrohan suggests we should never forget that every sales or service person:

  • Has the right to be assumed intelligent.
  • Has feelings.
  • May have a difficult or irrational boss.
  • May be aware of a stupid policy, yet be forced to observe it.
  • Has a personal life, complete with sick loved ones, career disappointments and bad days.

As consumers, we can expect to get what we pay for, or not pay at all.


How do you make sure that you get what you pay for? Visit Mary's blog, "Money Rules, Debt Stinks" and join the discussion by leaving a comment on her post also titled "Get What You Pay For."

 Copyright © 2008 Mary Hunt. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint required.

Check out Mary's recently released revised and expanded edition of The Financially Confident Woman (DPL Press, 2008).

Debt-Proof Living was founded in 1992 by Mary Hunt. What began as a newsletter to encourage and empower people to break free from the bondage of consumer debt has grown into a huge community of ordinary people who have achieved remarkable success in their quest to effectively manage their money and stay out of debt. Today, "Debt-Proof Living" is read by close to 100,000 cheapskates.  Click here to subscribe. Also, you can receive Mary's free daily e-mail "Everyday Cheapskate" by signing up at EverydayCheapskate.com.