7 On Your Side:Satisfaction Guaranteed

Karen Love travels a lot in her job as an advocate for the elderly. She counts on her car. When an auto body shop damaged her steering wheel, she complained.
  "They said that it was just an age issue on my five year old car, and it wasn't their problem," says Love. She says the wheel looked fine when she brought the car in, but some kind of solvent dissolved parts of it. And, fixing it would have cost a thousand dollars! "
  After trying to work this internally with the company, I thought about small claims court," says Love.
  Frustration with customer service is growing in the U.S. In fact, at the website www.consumeraffairs.com, they receive 200 to 300 new complaints every single day. "I would say it's getting steadily worse. As businesses try to economize and cut staff and automate their processes, the customer often ends up being left in the lurch," says Jim Hood, President of Consumeraffairs.com.
  What should consumers do? Start by asking them to fix the problem. But keep in mind Hood's advice, "It's really not a good idea for consumers to get mad and start shouting at people." If asking nicely doesn't work, try contacting the owner or manager. Explain that you're not going away until the problem's resolved. Next, look for consumer group to advocate on your behalf. Or contact the licensing agency regulates the industry. "Once your money is gone, it's very, very difficult to get it back," says Hood. And if you still didn't get a result you can take it to small claims court. That may be a last resort, but it can work. Love filed a claim against the auto shop, and then went away on vacation. "When I got back, I had 11 phone messages from the auto body shop asking if we couldn't resolve the problem," says Love smiling.
  The rule of thumb to stick to is 'forewarned is fore-armed'. The internet is an avenue to check out what other consumers think of a company or product before you make your purchasing decisions. Do your research! By the way, Karen Love ended up resolving her problem.

Christine Nelson reporting. cnelson@kltv.com