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Consumer Alert

Customers can vote with their feet, and their money

Reaction to last week’s thoughts about customer service drew a lot of response, some positive, some not so much.

It’s hard to cover every circumstance of dealing with customer service in 400 words, and I wasn’t trying to be all-encompassing.

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So I’ll acknowledge some comments and add to the main concept — that consumers should speak with their money when they’re unhappy with the service they’re getting.

Yes, it can be more complicated when the service is provided by a city, town, or state agency — or the dreaded cable company. And, yes, if you paid for a service that was substandard, you should try to get your money back. Unless you’re completely offended, you should allow the business a chance to make things right before you walk away.

And, if they’ve truly failed you, there’s so much more . . .

Complain to the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, the attorney general, the Better Business Bureau, or any agency that regulates the business. Of course, there’s social media. Some companies are quick to react to criticism posted to Facebook or tweeted on Twitter — and you’ve publicly shared your displeasure.

Still, a very effective — and satisfying — way to demonstrate your unhappiness with a business is to take your money elsewhere. Cable TV companies and their local monopolies drew the ire of many readers, who saw few options other than to put up with poor service and other indignities.

But there are alternatives, including satellite services and fiber optic (where available), plus streaming services such as Google TV. Cable doesn’t own you.

Most companies eventually react when they see their customers fleeing.

Complain when there’s something to complain about. Suggest a solution if there’s one you want — whether a refund, an apology, or something else. Consider your alternatives and be prepared to pick up and go if you have a better option.

Bottom line: It’s your money that you’re spending, so make sure you get what you’re paying for.

Mitch Lipka has been helping consumers out of jams for the past two decades. He lives in Worcester and also writes the Consumer Alert blog on Boston.com. Mitch can be reached at ConsumerNews@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @mitchlipka.
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