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Catching more flies with honey: Putting in a little work to getting back some money

I am one of those folks who calls in when I see something wrong in a store.

An employee, a policy, a practice, anything within reason and severe enough is a catalyst to make me call into a company and complain.

For instance, if an employee was extremely rude (even beyond normal grumpy-person standards) to the point of being insulting, I will call in.

If they just had a bad day, and a bad attitude, I won’t bother. I may just write an email and shoot it off into cyberspace to see if it lands on anything.

I don’t actually call in for anything that I don’t think is a big deal.

I usually always get something out of it from very little effort put in.

(I know, hard to believe right?

This old dragon being able to sweet talk representatives like a baby lamb on the phone..!)

It may seem like peanuts to you, or not worth your time, but you’d be surprised at what you can get back.

Here are my top 3 most memorable customer service earnings:


Something I bought scanned in at about a penny off the price. In Quebec where I was at the time, every store had to adhere by this rule.

I brought it to the counter, asked for the entire thing to be free (it was well under $10), and they told me no-can-do, it was just a PENNY!

I took it home, wrote a letter and the next week, I went back into the store to get $20 as compensation.

  • Original Cost: $1.29
  • Final Compensation: $20
  • Profit: $18.71
  • Actual Time Spent: Half an hour (includes writing the letter and calling)
  • Total Period of Waiting: 1 week


I register mailed something last year, and it never arrived and instead of letting the amount go or forgetting about it ($16!), I decided to complain.

  • Original Cost: $16
  • Final Compensation: $45
  • Profit: $29
  • Actual Time Spent: 1 hour on the phone (2 separate calls)
  • Total Period of Waiting: 2 months

I called to check that it never arrived, called to make a complaint, and then waited for the compensation cheque.

It was one month to wait for the letter to not be delivered (can’t call before 30 days), then another month for the “investigation”.


Long (and boring) story short, they kept charging my Canadian credit card in USD rather than CAD. I was slapped with exchange currency fees, and rather annoyed about the whole situation.

I called their customer service, and although they tried to just give me the amount that was left on my card, and just issue me a new card, I told them about the currency exchange fiasco.

I think I might have made my point pretty clear because he gave up trying to fight with me, and soothed me with a more-than-generous coverage of my troubles.

  • Original Cost: $15 (currency exchange fees)
  • Final Compensation: $25
  • Profit: $10
  • Actual Time Spent: 15 minutes on the phone
  • Total Period of Waiting: 0 days

I had another Starbucks card registered to my account that I could use.


Let’s just look at the numbers:


TOTAL TIME SPENT: 1 hour and 45 minutes.



(This would work out to be $65,954.28 a year as a gross income)


I emailed the late Steve Jobs about 2 years ago, complaining about the extremely rude customer service at Apple. I basically asked him if his employees knew the difference between selling and completing the sale by taking my money.

See the difference is you could have definitely made a sale to someone, but if you don’t get their money out of their pockets, it isn’t a sale.

It is just hot air.

My situation was that I was ready to buy a laptop when I was there but there was only ONE cash register and ONE guy working to take money for the entire Apple store. On a weekend. Downtown. During the busiest time of the day (just after lunch).

Incredible right?



I was so angry, I wrote him an email (to his personal account) asking if they knew how to finish the sale by taking money from clients, of if it was something they never bothered to cover in Apple School.

He never wrote back, but the next week that I walked into the store, they had completely changed.

Cash registers everywhere. People running up to me when I touch something, asking if I was ready to check out.

A year later, I walked into the NYC store and now they have cash registers hidden in the tables; each employee can check you out with a debit or credit card, and just email you the receipt.

Genius, indeed.


These are of course, my best stories but sometimes calling to complain doesn’t get you anything because it wasn’t a big deal in the first place.

It depends on how much those people who work there, care to pass along the information to do a better job and be a better company.


You have to not be able to let these things go. There are times when I let really minor things go because they aren’t worth fighting for.

There are other times, when it is worth it, and you should certainly say something.

  1. Have an actual situation to complain about — Don’t abuse this and ruin it for everyone else
  2. Be friendly — They’re just on the phone taking your call, they aren’t the ones offending you
  3. Have all your facts on hand — Details, numbers, times, dates these are all important things
  4. Don’t talk too much — Too many details & extraneous information confuses the representative
  5. Be persistent — If you don’t get anything out of an employee that is satisfactory (as in, you don’t feel like you were being listened to, then ask to speak to someone else); Or keep calling back
  6. Be clear on what you want at the end — What’s your acceptable level of compensation?

That’s about it.

There’s not much more to it except some time and effort.


I don’t run around trying to find fault with every store and employee, but there are situations you come across that really make you frustrated and angry enough to call in, wait with Muzak on the line for what seems like an eternity all to be able to vent to someone about how much you hated something in their stores.

You know what?

Every time I’ve called, I’ve been told and encouraged to keep calling in because if you don’t do it, companies don’t even know it’s happening.

Do you think the CEO has time to wander around checking stores?

Unless he’s Mickey Drexler of J. Crew, or a generally recognizable person to the entire staff, CEOs don’t really walk into stores and observe what’s going on for an hour.



(Drexler actually does this by the way, he goes into stores in New York City and wanders around, telling people what to fix, where to display the scarves etc.

It was in this documentary: Full Documentary J. Crew and the Man Who Dressed America (44 minutes in total $1.99 on Amazon); but you can see a quick 2-minute clip here: CNBC J. Crew & The Man who Dressed America)

They aren’t a consumer, and they already think the sun shines out of the company’s butt!

They expect their training policies and programs to do the job, and their managers to execute the Grand Plan.

If they don’t do their job, the CEO won’t know.

They’ll just keep bleeding clients and profits until they hire an extremely expensive consultant (such as one like myself), and they’ll start to get the bright idea that maybe it isn’t the price, market or the products itself, it’s the people working there.

If you never call in, they’ll never know and they can’t fix it.

And to thank you for such a proactive deed, they’ll hand over some cash. Which is where I swoop in once in a while to cash in on.

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