I always enjoy reading The Haggler, a column written by David Segal in the Sunday New York Times where he responds to readers’ complaints about achieving resolution to disputes in the business world. Shoddy treatment by airlines is a favorite, along with banks’ apparent mishandling of money and/or paperwork. It can be very funny — after all, it’s somebody else’s headache — and more often than not his position in the media and the prospect of negative publicity moves the agenda along where a private citizen gets nowhere.
The crap that corporate representatives ladle by the hogshead to their infuriated customers is breathtakingly banal. Maybe the best (read: lamest) excuse ever not to honor the warranty on an appliance was, “It had a pre-existing condition.” I couldn’t make that shit up on liquor and drugs.
The Haggler handles one and all with humor and professional aplomb. He notes that many times the problem really is a simple misunderstanding, and the resolution rests with locating the right person in the maze of cubicles who can untangle the knot. He also recounts incidents where large corporations conduct themselves like con artists and criminals. But no matter how things turn out, he reports results. As he noted:
Generally speaking, corporations respond quickly to the Haggler. At a minimum, they look at whatever email of complaint the Haggler has forwarded and examine whether the customer who wrote it has a legitimate beef…..Nearly half the time, that examination shows that the corporation did nothing wrong. In those cases, the Haggler says thank you and moves on. It is highly unusual for a corporation to stonewall the Haggler.
But in yesterday’s paper, the Haggler turned the tables and asked his readers for help. A reader wrote of her dispute with a company with the amazing name of Conn’s (!). When the Haggler attempted to get to the bottom of the issue, he ran into a stone wall. Voice mails were not returned, emails were ignored.
So he started calling Conn’s executives at home during the evening (See why I like The Haggler?). That got the VP of Sales to respond, but only to tell the Haggler to call the Chief Operating Officer, which the Haggler did, leaving VMs for the COO’s assistant. Which have also been ignored.
I encourage you to read the whole story for yourself, including the reports of a $4.5 Million restitution the company made after the Texas Attorney General’s office went after it, and the thousands of complaints about Conn’s that currently appear on consumer websites. Whatever the merits of this one particular case, something around here stinks. Meanwhile, to support the Haggler’s efforts, here’s his call for assistance:
Conn’s is giving the Haggler the cold shoulder, but would it do the same to a swarm of consumers? Let’s find out. You are cordially invited to contact the company and urge it to respond to the Haggler.
Choose whatever method you like. You can tweet the company via @connsinc, and, while you’re at it, you can ask your friends and followers to do the same. (Suggested hashtag: #talktothehaggler.) Or you can email [COO’s assistant] Ms. Lagrone at email@example.com. If you’re old school and prefer the phone, Ms. Lagrone can be reached at (936) 230-5879.
Be polite, be firm and have some fun. And look for an update in this space in two weeks.
Seems reasonable. Perhaps some my many dozens of readers will take a break from perusing porn and cute kitty videos and help out here. Please let me know, and I’ll provide an update when The Haggler gets back to us.