In my last entry, “Complaining for Results”, I outlined a process we as consumers should follow as we address issues that inevitably arise during customer-vendor transactions (If you haven’t read it yet, click here). Now, if you haven’t taken the time to complain and given the vendor a fair opportunity to win back your good faith, the action I propose in this entry is premature. Get your complaints together and get it to the vendor; how else do you expect to get the kind of service you expect and deserve? If you have gone through the effort to communicate your concerns to the vendor, but the vendor has been unwilling to listen, you’ve come to the right place. Remember, we are the consumer and though it may not appear that we are still in control, we have the power to make our voices heard in one of the most decisive moves known in a free-market economy-walking away.

In the United States, more so than in any other country in the world, consumers have a number of choices when it comes to the purchasing of products and services. If you don’t believe me, give it a test. Think of a product or service that you use, then do a search on the number of available vendors in your area who deliver that product or service (Try it now, I’ll wait….). Now, if you don’t want to break away to test my assertion, take my word for it when I tell you that with very few exceptions, consumers have lots of choices. Because there are so many vendors bidding for our hard-earned dollars, and because our dollars are in fact, hard-earned, we should hold those we chose to do business with to a very high standard. That means if our experience does not meet with our expectation, and the vendor is not 100% committed to addressing the reasons for the disconnect in a way that demonstrates their commitment to our satisfaction, the vendor is not worthy of our time or our money. It’s called “voting with your feet”, and it is the consumer’s ultimate show of economic power.

Consider this example; I am a loyal patron at a local dry cleaner. Each month I spend an average of $125 with this vendor in return for dry-cleaning and other related services. Over the course of the year, I will recommend this business to five of my friends, who will each in turn, recommend it to five others. Let’s stop there and do some quick math; my patronage has netted the business another 30 customers who will each do roughly the same amount of business with the dry cleaner as I will over the course of the year (that’s $125 per month x 30 new customers x 12 months). Without having to spend one dollar to advertise to acquire new customers, the dry cleaner can expect to receive approximately $45,000 in additional revenue simply on the referral of one happy customer. There isn’t a business on the planet that would turn away an opportunity like the one I have just described.

This is your economic power, and you should never be afraid to wield it in the name of good service.

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