Our favourite consumer victories: The Moneywise team shares their experiences and tips

18 October 2019

The Moneywise team shares experiences of dealing with consumer issues and offer tips on how to fight for your rights

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Never lose your cool, Edmund Greaves, deputy editor

“Back in 2013, when I was freelancing I had an Apple MacBook Air, which I relied on for my writing. One day, Apple emailed me to say that there was a factory fault with the hard drive and asked me to take it to my nearest Apple store.

I drove an hour to get there, only to be told that it would take three weeks to repair and I would have to come back to collect it. As a budding journalist not earning much money, this was pretty devastating.

The sales assistant was totally unsympathetic, but instead of losing my cool I decided to play mummy against daddy. I sat in my car outside and rang Apple customer services and explained why I would suffer a considerable loss of earnings. To my surprise, this assistant agreed with me completely and ordered a brand-new computer with no hesitation. It arrived three days later and six years on it’s still going strong.

My top tip: Never lose your cool with staff – explain the problem and ask them politely to resolve it. If in-store staff won’t help, try phoning customer services where you may get a different response.

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Fight private parking fines, Rachel Lacey, special projects editor

A few years ago, we had builders in and I was keen to be out of the house for as long as possible.

I parked at Morrisons, picked up a few snacks and collected my son from nursery before taking him to the park. We then popped back to Morrisons and had lunch in the café before doing our weekly shop.

Two weeks later, I received a letter from the company that manages the Morrisons car park informing me that I had exceeded the parking limit – by a matter of minutes – and it was fining me £90. I had breached the three-hour limit, but felt that the fine was disproportionate, particularly given how much I had spent in store.

Staff in the shop couldn’t help, so instead I turned to social media and tweeted my tale to Morrisons. It quickly responded and within an hour it was back in touch to say my fine had been cancelled. Phew!

My top tip:  If you don’t ask, you don’t get! Big firms often have dedicated social media teams, so you may get a much quicker response.

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Not top customer service at Topshop, Hannah Nemeth, production editor

I recently saw a skirt I liked in Topshop, but the store didn’t have my size. A shop assistant offered to order it online for me. He input my details and said that I would receive an email and could ‘click and collect’ it the next day.

The email, however, never arrived and despite two lengthy calls to customer services there was still no skirt. On my third attempt, I was told the skirt was ready to pick up and was offered £5 as compensation. I didn’t think this was good enough so asked to speak to the manager.

Eventually, I got a call back and was sent a £15 giftcard. The skirt cost £34, but by the time the problem was sorted it had been reduced to £24. I bought the skirt in store so in the end it only cost me £9 – so well worth the hassle.

My top tip: Customer service staff often have a limit to how much compensation they can offer. If you’re not happy, ask to speak to the manager who has the authority to offer you more.

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A diesel fuel dump forced us out of our new home, Mark Stammers, art director

Back in 2002, we bought a new-build home from Westbury – a small home builder.

One Sunday evening we started to smell something odd. A chemical smell was permeating the house but was even stronger in the garden.

By Monday, the smell was worse, and in daylight we could see brown puddles of liquid on our rapidly dying grass.

Vandals had broken into the building site above our house and opened the taps on the tank of diesel the builders were using to fill up their diggers. Hundreds of litres of fuel had poured down into our garden poisoning the soils and seeping under the footings of the house. The vapour from the diesel then rose up through the floor and into the house.

We alerted the site foreman, who was more concerned about the loss of the fuel than the damage to our home. Eventually, after many calls to  Westbury, a senior manager appeared. His said it was an act of vandalism that was not its fault and we would have to claim through our buildings insurance.

We were unhappy with their attitude and lack of help. We asked around our neighbours and discovered the security guard on duty overnight hadn’t bothered to do his rounds.

I also checked the requirements for safe diesel storage on building sites online. The legislation stated the taps on the tank had to be locked at the end of each work day, and that the tank itself should sit within a metal tray called a bunt – which was designed to catch and hold any spillage. The builders tank had neither locks nor a bunt.

We presented this information in a letter from our solicitor, threatening to sue Westbury. Almost at once their attitude changed. They agreed to make all the repairs that the local environmental health officer had outlined. All the soil in the garden had to be dug up and replaced to a depth of six feet. The floors of the house had to be lifted and the soil there removed too.

We moved into the vacant show home on site while the repair work took place, and the majority of our belongings were put into storage at Westbury’s expense.

We eventually moved back in six months after the spill. If we hadn’t done our own investigative work regarding the lack of security and the failings to follow safety legislation we would have had to put a massive buildings insurance claim into our insurer, and no doubt would have had a huge increase in future our premiums.

My top tip: Do your research and make sure you know your legal rights – it will hold you in good stead when you enter into negotiations. 

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Great customer service is always appreciated, Rachel Rickard Straus, editor

A friend and I had perfect plans for a drizzly Saturday afternoon: lunch followed by a movie. We had allowed plenty of time but 25 minutes after we’d ordered our food there was not so much as a bread roll in sight.

Our mains took even longer. I mentioned this to our waiter, but was still left feeling angry that a relaxing afternoon had been clouded by worries over time. When the waiter brought the bill, he’d taken a bit off because he knew we’d had to wait a while.

The sum wasn’t much but it showed that he’d recognised we’d been inconvenienced, which was what I appreciated. I’ll definitely be back. A small gesture can go a long way.  

Do you have a customer service problem with a company and need help fighting for your consumer rights? Get in touch with us at fightback@moneywise.co.uk and we can help

Whirlpool

I see no one has commented about Whirlpool having to fix their tumble dryers.

This epic started in 2015, and we are still trying to get ours fixed.

What a shambles.

What an advert. for Whirlpool.

complaints and customer service

There's a lot of truth in "it's not so much that problems occur, it's how they're dealt with that a company can be judged". A potential customer relations disaster can be easily avoided by a prompt and positive response to a complaint . Many companies fail to recognise this.

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