Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Financial Disparity Does Not VOID Your Consumer Rights!

I worked with a lady yesterday who has Cirrhosis of the liver from factory work in her younger years where she was never told to wear gloves.  It was a chemical plant of some kind.  I didn't really ask too many questions as I had just met her five hours earlier.  But she reminded me a lot of my mum, as she sat on a step-stool while her daughter, the other employee did some paperwork.  Her legs were crossed and she was sorta leaning forward on her crossed leg rubbing her cold fingers.  This looked just like mum did this past Xmas.  Sure enough, Marg too has Reynaulds.  A condition where the blood vessels in the fingers restrict and spasm in the cold.  Not fun at all.  Mum says her fingers have gotten almost completely black.

Anyhoo, back to the liver.  So since we were already talking Shingles vaccine and Magnesium for the Reynauld's, I asked her if she got any compensation for the factory work.

"Can't." is all she said.
"Oh?" I said.
"Because I worked at two different factories, I can't know which one it happened at."
"Shiiiiit." was all I could get out.  Of course, the wheels were turning.  What I wanted to say was, "if you had enough money you could get compensated."  But my filter kept it back.

This blog post is dedicated to Phil Edmonston, the well-known author of that either criticized or loved series, "The Lemon-aid Book".  I worked at Hyundai way back when and Phil spoke highly of us at the time.  Phil gave many a used car buyer the edge at knowing what to look for and what to look out for.  But he also gave the customer something else, something almost intangible and immeasurable:  CONFIDENCE in a shark tank of hungry salespeople who are not only pressured to pressure, but have their own bills to pay and mouths to feed.  It is well known that many a woman has gotten swindled in their car dealings ... sometimes by other women!  "It's a dog-eat-dog world" was a saying well describing the used car business.  As an aside, word-of-mouth is still the best advertising and this goes doubly when it comes to car salespeople. There are many good ones out there.  But they are often overshadowed by the bad.

Last year, Phil wrote one of his last books.  This one more of a broad guide to give the customer even more confidence in this world of hungry sharks.  It is called, "The Art of Complaining".  It's now on my list.

"Hello ... my name is Dianna ... and I am a chronic complainer."

And soon I'll read a book that will help me do it more effectively.  My complaining can be venting and often an effort to shine the light on a certain issue.  But raising awareness is only effective when change can be attained.  My skills must be honed.

There.  Now, I've always kinda loved and bowed to the knowledge that 'the squeaky wheel gets the grease'. In my opinion that cute little saying is overflowing with relevance that all of our youth could benefit from, not to mention all of the rest of society.  No one other than maybe Sookie Stackhouse is going to read your mind and give you what you require.  You must voice it.  Enter this book, otherwise titled "Canada's Consumer Action Guide".  It will apparently tell you how to squeak, when to squeak, to whom to squeak for best results, and at what volume said squeaking is most favorably received.  Phil offers sample letters to emulate or outright alter to suit your needs.  And as he stated today in the CBC interview that motivated this post, you can read it for free at your local Library.

In typical CBC radio fashion, the show went very quickly to the meaty parts of the subject:  real-life circumstances.  The telephone line was afire at the CBC.  What was the gist of the calls?  So many everyday citizens like you and I, getting screwed over by businesses both big and small.  So many emails sent and never replied to.  So many "no's".  Too many no's.  But here's the thing about no's.  And this is from me, not necessarily Mr. Edmonston.  When it comes to sales, it's very much a "fake it till ya make it" kind of deal where gullible people are not safe.  I worked in the car business.  There are some real scam artists out there. My first experience in the car business was at such a place.  Oh that was such a slap in my face of reality.

Many business people like to think of it as a game not unlike Poker.  Many car dealership salespeople do too.  It can be a funny mindset that effectively sets the customer apart from them, by making it a game.  Add bonuses and increased commissions and their feet don't even fit in your shoes anymore.  They don't wear shoes at all.  Not all of them of course, but far too many and because capitalism and the sacred bottom line dominate our society, this is all accepted as normal.  It's effed up to be real.  Many will wait you out.  They won't return calls, and will disappear if you show up at the business.  Cowardly really.  A consumer and a business should be a partnership of equal amicability.  Hiding from one another will never result in anything equal.

In typical Phil Edmonston fashion, the life-lessons and the take-homes began quickly.  I jotted them down on my Liberal donation letter while we were driving and listening.  Here goes:

Emails:  Always to the Department of or with the subject line:  "Legal Affairs" stressing all of the safety implications of your situation.

"Soft No's":  Phil says that the first NO that you get should always be considered a "soft no" and one that can be changed.  In situations where there are contracts such as warranties, service agreements, or any contractual agreements, stress the significance of this.  One caller's story had apparently just been publicized earlier in the week about his woes with a car dealership.

Back up your claim:  Phil stresses that no matter the industry or the business, having the product inspected by a professional in that field holds much more water than your mere claim.  Professionalism is respected, and most of the time is backed by a license that the holder would never risk.

Small Claims Courts:  Very popular these days, Lawyer NOT required, awards up to $30k.

"Good Will Warranty":  When dealing with car dealerships, remember that they usually have what you can refer to as a "Good Will Warranty".  I personally know this from the other side of the desk as a Lot Pack, which is how the GW Warranty is paid with.  A lot pack is a certain percentage or amount of every used vehicle sale that goes into an account to pay for any repairs that occur outside when warranties have expired.  So, the money is there. And don't ever believe that you pushing for fair treatment will affect your salesperson's commission.  That is outright against the law and stating such, shows that you're not a push-over.

I think that many businesses and companies rely on the fact that many of us don't want or thrive in confrontational situations.  For some of us, perhaps a 'no' allows us to move on and purchase something new. The more and more people I meet, the more I realize how little we know.  We don't realize how many consumer rights we really have, maybe because we're made to believe we don't have them.  We don't know that our MP's are here to help advise us in certain situations.  Many companies will not put out any funds unless they are pressured or outright mandated to do so, so putting in the effort can get you treated fairly.

So I hope to buy the book tomorrow.... stay tuned for a more in-depth blog post.