BitDepth 642 - August 26

Complaining is sometimes necessary, but it can be done artfully and usually, beneficially.
How to complain

Shout, shout, let it all out. Then pick up the phone to have a calm conversation about your problem. Photography by Mark Lyndersay.

When technology works, it can be a miracle, or at the very least, great fun.
But, like anything that man makes by bolting one thing to another, things will occasionally come apart, hopefully while still under warranty.
Whether or not your failing tech is covered, you have the right to express your dissatisfaction with the state of affairs that you find yourself in. Depending on how you handle this stage of your annoyance, you can trigger surprising responses.
I occasionally get e-mails from readers who are upset about one perceived injustice or another, so what follows is an extended version of the advice that I usually offer.

Compose yourself first.
Take a walk, have a stiff drink, take a nap. Do whatever it takes to put a little distance between your feelings and your issue before you compose an e-mail or place a support call.
Shouting, screaming and cursing doesn't help your situation at all and inevitably starts things off on the wrong foot. You want the person on the other side of the line, as bored and weary of listening to people bitching all day long as they are, to feel sorry for you and feel motivated to take action.
Once I've made contact with a support person, I take a note of their name and refer to them by that name. As Leonidas noted while his colleagues killed wounded Persians, "there's no reason why we can't be civil."

What went wrong
You shouldn't simply call the help desk or support line to say "it isn't working."
You may have a problem with a thing, but you're going to be talking to a human being without any psychic powers at all. In fact, you're going to be talking to a low wage worker with little authority and a long script to troubleshoot your problem, so getting past this stage is crucial.
While your problem is actually happening, take the time to write down the issue as you understand it. That means noting the steps you normally take with the device/software that isn't responding and what happened instead.
Absolutely critical at this stage is writing down any error messages that you see on the screen of the device. They may mean nothing to you, but they can be a goldmine of information for a skilled support person.

Escalate the problem
Occasionally, you will hit a wall with the person you're dealing with. They may not be able to understand what you're telling them or may just be having a bad day, but the interaction isn't working out at all.
My usual first step in such a situation is to say thanks and call back, hoping to hit better numbers in the support lottery, but sometimes there isn't anyone else or everyone stalls at the same point in the process.
It's time to escalate the issue. Ask to speak to the person's supervisor. Be warned that once you begin to escalate a problem, there's a good chance that you'll have to take it all the way to the top to get satisfaction. This takes time and effort, so you may not want to invest that much energy to get an alarm clock exchanged.

What do you expect
Start your conversation with support with a specific goal in mind. Will having a support person visit your home to troubleshoot the situation be desirable? Do you want the failing device replaced or do you want your money back?
Most companies will make an effort to save their relationship with a customer, but returning your money tends to be at the bottom of the customer care list, it's more reasonable to hope for repair or replace.
Here are two true personal stories that may guide your own experiences.
I recently had a memory chip fail in my computer and successfully organised a replacement. Unfortunately, by the time I paid customs charges on the replacement and shipped the failed chip back, I only saved US$20 over just buying a new chip.
Realising that software that I purchased from a vendor had been end-of-lifed, I politely inquired about a "crossgrade" (basically a discount) to another product they sold that I was interested in. To my surprise, they simply sent me a serial number to the new product, apologising for halting development on the dead software.

Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards is focused on aligning businesses with the consumer interest.
TATT  has published its Consumer Complaints Handling Procedure document as a PDF for download.
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