Dealing with real people – especially when shopping online – is often the last thing on our minds.
We’ll compare prices, hunt for sales, look for coupons and even use portals for extra cash back…
But, when something goes wrong during the checkout process (and let’s be honest, that happens much more than it should), we’ll accept the wasted time and just abandon our cart.
People and websites are good at handling norms, but when you throw them a curveball things can slow to a crawl or completely crumble.
I’ve personally had problems with pretty much all the major sites at one time or another (Amazon, Best Buy, Staples, Cineplex, you name it).
In store, I’ve waited for more than 30 minutes while poorly trained front-line staff go back and forth with equally poorly trained managers about a simple coupon, promotion, or price match more often than I’d like to admit.
It’s infuriating but, if you have patience, it pays off. That’s especially true online.
Getting The Deal You’re Entitled To
My son is 3 years old now and I don’t think I’ve ever bought him a really nice brand new toy outside his balance bike. Sure he has lots of toys, probably too many, but they’ve mostly been purchased by family or inherited from his sister.
He’s a big fan of Paw Patrol and today we were at Chapters for an Paw Patrol themed event where they demonstrated an oversized Paw Patrol lookout that does nearly all the things the actual lookout from the show does. Think dollhouse for boys.
He loved it and played for a straight hour completely enthralled. We left, but I thought it would be a great Christmas gift for him to have in his room where he currently doesn’t have any toys at all. A toy he can call his own. But, it was a bit expensive...
Later in the day I remembered I had received a coupon in the mail from Chapters Indigo for 20% off a single item purchased exclusively online. The set was also on sale for 20% off the regular price.
The wheels started turning and I thought I could stack the sale price, with my high value coupon, add on some cash back from Great Canadian Rebates, and even more cash back from my top cash back credit card. I also saw a sign in the store for a 4-day promotion where you get 10x the plum points when you spend $30 or more.
Putting all those things together was going to make the price of the toy much more reasonable. I had a pretty good stack brewing so I decided to pull the trigger.
So I grabbed my physical coupon, got online, found a good cash back offer, loaded up chapters.indigo.ca, resurrected my old indigo account, added the toy to my cart, pulled out my credit card, and put in my one time use coupon number.
And there it was…
The coupon you have entered is not valid on your purchase.
I had already read the terms on the back of the coupon in full, and none of the exclusions listed there were related at all to my item or situation. I flipped it over and read it again, and I was now doubly sure.
I almost gave up. I considered ordering it anyway with a less valuable coupon I found on RetailMeNot. Then I nearly abandoned the whole thing wanting to move on.
But no … no!
Calling Customer Service Pays Off
I looked for an online chat – they had none – so I reluctantly picked up the phone and dialed their customer service number.
After about a 10 minute hold, I was on the line with a nice agent who agreed with me without a lot of convincing that the coupon should work but wouldn’t.
She offered to have me place the order, and then email in the confirmation to their customer service email address and they would manually refund me the 20% + tax that I was owed.
The best part? Both the cash back and 10x plum rewards I get will be applied at the higher purchase price – so I saved even more money in the end. Bonus!
Plus a travel bonus worth another $150.
Quantities are limited.
More Proof Calling Customer Service Is Worth It
This is far from the only time I’ve called customer service and landed a pretty good deal – although I freely admit I don’t do it as often as I should.
I’m usually pretty strapped for time and my best intentions to make those calls often get shoved aside by more important matters.
Here are a few more cases where I’ve done this that will hopefully inspire you to take action next time:
Costco Furniture Savings
Furniture prices are already pretty good at Costco when you consider the quality and value combination.
Sure, there are plenty of cheap furniture shops out there and Ikea is always an option, but you’re going to get top quality and the best guarantee and return policy in the business with Costco.
For that reason we decided to buy our new living room set and some deck furniture from there.
We ordered two couches for our living room that were supposed to be identical. But, when they arrived they were slightly different shades, one had a glossy finish and the other had a matte finish, the stitching wasn’t identical, and they even had a different label on them.
We kept the one we liked most and tried replacing the other once twice to get an exact match. After the 2nd replacement, it was close, but still not perfect. Rather than play this game forever, I asked the customer service agent handling the issue if we could receive an extra credit for our troubles. She offered us a $300 Costco gift card as compensation.
Different story with the patio furniture set. We were completely happy with it but I noticed it went on sale shortly after I bought it. I called up Costco customer service and had a refund for the difference in no time.
Amazon Fixes My Blunder Free
I used to be a big cross border shopper back when the exchange rate was better. I’d get stuff shipped to the border to a package holding company, drive down and pick it up, and save up to 50% off the prices I’d pay here.
This time, we had just had a new baby and I was loading up on baby gear for both my sister and I.
It had actually been a couple of years since my last cross border trip and they changed the rules. The post office now required special forms for the package holding company to receive my packages.
I didn’t file those properly on time and my Amazon package got rejected days before I was due to drive down to the USA to pick it up. I was also flying out to Vancouver to see my sister shortly after so my window to get this item was really short.
I called Amazon and told them what happened and why I needed my package fast.
Without even asking, they offered to resend a second package without having received the first one back yet AND upgrade it to express shipping all for free.
One of the best customer service experiences of my life.
They saved the day, the package arrived on time, and I hit my date.
Cheap Business Class Tickets to the Philippines
We wanted to surprise my in-laws with a trip home to the Philippines and since we had the Aeroplan miles to spare, we decided to spring for business class tickets to make it memorable.
I spent some time on Aeroplan.com trying to find flights that didn’t have $1000 in taxes and fees each. Certain partner airlines don’t charge fuel surcharges and high taxes and I wasn’t having much luck.
I called the Aeroplan contact center and the agent was able to explore more connections easier than I could quickly do by myself. With a little patience, the agent put together a custom itinerary involving Air Canada, EVA Airways, and Asiana mostly in business class for $450 in taxes and fees.
Totally worth the extra $30 customer service fee to save $500 per ticket.
Waived Credit Card Fees and Extra Bonuses
Premium credit cards are often worth it for the extra rewards and perks. My rule of thumb is if you spend at least $1,500 monthly on your credit card you should start looking at premium cards with an annual fee.
That doesn’t mean you always have to pay that fee though. If you are a loyal cardholder of several years with a strong spending history, you can get the fee waived for a year simply by calling and asking politely.
It doesn’t always work, but I’ve done it successfully several times in the past. Sometimes they’ll offer you a rewards bonus instead or a partial fee waiver instead. It’s worth a few minutes on the phone once a year to see what you might get.
Bonus Interest from Tangerine
As I’ve said many times before, I enjoy interest rate chasing between Tangerine and PC Financial (soon to be Simplii Financial).
Sometimes if I’m not on my game I get stuck with my funds in one account when an interest rate promotion kicks in and that means I can no longer take advantage of it.
That happened to me once and I simply called and ask if they would be able to offer me an increased interest rate on my account. I had never asked before and with a little back and forth they were able to give me an increased rate for 3 months that was nearly as good as the promotional rate.
Every now and then I hope on the phone and call up my favourite brands, tell them how much I love their stuff, and ask them if they’d be able to help me out with the cost by sending me a few coupons.
The few times I’ve tried this, I’ve wound up with quite a few Free Product Coupons for completely free items along with several large discount coupons on my favourite products.
If there’s something you buy a lot of, try dialing the number on the package and see if they’ll send you something.
Free Movies at Cineplex Store
Instead of buying my digital movies from iTunes or Google Play like a normal person, I tend to purchase the few that I buy from the Cineplex Store.
It’s because they’ve had killer Boxing Day promotions like buy one digital movie at half price and we’ll give you enough SCENE points for 2 free tickets at the theater. For those who like to the cinema, who can say no to that.
I took the opportunity to create a library of Disney and Pixar movies for my kids. Turns out my daughter doesn’t love movies – but hey you can’t win ‘em all – at least my son does!
So one time I tried to actually pay for a movie rental through Cineplex and it completely didn’t work. There was so much fail I couldn’t believe it.
I called them to complain and wound up with them fixing the problem and throwing in credits for at least one more free movie.
Discounted Cell Phone and Internet Bills
I’ve always made a habit of calling about once a year to my ISP and seeing if they can reduce my plan cost at all. I used to get between $10 and $20 off per month.
Since I’m internet only, getting that $20 discount became harder and harder every year. Eventually, I got tired of calling and negotiated hard to get $15 off instead of the now standard $10 and to lock it in for 3 years. Wanting to get rid of me I think, the CSR finally agreed and I’ve been enjoying the savings ever since.
I’ve done similar things with my cell phone in the past as well, but right now my plan is so good that I don’t feel the need to call about it. If you have a $50+ plan, there should be room to negotiate.
Will You Make The Call?
Nobody likes waiting on the line to speak to customer service and negotiating makes many people nervous.
I suggest making it a bit of a game and always do it while you have other idle work lined up. Just let the hold music play in the background. When they finally pick up, turn the tables and say…
“Can you hold for a sec? I’m just finishing something up really quick.”
So, I’m curious … will you give it a try?
If you’ve done it before, what was that like for you?
Let me know in the comments.