I help people resolve problems they can’t resolve on their own because of indifference or incompetence at the front lines of customer service.
Here are stories of four fixes achieved for readers with the Star’s help.
Toyota Canada: Jonathan Golden, who owns a 2007 Camry, found out a year ago that he qualified for a warranty extension because his car burned too much oil.
As he waited for repairs, the problem kept getting worse. When he first complained, his Camry was burning one litre of oil a month – which increased to more than one litre a week.
“I asked to speak to someone senior at Toyota, but no one was available. I think they should consider the severity of my oil consumption situation,” he said.
One day after I contacted the head office, Golden had his own customer service representative working to speed things up. One week later, his car went in for a five-day engine rebuild.
“I am being provided with a rental for the week,” he added. “This would never have happened alone.”
PayPal Canada: Susan Wontorro is a frequent user of eBay. She sold a coat to a buyer in Philadelphia last November and received payment by PayPal.
Later, the U.S. buyer asked for a chargeback from her credit card issuer, claiming the coat was fake.
Wontorro said the coat was exactly as described. Meanwhile, the buyer refused to send it back, despite assurances that shipping costs would be covered.
“She emails me once in a while to tell me to stop harassing her. I believe she has no intention of returning the coat. But PayPal and eBay say there is nothing they can do,” she said.
Such disputes are outside PayPal’s control, said spokesperson Malini Mitra. The credit card issuer for the buyer initiates a chargeback and decides the outcome.
However, since Wontorro was a good customer, Mitra said PayPal was giving her a refund as “a good faith solution.”
Microsoft Canada: A mother wrote to me about her daughter, age 47 and on disability support, who had to give up her housing two years ago since she could no longer afford it.
“She has lived with different friends (basically homeless). Last September, she moved in with me,” said the mother, who asked that she and her daughter not be named for privacy reasons.
The daughter had a Hotmail account for many years. But when she tried to log in again, she couldn’t provide the verification information that was required because of the intermittent use while she was homeless.
The mother had a request: Could I ask Microsoft (which owns Hotmail) to restore the account? Her daughter wanted to see the emails she had missed – including those from her son, who had died suddenly last year.
“If Microsoft is able to help, they will need some personal information from her daughter, but will of course treat this with the utmost discretion,” said Julia Perreira, a spokesperson for Microsoft Canada.
Within a day, the daughter had regained access to her Hotmail account.
“We couldn’t believe how quickly Microsoft support responded to, and fixed, the problem. Such good news in what has been sometimes a stressful and sad situation,” the mother said.
President’s Choice Financial: Mark Roza owns a PC Financial World MasterCard, which he uses to earn PC points. He has stopped using other rewards cards in favour of this one.
“My thing is tools,” he said. “I usually redeem my PC points for Home Depot gift cards, or I’d buy a Visa or MasterCard gift card if a store didn’t have its own gift cards.
“I’ve been saving for a while and I have $ 430 worth of points. But when I went to Loblaws to exchange them for gift cards, I was told I could not, since the policy had changed in February.”
PC Financial blamed fraudulent activity for the policy change. In early February, it told customers to change their passwords after some members had points stolen from their accounts.
PC Financial decided to suspend collectors’ ability to redeem points for gift cards, prepaid cards and wireless or long-distance phone cards, “since these are popular purchases with stolen points,” said Lana Gogas, a company spokesperson.
She promised to have customer service contact the customer to discuss a resolution.
Roza was happy with the PC Financial’s workaround. He will be able to use his points to get $ 430 worth of Loblaw gift cards, which he can use to buy other gift cards at a Loblaw’s store.
“I doubt I would have had this positive resolution without your intervention,” he said. “To show my appreciation, I have made a $ 25 donation to the Toronto Star Fresh Air Fund.”
My advice: Yes, corporations can be flexible and bend the rules. Demonstrate that you are a long-time loyal customer who has waited patiently for the resolution you deserve to get.
Ellen Roseman appears in Smart Money.