The Squeaky Wheel Gets… the New Car….
People that don’t know me are usually shocked when they first meet me. That is because my voice is soft, squeaky, and kinda high-pitched. (No, not quite like Michel’le from R&B Divas LA). LOL. It can be a bit of a head-trip, especially since I am a curvy black woman with locs. Some people love my voice; some people hate it. But one thing is certain: my voice is certainly memorable.
And that is exactly how you have to be—squeaky and memorable— when you have spent your hard-earned money on a product or service and find it is of poor quality.
As a collective, recent studies have projected that our buying power as African-Americans will reach 1 Trillion dollars by 2015.
Sometimes we forget, but each of us, as consumers, has power. As a collective, recent studies have projected that our buying power as African-Americans will reach 1 Trillion dollars by 2015. 1 Trillion! (not a typo). This power has different names such as buying power, spending power, consumer power, and purchasing power. But what’s more important than naming this power is having the tools and confidence to wield it. Over the course of my lifetime as a consumer, it became necessary for me to flex this muscle because I was being overlooked, taken advantage of, or provided with poor quality products and services.
Strategically and respectfully using any of the following strategies will not only empower you, but also improve the consumer experience of those that follow you.
1. Write Letters
Despite what stores, restaurants, universities, and other profit-generating entities may want you to think, they need you. More specifically, they need your money, your referrals, and your support to thrive, make profit, and stay financially solvent.
Not the other way around.
If you find that you are dissatisfied with a product or service, let them know in writing. When you take the time to write a letter, which many people do not do, they know that you are serious about your position and will compensate you for your inconvenience. My letter writing campaigns have rewarded me with larger academic scholarships, complimentary tickets, vouchers, and coupons once I expressed my unhappiness as a consumer.
To facilitate this process of writing this type of letter, here is a sample template created by Georgia’s Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection.
2. Ask to Speak to A Manager
Whether you want to negotiate a better price, lodge a complaint, or ask for a modification, you will need to speak to someone who has the authority honor your inquiry. Sometimes that may mean speaking to an immediate manager or someone higher up the ladder of authority. If you feel that your requests are reasonable and you are courteous yet firm, you will be surprised at how prices and policies, at even large companies, can be shifted to accommodate you. Speaking to store managers at some of my favorite clothing stores have allowed me to return items way after their exchange dates for store credit and receive deep discounts on items with slight imperfections.
3. Leverage Your Relationships With Companies to Create Win-Win Outcomes
If you plan to buy something in bulk, have a history of patronizing a particular place, or are a brand loyalist, do not be afraid to leverage this relationship during negotiations. Companies, whether they be large or fledgling businesses, prefer repeat customers and their referrals over having to solicit new customers. I have definitely used this strategy to lower my interest rates with my credit card company, to ask that fees be waived at my bank, or to reduce the prices for my wedding pictures.
BMWK Family: What are your thoughts about flexing your consumer power? Has there been an instance where it was necessary to wield your spending power?Which of these strategies have worked for you?
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