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How to Break Up: The Company With Bad Customer Service That You Can’t Escape From

Sure, you’re tempted to drop some f-bombs, but here’s what to drop instead

Claiming your independence from some people in your life is easy. That childhood friend who wants to keep up with you on Facebook? Unfollow and delete their number. Unhappy with your barber? Go to a different shop. But other people in your life can be more difficult. For example…

The company whose customer service makes you want to punch a hole in a brick wall: Whether it’s the bank who won’t repay the bogus charges they made on your account, the cable company who won’t fix your fuzzy picture or the phone company who just suuuucks, it seems like all they want is your money at any cost. How then do you extricate yourself from their bloodsucking, octopus-like embrace?

As you well know, these entities aren’t so easy to ditch: Even navigating the endless menus to get a real human being on the phone feels next to impossible most of the time. And while it’s tempting to go down in a blaze of “Fuck yous” to whatever customer representative you finally get through to, then blow up Facebook with your tales of injustice and “sticking it to the man,” this isn’t only ineffective, it may not get you what you actually need, according to Jack Gillis, a longtime consumer advocate at the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America.

“The impact of your communication will be directly related to the level of vitriol you include: The more vitriol, the less effective,” Gillis says. “Well-thought-out communication about the problem can be very effective: A thoughtful description of the problem, and most importantly, how it impacted you as a customer, will get the attention of a responsible company.”

So although cathartic, the angry prose in that email you’re hammering out is going to be less effective than communicating succinctly about how badly the company screwed you over.

Also remember that, if you feel you’re owed something, be sure to say so. Crappy as they are, they’re still a business and they’ll try super hard to keep you as a customer. Not because they care, but because, as Gillis says, it’s much cheaper for companies to retain a customer than it is for them to replace one.

Similarly, you should be aware that many companies will respond to your protests with some token of their appreciation for your plight—a coupon, a refund or some other gesture, according to Gillis. Even if the offer is insulting, the best response is simply to accept it but still part ways, making it a win-win for you.

Lastly, Gillis says, “Be sure to indicate that you’re contacting them directly rather than ranting on social media or contacting your local TV station — that should be reserved for Phase II, depending on how important the offense was.” That way, you show you actually have an end goal in mind that they can still help you with, rather than just wanting to go on a rant.

Either way, your objective should be to 1) get a better deal; or 2) be done with these people. If you don’t get the former, go for the latter (again, it’s win-win for you). It’s also worth noting that even a calmly worded email can be cathartic in its own way, and will certainly feel more productive — and in the long run, better for your sanity — than simply screaming at the customer service rep.

He doesn’t give a shit about your problem anyway, so why waste your energy?