Getting Your Money Back from a Product or Bad Service

Joyce B. Robinson

November 17, 2020

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(This article first appeared in the November/December 2020 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

During the holiday season, we often purchase products or pay for a service that we are disappointed with or do not perform as advertised. To assist you in getting your money back, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the federal government’s consumer protection agency, lists strategies on its website that will help.

1. Return Item to the Store or Website - Talk to a store employee or manager, or if you bought the item online, insure and return it with a return receipt requested, as soon as possible. “Explain the problem and what you would like the company to do. Keep a record of all conversations — who you spoke with and when, and what action they promised,” the FTC says.

2. Call Customer Service - If you don’t receive results, the next step would be to call the company on the phone to speak with a customer service representative or manufacturer. Advise them of what occurred when you tried to return the item or what was wrong with the service. Most companies have a “Contact Us” number listed on their website.

3. Write a Letter - If a call does not work, write a letter. Describe the problem with the item you bought or the service you purchased. Do not write an angry, sarcastic, or threatening letter. Send your letter by certified mail with a return receipt requested. Here is a sample complaint letter from the FTC’s website:

(Your Address)

(Your City, State, Zip Code)


(Name of Contact Person)


(Company’s Name)

(Street Address)

(City, State, Zip Code)

Dear (Contact Person):

On (date), I bought (or had repaired) a (name of the product with the serial or model number or service performed). I made this purchase at (location, date, and other important details of the transaction). Unfortunately, your product has not performed well (or the service was inadequate) because (state the problem).

To resolve the problem, I would appreciate your (state the specific action you want). Enclosed are copies [Never send originals] of my records (receipts, warranties, cancelled checks, contracts, model and serial numbers, etc.) concerning this purchase/repair.

look forward to your reply and a resolution to my problem. I will wait (set a time limit) before seeking thirdparty assistance. Please contact me at the above address or by phone (home or cell numbers with area codes).

Sincerely, Your Name

Account Number, if applicable

4. Use Social Media - Post your experience on social media. Explain the problem clearly and reasonably. According to the FTC, the company may respond quickly to your problem to avoid negative perceptions.

5. Seek Outside Help - If your phone call, letter or social media post does not work, file a complaint with your state attorney general or local consumer protection office, you may want to contact your local Better Business Bureau, and/or file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at 202-326-2222.

If you have tried the strategies listed and you are not happy with the result, you might want to consider small claims court. Some businesses require consumers to arbitrate their disputes and waive their right to go to court. Check your contract or product packaging for details.

For more information on the above, visit As this is the last article of the year, I would like to thank postal employees for the outstanding job that you do going to work during this pandemic to serve the American people. I wish you and your loved ones a new year filled with peace, good health, and happiness. Stay safe and be blessed!

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