5 things customers say during the holidays – and what they really mean

Iona/Shutterstock
Iona/Shutterstock
It’s that time of year when you follow the herd to the mall and gorge on the displays.

That’s right, I’m talking about the irrational holiday shopping season. Think I’m overstating this? The authoritative National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts a 3.9 percent rise in holiday sales this year, meaning that collectively, Americans will buy $602 billion worth of gifts before the end of this year.

The average holiday shopper will drop $737 on gifts, décor and greeting cards, according to the NRF. That’s some serious gorging!

This year, I’m not going to tell you to avoid the frenzy. (What kind of Scrooge would I be?) Instead, as a service to consumers, let me help you understand what the other members of the swarm actually mean when they talk amongst themselves.
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American customers have it bad – but here’s how it can be better

Eurobanks/Shutterstock
Eurobanks/Shutterstock
Did you know that when it comes to customer satisfaction, the United States falls short of the top 10, behind Russia, Poland and Chile? That the worst industry for service is social media? Or that the worst time to contact customer support is after 6 p.m.?

Well, now you do. The findings come courtesy of Zendesk’s latest report on customer satisfaction, which measures service across 6,000 companies and 125 countries to determine the best and worst countries, industries, and even time of day for customer support.
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How to fix any customer service problem yourself

Panos3/Shutterstock
Panos3/Shutterstock
The most satisfying cases I handle as a consumer advocate aren’t the ones where I step in to save the day. It’s the times when you, the consumers, fix a problem without any outside help.

In other words, it’s when the system works.

Take what happened to Stacey Larsen’s subscription-TV service. She signed up last December, only to discover that it didn’t work as advertised. Her TV was plagued by numerous technical glitches that often made it impossible to watch the programs she wanted.

“We have had technician visits on Dec. 24 and 28, January 12, March 13 and May 21,” she explained. “We have had three sets of equipment swapped out over a six-month period and are still having a problem.”
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The biggest mistake I ever made as a consumer

Wild at Art/Shutterstock
Wild at Art/Shutterstock

Somewhere in the attic of my old house in Key Largo, Fla., a reminder of my biggest consumer mistake ever is collecting dust. I’ve never told anyone about it. Until now.

It’s a profoundly embarrassing tale of negligence and naivete — my own negligence and naivete. By revealing it today, I hope that I can persuade you to share your stories, and allow others to learn from them.

Here goes.

In 2003, shortly after our first son was born, my family lived happily in remote South Florida outpost known for amazing scuba diving and recreational fishing. But since I used the second bedroom as an office, our small home was starting to feel a little crowded. A neighbor suggested we build an addition to our house instead of moving, which seemed like a great idea.
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Mad about travel? Then you probably shouldn’t read this

Smit/Shutterstock
Smit/Shutterstock
It’s the time of year when the days get shorter and my mood grows darker.

And I’ll be honest: that government shutdown, the legislative gridlock and the shoot-out at the Capitol aren’t exactly the kind of pick-me-ups I was looking for.

It’s probably not the best occasion to write a mission statement, but who cares?

(Admit it, you’re not reading this post because you give a hoot about my purpose in life — you’re glued to it for the angry comments that are certain to follow. Scroll down a little and feel the flames, my friends.)
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