Remember that as a consumer, you have a lot more control than you may realize. Often I remind friends and family about this fact, and I’ll give you a few examples.
- Often people treat doctors and other professionals as if they were gods. Remember that they work for you—you are the client. I’m not suggesting that you ever be a jerk, but if there is something about the quality of the services that you are receiving that is bothering you, speak up. If there is a long wait at the doctor’s office, ask the doctor and office manager how that wait can be reduced. They need your feedback to offer better customer service to all.
- At a restaurant, if you receive something completely different from what you ordered, speak up. Again, don’t be ugly about it, but ask the server to remedy the situation. Sometimes you might be happy with what you received and not want to change—great! But if not, don’t hesitate to ask for the problem to be fixed. This happens with my sister often, and because of her food allergies, it would be dangerous for her to eat a meal that was not what she ordered. Remember that being assertive does not mean that you are being mean spirited or aggressive!
- If your grocery doesn’t carry a product that you like, request it. Often they want to hear from consumers, and per my experience, when they can they offer those products.
- Be clear with what you expect, especially when you are requesting services. Having your house cleaned? Leave a detailed list of what you want to make sure gets accomplished in order of priority. Having your car serviced? Be explicit with which services they are allowed to perform and which will require your approval before they proceed. Pricing windows? Ask for specific information about what will be included in the price.
Also remember that your money is a vote. The more products that you purchase that are in line with what you want stores to carry, the more likely they will be to carry them in the future. Fair trade, organic, locally grown, American made, post-consumer recycled goods are all dependent on your purchases to continue to be offered regularly and on a widespread basis.