Consumer complaint tips on how to solve disputes

HOUSTON, Texas -- We get all sorts of complaints in the consumer department, mostly from people who are frustrated when they can't get a resolution to a problem.

If you have a complaint and you are not getting any help, maybe the problem is you. We don't mean anything personal, but the way you approach your dispute can make a big difference in getting the results you need.

Consumer attorneys suggest a kinder, gentler tactic.

"Try to stay calm, even if it is something that has angered you," said Ryan Marquez, director of the consumer law clinic at the University of Houston Law Center. "If you can get the person on the phone to at least not dislike you, they are more likely to try to help you if they can like you a little bit."

Before you pick up the phone to call a company, write down exactly what the problem is, including when you bought the item or service and how much you paid, as well as a timeline of the issue. These tips help you to remember important details of what happened. It also helps make your message more consistent and to-the-point. Having those details at hand can keep you from spending large amounts of time on hold. Remember though, it's probably going to take time to get a resolution over the phone, so be prepared to wait and try to stay positive.

Also, have your receipts, warranties and any photos on hand and be ready to send copies of those to the company if needed.

Another tip is to write down the names of everyone you speak with during your process.

Finally, even before the dispute process, consider this tip to avoid issues altogether: Before you spend one dollar on anything, do a simple internet search of the product along with the word "PROBLEMS." If you see a lot of complaints about the product, you can make a better decision about buying. This simple practice could save you money and the time spent fighting for a resolution down the road.

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