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Defective Products…Does It Pay To Complain?


Have you ever purchased an item and found out it did not live up to its Quality Standards? Oddly enough most people simply toss an item with a product defect in the bin and head out to purchase the same product again. Why are we throwing money in the bin when all it may take is a simple phone call or email to the company?

Most manufacturers have a quality standard that their products are built on whether it’s food, health and beauty, automotive etc. These companies work hard to make sure that their mission of sending out Quality merchandise is priority and so is customer service. Although standardized procedures are in place anything can happen along the manufacturing line that may consider a product defective yet it makes it through the quality inspection. Not every manufacturer has robots that do the inspections so we rely on the human eye to catch defects that should not get out to the customer.

From the human eye we also rely on technology and if technology fails us that also might give us the green light that a product is up to code and ready for shipment when it’s not. Manufacturers understand that perfection doesn’t come on a shelf, heck even Toyota and Honda have had automotive recalls on their products. Their product Quality Standards are above the rest if not critical when following a Japanese manufacturing process or the 5S methodology. The 5S method is simple to some extent yet complex in a whole other spectrum. The 5S procedures revolve around a decision-making process which creates a standardized environment teaching employees exactly how to do their job step by step. It’s a no fail procedure if executed correctly but if one person misses a step the entire process can fall apart or simply become defective.

If you think companies don’t care or don’t want to know if your can of shaving cream is not foaming, you are wrong. They do want to know so they can take the problem back to the Quality Lab and see where/how this potentially could have happened. In the past I’ve heard most problems occur during shipment and that may as well be but the root-cause still should be detected and verified. There’s nothing worse than a total product recall by a company, not only for the money it will cost, but simply for the company’s reputation. No one want’s their product to be known as less than stellar as word of mouth spreads fast.

Do you remember late last year when Barbara Laurie sued Tim Hortons in Alberta because she claimed her Iced Coffee was toxic? Then there was the 2.86 million awarded to Stella Liebeck in 1998 after burning herself with a $0.49 MacDonald’s coffee claiming it was defective. If there was no thing as a defective product lawyer I’m betting their will be soon. Manufacturers get hit with all sorts of law suits so it’s imperative that their products are 100% the way they should be. For the small business owner these types of damages could cost them their business and livelihood. Although these are extreme cases for the average product, manufacturers still want to know. We now see the word “HOT” labelled on coffee cups everywhere as the companies that use them are protecting themselves.

If you look at most products today it states on the packaging or in the instruction manual to contact them if you have concerns or problems with their products. They even have a toll-free number practically begging you to call them so you are not out a dime on the call. A simple phone call that you think won’t make a difference could make a huge impact on the overall product if they catch something and can fix a further product from getting out.

Typically the customer service rep asks for your name, the product name, date codes, the Universal Product Code (UPC code) on the product consisting of 12  numbers, also where and when you purchased the product. They will also ask you if you have your receipt. The UPC numbers  and date codes might not mean anything to you but to the manufacturer it tells a detailed story. They can tell when it was manufactured and where, who made it, who inspected it, and many others details that they have built into these codes. Once you explain the problem they may ask you to send the product back to the company or send you a package to send the product back to them for inspection.  Almost 99% of the time they are very happy that you called and are more than happy to send you out a Free Product Coupon (FPC) for the product and for your time and inconvenience. Sometimes these coupons can be worth more than what you paid for the product or for more than one product.

Alternatively you could return the product to the shop where you purchased it for a refund if you have your receipt, although not everyone keeps them, especially when they buy in bulk to stockpile. We keep our receipts for everything we purchase especially if it is a bulk item in case the above happens. There’s no sense spending money in your budget and if something goes wrong you can’t prove that you bought it. Some shops such as Wal-Mart have taken defective items back that you purchased at their store without a receipt. Typically you will get an in-store credit at the current retail or lowest price that the product was offered at during that year.


We had purchased shampoo and conditioner and while I was in the shower I noticed the labelling on the bottle was washing off in my hands. The bottle was now blank and I had the product they used to label the bottle in my hair. Obviously that was  a huge problem and not one where I simply wanted to return the shampoo to the shop. The product was fine, it was the packaging that potentially could have caused a serious problem if it got on someone’s skin or in their eyes. Who know’s what chemicals or products they use for labelling.

When we called they were happy we called and told us it was brought to their attention and that it was a labelling defect. A particular ingredient that helps the wording adhere to the product was missed in the process and was now simply washing off. They never did say whether it was toxic. They apologized for the problem and recognized that it was a serious problem and they were pulling date codes from the shelves at the shops they were shipped to. Keep in mind this is a very reputable company and their product is not cheap by far. They sent me a thank-you letter and a coupons worth $15 each x3 for trial size products I picked up for $1.00 after coupons.

So to answer the question does it pay to complain? Well complaining is one thing as long as what you are saying is true. There’s nothing worse than people lying to a manufacturer in hopes they will send you full product rebates for a product or millions of dollars. Simply making the manufacturer aware that a problem has occurred and recognizing it will help everyone involved whether directly or indirect is important. If we stop caring about our Country where will that lead us? Keeping Canadian manufacturers in the loop will not only help the economy it helps keep people employed. When people are buying their products whether it is here in Canada or around the world it keeps the business thriving.

It’s no different to me than working hard to keep a company I am employed at sitting at the top. If the team falls apart, the business could fail and we could all be handed our pink slips. We all have to do our part to keep the process going. It pays for the manufacturer to listen as it may prevent someone from getting injured, saves them money and potential lawsuits, lower product prices for the consumer, and eliminates potential total product recall if necessary. Most importantly it helps them to understand potential flaws in their quality standards or employee training.

For the most part unless a serious problem like a product liability claim where a simple phone call to customer service will not solve the problem seek the advice of a lawyer before proceeding further.

In the end most companies offer you an FPC for simple problems and if they don’t consider it your good deed for the day and head back to the shop you purchased it and see if they will have a sympathetic ear. You never know how a person will react if you tell them the truth about a product in which you paid out-of-pocket that is defective, with or without a receipt.

What products have you returned because of a defect? Have you ever called the manufacturer?

Photo Credit: Copyright (c) <a href=’http://www.123rf.com’>123RF Stock Photos</a>


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  1. Hi,

    I live in Baltimore, Maryland.

    Told a friend in Vancouver how I got 10.00 in Freee Coupons
    when I called Motts.com – 800 # to complain about their 1/2 gallon of Apple Juice that had turned into
    HARD cider when I opened it.

    They are sending a SASE box
    to try and figure out what went wrong.

    So You DO Big Companies a favor when you complain.


    1. Hi Glenn,
      Yes we’ve had the odd company want their product back to investigate and they send replacement coupons. Some issues they are already aware of so they just send a coupon. We do help these companies with feedback, you are correct! Thanks for stopping by to let us know.

  2. I just recently took back my car battery to Canadian Tire about 30 days before the waranty expired. That made me very happy that it went prior to the waranty expiring and saved me a bunch of money.

  3. I am all for getting value for your dollar and as a restaurant owner I believe that my customers should get what they paid for. What disturbs me is consumers that eat every scrap of their meal, tell the server that everything is fine and then complain at the till that the meal was dreadful and ask for a free meal. You recently posted a question to us asking the difference between frugal and cheap. Frugal is looking for ways to save your hard earned dollars by using the tools available to you. Using coupons or BOGO offers, watching flyers for sales and combining loyalty programs with coupons for great savings. Cheap (and just really crappy) is people who call Manufacturer’s with bogus complaints to get coupons for free products when there was nothing wrong, lying about bad service or food just to get a discount. I have to think that the cost of a lawsuit for a defective product would be not much different than the costs associated with tens of thousands consumers filing bogus complaints for free merchandise.
    My point I guess is just that while I appreciate that everyone should be doing their utmost to provide superior goods and services, we need also to be teaching the future generation through example about honesty and integrity. I want to teach my children to be frugal…not cheap.
    Anyway just my two cents worth and thanks for the venue .

    1. I agree with you as I never really gave much thought to that until someone posted in on my Facebook page last night. I guess when you are honest you don’t think of the silly ways people try to get free stuff. Honestly it’s probably one of the reasons we see prices go up. Manufacturer’s want to know if a product is not delivering on quality so they can improve yes, but to BS them well that just means some people don’t have their priorities straight. Thanks for your comment and I”m sure your children will well benefit from your teachings. Mr.CBB

  4. We bought a new Ford Escape recently and noticed a little ding in the door a couple of days later. Ford wasn’t willing to help us in any way whatsoever. I will never trust Ford again. So complaining about BIG TICKET items is more difficult than complaining about smaller items. I wish we could complain about household repair services…now that would really make my day!

    1. Likely because that little ding was going to be a job and a half to fix and they would come back saying.. call your insurance, prove it left here that way. You are right some items could be difficult especially when the word ‘Insurance’ is attached. How did they handle the situation?

  5. I am definitely vocal but you have to know it may require more time on your part. We find so many things defective in the trash my husband just found me a pink fishing pole brand new but because the tip is not painted right it got pitched. I am very excited that I can now tell when the guys are using my fishing rod 😉 Great post I actually used to be afraid to say something but not anymore…I complained about some fries recently they were frozen and horrible now this could be because I hardly ever eat them they did not replace them but they did sent me to 50 cent off coupons towards other products they sell.

    1. That has happened to me before at Tim Horton’s and they have had no problem with offering me a free coffee. I thought that was nice to do but also the right thing to do. Thanks for sharing your story! It pays to get what you ask for! Cheers Mr.CBB

  6. I recently emailed a company because some breakfast sausage I bought had a very tough skin. The company called me back right away and sent me out a ton of free coupons!

    1. Wow.. and who said coupons weren’t great! Truly we have to put ourselves in the shoes of these business owners who put alot of blood and sweat into building their business. A proper business cares about it’s customers and only wants the best for them. These are the businesses that rise to the top. Thanks for sharing that! Mr.CBB… P.s Hope all is well with you!

  7. I’m one for calling and getting what you paid for, not just simply throwing it away. Also, you really do help companies improve their products when you tell them about a defect. If I was selling a defective product, I would definitely want a consumer to let me know so I could correct it right away.

    Also, you may want to check the toxicity of your hair….especially if it’s glowing green 😉

    1. That’s just it. I like to think about if it were my company that I would want to know. If you spent a lot of time building something from the ground up and there are problems or concerns people know about they should speak up. Ya, the hair is all good no glowing green. I’ll tell you it was the oddest thing to see the label in my hands… lol..

    1. Yes most companies want to help the customer. i’ve run into a couple that couldn’t care less but for the most part they have all been wonderful. Cheers mate… You back to school with the kids soon?

      1. First day with the kids will be 9/6, I go back 9/5 to get ready. I’ve been working at home on my lesson plans so I can hit the ground running. I have to get back on track with my blogging. My schedule is crazy now and will only get worse next week. Time management my friend.

        1. My schedule has been crazy sine July and will calm down in a couple weeks once our last student heads home. Our mate is a teacher and she is already back in the class getting it ready. She told me this morning that the students start back on Sept 4…. it will be here before you know it!

  8. I’m sure I have returned something but I just don’t remember right now. That said my niece bought herself a new bedroom set from Leon’s new Guelph store. The dresser has been a problem, at delivery the first one was dropped and damaged. It went back and they had to order another one. The doors on it were not on right or lined up evenly. She complained. She had to come home early from a holiday to be there when they came to pick up #2 and replace it. She was not a happy girl. I haven’t heard if things were worked out to her satisfaction but she has threatened to send the whole set back if they don’t get their act together…. fast. She might be able to pull off a dumb blonde act to a tee but she is not stupid. She graduated with honours as a law clerk a few years ago. Trust me…. she knows the law, they won’t pull anything of her and get away with it….plus she is her mother’s daughter and my SIL doesn’t take crap from anyone.

    1. That’s why we call the manufacturer first to let them know and maybe they will offer a replacement coupon. If not then the next time we go to the same shop we simply return it. We don’t make a special trip unless it’s somewhere like Canadian Tire but most times the product is something we are needing right away. If not we just wait until we go again. Time is money, you are correct. Cheers Mr.CBB

  9. I always report the issue but if it is a big ticket item that I purchased recently, I also report it directly to the credit card company so that I can have the item removed from my bill. Then I call the manufacturer of the item and third the distributor.

    The best defective story I have is that Apple (computer) replaced my iPad on about day 360 of a 365 day warranty because it just wouldn’t do what it was supposed to do, despite many hours of tech support. No arguments, no blame…just here is a new one ma’am and we apologize for your troubles.

    1. I’ve never dealt with APPLE before but it sounds like they hold strong to their warranty which is important for a company their size. Funny thing is most items tend to flop just before or just after the warranty expires. Thanks for your comment. Mr.CBB

  10. lol I’m the queen of returning or complaining about bad merchandise! I got a coffee maker from CT 3 or 4 years ago and it had a 5 year warranty so I kept the receipt. After 3 years it no longer worked so I bagged it and took it to CT and they exchanged it no problem 🙂 More recently I complained to Glade as their air freshner was so hard to squeeze I had to use both hands. I asked them if I was doing something wrong first and they offered a suggestion and sent me a fpc. I have also complained to Huggies for diapers that were glued together. They sent me an $8 off coupon plus 2 more $2 off coupons. I also had an issue with Pampers diapers and they sent me a $5 off coupon. I emailed a company to ask them if they changed their moisturizer formula because I broke out in an unexplained rash and they didn’t even answer me but sent a fpc lol. I purchased a taco kit once and it was short a taco and I complained and they sent an fpc plus more coupons. Pizza Pizza burned four of my pizza’s in a row and I complained. I got a free pizza and a $25 gift card. I bought a loaf of bread (not pink stickered either) and threw it right in the freezer. When I went to use it a few weeks later it was covered in mold. I complained to the company and they sent me a $5 gift card.

    I refuse to be walked on by any major corporation. If I’m spending money on their product(s), or in their stores, I want to get what I pay for (or better) and I want good customer service. I won’t take crap from anyone lol.

    1. Your returned your coffee pot after 3 years. Some people wouldn’t dream of holding on to a receipt or a box for that long. When the product has a warranty you can bet we hang on to everything. Cheers Jen. Mr.CBB

  11. I have returned ALL defective products I have ever purchased. We work hard for our money and most people cannot be bothered but it is worth the time and aggravation

    1. I agree with you. We’ve brought back or called the manufacturer numerous times. Each time we called they have been more than appreciative. Did you ever have any problems with customer service?

  12. A few weeks ago I bought a bag of potatoes. I didn’t get around to opening the bag until several days later, only to discover that almost every potato was about half rotten. The black spots weren’t obvious until the potatoes were cut or peeled. I wrote to the company and they very quickly sent me coupons for free replacements. May not seem like much, but it made me really happy to know they took my complaint seriously.

    1. That’s great news! Most people would simply pick out the bad potatoes and toss them. It’s important to let the company know so they can sort the problem out. If they don’t know they can’t try to fix it. Good for you! Mr.CBB

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