Handy Hints

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>


Similar Posts