Carrol Daily Times Herald from Carroll, Iowa on April 28, 1976 · Page 9
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Carrol Daily Times Herald from Carroll, Iowa · Page 9

Carroll, Iowa
Issue Date:
Wednesday, April 28, 1976
Page 9
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Companies Paying Greater Attention to Grievances of Customers •^ ^-^ *MIM*Mf*MMtllftltt«Mlt«tM*«M*tl*t**MtMOtM .«._ . . . .... By Louise Cook Associated Press Writer "I found a stem in my green beans." "There aren't enough shopping carts." "I was shortchanged at the checkout." The complaints are typical of those received by a large East Coast supermarket chain. A store spokesman, who refused to be identified by name or store, said they are among thousands and thousands which come in each year. Food prices and quality have been the focus of consumer discontent in the 1970s, prompting supermarket chains to pay greater attention to complaints. But the food stores are not alone in trying to keep the customer happy. A survey by the Conference Board, a business research group, found a growing number of companies establishing full-time consumer affairs departments. The board mailed questionnaires to 1,250 companies for its survey, published early in 1974. It got responses from 433 firms and of these, 180 reported having a consumer affairs department. Asked how many companies now have such divisions, E. Patrick McGuire;- a senior research analyst for the board and author of the original study, said, "I would guess it has to be close to the 500 mark." Some consumer groups, including the Consumer Federation of America, have argued that many of these departments are window dressing, designed to take the sting out of complaints without actually making any changes in basic policy. "They are owned by the other side," said Carol Tucker Foreman, the federation's executive director, in discussing the company-employed consumer affairs personnel. "They are quite literally in an untenable position." The Conference Board, in its original study, said: "It would, be an overstatement to assert that simply because a firm has a consumer affairs unit, it has necessarily launched an effective consumer relations effort." McGuire said there is "some merit to the charge" of window dressing in that a few companies "commit an amount of resources to the task that is in no way commensurate with the task... "One can argue that not enough is being done," he said, but to dismiss the whole thing is "to ignore what a lot of well-intentioned people are doing." McGuire said it is in the company's own interest to make sure that complaints are handled effectively because Conference Board studies have shown that "in many instances, when you get one complaint, that represents up to 40 aggrieved customers." Five hundred complaints could mean 20,000 disgruntled customers ready to turn to the competition if they aren't satisfied, McGuire said. Businesses are still touchy when it comes to talking about customer -dissatisfaction, partly because complaint information can give the competition an advantage. They are reluctant to give specifics about the number of complaints and whether they are increasing or decreasing. The supermarket spokesman quoted above did say that about-40 per cent of the letters and phone calls the chain receives concern products. That's the stem in the green beans. If the store gets enough complaints about a particular item, it's removed from the shelves. The rest of the communications are split between store operations — too few carts — arid miscellaneous issues, including compliments. "The most rapidly burgeoning category of miscellaneous queries deals with product information," the spokesman said. People want detailed facts about nutrition and ingredients. They read about problems with Red Dye No. 2, recently banned by the Food and Drug Administration, and they want to know which products contain it. They are concerned about fluorocarbons in aerosols. The chain spokesman said the search for specific information has grown in the last two or three years. "It's much more scientific 1 and detailed than: 'Hey, I don't like your green beans.'" Customers with a complaint about an individual product generally get a refund in the form of a gift certificate good at any of the chain's outlets. Proof of purchase usually is not required. The relatively liberal refund policy can lead to abuse. "We have to have faith in our customers," the spokesman said, but conceded that the chain does have problems with chronic complainers who will write as often as 20 times. Once the complainer is identified, he or she frequently gets a follow-up phone call asking what is wrong. The complaints drop off. Why not simply tell the chronic complainer to shop elsewhere? "You can't afford to lose a customer," the spokesman said. "Assume the average shopper spends $50 a week. She shops in the store for a five-year period. She brings two friends with her." The loss of that customer and her friends could mean a potential loss of almost $40,000 in sales. With supermarket profits running at about 1 per cent of sales, the lost customer could mean $400 in lost profits over five years. It may not seem like much, but it can add up. Not all complaint departments — or customer relations offices, as some companies prefer to call them — are new. .General Motors Corp. set up a formal corporate procedure for handling owner complaints in 1928. The basic complaint procedures have remained generally unchanged for the past decade. Grievances are handled through GM's six divisions — five car and one truck. Customers are told to follow The Iowa Book Shelf Edited By Mary Ann Riley THEY CAME TO STAY. By Marjorie Margolies & Ruth Gruber: (Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, $8.95) Co-authored by an NBC reporter and a writer specializing in problems of refugees, the subtitle of this book is: "How a Single Parent adopted Lee Heh from Korea and Holly from Vietnam." • How the reader will evaluate these experiences depends on: (1) the reader's attitude toward adoption of foreign war orphans, (2) his reaction toward immigration laws with loopholes, and (3) his opinion on the wisdom of a "Single," male or female, raising a child. Ms. Margolies was recently married to U.S. Rep. Ed Times Herald, Carroll, la. Wednesday, April 28, 1976 Mezvinsky (Iowa, D.); so the single-parent issue, in this instance, is no longer relevant. The book is sympathetically written; dealing, in a romanticized, emotional manner, with the traumas of adoption for all parties concerned and family-type joys and sorrows. Undoubtedly, romantic, a three-step procedure: first, complain to the dealer; if you don't get satisfaction, call the nearest zone office for your type of vehicle; if you're still not happy, write to the customer service office at the division headquarters. Glen Warren, manager of customer relations said the complaint procedure, with addresses, is explained in thei owner's manual — "which everybody gets and nobody reads" — in the warranty pamphlet and on a placard at the dealer. Warren said GM's car and truck divisions get 60,000 to 75,000 complaints a year, depending on the number of vehicles sold and whether there is a lot of publicity about a particular problem. He declined to be more specific. GM sold about 4.7 million domestically produced cars and trucks in the United States last year so 60,000 complaints would work out to one gripe for every 78 vehicles. Warren said the number of . complaints in relation to the number of vehicles sold "has decreased over the past five years." In fact, he said, the ratio of complaints to vehicles is lower today than it was in the 1930s. Why then do state and local consumer agencies say they get more complaints about automobiles than any other item? "Cars are exposed to such varied conditions and people make such demands on them that it's not surprising you get complaints," said Warren. He said General Motors dealers handle 200.000 transactions a day, including sales and repairs. "Every one is an opportunity for someone to make a mistake." Warren said people have be- come increasingly aware of their rights. They know what they are entitled to. They also know "what they're not entitled to," Warren said, "but they are encouraged not to accept that concept." By whom? ''So-called consumerists." The greatest number of GM complaints "has to do with failure to get the job done right the first time" at the dealership, Warren said. Next: Taking Your Case to Court emotional readers will enjoy it. — Kelly Adrian THE EDGE. By John V. Lindsay (Norton, $7.95) From a rich background in American politics, four term Congressman, and two term Mayor of New York, John Lindsay writes a human drama about a young congressman caught up in a national crisis born of depression and high unemployment. Running for re-election, the country under martial law, an extreme rightwing group planning a military coup, and his private extramarital affair surfacing, all combine to create a very believable and absorbing tale of modern political life. The fragility of freedom and democracy is effectively presented and the life and problems of modern politicians are handled with practical and incisive insight. This is a particularly timely post-Watergate novel — Harold A. Goldman BRENMY'S MARKET WEST 3RD STREET PRICES GOOD THRU TUESDAY. MAY 4 BOSTON BUTT PORK ROAST 99? lean Cube <t 1 Steak.. ib *l U.S.D.A. Choice Blade Cut Beef Roast ...i b . U.S.D.A. Choice Beef Cook-Out -*f\ + Steak tb. 79* U.S.D.A. Choice Center Cut Chuck Roast Lb . Lean Ground Beef 3 -Lb, GRADE A WHOLE FRYERS 45! Homemade Country-Style Link Sausage .Lb. CAMPBELL'S CHICKEN SOUP 5 c52' 95 99< U.S.D.A. Choice Round Bone Cut f^f^ + Beef Roast lb . 99* Sliced Large Bologna Lb . Lean & Tender £ _ on Pork Cutlets lb *1 39 John Morrell Smokees Smoked Sausage .. P i,g. Hunt's Sliced Peaches ........ No . 2% can Owatonna Cut 303 Can Green Beans ........ 5 for Del Monte No. 303 Can Com .................... 3 for Starkist Chunk Tuna ............. . Hormel Spam .................. i2-oi. Heini Ketchup .............. 26-oi. Kraft Strawberry Jelly .................. ,8.o, f\f\ GOLDEN MAID OLEO 3-Lbs. 79 79< Coffee ,IB, *2 89 $]49 99< 59< .. 24-Oi. . 1.2-Oz. .12 Pak 12 Robin Hood Flour io-Lbs. Palmolive Liquid Soap Grade A Large Eggs .32-Ox. Doi. BUTTERTOP BREAD 2 for 89 Edon Toilet Tissue 4 Roils Anderson Erickson Cottage Cheese Kraft Sliced Cheese Milwaukee Beit Beer Old Milwaukee Beer Coitello Frozen Dessert Mariner Fish Sticks z-ib. B Golden Yellow Bananas L Red Potatoes lo-ibi Nabisco Snack Crackers P k g . Holy Spirit Breakfast Sunday, May 2nd 89< 99< $239 $249 '/» Gal. if 99< 19< 09 GUY'S POTATO CHIPS Pkg. 69 in Street Furniture is Going Out of Business! Thousands of Dollars of Home Furnishings Remain To Be Sold At Give-A-Way Prices! 24"x48" WALL PICTURES Values To *49« NOW $goo $0900 1 **^ B-Pe. DINING ROOM SETS $£QQ95 Values To *.l ,029°° NOW *f T f 4 DRAWER MAPLE & WALNUT CHESTS Values To $ 89" NOW END TABLES & COFFEE TABLES Values To *79' s NOW $29 1 00 Ea. SINGLE PEDESTAL DESKS Values To *99 95 NOW SOLID WOOD BEDROOM SETS Values To *1,100°° NOW MAPLE & WALNUT DRESSERS Values To *129" NOW SWIVEL ROCKERS PLAID OR VELVET Values To $ 109 9S NOW $o ft $43995 $5495 00 $3300 4 DRAWER UNFINISHED CHESTS NOW 5 DRAWER UNFINISHED CHESTS NOW BROWN VINYL SOFA SLEEPER NOW 3-PC. SOLID OAK $OOO95 BEDROOM SET NOW *299 7-PC. WALNUT TOP DINETTE SET NOW MANY CHAIRS & RECLINERS Price! FULL SIZE MATTRESS & BOX SPRING SETS NOW M09 95 QUEEN SIZE MATTRESS & BOX SPRING SETS N ow*149 95 CARPET SAMPLES '. • NOW 50 C DOZENS OF PICTURES, LAMPS, ACCESSORIES some over Vi Price Off. Don't Wait! Low, Low! Prices! Main Street Furniture GOING OUT OF BUSINESS STORE HOURS: Mon.-Tues.-Thurs.-Sat. 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Wednesday & Friday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday Noon Till 6:00 p.m. FREE DELIVERY IN CARROLL Phone 792-1707 Across From Court House—Downtown Carroll

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