A busted television lamp cost my parents a small fortune when the flat screen television in their living room dimmed and faded to black. During a house call, a repairman from a national appliance store chain diagnosed the problem and charged $400 to replace the burned-out television lamp.
From that television episode, my parents learned three valuable lessons about appliances, customer service and social media.
[In Pictures: 10 Smart Ways to Improve Your Budget.]
Surf the Internet
Most manufacturers and some vendors, including major chains, provide technical help for faulty appliances. By tracking down a company’s website, you can find several resources—help desks, call centers and online tech support—which can diagnose a problem and find a fix. To get the most from help desks, provide the product’s model number and a detailed description of the problem.
Samsung, which sells computers, televisions and other home appliances, offers online trouble-shooting guide for its products. Instructions include step-by-step solutions for common problems. Search engines, including Google and Bing, can provide lists of common problems with brand-name laptops, cell phones, televisions and other appliances.
Fixing the lamp in my parent’s flat screen television involved a simple five-minute replacement that my folks could have handled. Do-it-yourself repairs, however, are not for everyone, especially when it comes to expensive appliances. But there are frugal options. Instead of paying $400 for parts and labor, my folks could have shopped online and bought a replacement bulb from the manufacturer for $119, and then paid the appliance store repairman $70 to replace the lamp. That option represents a savings of $110.
[In Pictures: 12 Money Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes]
National appliance outlets typically operate a customer service desk, with steps for handling complaints. When my mother protested the $400 bill, the repairman suggested that she file a formal complaint to challenge the charges. Additionally, you can “tweet” about your complaints on Twitter or leave feedback on other social media forums. Cable companies, banks, stores and product manufacturers monitor Twitter for consumer feedback.
Some companies operate Twitter accounts and actively use those accounts for handling complaints. You can search for a company’s profile on Twitter or create an account to post product feedback. Don’t divulge personal account information in a public forum, and if privately contacted, make sure you’re communicating with an official representative from the company in question.
Sharon Harvey-Rosenberg is a member of Wise Bread’s top personal finance blog network. She is the author of "Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money” and a contributing author to ”10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget.”