Tips for helping senior consumers practice Buyer Beware

Written by Bill Leavitt. Posted in Senior Living

Published on March 03, 2021 with No Comments

 I can’t count the number of times in my lifetime I have been told “Buyer Beware,” but that warning has never been truer than it is today.  And seniors are most vulnerable because we were brought up believing stores and other businesses wanted us to be satisfied.  Today, many, if not most, businesses value the “bottom line” over the customer.

Younger people find the changes in attitude of businesses easier to tolerate because they are used to dealing with constant change.  Also, the changes in attitude of businesses have occurred in the recent past.  So here are a few scenarios that we older people should look out for:

Businesses are much less likely to correct problems In the past, if I ordered some fast food and the order was delivered wrong, the problem would be cheerfully corrected.  If I didn’t discover the problem until I got home, I could call and they would often give me my next order free-of-charge or at a discount.  Not anymore!  Often fast-food restaurants will say that you lost your last chance to complain is at the pick-up window.  After that, too bad. Tip:  You can starve or cook at home, or if you must buy fast food, go through the entire order at the pick-up window to make sure problems are corrected, or ask the person at the window to double-check the order.

      Credit Cards: There have been many cases where I have been cheated or been sold something defective and have gotten a full refund or even an additional discount.  Credit cards once advertised that one of their benefits was protection of the consumer from problems.  Not so much anymore.  Recently, I was charged double for a product I bought in Mexico and another occasion overcharged locally. In both cases the credit card company told me that the vendor was a good client and they would side with the vendor instead of the consumer unless we presented documented proof of the error.  Tip:  Credit cards no longer offer the same level of customer protection.  Do not use credit cards in foreign countries.  Use cash, or better yet, don’t purchase expensive items like jewelry in other countries.  Even in the U.S., you should be careful.

Customer Service:  Most of us have experienced the difficulty in being able to speak to a customer service person.  Worst yet, while waiting we are told by an electronic voice that “your call is important to us,” while also telling us that we will have to wait 45 minutes to talk to someone.   I am of the opinion that they tell you this in hopes that you will just give up.  I had a recent problem with an electronics store which sold me a product with missing parts.  They said I couldn’t reenter the store because of the COVID-19 virus.  I then called the store and was told I would have to wait 60 minutes, tried twice again and was told 50 minutes and 45 minutes.  When I finally got someone, they told me I had to contact the manufacturer.  Tip:  Be aware of the service provided by the store.  Many chain stores want to sell merchandise, but they don’t want to deal with problems.

      Drive-up windows in banks:  I like to do my banking inside the bank, but during the COVID-19 changes, many banks only offer drive-up windows.  These are typically designed for large SUVs and large pick-up trucks.  To reach the “call” or “send” buttons, you have to reach a foot or more above your head.  If you are in a normal car, you may have to reach even higher or open your door to use the drive-up window.  Many seniors, including me, have shoulder problems and can’t reach up.   There seems to be no accommodation for seniors with these issues.  Tip:  If you have a shoulder problem and can’t reach high up, you can go inside the bank and they will usually serve you.  Otherwise, get out of the car to reach the buttons or find a bank that is senior-friendly.

So what can we do?  First, avoid using credit cards if possible.  The original advantage of credit cards was that the issuer promised to protect you. Not anymore.  In fact, some of them even hold your payment check a day or two so they can charge you a late fee. Second, avoid chain stores since they typically consider customers to be of little value.  Instead, shop in local businesses.  They are more likely to want your business and value you as a customer.

I guess most of us like to use fast-food from national chains.  If you must go to a chain fast-food restaurant, check the order carefully when they give it to you, or make them check it.  Ask them what their policy is in correcting mistakes.

If a business usually makes you wait “forever” when you call or indicate in other ways that they do not want to make you a satisfied customer, spend your money somewhere else.  It won’t hurt them, but it will make you feel better.



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About Bill Leavitt

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Bill Leavitt is a technical writer from Valparaiso. After retiring from a large corporation in Chicago, he did technical writing consulting for many companies. He currently teaches part-time at Purdue University Calumet. You can order Leavitt’s book, “Retirement: Life’s Greatest Adventure,” by sending $16.65 (includes shipping and sales tax) made payable to Write On Technical Writing, Inc., P.O. Box 132,Valparaiso, IN 46384-0132. Or, visit for more information.

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