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Friday, April 18, 2008

Strongly Worded Letter Saves the Day--again

For anyone that has heard me speak about my 'start' in writing, you've heard of my love affair with strongly worded letters--basically, letters I write when I've been wronged. I love them, really love them, and for a few years into my writing career I had made more money off of them than I had my novels. Here's a brief recap.

*My first SWL (which could be turned into Swell, which totally works for me) was about 12 years ago after we did sweat equity (translate into blood, sweat, and tears equity) on our first house. We spent a few hundred dollars, an embarrassing amount of time, and still managed to mess it up. We did all this because we'd been promised a couple thousand dollars off our closing costs. Well, the builder fired the employee that made that promise and refused to give us the money. I was spitting mad, well, maybe writing mad. I composed a four page letter that explained, in four page detail, how they'd ripped us off, had no integrity, and were basically going to hell. My hubby thought it was a waste of time, and I agreed--but it made me feel better so I sent it. A few weeks letter I had a note of apology and over $2,000. This was likely a turning point for my writing career as I realized that words could be valuable.

*About 6 years ago my husband and I bought a timeshare. We got it because of several promises made in regard to how easy it was to use, how easy it was to let other people use it, and what an asset it would be to my husband's business through the reward options of extra weekends. All of these proved false. Our attempts to talk to our sales guy went unaddressed until I blew up and wrote another letter threatening all kinds consumer agencies that would love to hear my story. Fast forward three weeks, we received back every penny we had paid even though all I asked was to have the monthly payments stopped.

*I once found a hair in a cookie, I sent it back with a letter and received $10 in free cookie coupons.

*I once had a cereal that tasted like chap stick, I told the company and they sent me about $12 worth of free coupons.

*I paid $120 for a hair straightener (if you had my hair, you would too). It broke after three months. I had my receipt and was able to get the warranty honored. 9 months later--truly two days after my warranty expired, it broke again. I sent a letter explaining it and received a newer model replacement.

*I once bought a package of pens that had the lids not closed all the ways, the felt tips were dried out. I mailed them back with a note and received a whole gift pack full of all kinds of pens made by this same company.

*We did a company party at a restaurant/hotel and it was horrible. I sent a letter detailing this and we received a two night stay at the hotel with all meals as well as a 50% refund on what we spent on the party.

I could go on and on, I've written a couple dozen letters and 90% of them has been effective one way or another. It's not always about money, it's been about contracts, and promises, and immoral commercials. The least effective is the commercials, however some of them disappeared soon after I complained--coincidence? Perhaps, I chose to think I'm all powerful.

Soo000, about two years ago I bought a Pampered Chef Deep Dish baker. Love it. Love everything from Pampered Chef I own except for the weird rolling pin I've never figured out, although it's a dandy back massager. Anyway, I loved this deep dish baker. About a month or so ago I was cooking fish, and for the last couple minutes I set it to broil. When I opened the oven the dish had split down the middle. Luckily, the fish was still edible, but my dish was a total loss. I was very sad because, as I said, I loved this pan. For anyone that's not a homemaker or a cook that might sound strange, but I know many women with strong attachment to their cooking implements.

Well, the two pieces sat on my counter for weeks--further entrenching my sadness each time I looked at them. Pampered Chef is a great company and I have had things replaced by them in the past, but I'd always had my receipt. For some reason, I had no receipt of this pan. I looked everywhere and finally had to accept I was out of luck. Without a receipt, how could I possibly prove I deserved a replacement? However, with my lengthy track record I decided it was worth my $5 to send it back, with a letter of explanation, and see what happened.

Low and behold, yesterday there was a big box from none other than Pampered Chef. I didn't get a deep dish baker, but I did get a stoneware rectangular baking dish with the same finish as the deep dish baker. Their prices are comparable and I'm in no mind to complain in the least.

If you too would like to establish a track record of refunds, here are a few tips

*Be as nice as possible. Even if you've been wronged there is a difference between saying "To Whom it may Concern" and saying "You bulbous faced idiot"
*Keep it one page or less. I learned after the first 4 page letter than most things can be said in a page and that's all they will likely read anyway. Sometimes, admittedly, you need more than one page, but usually you don't.
*Sound professional. Write the letter on you computer, in block format, with good grammar. Don't personally attack anyone specific unless they really earned it (like the timeshare guy that made us all the lame promises)
*Be wary of making demands. Now sometimes you have to, such as demanding our sweat equity money, but most of the time leaving it up to them will get you a better return. If you ever saw the Seinfeld episode where Kramer burned himself with coffee and then agreed to the settlement as soon as they said they'd give him a lifetime supply of free coffee. He cut them off before they got to the money part of their settlement.
*Include as many details as possible, such as purchase date, attempts you've made to contact them, who you've spoken too.
*Be absolutely 100% honest. I have never attempted to hoodwink anyone into giving me something, or replacing something, or refunding something that I didn't deserve to have replaced. I'm always honest on how it broke. For examply, I broke my Mac Mouse a few months ago. I dropped it, which voids the warrenty. I took it to an Apple store and they suggested I send it back--since it didn't look broken--and just tell them it stopped working. I didn't do this. I bought a new mouse and sold the broken one on eBay for $10 (new they are $75) I admit it was hard, since I know I could have gotten away with the lie, but I didn't do it. All my letters have been sincere and I think that's made a huge difference.
*Send a thank you. When a company does take your words seriously and makes an effort to right a wrong, be sure and send them a thank you so that they know it was appreciated. Besides, being grateful is a highly underestimated gift to yourself. Acknowledge that they had the choice to ignore you and they didn't, that's big.

Anyway, I've included the letter I wrote to Pampered Chef. Some of my letters are not quite so nicely worded, but in this instance they owed me nothing since I had no reciept, so I kept it very light and complimentary. Bon Appetite.

Josi Kilpack
Address here
phone number here

Pampered Chef
One Pampered Chef Ln.
Addison, Illinois 60101-5630

April 7, 2008

To Whom it May Concern:

I’m returning my stoneware deep dish baker because, as you can see, it broke. I looked through my receipts and can’t find the show through which I bought this one. I have many pampered chef products and them, I very much liked this particular piece. I live in Willard Utah and would have purchased it through one of the shows I’ve attended in the last few years, but I can’t remember which one, let alone, which consultant I bought it through. I got it when the cranberry exterior was new and I’m hoping that there is some way I can get a replacement. Again, I realize that without a receipt I might not be able to do that, but I’m wanted to try. I was cooking some fish and opened the oven to check on it to find the dish cracked down the middle.

If I can’t get a return, well at least the pieces are out of my kitchen. Thank you for your consideration. Best of luck.


Josi S. Kilpack


Marcia Mickelson said...

I am into that kind of letter writing too. In fact, I just printed one out a few minutes ago that I wrote to a doctor that evaluated my son, and I use the word evaluted very loosely. After three months, I finally got a report. A hand-written report with fragments, messy writing, and cross outs.

Good for you on your lettes

Janette Rallison said...

Wow--the next time I have a consumer problem can you pretend to be me?

Kimberly said...

You, my dear, are seriously brilliant.

Whenever I talk about writing a letter Neil rolls his eyes. I might have him read your post when he gets home!

Jenna Consolo said...

I'm a lover of SWL's myself and have had great success with them too. I think it comes from my mother who was famous for writing Letters to the Principal. Embarrassing, but apparently it taught me to speak up! Great work, Josi!

Annette Lyon said...

There's a reason you're famous for your SWL's. You're brilliant.

Rachelle said...

Love you letters, but if you really love your stones, you have to know that you can't broil in them!! I love Pampered Chef too (I was a consultant for a few years and got everything!) and love my stones, but you are never supposed to use them on the broil setting in the oven. It heats up too quickly and the stones don't like extreme changes in temperature. Hopefully that will save one of your stones in the future. :)

Josi said...

Thank you, Rachelle, I will never broil again! I swear I never saw that on the instruction sheet, but I'm sure it was there somewhere. Thanks again.

Stacy Gooch Anderson said...

I read the essay that was published in "Mother's Wisdom" about one SWL that you were grateful no one did anything about other than to let it disappear. It was a great story and I know your mom is sooo proud of you and all that you have accomplished! It touched me because I wrote one very similar to my mom when I was 15.

Thanks for visiting my blogsite. It was an honor to have you drop by - something akin to LDS published royalty reaching out to say 'hi'.

I look forward to getting to know you better....

Stephanie Humphreys said...

I especially like writing the inappropriate commercial letters. Don't know how effective they are, but like you, I have seen a few go off the air. Makes me feel kind of powerful.

Stacy Gooch Anderson said...

Tag,'re it.

I'm looking forward to what you have to write.

The rules are at my blogsite at

Rebecca Talley said...

You are my hero. I'm so glad to see you write letters--I do too. Just wrote one to the editor of our local paper because our principal wants to take an honor away from our graduating seniors. I love that you write letters--makes me feel better because I thought I was weird and was the only one that did that (fairly regularly) :) said...

you're awesome josi!! good for you. totally agree. saying it honestly gets the point across. you don't have to be rude to get their attention. i have done it some, too. outa here, great night to you girlie, kathleen :)

Anna said...

I bought a toaster (Back to Basics) that toasts, cooks an egg, and warms up the meat all at the same time. In the instructions, it says to unplug the toaster when not in use. Also, it has a "safety" thing which doesn't let the toaster click down without something in it.

Well, my then 3 year old put the plastic meat warmer in the toaster and pushed down. It was a melted mess. I emailed the company and explained what happened. I asked if they had any replacement parts I could buy.

I got an email back saying that they would sent me a replacement part for no charge. It was even a personal reply by someone that also had young kids and understood that things happen.

Definately worth writing to a company to see what they can do. When customer service is really good, you're usually more willing to buy from them again.

Oh, and once I emailed Associated Foods and commented on something. They sent me a gift certificate for $2 toward any Western Family food items.