Consumer Issues, from Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans

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Life in the USA
Public Services II
Consumer Issues

Consumer Issues
These pages go into detail on the types of stores and services available in American communities, but when you live in the USA, you need to become familiar with the individual merchants you will be dealing with every day, and the ways in which you can get the best service from them. You need to become an “educated consumer.”

As a good example, it pays to become familiar with the refund and exchange policies of local merchants. Some merchants do not accept returns or exchanges, while others do so liberally. Many merchants make it clear than items purchased during special sales may not be returned or exchanged. In all cases in which you purchase something you might later wish to return, it is wise to retain the original packaging, price labels, and receipt. Be aware that many merchants allow exchanges or merchandise credit rather than cash refunds.

Another area of concern involves sales, discounts, and merchandise rebates. Wise consumers make sure they read the “small print” in advertising materials. As an example, an office supply store might give $20 off with a purchase of $70 or more, but the small print indicates this does not apply to computer equipment. A home goods store may offer a percentage off on any one item, but certain brands of cookware do not qualify. An attractive discount might only be available for an extremely limited time, or stock of the items is not adequate to meet reasonable demand. You will find many examples of this in American commerce.

Yet another area of difficulty arises when you are not satisfied with the quality of the goods you have purchased. Be careful here, since in many cases you might have to deal (long-distance) with the manufacturer rather than with the local store where you made the purchase.

Local newspapers and television and radio stations often dig into consumer issues for the benefit of their audience, letting people know where to find the real bargains, and who the problem merchants might be. The media outlets often have departments to help individuals deal with consumer complaints or issues. Local, state and federal agencies can also give valuable consumer help and advice.


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