Sometimes we receive strange calls. I recently asked the volunteers and staff in the office’s four Consumer Resource Centers about their most memorable consumer inquiries. They shared stories ranging from the silly to the bizarre and even grotesque.
These folks process consumer complaints – and lots of them. Washington consumers filed 25,197 written complaints with the Attorney General’s Office in 2008 – the greatest number since 2002. Complaint analysts attempt to resolve those grievances through informal mediation, without picking a side. They also answer questions on a plethora of topics from foreign lottery scams to when you have the right to change your mind about a purchase. (Hint: There’s no three-day cooling off period when buying a car.)
Here are a few of their best stories:
- A woman called to complain about an eviction notice. Her boyfriend posted the notice – addressed to only her – on the front door of their rented home with instructions to move out within three days. Since he’s not the landlord, the girlfriend wanted to know if she had to leave.
- A consumer filed a complaint about the packaging of pork and beans. He maintained that the manufacturer violated a federal law that requires the ingredients to be listed by weight. To prove this, he sent a baggie containing the pork picked from the can of beans in question. Our complaint analyst forwarded the complaint – and the pork – to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
- A Nevada man provided a work phone number as his primary contact. When an analyst tried to contact him about his complaint, a person at his workplace answered the phone with an unusually friendly greeting: “Hey, sexy!” The startled and flustered analyst said she quickly hung up. Turns out the complainant works at a strip club.
- A man was curious whether the business that placed a newspaper classified ad was “legit.” The item for sale? Marijuana.
- A consumer who complained about the brakes on his car sent along an audio tape of the squeal to prove his point. Unfortunately, it was difficult to verify whose brakes he recorded.
- A caller wanted the attorney general to please remove the large white elephant from his living room.
Coming up on All Consuming: Quotes from consumer complaints that made us chuckle.