Don't let customer service reps steer you wrong

By Lifestyle and Budget Consumer Reports

When calling a company’s customer service, don’t always trust what you hear the first time. It can pay to verify.

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Case in point: Recently I rented a car and wanted to use my own E-ZPass toll transponder to avoid the $4.95 daily fee that Hertz charges for its PlatePass toll transponder, even on days you don’t go through any tolls.

So I called E-ZPass New York Service Center to find out whether I should temporarily register the rental car’s license plate to my E-ZPass account, as I was advised to do in the past.

The customer service representative told me that drivers no longer were allowed to use their own transponders in rental cars and that if I did so, I might incur a violation when I drove through a toll.

Really? Was E-ZPass now in cahoots with the rental car companies, forcing renters to pay for  transponder fees? I couldn’t believe it. So I asked to speak to a supervisor. After putting me on a brief hold, the rep told me that the supervisor said that there would be no issue using my own transponder in the rental car as long I properly affixed it to the windshield.

Since that call, I found this on the E-ZPass New York Service Center website: “Do not add rental car information to your E-ZPass account. However, you can use your E-ZPass Tag in any vehicle of the same class.”

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Shouldn’t the customer service rep have known that?

For more tips, read our customer service buying guide.

Based on my experience with E-ZPass and with other vendors and services, it's often a good idea to take what customer service reps tell you with the proverbial grain of salt, particularly if the issue is an important one.

Last year, while we were researching a report on no-receipt returns, customer service reps at two different Walmart stores told us that if we returned an item without a receipt, we could get only a gift card and not a cash refund. Yet, Walmart's policy says customers can get a cash refund if the no-receipt return is for $25 or less, which was the case for both of our returns. Similarly, reps from two Target stores gave us different answers on the maximum purchase amount we could spend on a purchase and still be eligible for a no-receipt return.

What to do

If a customer service rep doesn’t tell you what you want or expect to hear, consider asking for a supervisor or calling back to get another rep to make sure you're getting the right info, a discount, or whatever else you’re seeking. You may want to read the company's policies or list of frequently asked questions.  Or try a basic Web search with the company's name and your question, as I did to find the E-ZPass instructions for car rentals. 

—Anthony Giorgianni

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