Don't let customer service reps steer you wrong

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

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.”

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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