Photo credit: Siri
A wise woman once told me, “When you know better, you do better.”
Informed consumers have better customer service experiences because they know things that other people don’t. Here are five basics every empowered customer (especially New Yorkers) should know:
1) Paying cash at many small businesses can lower the price.
Secondly: never hurts to haggle a bit when you’re paying with Washingtons. Nowadays, cash is worth more than ever to small business owners. You can read more about their dramatic disdain for credit card purchases below.
Try this: “I can pay cash, but I only have a $10, would you take $10? (for that obscenely overpriced and poorly engineered $12.95 I <3 NY umbrella?)”
Yes, I’ve tried this and you’d be surprised how often it works. And by the way, that umbrella was an emergency purchase.
2) Not all restaurants advertise BYOB.
If you live in NYC, a good portion of your regular dinner bill goes toward liquor. And if it doesn’t, you’re not very fun to hang out with, are you? Restaurants make a killing on marked up servings of wine and booze hounds (no judgement) fall for it every time.
Typically a restaurant is only BYOB until the liquor license comes in. It’s a lesser known fact that some establishments will continue to allow BYOB if you just ask!
A surprising example: Hillstone, formerly Houston’s, which is a well-established national chain that serves 5-star food and consistently delivers impeccable service. As of this post, their NYC locations permit one BYO bottle per table and there is no corking fee.
3) “Tip in cash only” is only a suggestion.
Nail salons love this one. Some of them even make fancy little signs that they put in frames (see above) and display more prominently than those questionable licenses to practice. But when you consider that tipping as general practice is optional, it’s good to remember that you make the rules about how that exchange goes down.
As a longtime (and rather beloved) nail salon client, I will say on behalf of the technicians that it is strongly preferred you tip in cash because that money goes directly into the rightful pocket. My undercover research into this topic has revealed that many managers withhold credit card tips entirely, delay payment to the technician or withhold a percentage of the tip to cover the processing fee of the entire transaction. Total bull, right? But it happens.
That said, in the interest of enhancing your own customer service experience, if you legitimately forget to bring cash (don’t forget this), you can simply insist the gratuity be added on. Yes, they will talk about you in their native tongue. But they were doing that already, weren’t they?
4) A cab is legally required to take you to your destination (all 5 boroughs, Westchester, Nassau and Newark Airport) once you’re seated in the cab.
Slam door, ask questions later. That cabbie is taking you to Queens! Whenever a yellow taxi pulls over and shouts out the window “Where you going?” do not answer until you’re behind the partition. If you’re hailing a cab in Manhattan and plan to travel outside the borough or far uptown, jump in that puppy as soon as it slows down!
This is an important thing to know, especially if you’re new to New York or don’t take cabs often. As a customer, you also have the right to dictate the route (such as “taking the 59th Street Bridge” to avoid tolls). The Taxi and Limousine Commission is a strictly regulated entity and it’s very pro-passenger (ask any cabbie).
A complete list of taxi passenger bill of rights is available on the TLC section of NYC.gov.
5) There’s no such thing as a minimum credit card purchase.
OK, this one is almost true. It used to be (until September 2010) that merchants were posting little signs that required $5, $10 and other absurd minimums for running plastic transactions. For a long time, these signs were in violation of the merchant agreement and were reportable offenses (I often found simply stating my rights got me a begrudging swipe). But new-ish legislation makes the “$10 minimum” legit. (You can still make a scene about “$15.”)
This finance bill was a huge blow to customer rights or as MasterCard’s General Counsel Noah J. Hanft put it, “This is an incredible con job. Under the guise of helping small business, this is just a shrewd and cynical effort that ultimately harms consumers.”
So, to make up for #5, I’m offering up 10 Things You Might Not Know About Your Credit Card courtesy of The Consumerist.
What else do you know as a smart consumer? Share your tip in the comments section.