A serious and humorous stab at figuring this out in 3...5 short paragraphs. A friend, an experienced outdoorsman, told me a story recently - about gear he bought at a good local shop, but later had trouble with. He didn't take it back but commented to the owner a couple of seasons later. The owner (a fellow with a good local reputation) responded with "Why didn't you tell me?" and expressed his willingness to make things right.
To me, when you have a customer willing to provide feedback, and a seller who's willing to make things right, you have the best situation. But not every customer, or seller, or product is perfect. How we handle it matters, because it's a negotiation of sorts. But it can be a hard problem - to be reasonable in showing consideration for all sides. What can we do when gear fails?
Things to know/consider:
1. Any item can fail-even in an otherwise good product or from an otherwise good company. Might be a bad day at the plant, bad lot of materials, bad design, or probs after they switched producers. That doesn't make it OK when your gear fails, but helps me keep things in perspective. Good companies effectively improve their product in time. The best companies address product problems right away.
2. Anyone can have a bad day.
3. Anyone can misrepresent the truth - unintentionally; misunderstandings, or sometimes premature conclusions - not enough facts. I consider that I might not have all the facts yet.
4. Anyone can misrepresent the truth - intentionally. On the good side, these are called embarrassing incidents-they slant the tale to de-emphasize an embarrassing detail. But sometimes, they're trying to sell you a snark, a load of BS, ...you know. People in customer service roles, likely see this often. I try to keep this in mind when talking to sellers about a product problem.
Things that work, more or less:
1. Take it back right away. Provide receipts.
2. "Do you think this should happen?" Tell the owner or manufacturer what happened as factually as you can. Try to present the problem and focus on resolution. Go in with fair, realistic expectations and a plan B in case the owner's response isn't helpful (plan B: write letters, contact manufacturer, etc). Be disciplined about fairness when you analyze then describe what went wrong. A carefully thought out, rationally presented complaint should be hard to ignore. A lot of times - that's all it takes.
If the owner isn't willing to help: I don't think there's much worth doing if the owner doesn't want to help. You can: a). huff, b). puff... But most aren't going to write letters, complain to the manufacturer, or take someone to small claims court - at least for inexpensive items.
3. Piss and moan and sigh (PMS). This one is popular - and I've done this too, but as I get older, if I'm not willing to act, then it's time to move on. Life is short enough and better spent elsewhere. 'Course, sometimes there's a basis for PMS. The better job you do of sorting out the problem fairly to begin with, the more likely you're justified. If so and you want to pursue it, equip yourself with information -ask questions, talk to people, then act - write letters, call the manufacturer; organize and act.