Life and Money With Helaine by Helaine Olen

Getting Satisfaction When an Online Order Goes Wrong

Hi, Helaine: Here's a problem for you: While doing some holiday gift shopping online, I used my credit card and bought a sweater for myself from a small but cool clothing company. It never arrived. When I checked the tracking online, the delivery service dropped it off at the wrong address, miles from my home. When I reached out to the company, it refused to replace or refund me for the item, saying I entered the wrong ZIP code.

But here's the thing: I didn't. I checked. I entered the right address. My mom suggested I try taking my case to social media, but I'm embarrassed. Now what do I do? -- Frustrated Self-Gifter

Dear Frustrated: First, you should never be embarrassed into silence when it comes to your money. You should call the credit card issuer immediately, say you want to dispute the charge and explain why. The issuer will talk you through the process for doing so and, most likely, at least temporarily remove the charge from your bill. You will then need to send a letter detailing the dispute, and show the receipt to prove you ordered the item so that the reversal sticks. Do this ASAP.

You should also contact the attorney general and the Better Business Bureau in the state where the clothing company is located and file complaints. Besides possibly prodding the company to action, authorities should know when a company is taking consumer money and not delivering the goods.

Finally, you might also consider taking your mom's advice and mentioning the issue on social media. She's right, in a practical way. Many companies monitor their mentions online and will reach out to you privately to try to resolve an issue if you complain in a very public fashion.

But before you do all of this, contact the company in question one more time and tell it you plan to take these actions if it will not issue you a refund or a new item. Most companies don't want the black mark on their record, and will often fold when they realize you are a consumer who knows your legal rights, and you don't plan to give up.

(To ask Helaine a question, email her at askhelaine@gmail.com.)

(EDITORS: For editorial questions, please contact Sue Roush at sroush@amuniversal.com)