By Betty Berry, Tue. June 1, 2010  Q: I don’t know if it is because I’m a senior, but I’m tired of receiving poor responses to problems I try to resolve. Can you make any suggestions on how to “get what you pay for?”

A: I’m sure your frustrations are shared by the general public and are not limited to senior citizens. When you find that a service or merchandise is less than acceptable, you have the right to complain.

To be effective, you need to be brief and to the point, and above all else, polite. For a good review on how to complain effectively, you should mark your calendar for the next Senior Issues seminar at the Westlake Village Civic Center.

“How to Right a Wrong — Complain Effectively and Get Results” is scheduled from 1:30-3 p.m June 9 at the Westlake Village Civic Center, 31200 E. Oak Crest Drive, Westlake Village.

The seminar will be facilitated by the senior advocates and will cover the what, why, when, how, where and who of effectively advocating for yourself when something has gone wrong.

For more information, call the advocates’ office at 495-6250.

Q: Several months ago, you had an article on volunteering with places and names to contact. I cut out the article and subsequently lost it. Would you be able to provide that information again?

A: I certainly can.

If you are 55 or older, you may might to consider volunteering your time through the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, better known as RSVP.

This program places volunteers in almost every type of volunteer position that exists.

There are three RSVP chapters in Ventura County. For more information about volunteer opportunities, contact Kathleen Tarrats in Ojai at 646-0144, Marisue Eastlake in Oxnard at 385-8023, or Cindy Powers in Thousand Oaks at 381-2742.

Q: I know to call 911 in an emergency, but I’m not exactly sure what to expect when the operator answers.

A: You will be much more effective when reporting an emergency if you know in advance what you are likely to encounter and what will be expected of you.

The dispatcher is a professionally trained person who has the responsibility to obtain necessary information and send the appropriate assistance to the scene of the emergency as quickly as possible.

The most important thing you can do is to stay calm. When you are connected with 911, you might hear a recording asking you to wait for a dispatcher. Do not hang up and attempt to place a second call. This will only delay the response time to the emergency you are reporting.

Calls to 911 are handled in the order received. If you hang up and redial, you go to the end of the line.

When the dispatcher does come on the line, explain your situation clearly and briefly. Answers to questions you are asked should be short and direct.

If the dispatcher gives you directions, follow them exactly. If this requires that you leave the phone, do not hang up. Keep the line open. When you have completed whatever you were instructed to do, return to the phone for further instructions.

Never hang up on a 911 call until the dispatcher tells you to do so.

Call 911 anytime there is an emergency. This call is free from all telephones, including pay phones. Nonemergency calls should be made to the local number provided for the agency you are trying to reach.

— Betty Berry is a senior advocate for Senior Concerns. The advocates are at the Goebel Senior Adult Center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362; phone 495-6250 or e-mail (please include your telephone number). You are invited to submit questions on senior issues.

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