Q. I am a 54-year-old engineer at a large aerospace company. I am encountering a problem that may be faced by a lot of others in my age group.

I have received no raise at all in the course of the past three years, despite being told that my performance is satisfactory.

Because of my situation, I started to pay more attention to raises in general.

I found out that while I was being passed over, others in our company were getting 4 percent to 5 percent raises.

I also found studies that show a significant drop-off in the raises of pre-retirement engineers (ages 52 to 55).

I think we are being had because we are too old to quit and look for another job elsewhere. Don't you?

A. It's possible, but another possibility needs to be considered as well. Perhaps you haven't been honing your skills in the course of the last several years. Or maybe you have merely been reliving the same experience a number of times.

More years on the job don't necessarily make you a more valuable employee. You may be doing satisfactory work, but it is the same satisfactory work you have been doing for years.

If so, it's not unreasonable that the company doesn't want to pay more for the same work. Before you work yourself into an accusatory rage, be sure you are convinced that you are providing more value through your work each year.

Q. During the past few years, I have found an increasingly poor service attitude from many large U.S. companies.

Not only is the first-line service bad, I don't know how to reach the right people at these companies who know enough to possibly provide me with the support I need.

My problem is probably made worse because I am an entrepreneur with my own small company. From that position, dealing with larger companies is very difficult.

How can I persuade a company to spend some effort on a small customer like me?

The only solution I have found to date is writing to the president of the offending outfit.

This doesn't work all the time and is clearly not the way to build a relationship with a supplier.

A. First, a general answer. The only reason companies give poor service is because they think they can get away with it.

So fight back. Write to managers. Escalate your problem.

This will take effort and persistence. But even if you won't get satisfaction in each instance, you will be contributing to the pressure on all companies to do better.

Now, a specific suggestion. Make it very easy for someone to help you. If the task is easier, more service people will undertake to handle it.

Andrew Grove is chief executive of Intel Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif., and an author and lecturer on management. Please send questions to him in care of the San Jose Mercury News, Business News Department, 750 Ridder Park Dr., San Jose, Calif. 95190.