Not every altercation has to end in a lawsuit. I know, I know. But hear me out. In my long spat-filled life, I’ve actually stumbled upon a few behaviors – “social skills” I think they’re called – that sometimes head confrontations off before they get to the brink. Kind of like how the U.S. avoided bombing Syria, but without the chemical weapons and teams of inspectors. Anyway, here are a few non-litigious alternatives for getting things “taken care of.”
BE NICE. One recent evening I returned to my car and spotted a) a ticket on my windshield, and b) the ticketing officer five cars further down the block. Even though it’s a truism that once these officers write a ticket, they don’t “un-write” it, I took a shot since he was young, on bicycle patrol, and not wearing those reflective glasses in which I can see myself looking like a whimpering weenie, I politely explained that it was my first time in Pasadena (appealing to his civic pride) and that it took a while to find more change for the meter (Hey, I’m a numbskull), and asked if he’d tear up the ticket.
He said “Yup,” and reached for it.
I was so stunned I involuntarily exclaimed “No Way!” And then he said, simply “You didn’t yell at me.”
That was it. He was so used to being bawled at for something that wasn’t his fault, that me NOT getting all in his face was sufficient cause to cut me a break. Aside from being unpleasant for both yeller and “yellee,” most of the time we’re screaming at the wrong poor soul anyway. The bigwig responsible for inflicting whatever misery we’re going through is likely ensconced miles away and fifty stories up. So be nice. It can’t hurt, might help. If that doesn’t work, then you’ll want to read this.
FIND SOMEONE ELSE. You have been royally screwed. The airline/manufacturer/rental company’s sheer, stupid incompetence has caused you a world of pain. You want compensation, and are arguing on the phone with a first-class dunderhead who refuses to see the justness of your complaint. You – Wait. Did you catch your mistake? You are arguing with a dunderhead. You are not there to win an argument. You want your money back. Maybe extra credit. Period. This jerk isn’t going to give it to you. Speak to Someone Else. There are two kinds of Customer Service Representatives: the “usual” kind, and The Helpful Ones.
After dealing with, and wanting to throttle the former, being transferred to the latter, who magically makes all the problems vanish, almost feels like a prayer being answered. Your job is to get to That person. Which brings us to…
SPEAK TO A SUPERVISOR. IMMEDIATELY. After being on “hold” for twenty minutes, you finally get a live agent, who, after you painstakingly explain your predicament to them, will respond, “I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can do,” which may well indeed be true, but they also knew this before you even started speaking. So then you ask for a supervisor and get exasperated explaining the whole infuriating spiel all over again. Sometimes (see “BE NICE”) the supervisor will do in two minutes what the underling insisted was “impossible” the past twenty. That’s why your first words are, “Hello. I’d like to speak to a supervisor.” The rep will invariably ask, “What is this pertaining to?” This is very important: DO NOT GO INTO “what this is pertaining to.” You will be down the rabbit hole in no time. Repeat, “I’d like to speak to a supervisor.”
Keep repeating it, like you’re a robot. Sometimes the rep will say “the supervisor will tell you the same thing.” Say, “Oooh. I’d like to hear it from them.” Sometimes the rep will claim that there is nobody up the chain to speak with. Say, “Oh, so you’re the president of the company?” If all else fails, abruptly hang up and call back. Then tell the new rep, “I’d like to speak to a supervisor.”
And if these prove futile, hey, there’s always legal action.