How to Successfully Argue a Bill

There's nothing like getting over-billed. Don’t get taken advantage of; instead, fight back…politely. Follow Modern Manners Guy’s 3 tips to successfully argue a bill.

Richie Frieman
5-minute read
Episode #217

I hate bills. I realize that the only reason I am ever billed for something is because I purchased a product or service, but still…I hate bills! Still, it's a part of life and we all have to be responsible and pay our bills on time (I'm sure Money Girl can attest to this). And most of the time the person or business billing me is correct…notice I said “most” because sometimes they are wrong. Incredibly wrong. Like if being wrong was a country, my cable company would be the all mighty ruling dictator. I'm the first one to admit when I'm wrong, and so I expect others – especially companies I purchase things from – to do the same..

So before you whip out your wallet to pay that mysterious “service fee,” check out my top 3 Quick and Dirty Tips for how to properly argue a bill:

Tip #1: Stand Your Ground

My fellow Quick and Dirty Tips experts and I have talked about bullying a lot. Whether in the office, with friends and family, or even out in public, bullies are all over the place. As well, bullies are not always people, they can also be establishments or companies that put you into a situation where you feel that you have to accept something as is, rather than fighting back. We've all had to deal with someone who knows they are wrong but fails to face the facts and instead, argues in the hopes of bullying you to give in. It's always a tiring routine but that shouldn’t make you back down, simply because someone else doesn't want to face facts. I can't tell you how many times this has happened to me – be it dealing with a friend, coworker or, yes, even a bill. When you know you're right, stand up for it.

Here’s an example: A while back I was at the grocery store buying an item that was clearly marked $5. When I was rung up, the cashier charged me $7.50. Now, I know that $2.50 is not a life-changing amount, but I don’t like to be taken advantage of so I politely told her, "I believe that's actually $5, not $7.50." She looked at the item, then looked at me like I was from Mars, and replied, "I think you made a mistake." Wait a second…I made a mistake? I the consumer who picked up a product clearly marked with a $5 price tag? Could it be (and maybe this is a long shot) that you are, in fact, wrong? The cashier and I went back and forth for a while – I calmly explained why the item was the price I indicated and she held firm in her belief – until finally a manager was brought over. After a smile and a handshake, the standoff ended with the cashier admitting her error. Gotta love that feeling.

In this situation, I was not trying to pick a fight. And despite my tenure as a professional wrestler, I hate fighting! On any level. However, I had to stand my ground. I was not going to pay more for something than it really cost. Yes, it's only $2.50 but if you start going down the road of allowing those little fees get by you, that $2.50 will turn into $10, $20, or even $150.

When you have to argue a bill or fee, make sure you have the facts and stay firm. Don't lose your temper, don't get anxious, don’t justify yourself, just stay calm. Keeping calm is not only proper, but it also drives people who can't remain calm, absolutely insane! Trust me, you'd be surprised how fast someone crumbles when they know they are wrong, and resort to shouting to prove it, while the other person who is correct, simply smiles and states the facts.

Keep calm and carry on, as my friends on the other side of the pond like to say.