When you have a dispute, have a system for keeping careful complete records of everything that happens.
In a perfect world, we’d all live in harmony. We’d take care of each other, help out when things go wrong, and clear up misunderstandings over clotted cream and scones. Unfortunately, we live in the real world, a dog-eat-dog world. And let's be honest—it's the dog with the laser-targeted rifle and metal-tipped teeth filed to razor-sharp points who gets to eat the dog who's sitting on a park bench playing the guitar and holding a peace sign.
My friend Bernice used to have a guitar, but then she started planning her wedding. She's discovered that the words "customer service" are often a lie, and she's had to fight tooth and nail to get vendors to listen to her. Fortunately, she learns fast. She's traded her guitar for a laser-targeted rifle. We chatted recently as she was polishing her body armor, and she shared her thoughts on handling disputes. Here are 7 tips for getting your way:
Tip #1: Create a Dedicated Email Account For Disputes
Set up an email account that you will use exclusively for disputes. This email account will become your filing system. Your ISP may allow you to create several different email accounts. You can also get free accounts on Yahoo or Google or Hotmail. If you're an exhibitionist, I highly recommend choosing a service that's ad-supported, so you can sleep soundly at night, knowing that a huge corporation is scanning and analyzing your email every night. Use this email account as your master filing system for the disputes.
Tip #2: Email Yourself After Every Interaction With the Company
Bernice bought a handmade fountain pen to inscribe her invitations. While she was dotting the "i" with a smiley face, the pen exploded in a shower of ink and glitter. (Wait a second Bernice, you know fountain pens can't write with glittered ink…) It was time for that customer service call.
This is the time for your disputes email account to spring into action. Using your cell phone, smartphone, tablet, laptop computer, desktop computer, triply-redundant home server, or toaster, email yourself notes on the call.
Now the company you’re battling is not the only one with a record of the dispute. When they don't follow through on their promise to help you, you have your entire correspondence in one place—your disputes account. Since you sent the email when the interaction happened, you even have a record of the exact dates and times of each call.
Tip #3: Record the Dispute in the Subject Line
Just in case you're involved in multiple disputes, make sure every email sent to your disputes inbox contains something in the subject line that will make it easy to find all the messages related to a single dispute.