My mother taught me a customer-service bargaining secret that saves me hundreds of dollars all the time, but also kills me softly and slowly.
First, anytime you have to call customer service because of a grievance (airlines, electronics, utilities, especially for health insurance) you should always keep going past all the robots, record everything in writing once you get to a human (time/date/employee name and number/duration of contact), and eventually get to the highest manager you can. Once there, state your experience with the company and demand an extremely large refund/credit/adjustment (if the situation warrants such a thing, which it pretty much always does). If that doesn’t work, compile a written record and send it to someone at the company who will give you money to shut you up (generally only worth it if you’re dealing with a $700+ medical bill, in my experience).
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This works almost every time, and has netted me many airline vouchers and the like. But, again, this tactic will eat away at your soul. For example, this conversation with a customer service rep at AT&T, iterated about 12 times, eventually got me $160 off of my AT&T bill. It wasn’t even remotely worth it.
Laura: "Hello Mr. Jia Tolentino."
Jia Tolentino: "Hello, “Laura.” I have chatted with eight people today “named” “Laura” and none of them have been able to help me find my router. This is regarding U-verse account number 11—–01. I need my router, which was supposed to arrive yesterday. I am also not a Mr. but it’s fine."
L: "It looks like you may have questions about your U-Verse account. How may I help you?"
JT: "By telling me the location of my router and explaining why it is not in my house right now."
L: "I am seeing the equipment is to be shipped on 06/14/2012. For any other questions please call the orders department at 1-800-288-2020."
JT: "I don’t want to call the orders department. I called them five times yesterday. Do you have the number for the repeat-call customer center?"
L: "Yes, you may call 1-800-288-2020."
JT: "That’s the orders department."
L: "Yes, I apologize, that is the only department to call."
JT: "No it’s not, and I bet you know it’s not."
L: "I understand, I do apologize, the only number we have for you to call is 1-800-288-2020."
JT: "Do you acknowledge the existence of upper management? Can you get me to your chat manager, who may be able to disclose more detailed information?"
L: "Please call 1-800-288-2020 during your local business hours."
JT: "Please give me your employee number and put me in touch with your manager."
L: "Yes, it is LD12—G. One moment please."
L: "Hi my name is Ian. I am the manager on the floor."
JT: "Hi Ian/Laura. Thanks for helping me. I need to get back in touch with the manager who expedited my order on June 5th. Her name was LeAnn and she worked in the repeat call department."
L: "I do show that you spoke with someone on the 5th of June. We have a phone number you can call for further assistance which is 1-800-288-2020."
JT: "No. I do not need that number."
L: "1-800-288-2020 is the only number we have. I apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you."
JT: "That is absolutely not the only number you have. Do you acknowledge the existence of a separate, repeat-call customer care department?"
L: "No we do not have a separate repeat call customer care department. You can reach customer service at 1-800-288-2020."
JT: "Cool it with the number please! Also I just Googled AT&T customer support and found a hundred listings for repeat-call support staff. Ugh it’s fine; no worries bud! I’ll just call AT&T over and over again for 7 hours tomorrow and then get put through to this department that you are pretending doesn’t exist."
L: "Please call 1-800-288-2020 for further assistance. Thank you."
JT: "Don’t go, Ian! You’re the floor manager and that’s all you can do? Can you do anything to my file; can you move it somewhere, to an urgent-complaint list; can you give me someone’s extension number? There has to be some way to flag my account or something so that someone will speak to me without selecting responses from a robot list."
L: "I am not able to do any of that, but if you call 1-800-288-2020 we will be more than happy to take care of that for you."
JT: "I think I shall cancel this order."
L: "If you wish to cancel your services, please contact our customer relation specialist at 1-800-288-2020."
JT: "Haha! Good one! Wait, what’s the number again? I forgot. It’s like, 1-800 something...?"
L: "It is 1-800-288-2020. Is there anything else I may assist you with?"
Jia Tolentino just joined Twitter in order to form a more perfect union of customer-service bargaining techniques.