It Pays to Call and Ask
All you have to do is ask. Whether it's getting a fair shake from a business that treated you badly or getting a little extra, picking up the phone or sending an e-mail so often pays off. But here's the thing to remember: Sometimes you have to ask more than once. If the answer is no the first or second time, try again. Ask for a manager. Hang up and try a different operator. Ask about the appeals process. Write a demand letter threatening legal action. If you are in the right, you should eventually get what you deserve.
Here are five examples of how speaking up has saved me money this year alone.
1) Credit card fees.
It's nice to have a credit card that pays miles or cash back, but the $50 annual fee most of these cards require detract from the value. In the past, it was pretty easy to get this fee waived by calling the company as soon as you saw the $50 show up on your annual statement. However, for the past two years I have had to work a little harder. The first person I spoke to said the fee could not be waived. It was not until I said, "OK, then please cancel my account" that I was transferred to a "retention specialist" who offered either to give us a voucher for a free flight or waive the fee. Personally, I think the fee waiver is a better deal since the vouchers usually have a minimum purchase price and other limitations that can make using them more expensive than taking a cheap flight.
Sometimes, you can cut the charade by just calling up and asking to speak to a retention specialist right away.
2) Buying a home.
There are obviously whole books written about how to get the best deal on a home, but one little tidbit here: Do not close the deal without asking for one more thing. Especially in this slow market.
We had negotiated hard on the sale of our home. We got the price down significantly on the condition that we not nickel and dime the sellers on the inspection. But when the inspection came back, there were significant expensive repairs that, while not emergencies, we'd want to make right away. Our agent advised us that after coming down so much on the price, the sellers were not likely to give us anything back for the repairs.
We asked anyway.
They turned down our request for them to split the cost, so I said, "OK, give us $1,000 toward the repairs and we'll close this deal today."
They did, and we did. I'm typing this from my cozy new home.
3) Home warranty.
Our sellers gave us a home warranty on the old house we bought. Some people think home warranties aren't worth much, because they have called them and been told the repair needed wasn't covered. However, it's my experience that if you keep on the company day after day, they may relent and make the repair.
Within the first few months, we had a clogged sink line. We called the home warranty company to send a plumber, and they did. The next day, water started flowing out of a hole in our basement floor, near the pipe that had just been rodded out. Yikes.
We called the home warranty company and reported the damage. They sent out the same plumber, who said they were not responsible for the leak and that the home warranty company didn't cover it because the pipe ran outside the perimeter of our home.
I called a local plumber and asked their opinion. They said the pipe stayed inside the four walls of our house.
I called the home warranty company back and got them to send a different plumber out. With this company, this second opinion process is a gamble. If the new service person says it's covered, you pay nothing, but if they say it's not, you pay the standard $55 visit fee but get nothing done.
It turned out the new plumber didn't do the work we needed. So the warranty company sent a third plumber, who said it was covered and fixed it. It would have been a $1,000 to $2,000 repair. Later, the same plumber returned to my house for yet another clogged drain and told me that technically, the warranty company shouldn't have covered the big repair! But I certainly didn't feel guilty if they made a mistake. I was completely honest with them the whole time, and persistence is not a crime!
4) Billing mistakes
I noticed that my cell phone bill included a charge for roadside assistance, which I had never ordered. Then I looked at some old bills and realized I had been charged for roadside assistance for a year!
I called the company and, despite cell phone providers' reputation for lousy service, was able to get the charge removed retroactively for the whole year. Then I found the same thing had happened on my husband's bill. When I called back, at first the agent only wanted to credit me one month's payment. But I insisted, and he went back and refunded all the payments.
5) Security deposit
OK, I haven't accomplished this one yet, but I will. When we moved out of our apartment to our new home, we gave our landlords our forwarding address "for the security deposit." Months passed and we received nothing, so we called and left them several messages. We emailed. Finally I wrote and mailed a demand letter. Again, we've heard nothing, so I'm going to have to send another copy of the letter certified mail. After that, according to Illinois Legal Aid, I'll have to file a legal complaint about this.