Friday, February 22, 2008

Ten Things You Can Do to Save Money This Year: Six

6. Advocate for yourself.

  • In December, I bought a book via Half.com. The book should have arrived in two weeks. I took the time to read the rules, followed the correct procedures, and got a full refund. For an investment of about 15 minutes of my time spent searching for and reading instructions, writing e-mails to the seller and to eBay, I got all of my money back. The seller finally shipped the book, six weeks after I ordered it, but by then I had already gotten my refund. Sadly, the seller left angry feedback, which reduced my seller rating from 100% positive to 98.7% positive. Even though this buyer called me "stupid!!!!!!!!," I think it was a smart choice to go ahead and file the claim and post honest feedback about my experience.
  • In December, I also bought myself two CDs online from a yoga specialty store. They didn't arrive on time, so I began writing to the store. It took many assertive e-mails, but eventually I got both of my CDs (it took about a month), as well as two bonus CDs and my shipping refunded.
  • Last week, I went to my homeopath for a follow-up visit. He prescribed a remedy that he had told me at the last visit I could throw out because I wouldn't need it any more. The remedy cost $26 to replace. When I mentioned that he had told me I could throw mine away, he replaced it for free.
  • I switched to a new gynecologist. My new gynecologist wanted to perform a new cervical exam and pap smear (something I did not want to pay for--or experience if I didn't have to. Once a year is quite enough, thank you.) I was able to convince her to skip the procedure, even though it was protocol, by telling her I'd have my most recent exam records sent over to her office. It took about half an hour of my time to deal with the bureaucracy at the two offices--and 41 cents for a stamp--to avoid the (financial, physical, and emotional) cost of the exam.
  • I ordered a $1,000 piece of exercise equipment from Amazon.com. (Don't worry, I got it on sale for $600 and got free shipping.) When it arrived, one piece was broken. It still worked, but didn't look as nice with this piece broken. Even though I was dreading the inevitable phone tree--and also wasn't sure where to begin--I dug through the paperwork and started making phone calls. My first call was to the shipper. They were very nice--and picked up the phone right away--but directed me to Amazon. I called Amazon and got a human being right away. She was super friendly and helpful and offered to send me a whole new machine! Since that wasn't necessary, she put me in touch with the manufacturer. I navigated a phone tree, got a very friendly, helpful employee, and in three days, had the part I needed at no cost to me. It was worth the 20 minutes or so I spent on the phone and digging through paperwork to have a pristine machine. It will also help in terms of retaining some measure of re-sale value, should I decide to unload it at some point.
When advocating for yourself, it's best to be polite, but assertive. Take notes. Take names. And use the phrase, "Is there anything you can do for me?" You can also ask for specific things, such as a "courtesy discount" when you've been inconvenience, or a refund of your shipping charges if there's been a serious delay or some other shipping-related issue.

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