My wife, Barb, and I went shopping at a local department store. Barb had a store charge card in her name. When we went to check out, she presented her card, at which time the cashier advised us if I would take out a card in my name, it would save us about $20.

Although I am not in favor of having many charge cards, Barb and I decided we could buy four meals at McDonald’s (as you can tell, we have quite discriminating palates) with the savings.

We received our monthly bills from the department store, Barb paid them via two checks in the same envelope. When the next month’s statement came, we received our comeuppance. I had a $28 late fee on my account, while Barb had no late fee.

Technically, we could have had two late fees because Barb mailed the checks shortly before the due date and with the Christmastime volume of mail, the checks probably were not processed by the company in time. When calling the company to try to have the late fee deleted, one can use one of two recipes that follow.

RECIPE #1: Add much vim (energy) and vigor (strength) to the discussion. Let the person on the other end of the line know that you mean business. Their company is totally wrong and you’re disappointed in them for charging a late fee. Let the person know if he/she can’t solve the problem, you’ll have to speak with their supervisor to solve the problem in my favor.

RECIPE #2: Hold the vim and vigor and add a little honey. Speak in nice tones and add a little humor to the discussion. Once you get the party laughing, you’re a shoo-in.

Following is a summary of my discussion with Judy, representative of the department store.

“Hi Judy, my name is Jeff Hall,” (summarize the problem stated in the first paragraph).

While Judy is waiting for her computer to provide all of the information on my account, I asked her where she was located. She answered, “ Las Vegas.” “Oh perfect,” I said. “Have you been following the Jeopardy television show?” Judy replied, “No I haven’t seen Jeopardy for a while when that fellow from Las Vegas won a great amount of money.” “You know right now they are having a special tournament with the three biggest money winners on Jeopardy," I said. "One of the contestants is James Holzhauer, a professional gambler from Las Vegas.” “Oh yes,” replied Judy, “He is the one I was talking about.”

We had a discussion about a couple of other things at which time we both were laughing.

As Judy reviewed the information on the computer, she said, “Oh yes, I can delete the late fee.” “Thanks Judy,” I said. “Now, I have just one more thing you have to agree with. I’m making you my HERO of the day.” “OK,” she said and we departed with both of us laughing.

Three additional pointers:

One, always write down in a binder the name of the person you talked to, the date/time and the gist of the conversation.

Two, if you think the conversation may be a little rocky or you have talked with others in the company without any satisfaction, you should much earlier in the conversation, say you are giving him/her a chance to be your HERO of the day.

And finally, in such an easy case as the one above, if you have a good payment record with the company, the odds are on your side because they don’t want to lose your business.

Jeff Hall, Honey Brook, contributes columns to Berks-Mont Newspapers.

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