Pick Up the Phone and Call
The Power of Human Interaction
Before my first semester of college I was dealing with all the paperwork and details of my HOPE scholarship that would pay for the bulk of my tuition. HOPE is the state-run program that gives scholarships to students who stay in-state for college. As with most large programs, there was a lot of bureaucracy to be taken care of. Two days before it was time to start enrolling for courses for the semester I received a notice from the college that my bill for the upcoming had not been paid. After many hours of phone calls I realized that there was an issue with releasing the funds from my scholarship to the school and I needed to fill out YET ANOTHER form to make this happen. I realized hat there was no way this would be processed before my bill to the school was due and I therefore wouldn’t be able to enroll in the classes that I wanted to enroll in.
What did I do?
I drove to the school, walked into the Bursar’s office and explained the situation: I was approved for the HOPE scholarship but the money wouldn’t be released for a few days, at least. I walked out with a deferred payment date and a way to enroll in my classes even without my tuition bill not paid. While discussion my situation with the nice man in the Bursar’s office he mentioned, “It’s so great that you came in and spoke to us about this problem. So few students do that”.
My life experince has taught me that so few people are aware of the resources available to them and aren’t even aware that they can find out whether resources are available to them. Maybe it is cluelessness? Maybe it is a distrust in authority? Maybe its a feeling of hopelessness based on life experience, before they even try? Maybe its a feeling of embarrassment that keeps them from asking?
I have realized that very often, those who ask do receive. Even if they don’t receive the outcome they want, they receive information they need. At worst, they can often encounter a human being who can use some discretion to help them out of a pickle. The problem is that so few people ask!
This is why I often give this advice: Pick up the phone and call.
Stop in the office and ask to speak to someone.
Many companies and offices have online chats, emails, and online forms for you to fill out if you encounter difficulty. These can be great sometimes and very easy but if these don’t work then you have not run out of options. There are still people who can answer a phone, or who work in an office that can help you in a way that an internet bot cannot. Don’t underestimate the power or discretion that a human being can apply.
Whether it is a tuition bill that needs to be paid, a medical bill that seems insurmountable, a credit card application being denied, a utility that will be shut off, a government benefit that should be given to you but isn’t. Pick up the phone and call.
This isn’t a magic solution that will cure all your ills. No credit card company will automatically forgive all your debt even if you call and explain your situation. But they can, and sometimes do, offer you a bit of grace or a little help in getting things figured out.
Don’t be afraid of getting turned down or rejected. It might happen but you won’t be worse off. You will still be in the same situation- just this time knowing that you exhausted all your options.
5 Tips to get the most out of a phone call:
1. Be Honest but Don’t Overshare. Honesty is good and you definitely shouldn’t;t lie. But don’t share your whole life story or give too many details. People often get bogged down with the details and don’t emphasize the important facts.
- Be Polite. Remember, the person on the other end of the line is human and being nice to them will only help you, even if they are not being nice back.
- Ask to Clarify. If you don’t understand something don’t pretend that you do. Ask. Ask again. If there is a word you don’t understand- let them know. Repeat back what they said so you can be sure you understood it.
- Ask for Confirmation in Writing, if possible. Get the person’s name and ask them to either email you a confirmation or a transcript of your conversation. Alternatively, you can even ask them for an email address so you can confirm with them what you discussed in writing. Some companies may be reluctant to do this.
- Ask for Something Specific. Be clear in what exactly you are asking for. Are you asking for an extension? Are you asking to know your options? Are you clarifying something? The clearer and more specific you are- the more you can be helped.
The Liars and Dirty, Dirty Cheats of The World
There are some companies that will flat out lie to you and attempt to device you. There is not much you can do to if a company is determined to lie or cheat. Here are some options if you have been treated wrongly by a company or institution:
- Report to the BBB. The Better Business Bureau keeps track of complaints made by consumers about a company. Filing a report will probably accomplish nothing but it will help have something in writing.
- Record if you can. One party consent recordings may not be admissible in a court of law in many states but it can be helpful to have recording of the conversation regardless. You can also inform them that you are recording the conversation which may also help them be inspired to stick to the truth.
- Make notes. After each phone call and email interaction take notes about what happened. Try to include as many relevant details as you can such as: time, date, name of person, contents of conversation etc.
- Make a Stink on Social Media. Many companies are more reactive on social media (especially Twitter) as the reach is so incredibly vast. This can also help you get in touch with others who may have had the same issue and can give advice on how to handle the situation.
- Hire Legal Counsel. If it’s really worth a lot money, time, and hassle to you and you have exhausted all your other options: then it’s time to turn to the professionals. See if you can find a lawyer who can help you navigate the situation.