B'stards 2.0

Exhibit A

Last Saturday night someone stole my bike pump, while my bike was parked outside the local shopping centre.  It was a matter worthy of minor bemused comment only, since said accessory was not secured to the bike using anything more robust than a piece of velcro.  In fact, I’m amazed it lasted as long as it did, and I kept meaning to detach it and carry it in my bag instead but because I am always in a rush, I kept forgetting.

Yesterday, K-man’s entire bike was stolen from almost exactly the same spot.  The thief cut through the cable-lock and made off with the trusty steed.

The police, of course, have promised to investigate but, of course, will do nothing because they have ASBOs to try to enforce and petty theft is priority number 1,247.  We know it, and they know it.  They’ve issued a ‘crime reference number’ which, as we also know, is for insurance purposes and statistics only: the sad reality is that the bike is long gone.

No persons were physically hurt in the commissioning of this crime.  However, walking to the station for a laborious ten minutes does seem rather outrageous when you are used to breezing there in three minutes.

I was somewhat trepidacious about leaving my own, slightly smaller but much dirtier, steed at the crime-scene this morning but she was still there on my return from work.  This weekend I am going to buy a good D-lock: they can stick that in their pipe and take three minutes to steal my bike instead of the 10 seconds it must have taken to purloin K-man’s.  Bastards.

Happily, the insurance company has agreed (after some cajoling) to pay up.  Here’s a good trick if you’re ever told one thing when you deal with Shite Companys ‘R Us and then are later fed some other line that’s beneficial to the company’s bottom line but craps all over you from a great height: ask them to go back and check their audio recording.

Most of the big service companies appear to be recording everything now.  If you are insistent, and can provide enough detail to enable them to track the actual call down, it can be a veritable boon.  Here’s how we’ve successfully used the strategy so far:

  1. Mortgage B’stards: denial that we were told it would be fine to move our mortgage from property A to property B without having to go through the tedious and costly full application process (only to get turned down).  Success!  We were right. A saving of 300 quid.
  2. Bank B’stards: exchange rate provided verbally for transfer of a significant amount of money from the UK to New Zealand, then different exchange rate used by the bank for the actual transfer.  Success: over 100 quid saved!
  3. Insurance B’stards: we were told that our bikes were covered outside the home, before we signed up to the policy.  Insurance company denial. Phone records reveal that’s exactly what we were told.  Success: 300 quid for replacement bike and accessories.

To use this effectively does mean doing things over the phone, which is a pain in the rectal cavity.  The alternative is to actually read the small-print on the internet but honestly, life’s too short.  Also, I believe it’s advantageous to force them to tell you in clear language and make sure you understand rather than rely on corporate, often ambiguous, standard terms and conditions leading to an interpretive argument later.

Here’s the part where I get all preachy and state some thing some of you might consider obvious.  Prepare yourselves, and if this is teaching you to suck eggs then lucky you.  But you’d be surprised how many people don’t know this, and if I help one person to beat down a crap company I am happy. Note: I do not have a legal practising certificate.  Don’t rely on everything you read on the internet.

There’s this thing called misrepresentation, and it’s Lesson 1 that we chumps ingest when we show up for legal studies.  If you want the boring details you can google misrepresentation. But, basically: you want the recording to show an unambiguous statement of fact on their part, which induces you to enter the contract.  It means having the kind of pedantic conversations that I love but that drive other people to drink.

Ask them to explicitly confirm all the things which are determinative of your decision-making, and where possible do it using closed questions which require a yes or no answer.  If you don’t understand what you’re being told, re-phrase coming from a slightly different angle, or repeat the question, and ask them again to confirm it.  For something you really care about before handing over your dosh, ask the same question twice and explicitly say something like ‘The fact that the Widget can screen calls from my mother in law and direct them automatically to voicemail is really important to me”.  If the conversation covers more than one or two key points, at the end before you hang up, summarise all the key points and ask them to confirm you’ve understood everything correctly.  Take their name.  Write the date and time of your call down somewhere if you end up spending money with them.

I’m interested to know: have you ever used the recorded call strategy?  How did you get on?

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6 Responses to “B'stards 2.0”


  1. 1 Jenn @ Juggling Life July 30, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    I have not, but I so will! You and I could make a team that would set things right for consumers everywhere.

    I am the queen of documentation and record-keeping and my biggest coup so far was to not pay the final $10,000 payment on a $100,000 remodel after I summed up (with dates, etc.) all the avoidable delays and mistakes that had been made along the way.

  2. 2 unmitigated me (m.a.w.) July 30, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    We were able to turn in a lease vehicle early and avoid the penalty for exactly this reason.

  3. 3 cardinal July 30, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    I have not used this tactic, but LOVE IT. Thank you so much for a most excellent tutorial. And kudos to Jenn on the $10,000 save. Very inspiring.

  4. 4 Suzanne July 31, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    This post is so timely for me, as I’m feeling particularly jerked around by a venue manager with whom we are trying to schedule a 2011 season for my little theatre company. This is the very reason why I prefer to use email as often as possible when transacting business, so there is a “paper trail” documenting what was said by whom and when.

    I’ve been trying to get information and availability from this woman for MONTHS. Back in February, she told me it would be $250 per performance plus labor and equipment. Then a week ago, she drew up an estimate which charged $300 per performance. When I asked when the base rental went up from $250 to $300, she said I must’ve been looking at another company’s rates (with whom we’ve had preliminary discussions about collaborating), as it’s been at least $280 from the beginning. I directed her to scroll down to the bottom of the email where the message she sent me dated Feb 8 quoted $250.

    Unfortunately, she refused to acknowledge that. And even worse, seems to have responded by apparently giving away the dates we had worked so hard to identify in May. It’s now throwing a huge wrench into what I thought was a done deal, as it impacts our ability to secure the rights for the script we want to do (you need to have the specific performance dates, in order to apply for the royalties), in addition to trying to coordinate the actors’ schedules (i.e. making sure my dream cast is still all available).

    I’ve tried calling her several times, when emails have gone unanswered, but we have yet to speak on the phone. We’ve left each other a couple of voice mails, and I foolishly erased the one she left for me. ARGH! It’s all so unnecessarily aggravating and frustrating.

    Why must people be such assholes and then try to insist YOU’RE the unreasonable one?? Why make things any more difficult than they need be? I really don’t get it…

  5. 5 Daisy August 3, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    I haven’t used that strategy, but I will consider it. Insurance is most likely to get my goat; making them use their own recorded phone calls would give them a good kick in the rear!

  6. 6 Jonathan August 15, 2010 at 11:34 am

    I’ve been relatively lucky with insurance so far – when my bike was stolen last year, they sent me a far better bike in return, and even the Police were pretty good about it (even though I realised I was on a hiding to nothing)


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