“My Way” was Frank Sinatra’s signature song and reflected his life’s ups and downs. But Sinatra did not have a corner on the “getting my way” market. That’s reserved for a special class of people.
Some of us simply have a knack for getting their way as if it’s almost in their DNA. I’m referring to the breed of person who always gets the best hotel rooms or parking spot, a free dinner at a restaurant when service is slower than ketchup pouring from a glass bottle, full cash back for a garment that has been worn but no longer fits, or a return in a drugstore when the lip gloss you’ve purchased and used makes your lips feel like they’re coated with glue.
It’s a talent. Those who are proficient have a script, sometimes stick to it, or alter when necessary and they can, because they are the authors of their own B.S. My late husband had this gift. He could always get a bill reduced if unfair, an appointment when he needed it, an airline agent when requested, a discount on an item or a deal, points when he lobbied for them, the best hotel rooms, great seats on planes, terrific tables at a restaurant, a good price for a car or home repairs.
Can this be taught? Learned? Is it even worth it? I am loath to confront anyone. I’d prefer to just settle—“okay, okay, that’s fine” rather than get into a war of words. I think it requires so much energy and time emailing, texting, smiling, schmoozing. So, to hone my rather lame skills in this area after I was swindled by a treadmill repair guy recently, I did some research. I asked a few people who shine in shtick how they do it. Collectively, they revealed, “It’s about being determined—not backing down--and charming in this game of wits and win.” One person said with a straight face, "People just want to please me. I'm not sure why." As a result, I have compiled a list.
- Be determined but not disarming. Your hotel room faces a parking lot and another building. You say: “This is my wife’s birthday and I wanted this hotel stay to be special.” Not: “The room is terrible and I demand a new room or my deposit back.”
- Pick only one complaint and stick to it. Do not meander. Don’t throw in the “also the room is dirty and smells of smoke. We wanted a higher floor.” Just focus on one issue to help the other person focus on one solution that will benefit you.
- Charm the other person first and establish trust. “Hi, I really like the way you handled my room reservation on the phone, but I am upset that the room has no view. What do you think you can do for me?”
- Have a decoy so the other person is not focused solely on your return or complaint. Here’s how it works. A friend brings her dog. A salesperson says: “He’s so cute. What kind of dog. What’s his name?” Pet. Pet. You say: “I want to return these pants.” She’s so busy playing with your dog that she doesn’t even look at the pants. “No problem.” Money returned.
- Avoid saying too much. Only answer the questions you are asked. When returning a pair of pants, don’t volunteer to say, “These pants were worn only once,” if not asked. Just say, “I’d like to return these.” And stick to that.
- Offer options. If your entrée is overcooked, call the manager over and suggest that he either brings you another entrée or comps you for the dinner.
- When you’ve won your case, be kind and effusive with your thanks but not too over the top because you don’t want the person to renege. And certainly, you are not looking for that person to become your next best friend.
- If you don’t get your way, there is recourse. Write a scathing review on Yelp. Post something on FB or Twitter. and hope you get your comeuppance.
By the way, I am still tangling with the treadmill repairman. I finally heard from him when I threatened to post something nasty on his FB page and on Yelp. I even called his former employer to get his address, just in case I decide to go to small claims court. If this doesn’t get him to refund my money, I will pull out the big guns namely my guy friend, a retired attorney, who has the convincing verbal skills to stop the guy in his tracks. Sadly, sometimes, it's the guy's voice that still works magic, but we women are learning to speak up and be heard.