I am no stranger to problematic situations. Even as I grow older and wiser, I still get flustered.

This is evidenced by my recent refrigerator delivery. Or let me restate that, my scheduled refrigerator delivery. Three and a half hours into the delivery window, no fridge had been delivered. When I called the store, the service rep happily reported my install is just about complete.

Flabbergasted, I said, “There are no delivery people in my house.” The response: “I have a picture they took at your address.”

 
 

Stunned, I countered with an onslaught, “My daughter and I have been home all morning. The doorbell did not ring. My phone did not ring. My phone is working as evidenced by our call right now.”

And the rant went on. The service rep persisted, “They are delivering to you right now!”

Super-flustered, I refuted, “I have lived in this apartment for 22 years; I have two masters’ degrees from Columbia University – I know how to accept an in-home delivery. So, NO, there is NOBODY here with a refrigerator!”

Yup, I lost it. Flashing in front of me was how News-4 would report the story: Expert on annoying people gets over annoyed! I had to get this under control. That’s when I realized I know the two magic phrases to get what I want.

Phrase 1 – I’m Really Confused, Can You Help Me Understand?

Even if you know exactly what is going on, using the angle of the confused customer places the burden on the rep. Done right, this makes the ridiculousness of their statements obvious.


Asking How? When? Why? Where? appeals to the human need to be of service.


This helps the person and yourself channel the aggressiveness to a factual conversation. Asking simple questions provides valuable information for the second magic phrase.

Questions for my fridge delivery: What time was the picture taken? Which apartment did they buzz? How many calls did I receive from the delivery team? Why would I call you and say there’s no fridge if they are in the process of delivering? Can I send you a screen shot of my apartment right now?

The now super-flustered customer service rep said, “This doesn’t make sense. Let me get the delivery team on the phone and check with my supervisor.” Slam dunk.

Phase 2 – This Is a Highly Unusual Situation

Now we are all on the same page. So phrase two comes into play: “This is a highly unusual situation.” By which I mean it will need a highly unusual fix.

99% of the time, the rep utters, “Why, yes it is. This rarely happens.” Hook. line and sinker.


They just admitted I am in a special situation.


The next phrase can be, “A highly unusual situation requires a highly unusual fix!” What follows is a conversation about how I can be compensated.

It is not unusual for the answer to be no. Just respond, “That’s great, I’m not the only one to have this issue. What is the usual quick fix to get this back on track immediately?” As the stammering begins, I repeat phrase two.

My Fridge Outcome

I got 30% of the price credited back to me, delivery fee waived and extended 5-year warranty purchased on my behalf. Although this doesn’t make up for the annoyance, it did separate me from the pack and put me in the position of negotiating a solution instead of continuing my super-flustered rant.

Have you used any similar phrases when you get flustered to show you deserve special attention? How do you manage your temper when faced with irrational situations? Please share your experiences below!

Ilene MarcusIlene Marcus, MSW, MPA, is founder of Aligned Workplace. A recognized workplace expert, speaker and author, Marcus mentors business leaders to drive their agenda and build workplaces where success, inspiration, kindness and joy define the culture. Please visit her website at AlignedWorkplace.com.

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