I am a magnet for paperwork problems. I am not kidding. My paperwork issues are out of control. I know I am in trouble when the person I am talking to says, “Huh. That’s weird” when looking up my information. Some examples:
- I had to get my diploma printed THREE times because they kept messing up various pieces of information. First my name was wrong but everything else was right. Then the name was right but the date of graduation was wrong. Third time = I finally have proof that I graduated on time. Phew.
- When I was applying to grad schools, I had heard back from all the schools but one. I called to see if I got in, and the administrator said,”You got in but it looks like we forgot to send your packet out to you. Unfortunately, the deadline for enrolling was three days ago so now you will be charged a $50 late enrollment fee.” Please don’t be surprised that I did not choose to attend that school.
- I sold my car and cancelled my car insurance. I got billed the next month. I called again to cancel. I got billed again. The next month, I called the corporate number instead of my agent and was told I needed to send in proof that I actually sold my car. I sent in the paperwork. They said it didn’t count because it wasn’t notarized…as if I had the option to go back in time to get the paperwork notarized. (That thump you just heard was me hitting my head against the wall). It took six months of back and forth before I stopped paying (and was reimbursed) for car insurance on a car I didn’t own. I made quite a few of the phone calls to deal with this while I was waiting for the bus. That is called unfunny irony.
- I was accepted to my fellowship eight months before it actually started. Two weeks before the fellowship I got an email saying I needed to turn in employment paperwork within 24 hours and I needed to have it notarized and overnighted. When I got that short-deadline email I was in Paris where there is an abundance of drool-inducing cheese but a painful shortage of U.S. notary services. As soon as I got home I ran all over town to send in the notarized paperwork. It turned out that the paperwork the office had provided for me was a. for 2012 and therefore expired and b. only valid for the Northern Mariana Islands. I am not joking.
See what I mean? These are only the examples that didn’t take me an hour to type up. I’m sure you have examples like this of your own (although if you do I am very concerned for America and our ability to file simple paperwork).
Unfortunately, financial management means lots of paperwork, and whenever there is paperwork there is significant potential for head-thump-inducing paperwork problems. All four of the examples above would have cost me money (in the case of the incorrect diploma- it may have cost me a future job!) and none of them were caused by anything I did. Sadly, this is common- usually someone else’s mess-up will cost you your hard earned ca$h, and that STINKS. Lucky for you, I have learned a few strategies that have helped me cope and recoup my money.
- Document your interactions. Whenever someone is promising to do something for you (cancel your car insurance, spell your name right this time) write down their name, their employee ID number, the date you spoke, and exactly what was promised. Sometimes I trust people and I forget to do this, and sometimes it bites me in the butt. If I ever have to make the same call twice, I start taking notes- but my life would be easier if I just did it from the start. This is especially useful for the cable company. I have found that cable companies tell you different things EVERY time you call. So keep calling until someone tells you what you want to hear and then write down that person’s information and use it to get what you want. Bam! Well done.
- Ask for some role reversal. The customer service representative you are speaking with (incompetent as he or she may seem) is paid to know more about the company policies than the customers. Ask them to use their expertise and put themselves in your shoes. I usually say, “I know I am not the first person in the world to have this problem. If you were me, what would you do to solve this problem?” It usually works. Don’t be afraid to be pushy (but polite) with this technique. Flatter the incompetent who is helping you and remind them that they are the expert in this situation and ask for their expert advice.
- You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. This tip feels like the exact opposite of what you want to do. You are dealing with the world’s most incapable person who has ever been given a paycheck and you are getting frustrated. I get it. But you are the only one fighting for you. If you hang up the phone, you still have the problem and no one will fix it for you. So take a deep breath and be the nicest version of yourself that you have ever been. When my sister was getting married, she was having a terrible time getting a contract from the reception venue and the coordinator was not responding to calls or emails. When she finally was able to schedule a meeting (5 months from the wedding with no confirmed location), my (understandably frustrated and worried) sister baked cookies for the coordinator and started the meeting off by thanking the coordinator for her help and support in the wedding planning (my sister wasn’t even sarcastic- truly an incredible feat). The coordinator produced a contract at the meeting and my sister and her fiancé got an even better price than they had been expecting.
Finally, stick with it. Patience is the key to victory. I have my diploma in hand from a school that remembered to accept me on time. I no longer pay for car insurance while I am taking the bus. I am legally employed at my fellowship and not in the Northern Mariana Islands. It might be painful getting there, but be persistent. I have hope that one day I will wake up and notice that I haven’t had a ridiculous paperwork problem in over a week. A girl can dream, can’t she?