In the spring of 1996, I asked my wife Laura, “Would you be absolutely opposed to having one of those big screen televisions in the den?”
While she was noticeably unenthusiastic about the idea, she responded somewhat neutrally saying that no, she wasn’t “absolutely opposed.” That sounded like a green light to me. So the next day, I went out and bought a brand new 46-inch Mitsubishi big screen. As you might imagine, Laura has been much less neutral in her responses ever since.
After three months of big screen bliss, a power surge in our neighborhood caused an electrical spike, which shorted out the electronics inside the television. A loud snap and a blue flash came from behind the base unit, and our brand new Mitsubishi went dead.
Since it was still under warranty, I contacted the local service center and they promptly came out and picked it up. They estimated that it would take five to seven days to repair and return the TV, which seemed reasonable.
After seven days passed, I called the repair center to follow up. The service manager representative explained that two replacement parts had been ordered, but only one had been received. The other part apparently was on back order. “On back order until when?” I asked. The service manager didn’t know but he promised to find out and call me back. Within minutes, he called and told me the second part was back ordered until November. “November?” I was shocked! It was only May, and the thought of waiting six months to have my TV back seemed less than reasonable.
I promptly lobbed a call into Mitsubishi’s national parts department. The woman who answered pulled my order number up on her computer and confirmed that part #624537-B was indeed on back order until November. She explained that there was nothing she could do to expedite the process, since Mitsubishi parts were manufactured overseas. I thanked her for the information and then asked, “What would you do if you were in my predicament?”
“I would probably escalate this to Customer Relations,” she said.
Within seconds, I was on the phone with Mitsubishi’s Consumer Relations department in New York City. “Hello, this is Marsha,” the woman announced. “How can I help you?”
I briefly explained my predicament, and she too called up my account on her computer and confirmed once again that the part we needed was on back order for six months.
“Marsha,” I asked, “By any chance, do you have young children?”
“Yes,” she replied, “I have two boys…five and three (years old).”
“I have two daughters,” I said. (We were bonding.) Then, I explained, “Marsha, here’s the real problem. Every night, before I tuck my girls into bed, I have to explain that the reason they can’t watch a video is because daddy bought a Mitsubishi.”
“Oh no,” Marsha groaned empathetically. My comment had obviously hit close to home.
“As I see it, there are three options. Mitsubishi can either replace my television with a brand new one, remove the part in question from a brand new television and put it in my TV, or you can cut me a refund check so I can go out and purchase a Sony.”
“Mr. Freese, let me see what I can do,” Marsha said.
That conversation occurred on Monday. By Friday of that same week, our 46-inch big screen television was fully operational and back in our den. It just goes to show that when resolving a standoff, it can be much more effective to forge common ground with the person you’re dealing with, rather than getting upset and increasing the harshness of your demands.