Mastery Monday – Never Say Yes to the First Offer

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The first offer in anything is simply that, an offer. It’s not absolute unless they say “firm” but even then, you can still make a counteroffer. You can choose to accept an offer, reject it or make a counteroffer. This in anything, even retail or things that seem absolute like a change fee on an airline.
If you have an issue that you think you were overcharged, charged incorrectly or the charges are unwarranted, you have the right to attempt to resolve it to what you think is fair and reasonable. For large organizations, you usually must go through several levels of authority in order to get to someone who can actually make a decision beyond the norm.

When you are dealing with retail establishments or large corporate entities, the first line you are speaking to is usually the person with the least authority and they are simply told what to do and how to do it. They are given a certain amount of authority and cannot go past that. They will tell you no, it can’t be done. Don’t take that as absolute. It can’t be done at their level, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

The next line of authority is usually their supervisor who you can ask to speak with or get them to check with. They usually have more authority, but their authority has a limit as well. If you don’t get a positive response, keep moving up the “chain of command” within the organization. This means gradually working through the authority channels until you get someone who is willing to hear you situation and resolve it.

In my experience, this usually means putting it in writing to their customer complaint department or department that handles disputes and other issues. I can tell you that pretty much 100% of the time this has produced positive results in my favor.

Here is a recent example with an airline who charged a $222 change fee for a ticket. I recently returned from almost a month in Kenya doing work with women in a slum there through my non profit (see

My son decided to go on the trip with me. I was arriving Feb 8th. He was going to arrive with a team that was coming on Feb 15th. I booked the ticket to leave Feb 14th from LAX and arrive in Kenya on Feb 15th. Neither one of received the confirmation and had to call back to ask for it. When I looked at it I noticed he was booked to arrive Feb 7th – before me! This made no logical sense and I was confused at how this error happened.
I called the airline and explained the problem. They said there was a $250 difference in the airfare price and a $222 change fee. Through some discussion they agreed to waive the difference in airfare but refused to waive the change fee. I indicated that this made no logical sense and was an error on the airlines part not my part. They checked with a supervisor who refused to remove the change fee. I paid the change fee to get the flight changed and then planned to deal with the issue with their complaint department.

Most people don’t go beyond this or don’t realize that this no is not the final answer. You can get a better deal even when it seems like no is the final answer.

I had to complete a form online and explained the situation and submitted it. It took them about a week to call me. When they did, I explained what happened and they said “we don’t usually do this but we can offer half back – $100” First I noted that $100 wasn’t half and then I explained again that this made no logical sense that I would book my son to arrive before me and that if they went back and listened to the recording they would hear my voice saying Feb 14th departure not Feb 6th. Each time they came up with a reason why they wouldn’t refund the entire amount, I repeated what I said. I added “I’m sure you have a recording of the interaction that you can go back and pull to verify.”

Finally, the person relented, and I received a check for the entire amount of $222. This didn’t happen because I’m a great negotiator. You can do this too. It’s simply a matter of making a decision about not taking no as a final response and pushing until you get to yes. Sometimes you will only get a partial yes. They could have stuck to their guns about half, but I kept pushing because this wasn’t my error, it was theirs and I shouldn’t have to pay for their error. That’s the main issue, this wasn’t my error, they booked the wrong date and were making me responsible for their error. Not fair and reasonable in my book!

Sometimes you have to keep saying the same thing over and over again until they comprehend what you are saying. In my experience, they don’t always hear it the first or even second time. It’s after I repeated that facts that pointed to their error that the tables turned and they agreed to the complete refund. It was as if they were willing to give me the refund but started with only offering half. My argument to them was logical and challenged them to prove it was my fault not theirs. They record those calls and if they go back to the call (maybe they did already and didn’t share that info) and checked it, they would hear me say the dates that should have been booked (Feb 14th departure and 15th arrival).

These things happen every single day and people end up on the losing end because they don’t know how to be persistent and fight back. This is one simple example of how to do it. I have an entire course on how to write a dispute letter and I also consult to do this for clients. If you want more info on either, send me a message at I will give you a special deal on the Negotiation Success Pack that includes the course on writing a dispute letter that will get results.

To Your Success


Eldonna Lewis Fernandez
Eldonna Lewis Fernandez
Veteran negotiation and contracts expert Eldonna Lewis-Fernandez, author of “Think Like a Negotiator,” has over 30 years of experience crafting killer deals both stateside and internationally, many in excess of $100 million. She’s currently the CEO of Dynamic Vision International — a specialized consulting and training firm that helps individuals hone negotiation skills — as well as a nationally regarded keynote speaker, session leader and panelist on the Art of Negotiation. Eldonna may be reached online at

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