Saturday 8 June 2024

Dispute Resolution 101: Make it a reasonable and respectful appeal to their good nature

The sweet fragrance of language

Just a few hours after someone suggested that the way I write is ornate, I had to dig into the reserves of that sometimes flowery and elegant use of the English language to dispute a penalty fine and write an appeal.

As I was about to pay for a service yesterday, I found that my bank card had been blocked, a penalty fine had been applied to my account that my bank in their probably aggressive fraud checks decided was questionable, so they held up the transaction and blocked my card.

Looking up what had happened, our local transport service provider had applied a penalty charge on my card for my journey back home from the hospital, I got a bit emotional.

Banking on prudent checks

My bank sent a text message early in the morning to ask if I recognised the transaction, I knew the vendor, but I did not recognise the one-handed cash grab, something inadvertent had happened, and this was grounds for appeal.

I disputed the charge, called the bank and at the third time of asking the obsequious and unintelligent bot, it handed me over to a human being. It eventually realised, “Can I speak to a human being?” meant just that.

The bank with their layers of security and protocols lifted the pending charge but said I must contact the vendor and be ready to prove that I had done that as part of the dispute resolution process. My card was unblocked, and then I logged on to the vendor site to address the matter of penalty fares.

Circumstances are part of the story

My visit to the hospital left me a bit troubled but I also wanted to stop along the way back home to do some shopping. Using my phone, I tapped the contactless reader at the beginning of my journey and disembarked at the next stop. 

That was where I had forgotten to tap out for that journey. 30 minutes later, after doing my shopping, I was back at the same stop where I tapped in again and remembering my earlier mistake, I tried to tap again, but the system indicated I was tapping in twice.

I boarded the tram and at the following stop ticket inspectors got on and checked passengers for evidence of valid travel tickets for their journeys, my phone bleeped their device and I thought that was the situation resolved. I then tapped out at my destination and walked home. The penalty charge of £60 came 2 days later.

The scaffolding of an appeal

Thankfully, my phone records the exact times of tapping the contactless reader, with all the series of taps documented. After filling in the mandatory fields on the vendor website, these were the characteristics of my appeal and dispute.

  • I shared the circumstances and my state of mind after my hospital visit.
  • I logged every instance of using the contactless reader and agreed that I might have forgotten to tap out at the first stop out of the distraction indicative of my hospital visit.
  • I then detailed all the other encounters before appealing that these were extenuating circumstances to rescind both the penalty fine and any further proceedings related to the journeys of the said day.
  • I closed my appeal by thanking them for their understanding.

Appeal by appealing to their good nature

Now, I have seen appeals and disputes written by some rather more erudite and learned people than me, everything suggested their appeal would not be successful for many reasons. They were angry, ranting and raving about the system, projecting their superiority and emotions into their arguments, and making demands and threats.

The whole reason for an appeal is to appeal to the good nature of whoever might read your disputation. You do this respectfully knowing they have a job to do, you invite them to walk in your shoes, so they are persuaded to see things from your perspective and engage others if there is an escalation, to agree with your viewpoint.

You appreciate what they do and ask for their consideration of what you desire, a refund without dragging out the dispute, then close the appeal with thanks.

Do what works not what rankles

The art of effective communication is in the use of language and the appreciation and respect of the reader. It has worked for me in many places, at work, in business, and in my general writing, especially for formal communication. Deploy the skill deftly.

When I need to be fierce, ranting, debunking, condemning, and excoriating, that only applies to other issues where I am not seeking a dispute resolution in an appeal process.

Yes, my appeal was successful, I will be refunded the penalty charge, that is what I wanted to achieve and nothing more. The lesson is that the tap-in tap-out system works best when there are barrier gates at the entry and exit points, else, if you forget, the system is not as forgiving as you might expect.

The person who reviewed my appeal did say, “As it appears you intended to touch in for this journey, we have upheld your appeal on this occasion. We will shortly be refunding £60 to your account and recalculate your charges for the day to what you would have paid had the correct touches been made.” They came onside and were amenable to my wishes. That is what matters.

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