Please or Register to create posts and topics.

How to negotiate an unfair refund refusal: case study

Remember Casey Zander from the MBT program?

Well, I filed a dispute on July 31, 2021. And, today (August 22, 2021), he responded:

I already sensed a competitive frame because there was no "Hi, Ali" or anything. He simply went straight into shooting the shit.

And, he didn't address who he is. To me, this is a random number texting me about something that's usually discussed over email. So, at first, I wasn't even sure if it was Casey or not.

Either way, I decide to continue this conversation anyway, offering to hop on the phone.

He responds with:

I reached out to his internal team twice by booking a call on their calendar. And, they canceled on me both times (I can share the email they sent later).

You might notice I sought a more collaborative frame. Despite that, it was easy to tell he was angry and might maintain his competitive frame.

So, I did my best to leverage the framing buffet technique after his accusation. Yet, I think a more direct frame surfacing technique would've still been appropriate given the circumstances (e.g. instead of "What do you mean by that", "Why are you saying that").

His response:

Message after message, I'm slowly losing my respect for him. The emotional reaction is understandable if he's been scammed badly in the past by customers, but the unprofessionalism is annoying and makes it difficult to work with him to resolve this issue.

I wanted to address his first message that framed me as a value-taker. But, because of his tone, I needed to address the way he was speaking to me first if we were going to make any progress.

I think my approach leveraged a bit of the DESOE framework:

  • "...I don't think words like "wtf" are going to help us resolve this...": "O" or "Outcome" in the DESOE framework. Implies that respecting my boundaries will help us resolve this issue
  • "...and I don't appreciate being spoken to that way": "E" or "Enforce" in the DESOE framework. Enforces boundaries accordingly.

And, after that message, he called me twice back to back:

And, when he invested that much social effort, I started to feel like the power was all on my side.

He started to come across as desperate and I started to feel like he might not be fully prepared or equipped to handle my dispute the way his threats led me to believe.

I chose not to answer because, now, I don't want to talk on the phone. Now, I need this conversation to be documented so I can use it as leverage if I need to refile this dispute with my bank.

So, I ignore both of his calls. And, he says:

He revealed his cards a bit here. He says, "...if you don't want me to submit evidence and put this into collections, go into PayPal and withdraw the dispute so that way I get my money back...".

Usually, a dispute is pending (and the money is suspended) until the case is closed in one side or the other's favor. So, if he says he needs to get the money back, it might mean he no longer has it. And, that probably means the dispute was closed in my favor.

At least, that would explain the prompt reach out nearly a month later, anger, high social investment, and urgency.

His response after that message was:

And, he didn't respond after that final message.

So, I suppose I'll see him in 7-12 business days :).

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Thank you for sharing this, Ali.

Great case study.

Overall, he doesn't come across as too well out of this indeed -especially the neediness it comes across in getting "his" money back-.

And most neutral observers would probably side with you -but that's not to say you're necessarily in the clear from a legal point of view. No biggies though, as long as it's not a sum that puts in you heavy debt, it's all good learning experience-.

From the contract you had shared, he seemed to have an easy trigger for refunds.
So this was an incident waiting to happen.

There could be a thousand things to say.

But in the spirit of self-development, I'll be focusing more on "our" side if that's cool with you.

Some quick notes:

  • Sometimes it felt like you were talking past each other

Frame control by ignoring is great, but if one does a lot, or never bridges, then it feels like there is a huge disconnect.

People get more emotional when they feel they can't get through to others or communicate with them.

  • How come you didn't tell him you got in touch with his team?

That would have changed the interaction a lot.

  • Go assertive, skip "I'm interested in a different program"

That was the time to go assertive and honest/direct: "the program wasn't for me".

When you said that you were interested in a different program, it felt like excuse-making.
And you painted yourself into a corner: now if he offers you the program you want, it seems fair that you withdraw the dispute.

There is a similar example in PU I think.

  • After you didn't pick up, tell him you prefer to write than to text

When you don't pick up but keep texting, it feels like you're avoiding someone.

Which was the case indeed.
The issue is that it can make you come across as sneaky and/or low power.
Since some shy and fearful people avoid the phone, and since he was on the attack, you want to make sure you don't get bundled with them. And you want to make sure it doesn't get mis-read as you fearing his aggression.

Instead, you could have turned that into an advantage with some direct talk and assertiveness:

"I proposed a call early on. Now I prefer written format (if you don't mind)".

  • Reframe the "steal"

That was the crux of the matter.

Both in the communication/frame control, and at a deeper.

He feels like you're "stealing".
You think you're asking a refund for something you didn't like.

That should have been addressed more directly.

I might have gone even stronger than surfacing.
Something like:

Him: So why exactly would you steal from me:
You: That feels like misinterpreation. I asked a refund for a product that wasn't for me

Or even better, go higher with philosopher / negotiation / empathic:

You: That might be the issue. You see it as stealing. I see this as a product I didn't like, from a guy I like and admire.

And if you wanted to power move and go judge: "from a guy I like and admire. Until now, at least. I have to admit you're losing some points with all this out-of-place aggression ."

  • Frame mirroring for high-ground battle

When he frames you as stealing, that's a battle for moral high ground.

You could have done the same back on him:

You: Why exactly are you being so aggressive to a customer and subscriber

Then let him defend/deny that he's not being aggressive.
And if he doesn't defend, you stay righteous in your frame that he's being aggressive, that's not cool, and that you have no intention of accepting either the tone, or his "stealing" frame.

  • PayPal hasn't closed the dispute

JFYI, I don't think PayPal closed the dispute.

What PayPal -and some other escrow accounts- do when there is a dispute is to "block" the funds from the seller's account to ensure that the money can be returned.

I'm not sure I'm being 100% correct now, so take this with a grain of salt: if a seller has a good reputation and good track record PayPal might not block the funds. I can't remember anything ever being blocked in my account.
So that might be a sign of some turbulent past (might!)

Ali Scarlett has reacted to this post.
Ali Scarlett
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

What was the end goal?

Also, I'm missing an overarching strategy here.

Maybe there was one, but I missed it.

I didn't see the interaction moving forward towards a specific goal.

Ideally, you have some objectives you move towards and aren't just talking.

For example, in this case, it might have been:

  • Get my money back from Casey, without escalating through PayPal
  • Get my money back from Casey, and mend the relationship / end on a more collaborative note
  • Get my money back, and avoid his infamous "collection team" 🙂
  • Go for the first 3, but if he remains aggressive, then induce him into mistakes that I can leverage in case of an escalation (he did commit a few of those mistakes) 

Does the feedback so far make sense?

Ali Scarlett has reacted to this post.
Ali Scarlett
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Check for example the Airbnb example in the Machiavellian strategy new lesson.

You'll see that all my moves there are in the service of my goals:

  1. Get this asshole's money
  2. Induce him into mistakes / threats
  3. But don't back him so badly into a corner that he seeks revenge in ways that could waste anymore of my time/money/mental freedom
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Thank you for your input and feedback, Lucio.

Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on August 22, 2021, 8:40 pm
  • How come you didn't tell him you got in touch with his team?

That would have changed the interaction a lot.

The team that handles these issues is his brother, Cole Zander.

And, given how angry Casey seemed, I felt like mentioning that I reached out to his team—his brother—after he didn't resolve it would be received as blame-shifting or, at its worst, "playing victim" manipulation.

Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on August 22, 2021, 8:40 pm
  • Go assertive, skip "I'm interested in a different program"

That was the time to go assertive and honest/direct: "the program wasn't for me".

When you said that you were interested in a different program, it felt like excuse-making.
And you painted yourself into a corner: now if he offers you the program you want, it seems fair that you withdraw the dispute.

There is a similar example in PU I think.

Yea, unfortunately, the contract's terms prevent me from using that as a reason for qualifying for a refund.

E.g.

And, there are a few other sections in the contract that take away the effectiveness of that reason as well. So, I assumed that my approach was as assertive as I could've been while still having some negotiating power.

But, you're right that maybe if I would've said that "the program wasn't for me", we could've had a more productive negotiation with less "running around".

Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on August 22, 2021, 8:40 pm
  • After you didn't pick up, tell him you prefer to write than to text

When you don't pick up but keep texting, it feels like you're avoiding someone.

Which was the case indeed.
The issue is that it can make you come across as sneaky and/or low power.
Since some shy and fearful people avoid the phone, and since he was on the attack, you want to make sure you don't get bundled with them. And you want to make sure it doesn't get mis-read as you fearing his aggression.

Instead, you could have turned that into an advantage with some direct talk and assertiveness:

"I proposed a call early on. Now I prefer written format (if you don't mind)".

I thought about this.

I didn't think ignoring his call would come across as avoiding him because I had already made numerous attempts to speak on the phone at the beginning of the dispute process.

And, they ignored every one.

Still, that direct talk and assertiveness you're mentioning would've been really golden here, I'll have to keep that in mind for next time.

Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on August 22, 2021, 8:40 pm
  • Reframe the "steal"

That was the crux of the matter.

Both in the communication/frame control, and at a deeper.

He feels like you're "stealing".
You think you're asking a refund for something you didn't like.

That should have been addressed more directly.

I might have gone even stronger than surfacing.
Something like:

Him: So why exactly would you steal from me:
You: That feels like misinterpreation. I asked a refund for a product that wasn't for me

Or even better, go higher with philosopher / negotiation / empathic:

You: That might be the issue. You see it as stealing. I see this as a product I didn't like, from a guy I like and admire.

And if you wanted to power move and go judge: "from a guy I like and admire. Until now, at least. I have to admit you're losing some points with all this out-of-place aggression ."

So, it sounds like the more serious the accusation, the more direct the communication/frame control.

I was thinking about avoiding the word "I" because of something you said before:

Lucio: "David Lieberman in his book “Get Anyone to do Anything” provides a wonderful piece of advice to go with this [framing buffet] technique. And it’s that you should never use the word “I” when someone is being rude. If you do, you take ownership of the issue. Instead, you want to keep the negativity with them."

So, frame surfacing seemed like the right move.

And, I thought that I had removed his "thief" frame by addressing all of the reasons behind his frame (right after the "then call me").

But, you're right again that using a more indirect communication that way probably contributed to me remaining in that "thief" frame without realizing it.

Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on August 22, 2021, 8:40 pm
  • Frame mirroring for high-ground battle

When he frames you as stealing, that's a battle for moral high ground.

You could have done the same back on him:

You: Why exactly are you being so aggressive to a customer and subscriber

Then let him defend/deny that he's not being aggressive.
And if he doesn't defend, you stay righteous in your frame that he's being aggressive, that's not cool, and that you have no intention of accepting either the tone, or his "stealing" frame.

Damn, I didn't even notice that :D.

Yea, certainly a missed opportunity for some "moral judge" frame control.

Since I didn't deal with this, most of what I said after that "stealing" frame probably got framed as unethical because I never dealt with that initial, negative frame.


Well, I did my best. And, I'm really proud of myself for that.

It's also cool to look at how far I've come. I was methodical, patient, emotionally detached, and strategic with my responses (and, as you can see, Lucio has shown how my strategy could've been even better.)

This is still ongoing, so I'll be looking forward to taking these lessons and applying them next time around.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano
Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on August 22, 2021, 8:57 pm

What was the end goal?

Also, I'm missing an overarching strategy here.

Maybe there was one, but I missed it.

I didn't see the interaction moving forward towards a specific goal.

Ideally, you have some objectives you move towards and aren't just talking.

For example, in this case, it might have been:

  • Get my money back from Casey, without escalating through PayPal
  • Get my money back from Casey, and mend the relationship / end on a more collaborative note
  • Get my money back, and avoid his infamous "collection team" 🙂
  • Go for the first 3, but if he remains aggressive, then induce him into mistakes that I can leverage in case of an escalation (he did commit a few of those mistakes) 

Does the feedback so far make sense?

The end goal

  • Wait for my bank to close the dispute in my favor after 90 days, and mend the relationship / end on a more collaborative note
  • Wait for my bank to close the dispute in my favor after 90 days, and avoid his "collection team"
  • Go for the first two, but if he remains aggressive, then let him vent and record mistakes that I can leverage in case of an escalation
Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on August 22, 2021, 9:01 pm

Check for example the Airbnb example in the Machiavellian strategy new lesson.

You'll see that all my moves there are in the service of my goals:

  1. Get this asshole's money
  2. Induce him into mistakes / threats
  3. But don't back him so badly into a corner that he seeks revenge in ways that could waste anymore of my time/money/mental freedom

I'll have to check that out.

Thanks again, Lucio.

Transitioned has reacted to this post.
Transitioned

Ali: So, it sounds like the more serious the accusation, the more direct the communication/frame control.

That could be a general rule indeed.

Exception do apply of course, for example when accusations are public and so ridiculous that you don't need to stoop down.
But it could be a general rule indeed that the higher the intensity, the more you want to address it directly. I need to think it over more deeply though.

I was thinking about avoiding the word "I" because of something you said before

Not a bad intention.

But being rude is one thing, while framing you as a thief when that frame might stick unless you challenge it, is diferent.

So the rude in that Lieberman's quote was more referring to, for example, someone who yells at you because you dropped something.
It's not like being a "dropper of things" is such a damaging frame.
But being slapped with a "thief" frame has much larger consequences. Both for the discussion, for the relationship, and potentially even for your mental self-empowerment.

Maybe I should make a note about it in that lesson.

Overall, you did well indeed.
There were some passages where I was mentally smiling and going "yes!" 🙂

Ali Scarlett and Transitioned have reacted to this post.
Ali ScarlettTransitioned
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Short update:

Casey said I'd hear from his collections team in 7-12 business days.

It's been 26 business days and they've remained silent. Yet, they did make sure to cut all ties with me (removed me from the program and the community).

So, it seems like it's over.

And, after seeing the way Casey communicates with others, I'm happy to wash my hands and move on.

Matthew Whitewood has reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewood

Final update:

Casey removed me from the program, removed me from the community, and still took the $797 out of my bank account.

Unfortunately, there was nothing my bank could do.

And yet, I'm over it.

He seems like a great guy and I followed him for over a year, so I know his story. I know that if he only finds some great mentors (or maybe TPM 🙂 ) he could possibly reach a point of being less competitive and more open.

And, not only could that help with his business, but maybe with his life satisfaction too.

Oh well, I was cheering for you to win that one, Ali.

It would have been better to keep that money, but as you say, it's all good.

If one had been so dogged into winning this, he could have taken all the money out and closed the bank account just to make it harder for them. Or he might sue just to cost them money and energy.
But that would mean that you would also have to waste time and energy.

So your moving on approach seems far better.

Chapter closed, and onto better things (and thank you for having shared your experience).

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
Processing...