I am in desperate need of a new phone, so I headed to Best Buy with my two-year old to upgrade the phone. When we arrived the two Best Buy mobile associates were already with customers, so we took a seat in the waiting area. Waiting is my least favorite activity on the planet, so I never willingly wait longer than five minutes, but I changed my mind today and waited for 15 minutes based on the spectacle we witnessed.

Anger sharks

One of the two customers, a man in his early 50s, was extremely angry about an issue with his phone insurance policy. From what I could surmise, the customer’s phone was stolen and he believed that his insurance policy should have covered the theft, but based on the first 10 minutes of his exchange with the employee, that was not the case. When I say this customer was angry, I mean it. Cursing, shouting, looking around the room to try and draw other customers into the conversation. It was a fun spectacle to watch for a social scientist like myself and I learned a great lesson from it. Before it was over, he had talked to 4 different employees and was still shouting at them when we left.

This man was clearly trying to get something he wanted and he was going about it all wrong. If you ever need something from a customer service representative or big box retail employee, follow this advice:

  1. Be nice, polite, and clear. List your key talking points so you can clearly explain what happened and what you need.
  2. Separate your emotions from the issues. Make it clear to the employee that the issue is not fun or easy for you to discuss, but you will do your best to explain it. NEVER yell, curse, or disparage the employee. How will this help you get what you want?
  3. Know your conversational goal, or what you want to achieve from your negotiation. Say it out loud 5 times before you talk to the employee.
  4. Remember that this employee did not cause your problem. They can only solve it for you. Find a way to get them on your side.
  5. If they won’t see your perspective, or aren’t willing to budge on the store policy, politely ask to speak with someone who has more authority like a supervisor or a store manager.

The bigger scene you cause, the less likely you will get what you want. Most people will even take pleasure in not giving you what you want if you cause them stress, anxiety, more work, or make them look bad. Even though I didn’t get my upgrade, this debacle reinforced knowledge that is more important than a fancy phone:  Don’t feed your anger sharks by (a) constantly reminding yourself of your conversational goal, (b) following your plan, and (c) by being polite.