It was a joyous day yesterday when my internet advertising company agreed to cancel my contract and refund my payment. Joy, Joy, Joy. I have been released. I learned a lot from the experience, some of it about internet advertising and unhealthy corporate cultures, but most of it about myself.
There is a lot I could say about the ethics of this company, and the sorry process of being tricked into a six months contract for an inappropriate advertising product. It seems that my Account Manager knowingly sold me an internet campaign that would misrepresent my professional organising business as a cleaning service. Either that or he was totally ignorant of what product he was actually selling. I think it was a case of knowing deception, because he failed to respond to polite requests for information and help in the early stages of the process, and my angry complaints in the later stage of the process when I began to realise I had been duped.
I am grateful to the case manager of my complaint because he did eventually agree to cancel my contract. However in the first instance he was extremely resistant to taking on board the specific details of my complaint and tried to bamboozle me into agreeing to cancel the contract after the six months were up, rather than immediately. I had to push my point home every step of the way.
It was alarming to realise that these two young men are working in a corporate culture that encourages them to trick people into inappropriate arrangements they don’t understand, then self-righteously hold that unethically obtained contract over them. I suspect that the fact that every conversation was being recorded “for training purposes” meant that they had to be seen to by trying every trick in the book to catch and keep me as a customer.
For the past week my mental and emotional space has been largely given over to housing a campaign headquarters to resolve this problem. I used journal writing to manage my anger and frustration, which allowed me to calm down and get on with other things during the waiting periods between complaints. I also planned each interaction beforehand, making notes about what I needed to achieve, and what strategies I needed to employ to achieve those objectives.
Since the company was slow to respond and resistant to my complaint, I chunked the process down into very small steps. For example, sending an email to cancel the contract was one step, and making sure they acknowledged receipt of that email was another step. I had to do this because I could not rely on them to do their own steps such as returning phone calls or reading and responding to emails.
Writing down what I needed to achieve was very helpful in preparing me for when I did get a phone call to discuss my problem. I was clear that the current situation was unacceptable, and they either needed to fix the problem, or cancel the contract.
The main criteria for fixing the problem was that they used an appropriate heading and descriptive text for my ad. The turning point came when I questioned the Complaints Officer on whether in fact it was possible to modify the ad to say “Professional Organiser” rather than “Cleaning Services”. It wasn’t. They don’t have the capacity to customise their ads. Even after this telling admission I still had to fight for cancellation of my contract, but they were on the back foot, and I prevailed.
I don’t like conflict. I hate being angry and frustrated. Although anger served a purpose in getting me to take action, it also made me feel bad about myself, and undermined my credibility. Anger was a necessary step in the process, but dwelling on it was not helping me or my cause. I had to give up the longing that this organisation would care about me or my interests, and the shock that they didn’t.
Instead of focussing on my anger and disappointment, I worked hard at being calm, purpose driven and persistent. Having a laser like focus on the details of the problem and what needed to happen next was a big help in achieving my desired outcome.
Although it wasn’t a pleasant experience it helped me to learn how to better manage my emotions in a challenging situation. It helped me realise that when I am clear about what needs to happen, I do have the capacity to focus the formidable power of my will on protecting my own interests.