My mum is the most ruthless bad*ass I know.
When I was 10, we bought a laptop. I spilled hot chocolate on it — no insurance.
PC World politely told us to f*ck off. But she refused.
7 hours of arguing later we were on the phone with PC World’s UK Manager and a £1200 refund was issued + vouchers for our next purchase!
Amazing! But that’s just the start…
She’s sued everyone who’s ever screwed her over: from big corporations like BMJ to our dodgy Irish builders…and won every time.
I’m not a big fan of ruthlessness but there are times where I wish I could summon my mum’s relentless argumentation: like haggling for refunds and negotiating lower prices.
But I don’t have 7 hours to waste at PC world, nor the balls to hysterically shout at low-level management over the phone.
So over the years, I’ve translated my mum’s more extreme “negotiation practices” into 1 simple email script.
I’ve used this one script to get a free £300 Samsung Galaxy watch, wiggle out of 2-year-long mobile phone contracts and save (literally) £1000s on subscription refunds — circumventing even the strictest refund policies.
Here it is …
Simple as it gets. But that’s why it works: we’re not whining, justifying ourselves nor pleading.
The script above is assertive, specifies clear easy-to-follow demands, and ends with the implicit threat of turning a big fan into a hater.
You can adapt the template to your situation: just switch out your complaint and desired compensation. But keep the tone matter-of-fact: here’s what happened, here’s what you need to do to fix it.
Examples & Results
Let’s take a look at the script in action, and what happens when you meet resistance.
Notion (£140 refunded)
We’d signed up to a Team account last year, for my company, but hardly used it since then.
I sent over the email, but they hit back with:
So I retaliated with:
Again, keep the tone blunt and matter-of-fact.
A full £140 refund. Thanks, Notion 😁
It’s Not About The Money
Getting refunds isn’t just about the money; it’s about the principle.
Markets don’t work if companies can overcharge, underdeliver and get away with it…
If a company hasn’t come through on their value promise, it’s your moral imperative to get your money back.
If sh*tty restaurants felt the financial consequences of serving bad food, I wouldn’t have to cross-reference Google Reviews, TripAdvisor and my foodie friends every time I want to eat out.
If sh*tty universities got hit with a £27,000 refund request for their poor teaching quality and terrible employability prep, I wouldn’t have dozens of unemployed Oxbridge grads begging me for unpaid jobs…
Being “polite” is why so many of our systems are f*cked up.
Stand up and ask for your money back!
Coach.me (£12 refunded)
So when I paid £12 to Coach.me to advertise my coaching services and I only got 1 request in 3 months (vs. 17 requests via my obscure, unpromoted personal website), I felt morally obliged to complain:
And the result:
Another £12 back. Thanks, Coach.me 😁
And it doesn’t stop there. Here are some more results from a Sunday afternoon I spent requesting refunds and asking for lower prices:
- Frame.io — £660 refunded
- Inner Circle — £40 refunded
- Freepik — £11 refunded
- Scribd — £9 refunded
- Google — £90 refunded
- Gritty Spanish — 75% discount
- Kenneth Play — £140 discount
- Adobe — £250 refund
Going back even further: EE gave me a free Samsung Galaxy Watch (RRP £300) because my phone arrived a day late, and FullStory gave me an extended 6 months free trial of their software.
Usually getting your money back is as easy as above…
But sometimes you’ll come up against evil companies whose business model relies on unused subscriptions/purchases.
Gyms, airlines, WiFi and mobile phone providers all make their money hoping you’ll lose motivation, miss your flight, or never make it past the first few gigabytes of your “unlimited” data plan.
If you wanna get your money back from these guys you need to play hardball.
First, ring up the company and ask:
Under what circumstances do you issue refunds?
(You’ll be shocked to discover how often you fit one of those circumstances.)
Then ring up a second time, later on, and state those circumstances to get your refund.
I used this technique to get out of a 2-year contract with 3 Mobile a full year early, after repeat problems with connection from my flat in Soho.
On my first call, I found out they only cancel contracts without charge when the phone contract has been totally unusable.
So on my second call, I found the corner of my flat with even worse connection than usual…and gave them a ring.
The line broke every 10 seconds, and after 5 minutes the operator was more frustrated than me.
They forwarded me to their manager, and then to their manager, and in less than 60 minutes I was out of my contract a full year early, with no cancellation fee and a now effectively free Samsung S20.
(Which I immediately sold and switched back to iPhone)
£804 saved. Thanks 3 Mobile!
Dark Magic Negotiation
Now, if none of that works…you can turn to the dark side.
I first observed this dark magic negotiation technique working with a sociopath CEO, who once forced a virtual assistant to go on strike for requesting a £0.30/hour pay raise after her workload had substantially increased overnight.
Here it is in the abstract:
And here it is in its full manipulative glory:
Look, if the company was making millions, I’d be happy to pay you. But it’s not there yet, so we can’t pay you right now.”
Part 1: “If the company was making millions, happy to pay you.”
Part 2: “But it’s not, so we can’t.”
And here it is wrestling money back from a big fat corporation:
Part 1: “If I had benefitted from your software, I’d be happy to pay for it.”
Part 2: “But I haven’t, so I can’t be expected to pay.”
It works ridiculously well because Part 1 is so damn reasonable! It’s impossible not to agree with…
“Hmmm well yes, of course that’s true!”
And then Part 2 just sounds like its inversion, so surely that must also be true!
“Well of course! I agreed with Part 1, so logically I must also agree with Part 2! Here’s your refund.”
[Of course, any trained logician will quickly spot this is is a logical fallacy]
I’ve been on the receiving end of this sort of dark magic negotiation too many times.
Use it sparingly (and for good); but more importantly, watch out for when others use it to manipulate you:
“Look, if we were in a happy relationship, I’d never have cheated. But we’re not, so how can you expect me to be faithful.”
“Listen, if this was a regular 9–5 job, I’d never expect you to pull 16 hour shifts. But we’re changing the world here, so you can’t expect normal working hours.
Said with enough confidence, the spurious logic of this dark magic negotiation technique lets people get away with virtually anything.
So watch out!
Don’t let people bully you.
Stand up and ask for what’s fair!
That goes for little things: bad food and app subscriptions.
But also big things: useless £27000 university degrees and workplace sociopaths trying to underpay or overwork you.
But more practically:
- Check your bank statement and list all the bullsh*t expenses you shouldn’t have paid for
- Use my email template and start firing out emails
- If they hit back, use the retaliation tactics.
I’d love to know your results!