Just ask

A number of years ago, a friendly coworker gave me the best advice boiled down to two simple words: just ask. She even mailed me a card with those two words on it, and I pinned it to my bulletin board as a reminder. At the time I was reluctant, young, naïve, lacking in confidence; but in the intervening years I have put these words to work for me and let me tell you, more often than not, it is worth it. If you find yourself in a situation that you are not entirely satisfied with, and there is something you “wish for” that you feel would make it better, just ask. The worst that can happen, I have found, is that you are told no – which doesn’t leave you any worse off and at least you can tell yourself that you tried. And a surprising number of times you will either get what you asked for or some compromise that makes it worth the effort.

A few recent examples:

1. My son ordered an item online, and the very next day the company put up a discount offer on Facebook. He was grumbling, and I told him to write a polite email to the company explaining the situation, and ask if he could have the discount applied to his order. They did, easy as that.

2. I had a credit card that I hadn’t been using and thought I had closed out last year (had a zero balance). The company initiated an annual fee, which they probably sent literature about in the mail, but who reads that stuff?? Anyway, I didn’t recall getting a bill for the charge because as I said, I was not using the card so it wasn’t on my radar to watch for a bill. Last month I received a past-due notice and an additional fee – now I owed some $50. Instead of paying it, I called and explained situation and asked if they would waive the late charge. Well, not only did the representative waive the late charge, he transferred me to a manager who was authorized to remove the annual fee itself and close the account out properly, not costing me a penny.

3. Today was the capper. We’ve got a house, which we’ve renovated and added on to over the years. We refinanced after our last addition in 2007 when housing prices were nice and high and locked in a (at the time) good rate. The last few years have seen tremendous changes in the financial market, and while our house has lost quite a bit in resale value, I have been keeping an eye on the legal side and waiting for the winds of fate to swing back in our direction. While our interest rate is not horrible, it pales in comparision to the rates being offered today – but with the housing market upside down there is no way our house would appraise at the level needed to get one of those better rates.  I’ve asked periodically over the past couple of years if there was anything that could be done and been told no, but today I got a yes that makes it all worthwhile. New legislature put into place made it possible for us to refinance and shave two whole percentage points off our mortgage rate – without an appraisal. We had to meet some special criteria, but let me tell you — it was totally worth the time spent on the phone.

So there you have it, real-life examples of how it can pay off to spend a bit of time pursuing something you want, be educated on what is going on in the world, and have the gumption to just ask. Thank you, H, for two simple words that have made a ton of difference in my life.

About wonkydonkey

You want random? You got it. Mostly knitting and gardening, with some home improvements, pets, baking, family, and the occasional bad joke thrown in for good measure.
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3 Responses to Just ask

  1. Erica says:

    Interesting about your mortgage situation. If you’re going to knit night (or not busy this weekend sometime) I’d really like to hear about this.

    • wonkydonkey says:

      Here’s what I learned: The two main qualifiers (after being current on your mortgage / in no danger of foreclosure) are to work with the company that holds your mortgage (ours is with US Bank), and your mortgage has to be backed by Fannie Mae/Mac – which you probably won’t know until you call your mortgage company. I had no idea ours was. We are on a 30-year fixed. From there, I had to answser some general questions (how long we’ve lived there, etc.) and confirm our employment info (but we don’t have to send in new paystubs or anything). From there, they pulled our credit reports to verify that we don’t have bankruptcies and foreclosures out there. Minor things are not important, they are looking for the really big ones. That was pretty much it. I had to pay for the credit reports ($24) and an application fee ($300), but I will save more than that in my first month! They took my interest from 6.7% to 4.6% (still a 30-year fixed), a huge savings for us. The paperwork will be done via FedEx next week and an online verification session to make sure we are who we say we are, and that’s it. No tax returns, no paystubs, no appraisal, no meetings, no having to roll in other debt (except for closing costs, which should run us about $2k) – just a simple reworking of our current paperwork. I will save more than enough the first year in interest to pay the closing costs, so it’s totally worth it and should be all done in about two weeks. I’m very excited!

  2. wonkydonkey says:

    The government plan that makes this possible is called “Homeowners Affordability and Stability Plan”.

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