Sometimes however, these financial woes are not your fault. Perhaps you've been charged by a company you've never heard of. Perhaps you've been billed twice for a single ATM transaction. Maybe you ordered a copy of The Family Guy, Season One online and got six copies of Ishtar. Perhaps you hired a contractor to remodel your kitchen, and instead they turned it into a third bathroom, citing the fact that it's more aesthetically pleasing that way. Whatever. Sometimes you have to dispute a charge.
The first thing you should do is try to resolve the problem yourself. This is especially important in cases where you can get in touch with the merchant. Don't recognize the charge? Give them a call. Maybe it's a company that bills under a different name than the one you're familiar with. Still being billed for the internet service you cancelled? Maybe they didn't process your cancellation yet. Only when you've determined that either 1) you didn't authorized the charge at all, or 2) you authorized the charge but for one reason or another shouldn't be held responsible for it, should you turn to the dispute resolution process for recourse. Once a dispute is initiated, it can't be cancelled.
When you want to dispute a charge, you'll have to get in touch with the bank that issued the card. The phone number is usually on the back of the card. They'll probably ask you to write a detailed letter explaining exactly what happened, and why you deserve your money back. I see a lot of letters asking for disputes, and a lot of cardholders make what we consider to be "classic" mistakes. I've put together a brief list of guidelines you can follow to avoid falling into the common pitfalls:
- "Tooken" is not a word, and its overuse makes it difficult to take your letter seriously.
- Mentioning that you're a lawyer is no more likely to win your dispute than mentioning that you're a chicken plucker. It is, however, more likely to get you laughed at if you pepper your letter with sentences like "if i dont get my mony back ill kick your ass!!!!!!!!!"
- When traveling abroad, have a good idea of the exchange rate. It may be unethical to charge $3,000 for a pack of Lifesavers (even if they're Wint-O-Green), but you're the idiot who signed the sales draft.
- If you're going to threaten somebody with eternal damnation for their moral transgressions, be sure it's not because you got stiffed at a brothel (or didn't get stiffed, as the case may be).
- On the commercial, when they say that they'll send you a new video featuring hot and naked coeds every month, and that they'll bill you for it, they're serious.
- See that clause on the contract that says they'll charge you $240.00 for early disconnection? That's not a joke.
- There is ample information in both the critical and customer reviews on Amazon.com to suggest that A Clockwork Orange is not a movie appropriate for your middle school psychology class. It is unreasonable for you to expect Amazon.com -- which receives thousands of orders a day -- to make this judgement for you, and to contact you about it.
- When the Better Business Bureau and your own brother and an exposé on the six o'clock news all tell you not to do business with a local mechanic.... don't!
- Have a look at the order form that you sent in when you purchased the guns. Do you see the word "replica?" Do you know what it means? Do you see the part where it says "great for theater productions?" Do you honestly think that someone would sell you an illegal semiautomatic weapon for $40, and that they'd be advertising in the back of a theater magazine?
- You're supposed to decide whether or not you want something BEFORE you buy it! Where did you learn to do it the other way around?! That's wrong! Stop doing it!
- Guessing that the desk clerk might be gay won't win you any points with anybody, and speculating that he has "some fag name like Mango or Billy-Dee" just makes you look like a moron.
- Nobody in their right mind takes their nine-year-old to a place called The Tuna Diver's Lounge. Also, if the sign out front says "Adults Only After 9:00 P.M." and the two of you walk in at 8:30, don't expect to stay for dessert.
- The guy on the phone didn't overcharge you out of spite because he said his name was Benito and you accidentally called him Burrito. He added an $11.00 charge because when he asked if you'd like the special cleaning kit for $11.00, you said "yes."
- If you spent the whole night in a hotel, you can't get your money back just because you found a pubic hair in your bed the next morning. The hotel provided the service you contracted, and you used it. In the future, ask to see the room and inspect it for pubic hair before you sign anything. We may request proof that you just had a Brazilian wax, but you're still not getting your money back.
I sincerely hope that these suggestions will help you with your dispute.
Colin The Dispute Resolution Guy