Getting Results: Dealing with Bureaucracies

For years we have been helping our applicants deal with the red tape that goes hand-in-hand with most financial problems. Whether you are a bookseller facing a financial emergency, you are dealing with a bureaucratic mess, or merely wanting to get a company or organization to answer questions, it can be a challenge. We have compiled the following list of helpful hints to help you get the results you want.

1. Get and stay organized. Never rely on others to keep track of your papers, phone calls and correspondence. Keep copies of every paper you sign or send. If mailing important papers, send them by certified mail, return receipt requested, and staple the return card to your copy. Keep everything in a chronological file.

2. Name and number. Whenever you speak with someone by phone, do not hang up before getting his or her name, address, direct phone number and fax number.

3. Get it in writing. When given an answer that you think is incorrect, politely ask for a copy of the written authority, which will explain or justify their answer.

4. “Official policy” If this is the explanation you are given, express your doubt and ask for a copy of the written policy.

5. Go over their head. For almost every person you speak to, there is a boss or supervisor who may have a different answer to your request. Keep climbing the ladder until you get a favorable answer. If you hit a “dead end” consider contacting your congressional representative. This can often “shake things loose”.

6. Document everything. Assume that if it isn’t confirmed in writing, and it isn’t in your hands, then it doesn’t exist. This applies to things that people say have happened, will happen, and to things you have done. You never know when you will have to “prove” something that was promised.

7. Make sure you understand. If the person is not explaining things in terms you understand, make them rephrase it. No question is too basic to ask. Do not hang up or leave an office without clearly understanding what just took place.

8. Set deadlines. Don’t settle for “I’ll get back to you”. Set a definite date for a response or action. When that date arrives, write one follow-up request, stating the lack of action, setting another date. If nothing happens, then move on to another strategy. There is not point in chasing someone who has no intention of assisting you.

9. Be persistent. The bureaucrats have time on their side and hope to “wait you out”. Keep contacting them and demonstrate that you have no intention of giving up.

10. Know the pros. Keep a list of the names and phone numbers of people who are knowledgeable and have been helpful. Be nice to these people and return to them if you need help.

11. Know when to quit. There are times when you must drop your cause. Know when your determination has turned to obsession.

12. Be professional. Always be courteous, professional and honest. Your credibility is a key element in your dispute.

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