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You don’t always have to cut your losses when you get a raw deal.

A few years ago, my one-hour flight from Orange County, California to Phoenix turned into a six-hour ordeal, spent circling the sky and trapped on a Las Vegas tarmac for hours. By the time I arrived in Phoenix, my connecting flight back home to Kansas City had long since departed.

At Sky Harbor International Airport, I joined the long, cranky line of passengers. When I made it to the ticket counter, the agent offered a flight that left two days later, went back to L.A., had a ten-hour layover and got me to Kansas City around midnight. Then she offered an alternative. I could fly to Omaha, Nebraska that night, arrive at 1 a.m. and rent a car for the four-hour drive to Kansas City. I took her up on that offer and asked about a partial refund.

“No refunds on weather-related delays,” she grunted, and moved on to the next fiery-eyed passenger. I finally made it home the following day at sunrise. But that “no refund” policy really stuck in my craw.

Have you ever gotten a raw deal and just let it slide? You don’t have to live that way. Here’s what I did to get a refund for my botched flights, along with some tips for getting money back when things go awry.

It pays to be nice

Of course, I was angry about paying $200 for a return flight that I never received. I also resented paying for a rental car and driving all night to get home. Yet I knew that ranting and raving at some poor customer service person would get me nowhere.

Before I called, I vowed to be calm and respectful and make my case for at least a partial refund. As a result, the woman I spoke with empathized, refunded half of the airline points I’d used for the ticket and sent a voucher for rental car cost.

Tip: When asking for a refund, don’t alienate the one person who can help you.

Get to the point

Make a case for why you deserve your money back. Before I called the airline, I narrowed down my complaint. I didn’t go into how it felt to be surrounded by crying children (and a few weepy adults) while trapped on a plane for hours. Instead, I focused on the one fact that would get my money back: The airline didn’t fulfill its obligation on my return flight.

Tip: Before you contact a company about a refund, make a list of reasons why you deserve your money back. Write down points to make and how you’d like to express them. That way, you’re not as likely to derail into ranting territory, which can crash and burn any refund possibilities.

Fess up if you’re at fault

I recently paid $22 in shipping costs to a company that offered free shipping on select purchases. However, when I ordered, I didn’t notice that I needed to submit a code to receive free shipping. I called the company and explained my error, acknowledging that any refund granted would be a favor, since that charge was my own mistake. The company happily refunded the amount.

Tip: If you paid an unnecessary charge, try to get that money back by graciously admitting your part in the unfortunate transaction.

Take “satisfaction guaranteed” seriously

I recently paid $90 for an online class on writing. However, after watching nine of the course’s 22 videos, I realized the information wasn’t a fit. The company offers a “100% guarantee.” I went back-and-forth on asking for a refund because there was nothing wrong with the instruction. However, I wasn’t satisfied or enjoying the class. So, I canceled and got my money refunded. And, no, I didn’t watch all the videos first.

Tip: Don’t take advantage of money-back refunds just to get something free. However, if you’re really dissatisfied, take a business up on its written guarantee.

I wonder how many people on that flight from hell simply accepted that agent’s robotic “no refund” reply. Sometimes, you really do deserve your money back. So, ask for it. You’ll never know the answer unless you try.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

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