Sid’s Sense- The Escalator: Hitting the Wall
View previous posts in this series, Sid’s Sense.
No question persistence is vital to a successful outcome in a negotiation. The relentless pursuit of a goal.
Frequently when we fire ourselves up to fight our own battles we end up hitting a brick wall. We get discouraged and give up. The closer we are to reaching the goal when we hit the wall, the more likely we are to feel defeated.
Next time you’re banging your head against the wall, remember “The Escalator.” Picture yourself in a department store with both up and down escalators, usually close to each other.
Persistence sometimes requires you to use both.
When you hit a wall and are ready to raise your white flag, don’t ignore the down escalator.
Go back to square one and start over.
Do it immediately, wait 5 minutes, or wait 5 days–whatever is needed–but step back on the up escalator from the ground floor.
Using “The Escalator” saved me from losing thousands of dollars last year. Here’s how:
We planned a family trip to the Caribbean for the 5 of us. A very special trip and maybe the last one we would take for a really long time because our kids have bosses now. We insisted that everyone plan way in advance, and we committed to picking up the tab.
After arranging flights for 5 people coming from 3 different cities, paying a deposit on the hotel, and completing reservations from dinners to ground transportation, we were all set. That is until Continental Airlines sent me a notice that the flight schedule had changed.
Checking on line I saw red exclamation points next to the changes which meant we would miss our connecting flights. In a bit of a panic, I began my mission:
Step 1: Before calling Continental, I armed myself with as much information as possible. I took notes on all available flights coming out of our 3 departure cities. I viewed all connecting flights because we needed to all arrive at the destination around the same time.
Step 2: I spoke with a Continental representative named Mina. It didn’t take long before I detected Mina’s inexperience as she kept backtracking and contradicting herself. I gave her a little time to come up with an immediate plan. Didn’t happen. I ended the conversation.
Step 3: I took the “down escalator” and started over by calling back Continental. This time I spoke with John. John seemed more competent and began exploring flights at the same time I was blurting out flight numbers I already found to help him along. He couldn’t book 3 of us together due to availability. He had to separate us and then held our new reservation. I got off the phone knowing this was not the end.
Step 4: I took the “down escalator” and called Continental a 3rd time. This time I reached Kelly.
“Kelly, you’re my third call to Continental and I need your help. Please pull up our reservation and help me get all 4 of us on this flight. Kelly, you’re my last hope and I need you to find a way. Are you good at finding creative solutions?” I say with a friendly voice.
“Let me see what I can do,” says Kelly. After a pause, “Well, it appears that flight is full. But let me check something else. Can I put you on hold?” (always a good sign:)
“I did a little more research and it appears this flight is full but there is another flight with one of our alliance partners. I think I can get all 4 of you on that one,” Kelly says with anticipation.
“Oh, Kelly, you’re the best. Make it happen, will you?” And so she did.
[Lesson: It took 3 separate attempts to get the result I wanted. The key to my success was the starting over. Just because you are repeating the same task does not mean you will get the same result. Mina and John worked for the same airline as Kelly but Kelly dug deeper and found the solution where the other two didn’t.]
The Caribbean tale doesn’t end there. Even on vacation you have to be willing to roll with the punches and react accordingly.
Our 2nd flight leg was delayed. We reached San Juan just after they closed the gates for our final flight and we were stuck there for a night.
The serenity prayer kicked in. You can’t hellraise when there are no more flights going to your destination.
To make a long story short, Continental put us up in a hotel that had stained sheets and was next to a cock fighting arena! (remember, I’m an animal lover). I hellraised with a determined smile at the hotel and ended up in a clean room.
Fast forward through our wonderful week’s vacation.
We board a little Cessna aircraft from the island back to San Juan (so small that my husband was in the co-pilot’s seat). The flight was delayed due to winds. We arrive in San Juan right after they closed the gates of our connecting flight.
“OH NO, no way am I spending another night in San Juan!” I exclaim to my family in disbelief.
I go up to the counter and plead for them to open the gate and let us on the plane still sitting on the tarmac. It is against all FAA regulations to re-open a gate after it is closed. This hellraiser was almost in tears.
Step 1: I walk away and take several deep breaths. Go down the “escalator” and re-group.
Step 2: I approach the counter a second time. The two Continental representatives remember me from the first time:).
“I understand you couldn’t open the gate for us. I know you would have if you could have because you felt sorry for me, right? Let me ask you this, if I was to get back into the states today, what would have to happen?”
[Lesson: I first start by showing understanding that they are just doing their job and following the rules. I am not angry. I also verbalize my assumption that they wanted to help me but couldn’t which will hopefully make them want to help me more now.]
One of them reply, “Cape Air, the small airline you just came off of would have to put you on another airline that is flying to the States today. They don’t do that because the delay was due to weather which is not their fault. They are a very small airline and that costs them a lot to put you on another airline.”
“Oh, I see. If you don’t ask, you don’t get, right guys? And there are 4 of us so that’s a lot of money for Cape Air, huh? Do you two think you can try to pull it off? How about giving it a try for us? Wouldn’t that be amazing if you convinced Cape Air that they should put us on another flight? Do you know if there is another flight going out soon?” I ask.
[Lesson: My strategy is to get their sympathy. I am not be angry like most frustrated travelers. I make the assumption that THEY are going to ask Cape Air for me (the counters are next to one another so I can assume they know each other). I build their confidence and desire to pull it off as a powerful duo because it makes them look good and can create an unspoken competition between the two of them. I suggest they look for the flight first so they are can go to Cape Air with solution in hand so all they need is an authorization and not the remedy itself from Cape Air. This increases the chances to get a "yes." If they give Cape Air employees work to do (find the flight), it reduces their chances of getting a "yes."]
My new found friends at the Continental counter in San Juan leave for several minutes and return with 4 FIRST CLASS tickets to Atlanta arriving in time to catch our final flight to Kansas City.
Have you ever found 50 bucks in an old pair of jeans and felt like you won the lottery?! Let’s just say this escalator blasted me to the moon!
Next time you hit a wall, don’t bang your head on it. Climb over it, go around it, and in some cases, go back to the starting line and dig a tunnel.
Get to the other side, claw your way back up, and congratulate yourself on being a FIRST CLASS negotiator!