Avoid Being Taken Advantage of, Self Help Tips for Nice People

There are times when I wonder where all the honest business people have gone? They are a rare commodity nowadays. It seems a necessity to psychologically protect oneself and be on constant guard, mentally aware and mentally alert. And I think it wise to take on an air of skepticism in order to avoid being taken advantage of, especially if you are a nice unassuming person.

I was recently in need of auto body work. The car dealership was the first place I thought to go because I had an accident in December and brought my car there in order to file an insurance claim. I worked with both the service and shop managers, primarily the shop manager who was very thorough and helpful dealing with the insurance company.

Embarrassed returning with another crunched bumper; (although this time it was minor) I exposed a more emotional side of myself. Experience has shown me that being vulnerable in certain situations leaves the door open for opportunism. The service manager greeted me and walked back outside to look at the car. He was very nice and reassuring, making light of my chagrin. I made an appointment to return and meet with the man the dealership contracts with to do body repairs. I asked the service manager if he knew other body shops he might recommend. “You can always bring the car to the other side of town where I am sure you can find someone who’ll do the job cheaper. But if you want the work done the right way I’d bring it here” he said. “You’ll probably need to rent a car for a week he added. But you’ll get the car fixed the right way.” The shop manager saw me as I was getting ready to leave. “Do you think I’ll get the car back in a week” I asked? “If you’re lucky!” he said.

Did you catch the sales pitch? I drove away feeling very unsettled. I was bothered by the derogatory references to the people and quality of work on the other side of town; getting things done cheaply. And the hook line that bugged me the most was “If you want to get the car done the right way bring it here”. Which side of town do you think  I would get taken for a ride?

A passage I read in the book The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker came back to mind. It is in a chapter titled Survival Signals and although De Becker’s focus is on self protection from violence the descriptions about behavioral tactics to gain advantage are applicable in any context.

De Becker writes, “Charm is another overrated ability. It is not an inherent feature of one’s personality. Charm is almost always a directed instrument, which like rapport building, has motive. Niceness does not equal goodness. It is a decision, a strategy of social interaction, not a character trait”.

I returned to the dealership to get the estimate. Including the cost of a car rental I was looking to pay around $1700. All of a sudden I remembered that my former mechanic had merged businesses with his father; mechanic and auto body repair. In all the years of service he provided I never felt doubts about his professional motives or his integrity. I drove there the following day and got a second estimate. He said the job would take no more than two days! He estimated the job would cost $1050… The job was completed in two days and I saved $690…

Every time I post a new blog I receive flattering comments from insurance agents and other sales people who are really just trying to market themselves. Their comments read something on the line of, “This is the best article I’ve ever read on this topic!” Fortunately I have good spam filters in place. Even listing my services on Craig’s List has brought an onslaught of nice feedback with solicitous invitations to utilize their services and double or triple my business. Here’s one from today, “Greetings, I’m interested in the listing you put up on Craig’s-list. I really like your posting, but I think your responses can be lifted absolutely once you view this…  You will see the right way to get more responses and sales on Craig’s List. Best Wishes…

What a sad state of affairs to think personal advancement and sales quotas are more important than being genuine and helping others. Is it a reflection of the times or perhaps a representation of the American way?

I feel blessed to know many honest business people like the mechanic I returned to and the man who helped me set up both my blog site and my website correctly. It took a few mishaps but I learned in the process. When you get an inkling that you are being taken advantage of take your business elsewhere. And remember flattery will get you no where unless you know and trust the source.

I welcome your comments and questions. Feel free to share a story of your own.  You can post them directly or email me at: Stephanie@of2minds.com  If you would like to learn more about me and the services I offer as a Personal Life Coach click on the Services tab in the upper right hand corner of this page: http://www.stephaniealt.com/ or visit my website: http://www.of2minds.com/

“Fine-tuning your intuition safeguards your future and opens doors to the extraordinary.”                   Stephanie Rachel Alt, MS

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  1. Scott on the Sep 29, 2010 remarked #

    Dear Stephanie: This is a very sad and troubling subject. I, too, have experienced business dealings that were far from honest. Having been in manufacturing, I’ve also experienced management. One manager said that he would fix the problems and improve the product, when we received a “big” order. As you might guess, we never received the “big” order and the “small” orders shipped with the same old problems. Sadly, money and short term gains are allowed to overshadow integrity.

  2. Stephanie Alt on the Sep 29, 2010 remarked #

    Thank you Scott for your comment. Hopefully you will trust your feelings when doing your business with others and avoid people you have a bad sense about. There are good people still out there thankfully.

  3. physical therapist on the Sep 30, 2010 remarked #

    This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I enjoy seeing websites that understand the value of providing a prime resource for free. I truly loved reading your post. Thanks!

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