With mortgage rates at an all-time low, I decided it would be wise to refinance my mortgage.

When I'm in the market for something, I like to do a lot of comparison shopping. It's been an interesting six weeks of talking with banks.

Just as I was about to make up my mind and refinance with a local bank, I heard an ad for a national mortgage chain.

To protect the guilty, I won't tell you its name. I will tell you it was a harrowing experience that taught me a lesson or two.

Armed with the notebook I use to record mortgage offerings from banks, I called that national chain. The loan officer to whom I spoke sounded friendly and knowledgeable.

After taking my information and holding me on the line while she checked my credit score, she said yes, I could get the advertised rate of 2.8 percent.

There were two conditions, though. They would only accept ten-year loans and the offered rate was only good for a week.

I understand mortgage rates change every day so I wasn't thrown off by the "one week only offer." But I was concerned about the 10 year only refinance.

I told the loan officer I couldn't possibly make a decision until I ran it by my financial adviser.

She said she already had my information filled in. All I had to do was give her my credit card number so the company could process the loan AFTER I called back.

I balked at giving a credit-card number for an application fee when I wasn't sure I was applying.

She assured me it was "just getting things ready" so they didn't have to start the hourlong process all over again when I called back. Nothing would go on my credit card, she said, until I called back with a decision. She did caution me that I only had three days until Monday to decide.

After talking over the details with my financial adviser, we decided the deal wasn't for me.

I called back instantly to say I didn't want the loan.

"No problem," said another loan officer. They would be happy to end the application procedure. However, my credit card was already charged $350, I was told, and that wouldn't be refunded.

"Once we put through a credit card charge, we can't remove it," she kept saying.

I couldn't believe my ears. I asked to talk with the original loan officer who said she would not charge my credit card. Sorry, she wasn't in and wouldn't be for several days.

Meanwhile, the charge would remain.

It was then that I kept repeating the phrase that serves me well in any conflict: "Sorry, that's not acceptable."

I told her to listen to the recording of my original conversation. She would hear that I clearly said I wasn't applying until I talked with my financial adviser.

She said no problem. They were dropping the application. But I still had to pay the fee, no matter what.

I said that was out and out fraud and asked to speak to a manager.

One hour later, I was still on the phone with yet another loan officer. But no manager would come to the phone.

"I'll tell you what," said the third loan officer, "we will keep the charge on your credit card and look into it next week."

Again I repeated my refrain: "I'm sorry, that's not acceptable."

I told her I demanded to speak to a manager. After more stalling, the manager came on the line. She promised to "look into the matter next week." Meanwhile, the charge stood.

I was getting madder and madder and wanted to blow up at her. But I kept my cool and said more forcefully, "That's not acceptable."

The manager said only her boss could decide if a charge would stand. "Sorry, that's not acceptable."

Acceptable or not, it was closing time and she was going home for the weekend. I was left with a two-day headache and a resolve never, ever, to give out my credit card number to any sweet-talking, promise-making salesperson.

Monday morning, the so-called "big boss" called me back. "We're sorry for any grief this has caused you," she said. "We reviewed your initial phone conversation and saw you never authorized the charge."

That sour experience taught me to keep my cool during any conflict and to keep firm with my, "Sorry, that's not acceptable."

It also taught me to stick to local banks to avoid the sharks that are swimming in the waters.

When a male friend called to tell me the trouble he was having with a lawyer who took his money for a divorce but never initiated the proceedings, I told him he had to firmly tell the lawyer that's not acceptable.

"The lawyer acts as if he never heard of me when I call," he said.

I know my friend hates conflict and avoids it at all costs.

But it' not very difficult to politely tell someone what we are not willing to accept.

Conflict resolution doesn't have to be contentious or filled with rancor. No one wants to resolve anything if he or she is being screamed at.

But no one wants to be cheated, either. Staying calm is crucial. But so is sticking to your guns.

Repeat after me: "Sorry, that's just not acceptable."