Paper trails are essential

Living in New Zealand and any other Westernised country requires a lot of unwritten rules. As a daughter of two Samoan migrants who worked predominantly as manual labourers, one of my unwritten jobs was to help navigate a lot of unknown i.e. Palagi/European situations and translate them back to my parents in a way that they understood, felt respected and didn’t feel the famous migrant riff: “ripped off”.

I have watched with a mixed sense of pride and shame as both of my parents stood up for themselves in their own version of English in shops, union meetings, governmental departments and church, when they felt they were getting lied to. You didn’t want to mess with them because half of the time, you couldn’t understand their actual sentence structure. But fury is universal.

One of the many things I learned from was to keep all of your receipts for any situation. It’s something I still do, even as trees continue to be felled and the plastic of every transaction all feels so wrong on my fingers and upsets my endocrine system.

Which brings me to write about a concept that has worked well for my personality: the paper trail. As a writer, I have always felt way more at ease, expressing my opinions and thoughts on paper than having to improvise verbally, although ageing and life experience have made me care much less about that.

A paper trail means that you have written evidence of a conversation, contract, transaction, any form of communication actually happening. The police ask for it, WINZ ask for it (hell, they ask for your life history) and so should you. Or rather, you should write it down and keep records.

If you are commenting, complimenting or complaining about a service or experience, it serves you best to write it down. I’ve had many experiences of dealing with government departments, where they refuse to answer your question until you a) ask to speak to their manager and/or b) you ask for them to email you for “the paper trail”. Try it the next time you have an issue and insist on it. It’s your right.

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