My family has a distinct don’t-rock-the-boat approach to problems and conflict. Sometimes it’s passive-aggressive; sometimes it’s just plain passive. There are positive sides to this deeply ingrained tendency – I’m more willing to let things go, the kinds of things that in the long run do not matter and are not worth the stress because “the principle” that keeps so many people going is weak if not imaginary. The other side of that coin is being walked over and doing nothing about it. Recently, I’ve decided to change.
I know somebody who is vastly different from me in all sorts of ways. About a month ago I heard him ramble on and on about how he got hundreds of dollars in credit with an airline by calling customer service when he saw tickets he already bought later on sale – and the credit he got was more than the difference he would’ve saved. He does that frequently, whenever he can, at any opportunity, because he’s a greedy bastard with a strange gift of charm that convinces strangers, somehow, that he’s not a greedy bastard.
So when the bus system fucked me over one evening and I called to complain, my complaint got registered and a supervisor followed up a couple weeks later with a semi-explanation and an offer to send me five bus tickets via mail. I gladly accepted, and thanked this supervisor, much like how I thanked the original customer service rep for being professional and writing my bitching down.
Yesterday I got home later than usual and my internet connection wasn’t functioning. I reset the modem, router, my computer, several times in all sorts of orders, then called my provider’s tech support. They looked into my account and informed me it was closed that day. I said I never closed it. They said I needed to address this with their sales department, which closed for the day less than 15 minutes prior. It opened again at 8 this morning, so I called as early as I could, on my walk to work. It was done by mistake and they’d reconnect it within minutes. I kindly asked about compensation for the inconvenience. They said I would get the lower price offered to new customers for $20 less for six months.
The lesson I’ve learned from these incidents in the past few weeks is that I’m human, the people I’m speaking to are human, but the products and services they provide are not. If I esteem myself to expect respect from others, and reciprocate, the non-human element will be of less importance to the provider than my satisfaction as a customer. And that, my friends, is how you get dignity, good deals, and free stuff.