Morrissey was, inexplicably, correct: If there's something you'd like to try, ask me I won't say no how could I?
Okay, well, he was partially correct. I won't give you anything; nothing at all. Don't bother asking me. But, in a larger context he makes a good point: you can get just about anything you want if you're willing to ask. You certainly will never get anything that isn't offered to you without asking.
When I was younger I was very shy. Painfully shy, and utterly without self-confidence. It bled into everything I did, and it wasn't until I moved to California, met the beautiful Harper, and began having to ask questions for a living that I really re-made my self image. Prior to that I always took what was given me. In other words, I always took crap, especially as a consumer/customer.
But emboldened by both the personal confidence that came with adulthood and occupational practice, I have become an asker. I will ask for an upgrade. I will ask for a discount. I will ask for a new table, in a better location, away from the door. I will ask for clean sheets, and more towels. I will ask you to actually look instead of assuming. I will ask for a better deal, another turn, a new one that hasn't been used before. If you inform me you will not, I will then ask you to do it anyway, and I will ask the same thing of your boss upon your refusal. I will ask for just about everything other than your opinion, because I am always right. At least as long as I am a customer, that is.
And what I have found is that if you ask you shall receive. And in fact, if you go from meek consumer who doesn't want to rock the boat, to the one who's demanding-yet-polite, all sorts of perks await you.
Case in point, and the reason I was inspired to write this: Last year I bought two plane tickets to Belize for Harper and myself as a Christmas present to both of us. Then, because I am an utter jackanapes, I bailed on the trip. I had to train. I needed to work. Life was busy. Let's do it later, okay?
And so, with a few calls to American Airlines, the trip was postponed indefinitely. Instead of a trip in April, we had a voucher that needed to be used within a year. And that's where the confusion set in. Yesterday, when I tried to re-book the tickets for a January vacation, the customer service rep told me I was, essentially, toast. Actually, what she said was that I needed to use the tickets between now and December 18--the date of my original purchase. My understanding--or my misunderstanding--was that I needed to use them by April (the original date of our trip).
Like everyone else in their 30s, I'm busy. Really, really busy. I have to make plans weeks in advance. Everyone does. Harper is equally busy. Travel between now and December 18? Impossible. I was out $1300. Until I asked.
I called back, asked to speak with a supervisor. They didn't want me to, but I wouldn't take no for an answer, and kept asking to speak with a supervisor. It took me nearly half an hour of phone hell before I was able to actually speak with somebody who could help me. "Look," I pled, "here's the date that I'm planning on flying out. It's just a few weeks past the cutoff. Isn't there some way you can help me out? I can pay extra, even." (And that's a key to asking for anything in a negotiation, always offer to meet somewhere between where you are and where you want to be.)
American couldn't have been nicer. The supervisor I spoke with was impossibly helpful. "Of course we can." And she did. And so instead of being out $1300, we're planning a vacation to Nicaragua in January.