The only skill I've really retained since my youth is my ability to read and comprehend faster than you're average Mike. So fast that I can't stand when my BF reads over my shoulder because he occasionally whines to slow down to which I amicably respond, "Suck my fucking dick and go read on your own computer!!!" Since I have no use for this skill in real life, it serves no other purpose than to make my book-readin' hobby more costly.
But I have developed one new talent which has served me mightily just in the year 2011; I am fairly decent at getting freebies from Customer Service Representatives. This year alone I have received:
One free laptop battery (value $99) from Dell when mine crapped out, even though the battery was post-warranty
One $75 credit toward my Thunderbolt, for a total of $125 off the $250 list price (including the $50 I get off for my standard credit)
One $50 credit toward any phone my mom upgrades to
$50 off my phone bill in April because I didn't have 4G service for a day and when I got it checked out, the VZW guy lost ALL of my (free) apps
One free month of Mobile Hotspot for the month of July ($30 value)
One Bank of America Overdraft refund ($35)
Various discounts from Time Warner for being a terrible service provider and having service go out (around $100)
One free pitcher of sangria from a restaurant in Astoria ($30)
Two $60 credits toward Kindle cases - though the cases were defective so I'm not counting them in the total
All of that adds up to almost $500 worth of freebies (I'm rounding up because I know there's others that escape me now) which sounds like a pittance to some but when you're as broke as me, it's nearly a goldmine. I mean, considering I paid $500 for my and BF's portion of our week-long vacay on Fire Island, I think it's pretty gosh darn good!
I have an easy, standard system that I follow that anyone could employ:
1. Inform yourself on your issue. Google it and see if it's a known issue or if anyone has any tips for freebies. Make notes of specific dates like date of purchase, date of issue commencement, previous call dates and etc.
2. Be cordial and friendly in the beginning. No matter how furious you are (assuming it's the first time you call), this is usually the best way to start because then you establish yourself as a sane person. CSRs will write you off and hate you in the beginning if you start out all crazy screaming and whatnot and they will be more difficult.
3. Be clear what you expect from the company. Make specific demands with reasons like "I want another month of Mobile Hotspot free because..."
3. Listen carefully to what the CSR is saying because you may have to use their words against them. I frequently employ this tactic and it nearly always works because they are humans - nervous humans - and will make mistakes. And they know when it happens and resign themselves to your verbal superiority.
4. At this point (if you haven't already received an offer) feel free to become slightly irate, escalating as you deem necessary. I do not usually recommend crying although I did cry when I got my phone credits from VZW because I was talking about how I thought I deserved better from VZW as a loyal, well paying customer.
5. If you STILL haven't received anything, obviously demand a supervisor. Do not take no for an answer (unless the CSR gives in to your demands) becuase a supervisor will almost always give you what you want.
After all that, if you REALLY STILL haven't received anything you are helpless buffoon and there is no hope for you in the freebies world. Just give up and assume that you will never feel the sweet, sweet feeling of victory that comes from getting some of your hard earned money back from those greedy corporations. If, for whatever inexplicable reason, you still believe in your pathetic self and are REALLY ANGRY, The Consumerist recommends contacting executives in the company and they provide this handy list of contacts.
And good luck! I only hope that I have given you the confidence to go out there and shame some people into giving you what you deserve!