Candy Is Dandy, But Liquor Is Quicker

Despite Joel being the actual culprit in this comic, in real life whenever the issue of, “Who will drink this ridiculous nonsense liquid?” comes up, David Willis can generally be called on to do the job. Birthday cake vodka and Mountain Dew, whipped cream vodka and Rootbeer, fan-donated Courvoisier and a few Cadburry eggs… you get the idea. He’s like a garbage disposal for… liquid garbage. Is that a thing? Oh, right. A toilet. He’s a toilet.

I used to pride myself on my ability to haggle. I was quite good at it. I was in sales for 10 years (thus the penchant for finding the best “deal”) and many of those years were spent on the phone doing various kinds of product and service support. This experience afforded me the fortunate burden of “being on the other side” of calls with people like me, looking to get something for nothing (or, more accurately, “Something for less than other people typically pay.”). The upside to this was the knowledge that the people “on the other side” can usually sweeten deals, give freebies and remove fees if they feel like. I had those options in my jobs, so I knew they did as well. The downside was dealing with the me’s of the world that KNEW I could sweeten the deal, and instead of just being pleasant or engaging or interesting, thus AFFORDING them whatever special treatment I was able to provide, they  called me out on it and DEMANDED special treatment just because it was possible within the realm of human experience. Well, if every confident dickhead got special treatment, it wouldn’t be very special would it? My time in sales and on the phones follows a very close bell curve of the increase and decline in my interest in haggling. It’s dirty business and a horrific amount of unnecessary effort and frustration in the grand scheme. I prefer to look for good deals online rather than cause other humans the distress of having to deal with people who are “in the know.”


I can still turn on my phone skills when the need arrises. Those who have “served time” with a headset in a cubicle know what I mean. My daughter heard me recently on the phone with some company that we pay for some sort of service or other, and she commented, “Daddy! You sound like a TV guy!”

COMMENTERS: Have you ever talked your way out of being charged for something that you TOTALLY should have been charged for?

ALTERNATELY: Do you have any useful skills that you acquired from a job or experience that you hated? 

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  1. Just today I got a $90 refund off a hotel room I stayed in a week or so ago because of a stain on a towel I didn't even need to use! Holiday Inn, man, they will refund your visit so fast if everything wasn't pristine.

    • I work at a hotel, yes we will refund your room if everything was not perfect. Then next time you want to stay we willl remember the guy that complained about a tiny stain on one of the 50000 towel we have, and we we be full the night you want to stay 🙂

  2. Encyclopedic knowledge of the aisles of my local grocery store. Especially the weird things. Pine Nuts? Aisle 4. Quinoa? Aisle 1. Aloe Juice? Aisle 9.

    • I've had this same disease. Whenever I know how a place or a product works and I'm AT that place or a place where they sell that product, I have to fight the urge to help people like I work there.

      • I also use to face the shelves. Now wherever I go I'm bothered by disorganized shelves. This never bothered me before that job. It's a curse.

  3. I don't think I've talked my way out being charged for anything. But I did talk the Best Buy customer service folks into going way out of their way so I could get the mp3 player I wanted. Mine broke but it was under warranty so they would replace it. But their rules said it could only be swapped for something they had in the store, all of which had substantially smaller storage space than the one that broke. I managed to get them to "exchange" mine for something in the store, fiddle with its price so it would match the broken one, then return that brand spanking new one for a gift card. The gift card I could use on-line to get what I actually wanted.

    I can't think of anything useful from jobs I've hated but I do have some of dubious use from jobs I liked. My first job was at the library, haven't worked there for more than 15 years, but I can still alphabetize books ridiculously quickly. I also have a really hard time NOT straightening shelves in bookstores/libraries.

    I've worked in TV news (newscast director) since then. I can add/subtract minutes & seconds without really thinking about it. And I can reliably count down a minute by seconds without a clock. Which is really not useful anywhere outside of TV land.

    • Actually, being able to count down from a minute by seconds without a clock can be really handy for high-temperature cooking, especially grilling.

      • Ya know, I hadn't even thought about cooking. But you're right. I do use that skill every once in a while in the kitchen. I haven't ever grilled, but I have a couple ice cream recipes that require whisking the base while it boils for 30 seconds. I've always just counted it off in my head. And it was apparently so automatic that it didn't register that I did it!

    • From my 3 years at Best Buy, almost everyone I worked with was super happy to take care of you in instances like that. Especially if you present your case reasonably and respectfully.

      I remember once I was helping a young man and his mom with their defective camera, which had the protection plan on it. The POS system wouldn't let me do anything but send it to our camera repair place, which is a 2-4 week process to get your camera back. But they tell me he's leaving tomorrow to go to South America for his LDS mission, they didn't realize it would take so long or they wouldn't have put it off, etc. So I told a manager I needed an override, got an exception return done, and got the kid a brand new camera.

  4. I worked as a collection agent for 8 months, a big part of that job is getting people to promise to send or bring in money immediately. I learned when people say "I'll try", they are saying no. If you ask them directly, "Will you do this" (Will you or won't you), and they say "Yes", then they have committed and are most likely to follow through. So I'm more direct and pay attention to people's language when I am trying to get results.

    Other byproduct/skill from that stressful job – I got more careful with money, reading contracts, and avoid carrying debt except for the mortgage.

    • OMG 100% YES. I worked giving mortgages to people with no credit (which DIRECTLY led to the financial crisis of 2008) for a year or so and it was basically a crash course in how important it is to maintain your credit and the top ways that people ruin it.
      #1: Too much credit card debt for shit you don't need
      #2: Medical bills (usually unavoidable)
      #3: Cashing in the equity in their homes with quick fix, adjustable rate mortgage refinances (the thing I was trained to convince them they needed), so that they always owed more than their house was worth
      #3.5 Getting too much house for their needs just because they could get qualified for a super low rate mortgage (another thing my company was ALL ABOUT). A guy making $29K does not need a $400,000 house.
      #4: Getting too much car and getting it repossessed.

      The biggest lesson was NEVER think short term where your credit/finances are concerned.

  5. In my line of work.. high end customer service… we run into those who appreciate service.. and those who havent ever been in the position to ever have offered good service as a means of income.. the latter group sometimes are codified in my (and other) industry as "extremely discerning customers" .. when I hear from a local 4-5 star hotel that they have an "extremely discerning" customer.. I know they are dealing with an asshole-with-money. Its kinda fun.. cuz you can say it over the phone right to them, or while theyre listening.. and they take it as a compliment. . But I know.. and the other service pro on the line knows.. we just called him asshole. Kinda like in the tech field.. when someone is told they have an eye dee ten tee error.. ID10T ..saying all that to say. I refuse to use groupon/living social type coupons at small businesses. . Because I know the lack of customer loyalty, and general disdain that (not all, but most) those people have for the service Industry.. and dont want to be lumped in with them.. on the other side of that.. if you are a faceless bureaucrat or a minion in a megacorp 'ware my wrath if yoy bloody say "no" with out at least PRETENDING to ask a superior and give a valid explanation

  6. I spent 9 years working in a call centre for a big computing company in various roles – initially fault logging and engineer reporting, then "service validation" phoning up and telling people why they _weren't_ getting the service they'd asked for (which was hell) then on hard-drive support calls, before getting off the phones and working in automated reporting.

    Most of the stuff I learned was pretty useless, but it helps me converse with phone monkeys when I have to deal with them as a customer.

    • Heh, a phrase I've had occasion to use when on the line with assorted support is "I am frustrated with the situation. I am not frustrated with you. You've been quite helpful." I find it really helps to say that out loud, for me.

  7. I learned a lot about subscription models (and ways of getting out of subscriptions) when working for a ringtone-company. Selling subscriptions of €10 a week to kids is one of the most unethical things I've done (even though with all the warnings at some point it basically became a stupidity tax), but I very quickly learned to pay extra attention when deals sound too good to be true: they mostly are. Subscriptions are a good way to get ripped off: either you're paying more than you should or you're getting stuff you don't need (as much as you get it). Pay special attention when you're gettting something for 'free' – that's a huge giveaway that you should probably read all the terms & conditions.

  8. Working the phone bank at Domino's Pizza in the 80's I learned to smile while talking on the phone. If I remember that to this day, I am more calm and pleasant and generally can get the results I am seeking.

  9. I work a front desk, and we sell wholesale, and we STILL get people trying to haggle. I really wish the media would stop telling consumers that 'it never hurts to ask'. Sometimes it DOES hurt. Because if you're already getting a good deal, what you're telling me is that somehow you are more deserving of putting money in your pocket than I am at making a reasonable living selling things. That I should just be 'grateful' for your business, therefore you should get your way. Beware of folks who say they can totally give you a discount (especially if pricing isn't fixed) – you probably just got your prices hiked then 'magically' discounted 10%. It's not cool, but I know it happens.

    • I like when retail stores run 30% off sales so that they're still 10% higher than the Amazon price. I know, it isn't fair to have to compete with Amazon, but there isn't much about capitalism that IS fair.

  10. I work as a sysadmin, and being generally the IT guy, i've learned to fake blissfull ignorance on any trouble IT related if i'm not non on the clock/not my CLOSEST friends/not being paid enough.
    Seriously, helping IT idiots who DO NOT want to learn, they just want it fixed, it's not worth an ulcera if you aren't getting anything out the deal but a thank you..

  11. Years of dealing with questions like "how big is your six-inch sandwich" has given me an uncanny ability to answer stupid questions with a straight face. I see absolutely no application for that skill outside minimum-wage customer service jobs, but apparently I'm a master.

  12. I used to work for a telecommunications company. I'm really good at knowing how to ask for promotions/deals to lower my bills/get free premium stations. The most effective thing is threaten to cancel (and be willing to follow through if needed) if you can't get your bills to below $x amount because otherwise it's just too much.

      • I used to work "retention," so I know these tactics all too well. I once tried it with my current electric company and they actually said, "You can't cancel. We're the only electric company for your town. You don't actually HAVE a choice, other than to go without electricity. So do you still want to cancel?"

        I flew too close to the sun.

  13. I have learned much better haggling skills working in a used bookstore. People want to haggle when the book is already discounted, and if they're a jerk about asking, forget it. I don't HAVE to give a discount, and acting like the item/service is already overpriced is infuriating.

  14. “Fronting” or straightening out the display on shelves and hooks in the grocery store. I can’t help myself. If I’m looking through merchandise and it’s out of order or a mess, I just start fixing it.

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