Charlie Pierce, on his way to a well-deserved romp over Mitch Albom, sums up America.
In case you haven’t noticed, the Republicans seem to be on a crusade to free Americans to be as dicky as possible to their fellow Americans. It is now okay to be a dick to immigrants. It’s now okay to be a dick to your letter carrier. It’s now okay to be a dick to firefighters and schoolteachers. (Thanks, Scott Walker!) And have I mentioned recently what a colossal dick Rick Santorum is? And he’ll be at the GOP convention this summer. And it’s even okay to be a dick to the president of the United States on his own lawn. The unbridled liberty be a dick is sweeping this this great nation.
I had a recent opportunity to be a dick, but I chose not to be. Here’s what happened: I accidentally sent Florida Power & Light a bill payment that was meant for another creditor. Not only was it way too early, it was an amount that I couldn’t afford to spend. (Yes, I did pay the other creditor the right amount and on time.) I caught the mistake only after the payment had been posted, so I had to go through FPL’s customer service phone system to get to a live person to tell them that I had made a mistake and that I really needed to get the money back. At first the customer service agent told me that I had to wait fourteen days until the payment actually showed up in their account before they would even consider issuing a refund, which might then take another week before they could cut me a check and mail it.
I had two choices. I could have gone off on a rant and been a dick. That probably would have felt good for the moment and I’d have a great story to post about on my blog about how I’d shouted down some nameless faceless minimum-wage earning customer service mouthpiece for the evil corporate monopoly that is FPL. Or I could have patiently explained that it was a stupid mistake on my part, that I really needed the money back, and was there any way they could help me? The agent put me on hold for a long time (wow, FPL, you really need to work on your on-hold Muzak), then came back and said that she had tried several ways to see if they could do it any faster. She had no luck, but then she put me through to an account supervisor. I explained the situation again, making a few self-deprecating comments just to lighten the mood. The gentleman was both polite and understanding, and he said that a check would be issued that day.
So, kids, the lesson is that by not being a dick, I got the result I wanted even though the corporate policy said I shouldn’t. I stood my ground and made my case, but I was nice to the people I was dealing with and they were nice to me. We both won: I’ll get my money back in days instead of weeks, and I made FPL look good in public.
This policy of not being a dick has worked in the past for me. I have gotten a lot of things, including upgrades to first class on airlines and discounts or free passes to events, just by being a nice guy. What I don’t understand is why a lot of other people don’t get that.