I have a friend who took a flight that had a connection on the way to his destination. The first leg of the flight was late, causing him to miss his connection. Also, since he was not present on that missed flight, the airline cancelled his return flight arrangement.
That missed connection caused my friend to have to spend the night at the airport. I told my friend he should demand a hotel room from the airline. The airline offered a discount on a room, but not a full voucher for a free room.
That return flight? My friend just purchased a whole new flight ticket on the spot to get home. I told him he was being too nice about the whole situation.
When people see you as someone who will be compromising and agreeable, someone who allows a 50/50 situation to go in someone else’s favor without much fight or debate, they naturally will angle to take advantage. It’s like a switch that goes off in the subconscious human brain — even the nicest of people will become just a bit more bloodthirsty when they see you will allow it.
Airline employees are not known to be the most helpful people out there; the more you demand of them, the more work they have to do. They’d rather you leave the counter and be happy with your situation than stand your ground and demand to be made happy (and they all have leeway enough to make you happy — they just don’t feel inclined to always do so).
When you make it clear that the situation won’t end until you’re satisfied, you have already won. You’re the customer and they’re at work — they can’t walk away from you. You have all the leverage. You just have to dig your heels in and be prepared to be a bit of a bitch/asshole to get what you want. From what I see, many people just lack the resolve to go this far.
All humans have limits to their energy. When presented with a situation, we choose the option that allows us to use the least amount of energy as possible. If telling you that you’re stuck in the airport and you can’t have a hotel voucher works (the first, and easiest, option), that’s what we’ll tell you. If the situation shows us that placating you with a free hotel room will save us time and energy (i.e., getting you away from me and avoiding a 45-minute verbal joust), then a free hotel room you shall have. But you must establish what the weights of those options are. Many people just agree with what is handed to them with no questions asked, then wonder why they did, after it’s too late to change things.
Your reputation precedes you in all cases. If two parties don’t know each other, the first 90 seconds create the reputation that determines the rest of the interaction. Establish your precedent and then watch it work for you.
Agreeable people get taken advantage of — call it cynicism if you wish, but it is a fact of life. When you’re stubborn and combative, you find that you need to use those skills even less, because the average person would much rather avoid you (by giving you what you want) than face confrontation. You do run the risk of having a reputation as a disagreeable person, but as soon as the people who created that rep need someone to get them what they want, by any means necessary, who are they calling?