To board a transatlantic flight, and get a complementary upgrade to first class.
Or to pay for a simple hotel room, and being handed the key to the penthouse suite. At no additional charge.
I love a good deal. Especially when I’m not paying for it!
And how about getting last-minute tickets to that sold-out play or musical? Wouldn’t it be great to run into someone who’s willing to sell you the best seats in the house at half-price because he can’t make it?
“Alright, that will never happen,” you respond, and I don’t blame you.
Most airlines have instituted a zero-upgrade policy. Hotels will make you pay if you wish to stay in a nicer room, and that loud, sweaty guy in front of you will snag those cheap Broadway tickets for a show he doesn’t even like.
Some things are just too good to be true, and they will never happen to you.
And yet, one of my friends seems to have the magic touch when it comes to upgrades. He’s in his seventies, and the other night he went to dinner and got a free dessert. Recently, he took a cruise to the Caribbean, and landed a spacious room with a view, even though he’d only paid for a small cabin.
He’s always getting deals and discounts, and I don’t know how he does it. Is he just lucky, or is he reaping the rewards of having been an amazing person in a past life?
Let’s forget reincarnation for a moment, and find out why my friend -let’s call him Ben- receives these complementary upgrades and discounts. I have a feeling it has to do with his mental make-up. His personality.
First of all, he’s the epitome of optimism. In Ben’s world, nothing is impossible. Ben doesn’t see obstacles. He spots opportunities.
Secondly, he’s one of the most positive, altruistic souls I know. Ben is always complimenting people left and right because he sees the good in everyone.
And compliments make people fly.
Ben’s also a good listener. He’s the kind of person you’d tell the story of your life to, because Ben is genuinely interested, he doesn’t interrupt, and he doesn’t judge.
Ben doesn’t like to talk about himself. He wants to hear how you are doing. Ben doesn’t have a hidden agenda, or some intricate spiel. He happens to like people, and people like him.
And most importantly, he doesn’t care if you’re a captain of industry, or a burger flipper at the local greasy spoon. He will give you the same, warm Ben treatment, because that’s what you deserve.
You couldn’t find a nicer guy, even if you tried.
“But what about this saying Nice people finish last?” you may ask. “Isn’t there some truth to that? People walk all over doormats. They always have, and they always will.”
I disagree. Nice people can be assertive. Sweet people can have a spine. A very sweet spine! Nice people do finish first.
Ben once told me:
“Most folks are willing to go the extra mile for you, but not if you’re a jerk. If you go all ballistic on a poor call center assistant, you know you’re going to be put on hold for a very long time. If you’re patronizing to a waiter, it may take a little longer for your food to arrive.
Being kind doesn’t cost a thing, but don’t expect any favors if you’re being disrespectful and rude.
Now, I know that’s not an earth shattering message, and yet I wish this world would choose kindness over conflict.”
Being a nice guy is not the only reason why my friend Ben enjoys his occasional perks and upgrades. When I asked him about it, he shared a very simple secret with me that has made all the difference. In fact, it is so simple and straightforward that most people don’t even think about it.
“My mother was a very wise woman,” said Ben. “And this is what she told me when I was five years old:
You’ll never get what you don’t ask for.
Here’s an example.
One of my grandsons is a freelancer. The other day he was complaining about a rate a client had offered him. It was on the low side, but he took the job anyway, because he needed the money.
Did you ask for more? I said.
“No,” he answered. “I didn’t want them to go to someone else. Besides, they said they had a limited budget.”
A month later he ran into a colleague who happened to work on a similar project for the same company. And get this: They were paying this man twice the amount he was making!
My grandson became really angry. He called his project manager and yelled: “Why are you paying this guy two times what I’m making while we’re practically doing the same job? That’s not fair, is it?”
“Calm down, said the project manager. “It doesn’t have anything to do with fair, and I’ll tell you why. With us, you negotiate your own rate. That’s how we do it. Your colleague gave us a number, and we agreed. It’s as simple as that. You could have done the same thing. All you had to do was ask.”
I’ll give you another example, said Ben.
My neighbor’s wife -a very nice lady- was moaning and groaning that her husband wasn’t romantic anymore. “We used to go out all the time, and we had so much fun,” she sighed. “These days he just sits on the couch, and watches TV.”
Have you asked him to take you out on a date, lately? I said.
“Of course not,” she replied. “It has to come from him. It has to be spontaneous. My husband is anything but spontaneous.”
“That’s what I mean,” said Ben. “She doesn’t understand the concept. If she wants things to chance, she’s got to take action.
You’ll never get what you don’t ask for.
Frankly, it’s the only reason I got that marvelous room on my last cruise. When I got on board, I started talking to the purser. He was an older guy, like me. It turns out, we went to the same high school, but we were five years apart. We even had the same favorite teachers, and we hated the same ones too! Then he asked me what room I was in, and I told him. He said it was very close to the engine. That’s probably why it was so cheap.
Then I looked at him, and said: “I don’t suppose there’s anything you could do about that, is there?”
He glanced at his chart for a moment, and said: “Let me see what I can do.”
Next thing I know I was out on my very own balcony, smelling the fresh, salty air. The engine room was far away. One night I was even invited to dine at the captain’s table. When you’re my age, it doesn’t get any better than that!”
He took a deep breath.
“You know,” said Ben with a smile. “People think these things only happen in books or in movies, and that’s not true. They do happen in real life, as long as you believe they are possible. You’ve got to believe.
Sometimes all it takes is a smile, a little kindness, and an innocent question.
Tell me: Is that too much to ask?”
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice