Magic Words

As I mentioned on Monday, I will occasionally be posting on the weekend in the future and these posts will be non-magic related, similar to the stuff I was writing during The Splooge days of this site.

Today I'm going to offer you some magic words.

I travel a lot so I spend a lot of time in hotels, restaurants, and on various means of transportation. I'm fairly low-maintenance so I don't like to spend a ton of money on these sorts of things. I do appreciate a really good meal, a nice room, or better travel accommodations, I just don't care enough about them to pay for them. I've read articles about ways to "socially engineer" your way into upgrades on these sorts of things and the advice is usually ridiculous or obvious. How do you get the best available room when you check in at a hotel? Smile when you approach the front desk, the articles say. Gee, thanks! I never would have thought of that. I've been scowling and hammering that little bell on the desk and screaming, "Where you at, cocksucker?!"

You can try to be funny or charming, but you never know how that is going to be received. The person might not find words like "cocksucker" funny. Or they might think you're hitting on them or something weird. 

I've found one line to work well in numerous situations. It works well with men and women, fun people and humorless people, regardless of if they're having a good or bad day. It's a line to use whenever you're asked for your preference in regards to something you don't have a particular preference on. I stumbled across it accidentally one day when I was checking into a hotel.

The girl behind the counter said, "And what floor would you like to be on? The first floor or a higher floor?"

And I said, "Hmmm... you know, I think I trust your judgment on this. Just put me in whatever room you would want yourself."

"Well, I would want to stay in one of our one-bedroom suites," she said. 

"Perfect," I said. And with that I got a $500 a night room for the $82 I paid on Priceline. 

That was the most extreme example, but I've since used variations on that statement with other hotel desk clerks, concierges, chefs, and travel staff and have had similarly good results with it. 

The other night I went out to dinner with four friends. The chef/owner greeted us at the restaurant and asked what we were considering for dinner. I said, "Hmmm... you know, I think I trust your judgment on this. Can you just bring me whatever your favorite is?" My friends agreed with this and we ended up getting a five course meal for about $20 a piece, which was 50% less than a single entree would have been.

Why does this work so well? Well, I guess it's probably obvious, but if someone was to say they trusted your judgment and then ask you to choose the best whatever for them, I think it's human nature to give that person the best you have to offer. You don't want to put someone in a shitty room with a window that faces an alleyway after they asked you for the room you would want for yourself. It would reflect poorly on you. 

I think it also helps that it's not just some line I give. For me it's true. I do trust the judgment of the person who works there to know what's best. 

You might think this is no different than asking for someone's recommendation. "What room do I want? Well, what do you recommend?" "What seat do I want on the plane? Well, what do you recommend?" The difference is that they hear that said to them all day everyday, so it carries significantly less weight. And also, a recommendation isn't binding. "You recommend the Tiramisu? Hmmm... actually I'll go with the chocolate cake." But when you give your power over to someone—when your attitude is, "I couldn't possibly know better than you. Just choose for me."—I think people take that as a sign of some respect and then want to do well by you. I mean, it's annoying when you're with a friend and they foist the decision making onto you. But this is a different situation. They're supposed to be the expert. And people in the service industry are often in a position where they're treated like shit, so showing some deference is probably an attitude they appreciate. Well, it's worked for me, at least. (To be fair, I'm super delightful and charming by nature. You on the other hand....)