How To Save Money: Don’t Be A Jerk

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Older Lady: “I need a room key. My daughter is very tired, I need to get her to bed”
Front Desk Lady: “Sure thing. What’s the last name on the reservation?”
Older Lady: “So-and-so. I’m in room number blah and just need a key. I just want to have my daughter sleep.”
Front Desk Lady: “Ok ma’am. I see that your name is not on the reservation. I can get you they key right away, I just need to know who’s name is on the credit card that booked the reser-”
Older Lady (In an angry tone): “Ok, this is way too difficult. I was told that I could just come down and you give me a key. I don’t understand what the problem is! My daughter is very tired…”
Front Desk Lady (completely composed): I completely understand, ma’am. And since your name is not on the reservation, for security purposes, I just need the name on the credit card that reserved the room.”
Older Lady: “Angry squabble blah blah utterly ridiculous blah blah I can’t believe this!”

Don’t Be A Jerk

This was the conversation standing between Michelle and I, and our free night at the Westin in downtown Seattle for our 5-year anniversary. We’re rocking the Starwood Preferred Guest AMEX credit card and had a free night’s worth of points saved up, so we were excited to hangout in downtown all weekend. We were at the “Preferred” check-in, but I think they probably should have renamed it the “entitled” check-in. After a dude whining about something menial for 5 minutes, they comp’d him 2,000 points for the “inconvenience”, and he was still complaining all the way out.

Then this older lady held up the line because she couldn’t answer one. simple. question. Michelle and I just gave each other a look, and felt terrible for the front desk lady, who had just been through the ringer twice in a row, and I’m assuming was dealing with that all freaking day! And the people who were complete jerks to her didn’t really get ahead with all their angry bitterness. Sure, the guy got some points, but also is a bitter angrypants who ruined his whole stay over some minor inconvenience that wasn’t even real. And the lady who couldn’t get her room key is probably going to be complaining all week about her “terrible service” and got nothing but bitterness from the experience.

Plus, neither of these people got the sweet perks that we did by just being nice.

Being Nice Has Its Perks

As Michelle and I stepped up, we engaged the front desk lady as a HUMAN BEING and were as friendly as possible.

Front Desk Lady: “Hello. How are you?”
Michelle: “We’re good. And how are YOU?” (giving her an acknowledging look that she just dealt with some nastiness)
Front Desk Lady: “I’m good, thanks. What can I help you with?”
Me: “Just checking in. And I see that we’re not a Gold or Platinum member, is it ok that we check in here, or should we get in that big line over there?”
Front Desk Lady: “No, don’t worry about that. I can definitely help you. Can I get the last name on the reservation?”
Me: “(redacted)”
Front Desk Lady: “Great. And can I get your ID for verification”
Me: “Of course.”
Me: “Also, my friend told me that the north tower is where I should stay. I know our room hasn’t been assigned yet, but can I request something in the north tower?”
Front Desk Lady: “Absolutely. Let me see what I have available. Most rooms aren’t available, but would you like something that is open early?”
Me: “No, we’re just going to be walking around, so whenever the room is ready, that’s fine. Say, I did book a room with a water view, but was just wondering is that’s facing the lake or the ocean?”
Front Desk Lady: “We have you facing the ocean, but depending on availability, you may just have a partial view, and may or may not see the space needle. But I’ll see what I can find. I’ll have them give you a call when the room is ready.”
Me: “Ok, thanks a ton. We appreciate it.”
Front Desk Lady: “Great. I can also do late check-out, if you’d like. Check out would be at 4pm instead of 11am. Would you like that option?
Me: “Sure, sounds wonderful. Thanks again!”

Instead of complaining that “the room wasn’t available early”, and how “I had to wait in line”, we just treated the customer service like people. We got a room with a good view, late check-out and no hassles by just being polite. Plus, late-check-out is a Gold and Platinum perk only, but because we just used common courtesy, we got a free perk. Sweet!

But Wait, There’s More

We were just excited to be hanging out downtown while the baby was with “Gammie” (as Nolan calls her). We left the hotel and walked to Pike Place for a bite to eat, some sunshine and shopping. Not 10 minutes into our downtown stroll did I get a call from the hotel.

Me: “WASSSSSSSSSUUUUPPPPPP???!!!!!” (not really, I just said hello)
Front Desk Lady: “Hello, Mr. (redacted)?”
Me: “Yes.”
Front Desk Lady: “Hello. I just wanted to call and let you know your room is now available. No rush to come back, we’ll take your bags to the room.”
Me: “Oh sweet. Thanks!”
Front Desk Lady: “I do want to let you know that I went ahead and upgraded your room, because I just figured you two deserve an upgrade. I hope neither of you aren’t afraid of heights!”
Me: “Whaaa? Awesome. Thank you so much!!”
Front Desk Lady: “My pleasure. Again, no rush. Enjoy your time downtown, and your room with be waiting for you.”

Holy Cajolies! We got a wicked sweet upgrade! And you know what, I really do attribute is to treating the lady kindly, and understanding the HELL she must go through on a daily basis. We didn’t approach her with a sense of entitlement, but truly just excited to enjoy our weekend, and knowing that she was there trying to make our stay as enjoyable as possible. And she definitely did!

Our Room Upgrade

The lady put us 4 floors below the top of the building, on the 43rd floor. And our view was spectacular!

Seattle 1

Seattle 2

Now, having chatted with the Starwood concierge on the phone when booking the room, I know that this room was NOT available to be booked. It was usually reserved for Gold and Platinum members. But we got pushed to the top of the list with a few smiles and just generally NOT being a jerk. It would have cost us double the points we paid, or at LEAST $300 a night to get this room, so it was a pretty awesome upgrade. We saved 10,000 points and had a pleasant stay. We didn’t leave bitter because someone wouldn’t give us a room key without any identification or some other ridiculous request.

This Principle Applies EVERYWHERE

Now, hotels are one thing, and people swing free upgrades all the time. But the principle of NOT being a jerk applies everywhere, especially in the service industry. Next time you go the a restaurant, as your server how they are doing, smile and make eye contact (not in a creepy way), and make a conscious effort to ENJOY you experience. I bet they will make it that much better as well. Heck, might even get bigger portions, faster service, and a good attitude. Or when out shopping at garage sales, strike up a conversation, be enjoyable, and then see what kind of deals you can strike. Haggling works much better when you treat the other person like an equal.

Heck, go crazy and be nice EVERYWHERE you go. And DON’T expect free perks, so that if it does happen, you can be surprised, and if it doesn’t, you won’t be disappointed. But you WILL see tangible returns by being nice at some point. From promotions at work to free hotel upgrades, NOT being a jerk can really improve your life as well as other’s lives around you.

Saving Money Is Not The Point

Yes, this post is titled “how to save money”, but that’s not really the point. The point is to put yourself in other’s shoes before unleashing you wrath on a poor, unsuspecting, freckle-faced kid at RadioShack for not returning your 3 year old home phone without a receipt, threatening the manager, and forcing the workers to call the cops on you (this may or may not have been me behind the counter 8 years back…). You AND the person involved can both enjoy your encounter if you just approach any interaction with a conscious effort to be kind. Sure, the money might swing in your favor sometimes, but being kind pays FAR more dividends than any monetary compensation can make up for. You can either make someone’s day, or ruin it, and I suggest we all choose the former.

Comments: Have you seen any perks from NOT being a jerk to people? Those of you in the service industry know what I’m talking about. Have you treated customers different based on their attitudes? Tell me your stories of how NOT being a jerk has benefited you.

For those who want to enjoy free travel as well, you can read up more on it HERE.

First photo credit: timsamoff via photopin cc

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade has been a nationally-recognized personal finance expert for the past decade. He has written professionally for The Balance, The Spruce, LendingTree, Investing Answers, and other widely-followed sites. 
He’s also been a featured expert on CBS News, MSN Money, Forbes, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, Go Banking Rates, and AOL Finance.

In 2018, Jacob quit his job and his family decided to sell everything (including their home) to take off on an adventure. They traveled the country in an RV for nearly 3 years, visiting over 38 states, 20+ national parks and eventually settling in the sunshine state!

60 thoughts on “How To Save Money: Don’t Be A Jerk”

  1. The other day we were at the grocery store checking out the end of season sales for gardening as they had most things listed at 50% off. I noticed the fertilizer had been marked down 40% so I picked up 3 bags. When I went to pay it did not reflect the price outside. I was polite about it and she said they had made an error. As we walked out because we said we didn’t want it, she chased us into the parking lot to tell us to come back in. She gave us 50% off. It pays to be nice, you bet!!!

  2. Jerks tend to forget that it’s a human being on the other side of the desk, or the menu, or whatever.

    They also tend to forget, or are just ignorant of the fact that the person they are interacting with probably had NOTHING to do with the problem. They’re just trying to fix it.

    I’ve had a fascination with Seattle since watching Fraser. I know we will visit someday, your waterfront photos are great.

    • Jerks don’t really think outside of “WHY AM I NOT GETTING WHAT I WANT??!!! AGHHHH!!!” Being aware of your surroundings and events outside of your “ME ME ME” bubble is effective in getting what you want. Just hard to realize that when you’re screaming so loudly.

      And yes, Seattle is a beautiful city. I love visiting!

  3. It is amazing how bad some of the “elites” for airlines and hotels act. I understand that you (more likely your company) has spent a lot of money and time being loyal, but sometimes things just don’t work out. There is no need to behave worse than a teething toddler over it.

    I also agree with Holly. How pissed would she have been if someone had been in her room and taken something because the hotel didn’t care?

  4. Being polite definitely get better service and perks a lot of the time. I’ve used that when flights get cancelled and rebooking madness starts. If you’re the one person not yelling at the desk agent when you get to the front of the line, they’re usually a lot more likely to spend a couple extra minutes with you and make sure all your travel options are covered. And not forget your vouchers for hotel and taxi. =)

    • It’s too tiring to be angry when stuff goes wrong. Really. Even when I’m stressed, I have my senses about me. I really think some people just hate their lives and need to yell at someone to make them fee better.

  5. As someone that has been in customer service for 17 years I can tell you for SURE that you get more flies with honey than vinegar! Every October my clients start flooding the phones asking about the annual fees they have been charged. I kindly and respectfully explain the fee. Explain that they were given notice about how they could avoid it. Some are accepting and will ask nicely if there is anything we can do. Others will start yelling and carrying on pitching fits, cursing and more. I do not personally have the power to waive the fees, however, when the people are nice I will work on their behalf to try and get it done. For those that are rude, I flat out say there is nothing I can do about it. If they feel like complaining above me they can go for it!

  6. Being nice and giving someone who is having a hard day is the right thing to do whether you get an upgrade out of it or not. I am glad you were rewarded though :)!

    PS my bro just moved to the Seattle area… if I am ever up there we might have to meet up!

  7. One area where this type of thing applies is when driving. How often do we get mad at the car that cut us off or the car that is driving so slow that you want to honk and gesture at them when you drive by? We often forget that those driving the cars are people, and we wouldn’t dare treat most people in person as we do when there are two cars in between us. I think many people have taken that attitude to how they treat people in situations like you described. Looks like you really enjoyed your stay, good for you!

    • People are more ancy in cars because they are death machines. But I agree, don’t treat someone differently just because you’re in your car. They are human, so act like it.

  8. Glad you guys enjoyed your little celebration and got an upgrade out of it (beautiful view). I always treat people nicely – especially from my days of working as a cashier at a grocery store; people loved to yell at me for pricing and wrong signs when I had nothing to do with either. I would have acted the same way as you did toward the woman at the desk. I don’t understand why some people like to make things difficult. As you said, the woman with the “tired daughter” just had to answer a simple question, and it would have been done with. Some people just never learn.

    • I would hate to be at the “executive” desk for anything. Entitled people with money. UGH!

      I can’t wait to be rich and be the nicest person in the fancy pants line.

  9. This is terrific and I don’t know why it’s complicated for some people out there to just treat people as they would want to be treated.

    For one, it’s the right thing to do, but on top of that, just imagine how you’d react if someone came at you like that? Uf… anyhow, glad it all worked out for you and that you enjoyed your stay 🙂

  10. That view is AMAZING!

    Having worked in customer service for a few years, I definitely appreciated the handful of kind, considerate, and overall friendly customers I interacted with. I always looked out for little discounts I could give them! Being nice has its perks.

  11. A wise man once told me that the secret to get better service is as follows:
    1) Floor them with kindness. Service people get walked over all day. Be nice, smile and be friendly. It’ll blow them away.
    2) Make them feel like you’re doing them a huge favor. Treat them like they are making your day. When people feel wanted and appreciated, they often do whatever they can to return the favor!

  12. What a stupid blog! You’re a namby-pamby who lucked into a good room. What’s the big deal?

    ….OH! The post said “Don’t Be” a jerk. I had that wrong…..

    Back to your regularly scheduled blog. By the way, Jake, have I told you that color looks wonderful on you?

  13. I hate it when people bully customer service people. I once intervened when a customer was berating a cashier at the grocery store and I though I was going to be physically assaulted. The cashier was thankful though.

    • I have gotten frustrated and escalated to management when someone is not listening to me, but never gotten mean. Doesn’t really help anyone at that point.

  14. This is SUCH an important lesson. Simply being nice to people will make you stand out from 95% of the population. It not only helps you get things like upgrades or discounts, but it actually makes you feel better too. Nobody likes to feel angry, so just make a choice to feel happy and treat people well. Almost every single time I’ve negotiated a discount or an extra it’s been because I did so with a positive interaction. It just can’t be overstated how helpful this mindset is.

  15. This strategy, being nice and kind to others, works everywhere. I’d definitely say I’m kind to others and that works out to my benefit, but MR. LH is kind and calm even when things aren’t working out in our favor (I often become flummoxed and over-react!). His calm, cool, and kind tone can smooth things over quickly without blowing things out of proportion.

  16. I was recently in a craft store waiting in the checkout line. The lady in front of me and her grown son were practically jumping over the counter, yelling at the cashier OVER A COUPON! Really? I was looking down at my feet because I was afraid the scary lady would yell at me just for making eye contact. I eventually looked up and scary lady looked over at me with one of those “dont-you-agree-with-me?” looks. As if I were supposed to agree with her ranting. I was actually very embarrassed for her. I looked back down at my feet so she wouldn’t suck me into the dark side. It was just horrible they way she was treating the cashier. How can you be cranky in a craft store!? They are full of glitter and ribbons. I told the cashier I was so sorry she had to deal with that, and I understand how hard it is to work in retail/customer service. I hope she had a better day after that…

  17. Some people aren’t just jerks the are complete @$$es when it comes to things and on top of that they will be the first ones complaining about how they were treating. Treat people with respect and understand the does not revolve around you.

    Glad to see that you guys got a great room and service just by being nice to someone. Some of these people have hard days dealing with jerks but a simple how are you doing and thank you goes a long way.

  18. Poor front desk lady!

    Some people try to be jerks just because they think that will get them more stuff. On the contrary it pays more to be nice than be jerks, afterall most of the time the person getting yelled at was not responsible for the screw up, even if something is wrong. They are just trying to do their job.

  19. I usually give tip or good feedback to the superior if I am satisfied with a service or if I am treated nicely like how the front desk treated you. They deserve to be complimented.

  20. I try to always be friendly to others that are helping me. After all, what will you gain by not being friendly? Just last week, I took my wife out for a romantic dinner on our anniversary. Our waitress was very nice and we were nice back. We did not expect anything, but she gave us extra helpings of Kobe beef for our dinner. She also would have given us free champagne, but neither of us drink, so we got free Sprite soda. 🙂

    • I know, I mean, where’s the incentive. Unless they are threatening you (which then you can call the police), there’s no reason to go out of your way to give these people a better deal.

  21. Pingback: Personal Finance Articles I Read This Week That Didn’t Suck, August 9th | Snarkfinace
  22. I worked the night shift as a front desk lackey in a major hotel in downtown Austin, and I confirm that niceness will get you *everywhere* in the hospitality world, as a customer. I was much more likely to give room upgrades or other small perks to guests who weren’t jerkfaces, and while I also gave a squeaky wheel some grease and tried to placate an upset guest with a complimentary breakfast or other freebie, it was always the *bare minimum* that I could do to rectify the situation.


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