As my mind wanders while I wait on hold with Delta Airlines, I feel the urge to pontificate about customer service representatives (CSRs) and how I handle them. I know plenty of people that talk to these people and at the first sign that things aren't going to go their way, they immediately lay into the person at the other end. CSRs have, no doubt, come to expect this and the screamers probably think they're going to get what they want by being beligerent.

That may be true in some cases, maybe even most. But in my own experience, taking the complete opposite tact gets me good results, too. Take my current example where I'm trying to change the return flight for someone and travel has already started. I've been transferred to a couple of different people, all of whom have tried to help me, can't, then transferred me on.

(On a side note, wireless phones with speakerphone and mute buttons built into the handset should be standard issue in all homes.)

I'm now on hold with someone in the Around the World Mileage department (the trip was booked on points). When I explained to her what I wanted to do, her initial response was, "We can't rebook this as an 'Around the World' ticket if it wasn't originally booked as one" whatever that means. My response: Oh gosh, that's a bit of a bummer, isn't it? The other fellow couldn't find a flight and said you might be able to help me.

To which she replied: "Well, let me see what I can do." And she has now on hold with another airline to check availability for one of the legs in the trip.

In short, I feel I get good service when I'm overly nice to people. Plus it keeps me optimistic rather than dealing with the headache I get when I yell at someone. Besides which, when people start bitching at me, that does *not* encourage me to help them out. And I've talked with CSRs who confirm that when people get nasty, they do the bare minimum they need to keep their jobs.

My call with Stephanie at Delta Air Lines is over now. I joked around with her, asked her where she's been in the world, talked a bit about her job. I am now in virtual possession of a rebooked return ticket from Singapore to Nassau for Mrs. Hillbilly. And she was originally going to transfer me to another department.

Yes, the re-booking process could use some streamlining. Yes, there are CSRs who are just plain grouchy. Yes, there are limits to what CSRs are allowed to do. Yes, not everyone is going to try to help you just because you're nice. But why ruin both your days by yelling?

Give it a try sometime. You'd be surprised how much headway you can get just by saying, "Oh gosh, are you sure?" when someone tells you something you don't want to hear.