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The SECRET behind why I get free stuff, never wait in line, and get treated better than most people as a customer
Last Updated February 9th, 2017

I don’t say this to brag, but I get treated very well by a lot of companies:

  • When I go to the coffee shop, I often get my coffee for free.
  • When I wanted a new pair of shoes from a specific store, my sales rep hand-delivered them to my house, so I didn’t have to deal with “traffic” to get to the store.
  • While traveling on speaking, I forgot my shaving cream. And a manager from Nordstrom drove 30 miles to hand deliver me my favorite shaving cream.
  • When there was a 2 hour wait to be seated at a fancy restaurant, the host sat me… immediately. No questions asked.
  • When I wanted to buy light bulbs quick, the line at the home goods store was long. But a manager opened a new register, just for me, and let me check out instantly.

It’s crazy, actually.

It happens all the time. Everywhere.

And if you ever went to dinner with me, you’d see it in real time, too. Even though I almost never order dessert, the waiter almost always brings out free dessert for the table.

The question is “HOW?”

The answer is as simple as: “BE A GOOD CUSTOMER.”

I’ll explain…

A few weeks ago, I went out to get a drink at a fancy hotel. My friend asked the host for a table, and they politely said, “It’s going to be about 45 minutes.” Then, as my friend came back to tell us the bad news, she noticed that I had already talked to someone and gotten us a table… immediately.

“Derek, how did you do that?”

Quite simple actually.

I saw the Maitre’D. I walked up, said “Hello,” and shook his hand. Then, I said, “I always love this hotel this time of year.” And it’s true. I do love this hotel. I then asked about tables, and he said there was going to be a wait. And I fired back, “How about ‘not waiting’ and just sit us right here.”

I know what you’re thinking…

“Wow, what an ass!”

Yeah, I sound like an ass in text. But it’s all about the delivery.

And no, I didn’t slip him a 20. The Maitre’D set a table up for us immediately. He just did it. Without being bribed.

So what happened? And why?

What it Really Means to Be a Good Customer

When I tell you to be a GOOD customer, it’s not about how much money you spend. You don’t need to be the best customer, from a financial perspective, to get treated well.

Instead, it means: the better you treat people, the better YOU get treated.

So, think about the people you talk to when you walk into a restaurant. Or a coffee shop. Or the people you talk to on the phone when you call a company. Usually these people don’t own the company, right?

They are normal people. Just like you and me. And they see so much nonsense… all the time… from people complaining about something as stupid as “I want a refund even though it’s 12 years past the refund period”… to some random list of curse words followed by unintelligible yelling of “ME ME ME ME ME ME ME.”

So, when you contrast that, even in a small way, you stand out. And when you make the extra effort to put yourself in the person’s shoes, you’re like a GIFT.

As an example, at the specific hotel bar: Why did I get seated immediately?

Well, I know one thing: The people who work there have careers in hospitality. You don’t work at a place like this without dedicating your life to hospitality. So, when I comment on the decor… the service… or anything related to the hospitality industry, I know they take great pride and joy in it. They do this for a living because they love it.

I don’t do this to be manipulative. I mention it because I know they care about this specific topic.

And that’s the key.

Most people give people generic compliments. And they conduct generic conversations. But when you take a few seconds to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and meet them where they are, the magic happens.

Here’s another example:

At my favorite coffee shop, I know that most baristas work as a barista as a “survival” job, but they are actually want to do something else…

Like this one barista who I think is remarkable. She loves coffee, and creating great coffee, and it shows. But she actually wants to be a professional drummer, and I make sure to ask her about drumming every chance I get. Again. Not to be fake. But because I like hearing about people and the dreams they want to pursue. I’m genuinely interested. And she loves talking about it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If the coffee shop is slammed, I don’t interrupt them with this sort of stuff. They are already stressed from the volume of people. So, I don’t bother people. I have my credit card ready. And I make my order quickly.

And then, when things quiet down, I almost always say something like, “WHERE’S THE FREE COFFEE SIGN AND WHY DIDN’T I GET ONE?” Or something equally as silly. Again, acknowledging the fact that these people just worked very hard to clear the queue. Because showing respect for the work people do, is also part of being a good customer.

One more example:

Sometimes when I call customer service for my phone company, I’ll lead with something as silly as, “Hey, what’s up. I’m Derek. How are you?” They’ll say, “Great, how can I help?” And I’ll say something like, “Well, hold on one second: UNINTELLIGIBLE YELLING.” And they’ll fire back, “Excuse me?” And I’ll say, “Just kidding. I’m sure you get a bunch of angry people yelling with the phone too far into their mouth. Today, I have a small problem and I hope you can help…”

Again: I’m simply putting myself in the customer service reps shoes. And naturally, things go smoothly from then on. Even if they can’t help, they’ll try to help.

I know it seems so simple.

But really THAT’s the secret behind why I get treated better than most people as a customer:

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes… and treat them better. By being genuinely interested in the people you deal with. And by showing your appreciation for what they do. You’ll immediately stand out. And get treated better.

It’s something anyone can do.

So now, it’s your turn.

Think about your next interaction as a customer. What will you do differently to be a better customer?

Leave your answer in the comments.

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42 comments Leave a comment

Dear Derek,

It is kind of amazing to me, not that you are writng a useful article, but that people actually need reminding to be kind.

I am a little neuro-diverse. On the very edges of Aspergers, which lets me pass more often than not as a fully functioning human. My Dad worked in the hospitality industry, and maybe that exposure taught me how to be polite, I dont know. But, your article featured behaviors that are innate to me, and do serve quite well interacting with others.

My dilemma comes from those times when, after asking the sincere personal question, the eye contact or handshake, sharing laughter (or trying to), a service person is resolutely determined to make a bad time for the customer–short of engaging a manager. My neuro-diversity gets triggered by harsh looks, tones, sudden gestures or noises, impatient behaviors, unkindness.
Some service folk rush so much, even if the situation isnt crowded or needs the rushing, getting the eye contact moment is difficult.

I understand the spectrum of human interactions will include some unpleasant few. Having a few tips to feel less triggered by their unkindness, in a work place where they should be trying to be even superficially kind, will be helpful to me.

Living in NY married to a typical Type A businessman has been good training, for the most part. But maybe it could be easier with the strangers.

Cheers, and thanks for the article!

John @androidtips.co

Now, I know why I alway have to wait in the line, but not in all stores. See one of the biggest problems which I have faced while treating peoples in a GOOD way is that they take it for granted. They start treating me like I am someone inferior to them ( NOT ALL ). And that makes me angry.

I don’t have a problem giving respect to other’s, but I have a problem when they don’t give respect in return.


This email is true. No one wakes up every morning and says to themselves “I want to make everyone’s life miserable today!” Reminds me of the book by Andrew Carnegie “Winning Friends and Influecing People”. A great read for anyone with a business and interacts with others on a daily basis. Great write up, Derek!


Love this blog! So true, very good stuff, thanks for sharing!


I’ve worked with the hospitality industry for 3 years and have been the brunt of one too many customer inconsideration.

So my approach is always one of consideration, patience, kindness and a simply thankyou for your time and effort whether I get the desired service or not.


I will definitely do something extra to make others smile and feel important. Your post w as amazing read.


Really great thing for me it will help me in my future


What you wrote is absolutelly right. A few years ago, I was working as a professor at a univeristy and I had to eat my dinner at strange times (too late for lunch and too early for dinner for most of the people), so once I went to a local restaurant and while I was waiting for my food, the owner was having a meeting with most of his staff. When the meeting was over, I called him and told him how good his restaurant was. I never lied to him, it was true. He had the best restaurant in the neighborhood, his waiters were always nice, the food was always great and the place was generally crowded, but that never meant a subpar service. I told him all that and he looked at me with his eyes open wide in shock. He thanked me a lot for recognizing all his effort and offered me a voucher for a free starter at my next visit.

Nicole Finkbeiner

I worked as an intern at Kellogg’s World Headquarters and regularly saw the CFO open doors for the janitor, support staff, anyone that would let him. This really taught me to treat everyone as if they were the most important person. Because it’s true, their jobs are just as important as yours, just in a different way.

I’ve noticed a huge difference of how I’m treated based on my appearance. For example, when I show up to the airport with no makeup, casual clothes, I get dismissed much easier than if I have my makeup and hair done, tailored clothes (including jeans), etc. On most days it doesn’t matter, but on those days when I need some sort of customer service, it really can make a difference of me getting on a new flight or not.


I can definitely relate to this Derek because I’ve had similar experiences. I’ve gotten gift cards, free coffee (too), breakfast past breakfast hours and more due to be a good and considerate customer. Once in the drive thru, an employee asked me if my order was correct and with a straight face, I said “No”. Then said, “Just kidding” and we both laughed. As mentioned, unless overly busy, when you engage in genuine conversation, ask about people outside of their job and humor to lighten up their day, it shows that you see them as a person and not just as blind service. Works like a charm and can be fun.

I enjoy getting to know people myself and enjoy listening. Most people love it because they’re barely ever listened to, genuinely. But, it’s a given being from the south. 🙂

Monica Galvan

I genuinely shy away from “small talk” at these type of encounters. But today I actually talked a bit with the barista this evening while I was waiting for my coffee. Knowing this is a coffeeshop/cafe I frequent often, it’s not a bad idea to be on good terms with the staff. It’ll make for a more pleasant experience for the both of us!


I have worked in the hospitality industry for years,I am now working as an academic lecturer…and this is the best post I have ever read from your blog. Very touchy, genuine and you really took your time to express your point, not to my brain, but to my heart. Thanks Derek.


Good one Derek. Thanks for sharing. It is a win-win. Good way to walk little extra-mile great people and get treated well.


Hi Derek, I couldn’t make my original comment because the system keeps saying it’s a duplicate. I’ve never commented before so I have no clue what’s going on.


Hi Derek, I couldn’t agree with you more and I too, treat people this way because I do care. I’ve been in the customer service industry since I was 16 and it can be rough at times. On a side note, when I am upset, as I was today calling a particular company because they were supposed have completed a job 12 days ago, I apologized up front to the young man who took my call. I continued apologizing for my foul mood and how I understood it wasn’t his fault, etc. for the 40 minutes on the phone with him.


Hey Derek – totally loved this! I’m not one to comment but I just needed to thank you for sharing this.

So many people are so rev’ed up getting their stuff done they steamroll the poor service staff – and, yes, sometimes we have problems but being an a** isn’t going to get your problem solved faster – probably the opposite.

I mean how hard is it really to treat the other person well…

Thanks for sharing 🙂


So, so, so, true!!!! I do the exact same thing because I do care about them. I have a regular waiter at my favorite restaurant, she knows about my life and asks how it is going. I ask about hers, in detail, and she gives me an update. Then she precedes, EVERYTIME, to give me free wine, a free app, and one time, she was so happy that my website launched that she comped my whole meal. Same thing at Trader Joe’s. I’ve built a relationship with an employee and we look for each other every time I’m there and we follow up on our entrepreneurial endeavors. It makes a difference to care!


I absolutely loved this email today, Derek; it made me smile!


I wholeheartedly agree with your premise. I’l take it a step farther and apply it to life in general. I believe that being a good citizen in a similar way can help to ensure one’s safety as well. When you endear yourself to the people who matter in a community, they will stand up for you if a conflict ever happens to arise, or if you’re in need of help in some way.


Hey, Actually, I was waiting for your next post. As always, each word is inspiring, interesting and informational. Thanks! Derek…. Great job….


Going that extra mile to be friendly to others and asking about themselves is really how people should be towards others….but asking for that “free coffee” is not cool. The offer should come from them. Pressuring am employee for something free is just not proper.


Yes indeed, I use this in my own life and it words like waving a magic wand. It’s a matter of caring about people. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve disarmed a cranky or apathetic check out person, by using a quick scan of them and giving them a genuine compliment. As a Woman that loves jewelry, it’s usually very easy to find a piece on another female to compliment.

I started using this in self protection mode ie so I didn’t have to put up with foul attitude service lol. But, little did I know, it a door opener! 🙂

Great article, thanks Derek!

Have a fab day!

Lisa N.

I’ll ask the customer service rep how they are doing next time and genuinely care.


Derek, this is great stuff!! I have done the same thing on a few occasions. At my coffee shop, I created my “CoffeeShop Name” so when they call it out I know it’s me… and now all the barista’s call my by that name. I use that to start a conversation with them and get to know about them and their life. Now I get free stuff all the time… especially if their is a really long line, they just fill my order and wave me by so they can deal with the next customer. Thanks and keep the good stuff coming.


Derek, this is perhaps by far the most important thing you’ve written yet. It is far beyond being kind to others, it’s actually about building a relationship with them. And it’s so simple. Thank you for sharing, because I share your vision in caring about our community members. It’s actually amazing how people respond. Everyone basically just wants to be appreciated. Today, I appreciate you, Derek! Thanks again, and keep sharing the love.


Hey Derek – just wanted to say I loved reading this email today. I totally agree with everything you said here. It makes a HUGE difference, especially on customer service phone calls! Thanks for taking the time to share about this. It’s something that’s easily overlooked but can be so meaningful to someone’s day.


I just couldn’t be trying to get shit for free all the time, especially when I have the cash for it. Don’t get me wrong, occassionally I do it, but if it happens regularly….I’d feel like a leach on society…


Thanks for always making the difference giving VALUABLE content. You´re the man!


One evening I turned up to my call centre job and we were given our task – to call people in England and conduct a survey about various products.

England were playing Portugal in the European cup that night. The winner would go to the semi final. It was a big deal at the time.

“Is there any point calling people in England tonight?” I asked my supervisor. “They will be more interested in the football. Can’t we survey a different area?”

No, we had to stick to the script.

Did I say the call centre is based on Scotland? I spent the night phoning people up then apologising for interrupting the game. In a Glasgow accent.

I always wondered, why was the company so inflexible on what was clearly a bad night to phone people in England?

Would an American company cold call people during Thanksgiving?

Thanks for giving me space to make a point which, on reflection, has nothing to do with your post.


I’ve been on both sides of the fence on this one. The angry, demanding customer and the respectful, pleasant customer. I can’t say I get allot of free stuff so perhaps you are misleading here, but I can definitely say that I feel much better being the later. The rewards are internal and on rare occasions, the service person throws me a freebie.
Great blog Derek!


I’m glad I had extra time after work to read this it was very enlightening. I’m usually really good when it comes to those kind of interactions because I’ve had many part time jobs like this. But this gave me another great perspective on my interactions with others.

Rafael Roldan

Cocky & Funny!

Nice pick!!

Hey, your space here is far way cleaner, convincing and elegant than I’d suppose to from your strange email.

It seems attractive, but I’m still not sure if I can really live from a blog or an online course. I mean, no, my objection is not the business itself, it’s me. I’m not sure if I can really detect a problem to be fulfilled with my abilities, especially if I’m talking about a worldwide audience, not just local in my country.

Plus, maybe the tools you point to would not serve if I were to take the business with focus on local audience…

Hmmm, I pretty know why I’m here, why did you send me this email… You seem damn smart, but I’m gonna give you some though time, if you don’t get tired too soon.

Well, to answer your call to action properly, to be a better customer I’ll start to listen more and more accurately while I put a mystery face that is not angry, happy, sad, crazy or neutral.


Great article! Very inspiring! I will be sharing it. 👌🏼


Another example I find that works pure magic: use their native language.
If you hear a French accent, just say ‘Bon Jour’ properly if you can, as best you can if you’re not sure.
If you hear a Portuguese accent say ‘Bom Dia’, Spanish “Buenos Dias”, etc.
What they hear is “I see you. You are a person just like me. You’re not ‘the thing that brings my food’ you’re a human being with wants and needs and hopes and dreams. I’m no better or worse than you and I see you working hard just like me.” And this works miracles.
I use it on interviews, in coffee shops, etc.
Same thing if I hear an accent in English, say from Providence, RI. I’ll ask about Federal Hill.
Or if an obnoxious customer just left and it’s your turn. You smile and say “Tough day huh?”
Their whole frustrated demeanor changes and you can see their shoulders relax and their face break into a little smile of chagrin. “Yup.” They usually say.
And so on. They all get the message, especially people far from home. And they do they’re very best for you because they know you understand. And you do.


As someone who has spent just as much time in corporate America as I have working in restaurants and high-end bars, Derek has nailed it on the head. Excellent fucking work, D!

This advice applies to anyone in the service industry – bars, restaurants, customer service/support, hotels – but it becomes EVEN more useful at the more ‘tony’, expensive places. Most patrons of these places are complete douchebags who try to pull rank and talk above or AT the employees. This makes the waitress or bartender feel like total shit. Can you be a respite, a refreshing breeze for your server? If you can, we’re gonna treat you like a king, like Derek says.

Dalton Finney


I really like this, Derek. Sometimes I take this too far, though, and end up feel like I’m serving them. When they get too arrogant with my politeness, I pull back. Not really sure how to find that balance.

It seems like you do both at the same time. Isn’t that jarring for them?


The title certainly piqued my interest, but you boil down The bottom line and that is taking interesting people and focus on them, rather than the selfishness that usually happens as a customer. You may not get a table right away, or free coffee, or any other benefit it comes back to you then, but you certainly will gain more trust and perhaps the future engagements these people will continue to be positive. Boorish behavior might get you what you want once, but it won’t happen again. Common respect and value towards others should always be the focus that we have towards others, even if we don’t get a direct benefit from it.


Awesome blog post Derek!

I’m in the midst of reading How To Win Friends & Influence People and this one appeared in my email inbox.
Law Of Attraction maybe? LOL.

And as B said above me, I was headed to thinking it’s because you spend so much.
But again, you proved me wrong.

I will try to become a good customer myself as well. Thank you!

Peter Kanayo

Thanks Derek for this brilliant post about gratitude. I can’t forget your post about the punch card and today another monster tip I will always use. Thanks once again

Jay S

After reading this email and post, I’ve decided that I’d like a refund on the Blog That Converts course I took with you 5 years ago. Please call me at your earliest convenience to arrange this.


I think I have left two comments in the past year on blog posts. But this one definitely deserved props. Thanks for sharing this story, I’m going to share this at our next team meeting. All the best!


This is awesome. I’m really glad to hear you address the “It’s about spending a lot of money” because that’s where I thought this was headed.

Gratitude and being a grateful customer will get you so far.

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