When you have to deal with a customer support representative, either in person or by phone, what is your opening move?

Do you take an aggressive stance right off the bat? Do you assume that they are going to be unhelpful, unsavvy, ill-equipped, and generally apathetic about solving your customer issue? Do you go in guns blazing, ready at the first sign of trouble to ask to be escalated to a manager?

And how many chances do you give customer support before getting nasty? One call? Two calls? One minute on hold? Ten minutes on hold?

Or maybe you are nice and friendly. Caring and supportive that they have a tough job to do on their end too. That they are legitimately there to help you, and they might just do it efficiently and with a smile if you let them. Do you give them the benefit of the doubt on a few blunders?

I went into an Apple store about a year ago with a pair of the Apple in-ear headphones that had lost the right rubber ear-bud. Knowing Apple pretty well, I was prepared to have to eat $29 and buy a replacement ear-bud as punishment for my lack of ear-bud vigilance. The woman who greeted me at the store listened politely, and informed me that they don’t sell just the ear-buds.

At this point, I made a mistake. I immediately got upset, and told her how outrageous is was that this silly rubber piece that is designed to come off was now going to cost me a whole new pair of headphones. And that at this point I shouldn’t even bother buying another Apple pair, but should just order another premium brand online. And I was all righteous about how they could have gotten $29 out of me if they hadn’t been so short-sighted as to not manufacture replacement ear-buds.

The Apple Genius quietly let me finish my rant, and then said “Actually, I was just going to give you some”, and reached onto the shelf, opened a box of brand new headphones, grabbed a pair of the ear-buds and handed them to me.

Boy did I feel silly. Ever since then, I’ve made a conscious effort to give customer support staff a fighting chance to solve my problem.