She hesitated. I wasn't going away like I was supposed to and she wasn't allowed to hang up. Our interaction began to play out like a low-speed car chase, her attempting each of the standard methods of casting me off while I remained relentlessly on the phone. With each explanation, I repeated my disappointment that I didn't get anything for my extra $5.
And then, without warning, she relented. "For your patience, ma'am, I'd like to offer you a $25 credit on your next bill."
The turnabout was breathtaking. Where a minute before I'd been powerless in the face of a corporation that would sell my voice to China if that were possible, now I could force it to give me gifts. I felt like I finally understood gambling addiction.
As the month wore on, success came more and more quickly. My total winnings included a free kombucha, a set of buttons for a coat that had lost a couple, chipotle mayo, a functional apartment buzzer, a $25 cellphone credit, a gas company appointment two weeks earlier than was "technically possible," a waived fee on a subpar box from a clothes-styling website, a free drink at a bar after I complained that my first was too minty, and two sincere apologies (one from a guy I'm seeing who'd inadvertently checked out a passing girl, and one from some friends who stood me up without texting first). I got to keep a joke I liked in a story after telling my editor that his edits made it less funny. And God bless the Ralph Lauren counter at Macy's, which let me return a purse for a full refund after two years just because it was missing a small piece of the handle. Even this story's editor, inspired by my success, complained bitterly to an airline after a bad flight, and got a $100 credit for it.