Okay, so I work tech support. It sucks, customers are assholes or morons, and those that aren't I probably don't want to talk to in either case.

But, I work tech support for an OEM, which means that we deal with actual product, which gives me the opportunity and the resources to do "whatever it takes" to make the customer happy.

Since it's a large OEM, they don't actually do their own tech support, but rather outsource it to companies like Stream International, RMH, or Convergys. Yep, that's right, you're not talking to HP or Dell or Compaq when you call, you're talking to some kid in Canada who works for barely over minimum wage. More opportunity there. Since I don't actually work FOR the OEM, even if I were a company man, I don't care what happens to them (in fact, I secretly hope that they do go under), so I'm more likely to send out free stuff.

"Okay, fine, I don't care about you or your job, I just want to get to the getting free stuff part" I hear you thinking right about now, so here we go:

Play Nice:

If you yell and scream and just are a general asshole, tech agents are much more likely to tell you it's an unrelated problem that involves you calling your ISP, Microsoft, or a myriad of other companies, tell you to buy another battery/more ram/whatever, or worse yet (if you're being really annoyingly mean) do some kind of out of warranty service that the tech knows won't fix the problem, but rather cost you money (or if you're in warranty, just annoy the crap out of you because it'll be in transit for about a week).

Do your parts actually have a problem?

Okay, so now what you need to do (easiest way) is to actually have a problem with your product. What'll happen then is the agent will go through some troubleshooting steps to determine that it is, in fact, hardware. If the agent thinks it's the ram/harddrive/battery/whatever, chances are they'll send you a new one. I don't know how other companies work, but we don't require you to send the original back (more on that in a bit) or even sign for it. We send them out US Post. More to the point, we send out parts US POST and we all know how reliable that can be. When you get your parts they might include return labels, don't return the broken bits. Instead, wait a week or two, then call back sounding a bit frustrated (but don't forget rule #1 or the agent'll tell you to wait longer). They might ask you to wait a bit longer, they might just re-submit the service. If they don't re-submit it, call back in another week, say you were told (*insert ETA the agent originally gave you*) then called back after then and was told to wait some more, and tell them how long it's been. Chances are, if you're nice and the agent isn't about to get off on a break/end of shift/lunch they'll send the parts out again. Bonus. More ram/new harddrive/whatever.

Is the problem the machine itself?

If it's the entire machine, or a non-replaceable part (motherboards, LCD's, etc. ) you won't be sent out parts. They'll either send a tech to your house, or have you send it in for service. You wan't the service. Why? because then you can take parts out. Take out anything that won't void your warranty for doing so (harddrives, ram, batteries... anything you can pull out, do). You'll get it back about a week later, fixed. When you do, call up tech support again and say that those parts weren't included. Tell them you sent them all in and you didn't get them back. So long as you don't sound sketchy, they'll send them out. If they don't, demand a supervisor.

What about if you don't have a problem?

If you don't have an actual issue with your computer, you're going to need to know a bit about computers, because you're going to recreate one. If you want a new harddrive, say that it's booting to "No Operating System Found". If you want more ram, you're on your own (a million different problems could be diagnosed as bad ram). If you want a new battery, the computer completely dies when you pull it from AC power (they might send you a new ac adapter first for this one though), in fact, for this one (if your notebook/pda works without a battery installed) remove it, then call tech support and have them troubleshoot. Be creative.

If you go from the assumption that the person you're talking to knows basically what they're talking about (don't be condescending), that they're a real person who is just doing their job (don't be an asshole), and that they don't give a shit about the companies bottom line (because they don't), it's relatively easy to scam free bits from an OEM's tech support line. Yet another problem with outsourcing.