Let me begin with the disclaimer that there is no foolproof way of getting exactly what you want from technical support. The tips I'll give will help. However: sometimes you'll win, sometimes you won't. The trick is to enjoy the fight.

"Wait a minute," some of you are probably asking, "doesn't tech support usually just give you what you want?" Well, yes, I suppose, usually. However, there are times when knowing a few tricks can help you get troubleshot faster, hardware shipped quicker, or just the chance to interrupt some techie's game of Quake.

The most important thing to know when dealing with tech support is you have all the power. True enough, if they have good reason to not help you (like you took your laptop in the shower with you) you're not going to get anywhere. But a crucial fact to remember is that almost all tech support calls are monitored. Even if they don't ever get heard, your tech is still wary of the possibility that his boss will someday hear your conversation.

Tip #1: If you ain't happy, escalate.

Unless you've got Premier Support, the first person you talk to will be a low-level tech. Note: Some very large call-centers have "screeners" who decide which pool to drop your call in. Just answer their questions, not much you can do at that point. Anyway, at first, you're talking to the lowest guy on the tech support totem pole. Now, this doesn't mean you're dealing with a moron, but it does mean the only way to go is up. If you're being told anything you don't want to hear, ask to speak to a supervisor. Whether they won't ship you a new one or the guy's telling you there's no fix for your issue, tell him you want the issue escalated and you want to talk to his supervisor. In most call-centers, this is a request the tech must honor. Keep in mind, however, if you get his supervisor on the phone without a valid concern, he's going to be annoyed that he had to waddle over and listen to your whining.

Tip #2: Expect satisfaction

Your happiness is what's most important here. You can be a complete asshole, but your tech still has to do his best to help you out, don't forget that. If you're not getting what you think you deserve, say so and make a fuss. You'd be amazed how well this can pay off at times.

Tip #3: Don't hang up until you're happy

This is more like Tip 2.1, but I think the phrase deserves it's own space. In fact, let me say it again: DON'T HANG UP UNTIL YOU'RE HAPPY! Your tech will almost definitely not hang up on you. Like I said, you're in control; the longer you stay on the line the more likely it is you'll get what you want.

Tip #4: Miscellaneous Tips:

I've got just a few more things:

Don't accept that "ship it to us and we'll ship you another" crap. Tell the tech you want your new hardware cross-shipped. IE: they ship you the new one immediately as you ship them the broken one.

Never pay for the shipping! Tell them you want a prepaid sticker through whoever they want as a carrier. It doesn't really matter how they pay for it, but they should always cover it.

If you're calling on behalf of a corporation, call your sales rep and ask for the Premier Support number. If he won't give it to you, ask him if there's anything you can do to get better support (there's usually not, but it at least shows you're serious). There's a part of me that's dying to include Dell's Premier Support numbers in this W/U, but their mean lawyers scare me.

Most importantly, don't try to be an asshole. Most of these tips are last-resort type ideas, most of the time you can get quality support without much hassle (my best experiences have been with Compaq).

And finally, enjoy the fight. Don't get stressed and annoyed, have a little fun with it. Consider it an exciting challenge. And if all else fails, and you've gotten nowhere, hurl your favorite insult, (here's mine), followed by a polite "Thank you" and the immediate click of an ended phone call.

In the belief that knowledge is power, I recommend reading how to talk to tech support (for the techies' side of the story). Not everything they say agrees with what I've written, but I'd rather everyone see both sides than wrap myself in a fuzzy blanket of denial of the validity of their points.