Customer Disservice

My return flight was a pleasant experience up until the very last second. I got to Myrtle Beach but my bag wasn’t there. Odd, since I had longish layovers at every connection and like 3 hours in Charlotte. I filed the claim and left. When I got just far enough down the road to be inconvenient, my cellphone rang and they found my bag. I told them I’d be back in an hour as I was going home to change and then going to work. They said “The bag will be at the United ticket counter.” Fine.

I got back to the airport almost exactly an hour after that, asked at the United ticket counter. They didn’t have it. My flight was ticketed United, but the last leg was provided by US Airways (you can see where this is going from that company name.) United doesn’t have it, and so the gate agent bounced me to US Airways ticket counter which is like four feet away. I talked to a gate agent there and told the same story. “I was told my bag would be at the ticket counter.” Her response was “It’s not here, go back to the claims office in baggage claim.” “But I was specifically told it would be up here.” “Well, it isn’t.” Fine.

At this point, I had been in the airport for about 4 minutes and in that time, all anyone had done was try to punt me to someone else. As I started to leave for baggage claim, one of the young kid baggage handlers asked my name. He walked behind the US Airways ticket counter and there was my bag, maybe 5 steps from the lady who was just telling me she didn’t have it. My friends, I didn’t complain once on the flight out when it took 24 hours to get from Myrtle Beach to Portland, but I finally got angry about this and raised my voice. I yelled because she wanted to give me the runaround rather that bother to look for something that she might well have tripped over. Had she turned her head 60 degrees to the right she’d have seen it, but instead spent her energy explaining why it couldn’t be there.

It’s not the lost bags, it’s not having to come back to the airport. It’s paying someone hundreds of dollars to get me and my stuff somewhere and back and then finding out that people providing that service don’t really care if that happens. I’ve decided that I’m never flying one of these United/US Airways combos again because when a problem happens — and it will happen — all their energy goes in trying to toss it over the fence to the other one. From my perspective, the first United person I talked to should have taken ownership. They did take my money, after all. She should have walked with me to find this bag because she knows more about their process than I do. The first US Airways person I talked to should have taken ownership and put the same urgency into serving me as she did into getting rid of me. If she had looked, I’d have been gone in less time than the initial argument had taken. Even if I did have to go to the claims office, she should have gone with me. There was no one checking in anything because no flights were leaving, they were just standing around.

There’s a fundamental difference between two approaches a company can take when there is a problem and the person talking to you can’t help you directly. One – “You have a problem so go talk to someone over there.” Two – “You have a problem. Wait right there and I’ll find the right person to help you.” I work for a company that wants you to do that latter. I want to deal with companies that do the latter. Doing the former gets you fired from me. Goodbye United/US Airways combos. You are fired completely. I’d like to fire US Airways completely as well but with limited choices at my small regional airport, that might not be possible. They are the court of last resort, and United isn’t much above. If I hand you a few hundred dollars, I want that to matter to you and to these companies it seems that it doesn’t.

4 Replies to “Customer Disservice”

  1. concur dave – customer dissatisfaction seems to be the norm currently…

    i have a post waiting in draft on the different between online and retail from a customer perspective (still need to finish it)…

    i fly to charlotte a lot and u.s. “scare” (the worst airline) is the primary carrier unless i leave out of newark so i can take continental (one of the better carriers) but that’s a schlep for me from ct – would much rather use lga…

    the issue isn’t really about employment but rather common decency – when possible people should try to help other people – period…

  2. Ugh. I avoid Delta, because for years they lost my luggage on either my outgoing or return flight, every time I flew. Once they lost my set on a direct flight. It was in a white plastic box, that was four feet by five feet. I thought that was pretty impressive.

    I’m glad that you ultimately made it home safely.

  3. Paul, that’s so similar as to be kind of creepy. Hell, it might well be the same people.

    Mary, that is indeed pretty egregious. I know that airlines are kind of like banks. If you talk to people and get their “I’ll never deal with X” again stories, it doesn’t take that many to cover the entire market. When the airline cares about me and my stuff less than the bus company that took me from the border to Tijuana and back for $3 (when the border crossing right there got squirrely they drove us 20 miles out of the way to get us across safely and in a timely manner), then we have got a big big problem.

    Mike, I do dig the Charlotte airport, but not Unfortunately Still Allegheny In Reality. I agree with you on the decency front. I’m getting old and sappy, much of what I talked about this last weekend was framed in terms of love. Note that even the four word AmigoFish motto contains that word. If we don’t connect with each other in a substantive emotional way, we’re just monkeys with vehicles and currency.

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