Monday, May 18, 2015

Vol #2, Col #11: Flying Solo

I never thought that acquiring something that belonged to me in the first place would be so difficult or that further, I would somehow be made to feel at fault for wanting it back.... That was until I flew with Delta. That was until the beginning of December.

With London’s first snowfall of the year, city closures and changes in transportation were understandable. It wasn’t safe as we were underprepared; accordingly, a lot of things, including my flight back home from the US, were cancelled.

All of this I could understand and tolerate (mind you, we have had worst snowfalls in the past, and “state of emergency” statuses certainly weren’t issued. Plus which, we did have four days of warning that the early December “winter wonderland” was headed our way, but I digress). My travel woes, on the other hand, can entirely be attributed to lousy customer service and a lack of attention to detail; something for which no excuse, in my books, is justified. Allow me to explain: 

Because there are no direct flights from NYC to the Forest City, my flight itinerary had me first flying to Boston, then Detroit, and then finally ending up at home. When I arrived in Boston, I was called to the counter by a ticketing agent only to be informed that ALL flights to London for the day had been cancelled. I was given two choices:
1) I could stay overnight in Boston and grab my two connections tomorrow or
2) I could flight to Detroit, stay overnight there, and fly back to London the next day. HOWEVER, and this is a BIG however, I was not given any assurance that my flights home wouldn’t continue to be cancelled for subsequent days thereafter and seeing as I have a job and a life (which most people do) to return to, this wasn’t very comforting.   

At this point, I made inquiry as to where my baggage was considering I had to pay additional monies on top of my flight fare to ensure it was checked all the way through to London. I’d also like to add that I made it abundantly clear, at this precise moment, to the ticketing agent the importance of me staying with my effects as it included, among other things, my very expensive touring guitar.  

The clerk with whom I spoke assured me that my guitar and other possessions were on the flight to Detroit and that it would be a huge hassle to have them removed. With this in mind, he explained to me my best bet was to pursue option number two.  

Despite feeling incredibly ill due to motion sickness (the turbulent flight surely didn’t help) I took him on his word and flew to Detroit. When I got there, guess what? The Detroit representatives informed me that my baggage was NEVER checked onto that plane. 

While in Detroit, the representatives told me I was to phone a customer care number upon arrival at home to find out the status of my stuff and make a claim. You’d think it’d be that easy, but no if I wasn’t already irritated enough (especially considering I had to shell out an additional 350 bucks to a cabbie just to get home that night), I then had to navigate my way through five different phone numbers (all of which were automated) until I could finally speak with a real-life person. She informed me that my belongings would be coming on a flight the next day, and that I had 24 hours to make a formal claim, otherwise the airline could not be held liable for my losses. Of course, claims can ONLY be made in person at airports and London’s airport, as I’ve already explained, was CLOSED! If you can believe it, that next flight that was supposed to be my luggage’s saving grace, too got cancelled...apparently due to “poor weather”;  interestingly, ALL of the other airlines that fly into London had been coming and going just fine.  

I finally conceded and ventured out to London’s airport, only to be encountered by some of the worst and most uncompassionate customer service reps I’ve ever dealt with. After I explained all of the b.s. I’d already been through, they actually threatened to NOT allow me to file a claim because at this point, I was rather irate.  

I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see where it says in the Delta “employee handbook” they’re able to hold people’s personal possessions hostage and refuse to help them, simply because they are justifiably upset? Further, I’d like to see them bursting with fruit flavour had the roles been reversed. I mean, how would they feel if something they valued tremendously on which their professional existences relied got lost and mishandled in such a matter?  

It has been over a month since this whole ordeal began, and while I got my belongings back within that week (mind you I had to spend over a hundred dollars to temporarily replace my toiletries just so I could function in the meantime), I’m STILL waiting for a refund as my request was received, then lost, then re-received.   

Now, I’ve worked in many customer service positions, and accordingly, have dealt with many an angry customer. The difference is that I’ve always understood that their anger has nothing to do with me personally, and that truly, the only way to get such persons to stop yelling in one’s face is to do what your job description details: help them resolve the situation, not hinder them further. Seems like common sense to me. So much for “valuing one’s customers”, let alone the “customer is always right” mentality. 

I’d also like it to be known that I’ve been travelling the world since I was 15 and have NEVER and I mean NEVER had to deal with this kind of ridiculousness in my life. I mean, do I seriously have to buy insurance for everything I take anywhere for fear that no one seems to be able to do their job right?  

Situations such as the one I’ve described above, however, are NOT isolated to Delta or air travel. It seems to me that the bigger and more “faceless” a company grows, the less its employees give a shit about their customers because they figure they’ll never be held liable. The big boss, after all, only comes down for one day every few months. So, as long as they “look” really good during his/her stay (notice I deliberately didn’t say as long as they “work” really hard, they just have to appear that they are doing so), the rest of the time they can get away with murder.  

Further, the movement toward corporate conglomeration is responsible for the eradication of independently-owned Mom & Pop Shoppes that actually value their customers. In a nutshell, the former runs the latter into the ground through sleazy marketing tactics, and by underselling their products/services to such a degree that if the independent stores dared to match prices, they’d go out of business because they wouldn’t be able to afford their overhead. So much for a market-based economy that allows customers choice eh?

The worse of it though is the fact that big businesses are increasingly outsourcing their service centres to places like China and India (for economic reasons again. Slave labour certainly is cheaper!). So, when you have a local problem, NO ONE you phone, even if they wanted to, is able to resolve it for you.   

Let’s face the facts: economics rule supreme these days and have many a time superseded even the power of politics and human rights. But, when this line of thinking results in mismanagement and inefficiency, I wonder how do these companies justify the payoff?  I can’t be the only customer willing to bitch and moan and eventually concede that I’ll never be sending any money their way again. In closing, dear Delta: you suck, and you best believe I’ll be telling all my friends.