The Glamour of Modern Air Travel

Every time someone says to me “You’re so lucky! I wish I could travel for work as much as you do…”, I always seem to be able to convince them to retract their comment…I figured I might have enough material now for an actual post…I didn’t realize it would be so hard to choose my top 10!

  1. TSA. Need I say more? Oh, but I will! I think part of the Pre-Check interview should be a dry-run through an actual TSA lane just to make sure we don’t let the guy who can’t hang up the phone and still removes his shoes, liquids, coat, and iPad (which never should have come out even PRE-Pre-Check) and puts them in the bin he shouldn’t be using into the program.
  2. What Coffee? Is it a law that you cannot serve good coffee at airports? Even when I’m excited enough to find something non-Starbucks, I’m typically brought back to a harsh reality by their ability to ruin coffee. Am I the only one who thinks that there are few scenarios where getting a good java jolt could be more critical than prior to blast off?
  3. The Armrest Lifter: Do I mind? YES I mind! Armrests should not be optional – they should be required not only in coach, but also in the back seat of most family cars to avoid the inevitable sibling “he’s touching my side” bickering en route to school. I’ll gladly let you use BOTH of them just as long as my butt doesn’t have to touch yours. If I ran the aviation world, there would be an optional shock feature that you could activate when your seat-neighbor crossed that magic seat division line.
  4. INfrequent Flyers: This might sound harsh, and I realize not everyone boards 4 airplanes a week, but come on people…a little special awareness maybe? Oh, and that little note on your boarding pass that says “Zone 6” doesn’t give you permission to stand in the Premier Access boarding lane when they announce that Active Military Personnel may now board.
  5. This space intentionally left blank for Stacy Kildal’s contribution.
  6. Oblivious Parents: Apparently to some, flight attendants are also babysitters. I’m always in awe when I see the single mom with three children put her ear buds in and pass out while the children race each other through the plane to the bathroom & back. Or perhaps my personal favorite, the father who’s so intently focused on his BlackBerry that he doesn’t notice (or care) his tantruming toddler next to him is screaming, convulsing, and kicking the seat in front of him from LAX to Atlanta (I’ll give you 3 guesses as to whose seat that was).
  7. Loud-Talking Sales Guy on Bluetooth in First Class: True Story – I once witnessed a man go from touchdown to live international sales WebEx presentation for GM executives before pulling into the gate. Sadly, he followed me right into the Untied club where he completed his pitch in the chair next to me. The poor woman trying to watch As the World Turns across from him muttered to me “I know more about what that guys does than I do about my husband’s work!”.
  8. Deplaning: Watching grown men mow-down elderly women and young children to beat them out the door. I typically lean to the woman next to me and whisper “his mother must be so proud”.
  9. Plane-side Luggage Valet: Apparently “line up against THIS wall” doesn’t translate into stupid, or doesn’t apply to the 6’3” 257lb. guy in a cheap suit who decides right in front of the 30-year-old business woman is the perfect spot to stand.
  10. Moving Sidewalks: Stand on the right. Walk on the left. By all means, let your children lie on the middle sprawled out with their backpack and rolly-bags that clearly weigh more than they do. It’s not like anyone is in a hurry to catch a flight around here.

The Art of Good Complaining

Being the daughter of an audio engineer, going to the movies was always a little different for our family. Besides the fact that we kids were forced to sit clear through the end of the credits to give my father the pleasure of spotting any friends or colleagues who had a hand in creating the masterful digital sound, we then would have to wait for him to track down a theater manager to let them know that something was wrong with the audio output in the theater itself. More often than not, Dad would make fast friends who appreciated him lending his expert ear to their establishment…and would thank him by giving him a movie voucher for next time. It became a running joke that Mr. Hogan hadn’t actually paid for a movie since 1987.

Maybe it’s genetic then, because I’ve always had a way with words when it comes to complaining nicely.  My usual opening like goes something like “I realize this isn’t your fault, so I apologize in advance that you’re the one taking my call, but…”. It’s amazing how often that disclaimer immediately helps win over the person I need on my side. I find this approach is far more successful than what I really want to say or do, which unfortunately yields extremely poor results.

Whether my techniques were acquired or inherited, I won’t complain about them. There are times when others have been mistreated, or just gotten nowhere with a complaint and I’ve called back to discuss and gotten exactly what we wanted. Of course, things don’t always go my way, and when I decide something is worth escalating, I do so with little to no expectations of the person receiving the feedback listening let alone caring. I do it more as a way to vent when I experience such bad customer service. Every once in a while though, I see glimmers of hope that remind me customer service and pride of small business ownership still live today.

On a recent trip, after my late-night gym trip, I opted to run out for a healthy post-workout snack from the neighborhood cafe (I lie, it was the local Chocolate/ Gelato/ Coffee shop – and it’s REALLY good!). I squeezed in a few extra minutes on the treadmill to make up for the delicious Italian wafer that comes with their house-made gelato. When I pulled up in front & ran in (oblivious to the “CLOSED” sign in the window), I was shocked to be stared down by two lethargic teenagers who told me “sorry, we’re closed”. Looking down at my watch, it was still 7 minutes before closing time, and I let them know. They again assured me that they were no longer open.

Completely irritated, I was tempted to post a poor review on Yelp, ruining their perfect 5-Star rating streak. Instead, I found an email on their website & quickly typed a message titled: “Too bad you aren’t open when you say you are”. I briefly explained the situation & off I went in search of a more sensible post-work out choice (like maybe a protein bar).

To my surprise, I awoke the next morning to a reply from the store’s owner. Not only did he apologize for the way I was treated, and assured me that company policy is to remain open during business hours, but – get this – thanked me for letting him know. He asked me to stop by if I was still in town, and said they wanted to give me something for my trouble. When I walked in on my way to morning appointment, I was pleased to meet his son, who again, thanked me profusely as he handed me a $20 gift card and made me an incredible espresso on the house.  He also told me that the employees would be handled. As I walked out, he called out “Come back again soon, Love”.

Granted, one lost out-of-town customer wouldn’t make or break a store like that, but it’s amazing that instead of losing business, I want to tell everyone how great this family-owned store is. Instead of being frustrated and never going back – I now know where I’ll be getting my coffee every time I’m in the neighborhood…a place where customer service is alive & kicking.

Join me next time for episode two featuring my adventures with Time Warner Cable…