Do You Know the Way to San Jose?

Last Friday I Ranted about status quo acceptance of mediocrity and how we can claim our power to send a message about the appalling response to the situation in the Gulf.

Today I want to share a little story of mediocrity in customer service. This is yet another example of the growing status quo many of us who travel have come to expect...which is a sad, sad state of customer service levels.

I was in West Palm Beach airport last Friday. I was doing a 17 hour turn to visit Frank McKinney and friends, and then rushing to get back to California for a horse event on Saturday.

I got to the airport and the flight was on time. They announced the incoming airplane was on approach as it began to rain. A quick summer squall moved through for about ten minutes and then the sky was blue. The plane didn't show, and didn't show. Finally they came on the PA to say the plane was diverted to Tampa, but would be back in an hour. An hour came and went...then 2 hours. Seems the weather went to Tampa with my plane and both stayed there. Everyone on my flight to Houston was going to miss their connections..and all those connections were the last flights out for the night, so needless to say people were a bit ticked.

I was really looking forward to a horse event Saturday am, so I was disappointed to miss it. But I learned long ago it does no good to get upset about airlines. It's one of those places where we are truly powerless. I went to get rebooked and then sat to wait another hour for the flight. (It turned out to be 4 hours late.)

But then my senses told me to go back and get a piece of paper with my rebooking info, which the agent conveniently forgot to give me. I went back to the agent, a new guy who checked my record. One look at his face told me I was in trouble.

* The first agent booked me to San Jose, Costa Rica. OOPS.
* There were now NO seats to San Jose, Ca until 8pm Saturday night ( you gotta be kidding me)
* The agent's response to my dismay was "Mistakes happen and the weather isn't our problem. Do you want to get home or not?" (And yes I was very nice, you get nowhere getting mad they have you in their control.) What a customer friendly attitude!

I pushed a bit more and finally got on a flight at 11:30am out of Houston to San Francisco, where I could rent a car and drive to San Jose. ( I would get to Houston by 10:30 pm that night on my late flight, progress!) So I booked it.

I got to Houston and went to get my new boarding pass since my original flight was long gone. The agent gave me a puzzled look. "Why are you going to Costa Rica? Are you sure that's your final destination?"


This nice lady shook her head as I shared my story. She started typing codes into her system and the next thing you know...I'm on a 9 am flight to San Jose, California. "But there are no seats on that flight?" I questioned. She looked at me like I was demented. "Ma'am, it's wide open." So much for overbooked Saturdays.

And then there was the Marriott where I stayed for 7 hours in Houston.

* I was starving when I got there so I ordered a big room service chicken caesar salad. It didn't come, and didn't come so I finally called at midnight to learn they'd lost the order and closed the kitchen.
* Going to bed hungry, I put my little card out on the door for a big breakfast and set the alarm even earlier to have time to eat in peace. 30 minutes before I had to leave for the airport I called them to ask about breakfast. They didn't have my order. I opened my door and there was the little card, still there.
* I went downstairs starving and looking forward to a Starbucks blueberry scone when I hit the airport. I had a reservation for the 7:30 shuttle and was there at 7:20, eager to get my food! At 7:40 I went to the front desk to ask about the shuttle. The agent looked at me with disdain and informed me that the shuttle doesn't run on Saturdays. When I showed her my reservation slip for a 7:30 shuttle (that the agent had given me when I checked in) she shrugged and said it wasn't her problem since she didn't make the mistake. Sigh....
* I even got to call my own cab to get to the airport since she was checking in convention goers and was too busy to call for me.

The good news is my flight to CALIFORNIA was easy, with a great flight crew who just laughed with me over my stories.

I arrived in San Jose early, called the shuttle at the hotel where I park my car 2 blocks from the airport and waited. For 55 minutes. I called 6 times, was told the valets were told I was waiting, and waited again. I could see the hotel from my spot, but I can't walk there thanks to the way the terminal is laid out.

When the shuttle finally arrived almost an hour later, the driver (who knows me) told me the operator inside never gave them any message until 5 minutes earlier.

Some days, you just have to laugh...

And isn't that a sad thing. Especially when it's all due to people whose status quo level of service delivery is, well, mediocre at best...

No. of Times this article has been viewed : 708
Date Published : Jul 28 2010

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