Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Cutthroat Business vs. Old Fashioned Customer Service

I am experiencing a culture clash these days in that everything seems to polarized. There is a general lack of integrity and concern for others who in any way are opposite you. Nowhere is this more signified than American Airlines' handling of my recent travel.

I was flying from Saint Louis to Dallas then to El Paso and back. The flight out of Dallas was delayed first because of a broken copilot's chair. Then we sat there waiting for late passengers for thirty minutes more. THEN we sat there an hour because of a broken wing light. By this time, it was almost 11 and I had had enough. I was not about to go through switching planes and arriving at 2 a.m. It was inconsiderate to my hosts and would severely mess up my sleeping cycle. So I said NO. I want a hotel.

The airline accomodated me with Clarion Hotel. I got to the room to find that every lamp was unplugged, so I used the bare light from the light over the door to stumble around, pulling out beds, etc. to find the outlets. Then the ice machine was broken. When I went down four floors and walked out what seemed like half a mile to the front desk to inquire, they looked at me crossly and asked why I didn't use the ice machine on the first floor -- as if I was a complete bonehead. I didn't even know where it was! The next morning my clothes got wet because the sink would not drain due to an unconnected stopper.

Finally, I made it to El Paso. On my way back, out of El Paso, there were mechanical problems and we had to deplane. The airline ticket agent would not reaccomodate me because she was too busy. I had to wait until they could switch planes, even though they had only standby out of Dallas (we had all missed our connections). I said I would rather stay where I know people than fly somewhere and risk being stranded where I don't. They didn't care.

The flight did leave. They did find me a connection. I got home. But I emailed to complain. After all, I flew 26000 miles last year and gave them a lot of business and money. I still have not heard a peep from them. No apology. Remember Jet Blue? That's how you run an airline. American subscribes to the philosophy of all too many airlines -- we have laws to hide behind that keep us from having to provide good customer service. THEY ARE A SERVICE INDUSTRY! Not even common courtesy seems to be required! If I ran my business like they do, no one would hire me!

I remember the days of "the customer is always right" when businesses worked hard to apologize and make it up to customers who were inconvenienced or disatisfied with their service. Something about this attitude seemed to me to be particularly American. And it was about respect and appreciation. We now live in a culture where such values have gone with the wind. And that clashes with my culture of how I think things should be. It is much more like foreign countries where bureaucracy runs over people with abandon with no thought of such concerns. But I don't want to live in those countries. I want to live in the United States of America -- which used to be a great country and the place everyone wanted to be. It sure doesn't seem so much like that anymore.

For what it's worth...

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