cruisin’ for a bruisin’…in the not-so-friendly skies

Nowadays, airline passengers are fighting mad at being sandwiched into their seats like rows of sardines.

What can a passenger do, short of punching out an annoying fellow passenger?

My suggestion?

Zone out!!!

“Zoning out” during a 5 hour or more flight isn’t for novices.

I try to sleep…or pretend to sleep. Makes the flight go faster if I’m not awake to count the seconds, minutes, hours.

Helps me assume…rigor mortis! Or an approximation thereof.

I see nothing. I hear nothing. I speak nothing. I’m wholly intent on getting from Point A to Point B.

No fuss. No muss. No stress.

How the airlines are messing with me is not what I want to ponder in these my Golden Years.

I’ve got enough on my plate to consider…bloating, constipation, overweight, hair loss, arthritis, fibromyalgia. Then there are the HIGHS…high cholesterol…and the LOWS…low metabolism, low thyroid and, of course, low libido. And let’s not forget the INs…indigestion, incontinence, insomnia.

Enough. Don’t you think?

Recent news stories about passengers duking it out with fellow passengers and/or flight attendants, foretells of heart attacks waiting to happen or psychos in the making.

As with anything else we choose to buy, like it or not, we know what we’re getting ourselves into. And if not, who’s kidding whom?

Yes, I could spend all my days and nights writing irate letters to Presidents and CEOs of air carriers with whom I might have a beef. I did do just that recently…  https://hugmamma.com/2014/06/08/a-complaint-letter-works-hawaiian-airlines/
Once-in-awhile is okay, but I wouldn’t make it a habit. Life’s getting too short for that cat-and-mouse game.

In older age…I’m more suited to a swan’s life…serene…”with an edge”…tucked securely beneath my feathers. So don’t ruffle them…

…if you know what’s good for you…
………hugmamma.

(Looks like designer A. Yaghoubi might have the right idea with his AIRGO design. Each passenger has his own “bubble.” No need for physical interaction whatsoever. Isn’t that what life is all about these days?)
http://www.gizmag.com/airgo-economy-seat-concept/26339/picturesairgo-airline-seat-design

 

Advertisements

a complaint letter works!…hawaiian airlines

Did not expect to be back writing about Hawaiian Airlines, and my less than satisfactory experience with their inept bureaucracy. However I’m here to tell you that it pays to let those in authority know when you’re…tired of being pushed around like some invisible non-entity!

After hearing from a senior counselor in the airline’s consumer affairs department who told me that my case was closed, I decided that the President and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines, Mark Dunkerley, to whom I’d addressed my complaint letter could care less that I’d been led down a merry path by his company’s front-line representatives. Then and there I resolved not to fly Hawaiian Airlines in the future.

Lo and behold, you can imagine my surprise when I received a letter from Avi Mannis, the Vice President of Marketing. He apologized for the delay in addressing my complaint letter sent some 20+ days earlier.

I am writing in response to your letter of May 2nd, addressed to Mark Dunkerley. I apologize for the time it has taken me to respond personally.

I was distressed to read of the difficulties you had in processing a fare adjustment. The communication from our representatives to you was frankly unacceptable, and inconsistent with the standards of service to which we hold ourselves. This is a matter that I take seriously, and–as in all cases in which we fail to meet the expectations of our customers–we are undertaking an investigation to understand how we can improve.

Mr. Mannis went on to explain in “plain English” what none of Hawaiian Airlines’ personnel could do during the several phone calls and emails that transpired between them and me. 

I’ll try to state our policy on fare adjustments post-purchase in plain English: If you buy a ticket from us directly, and the price subsequently goes down, we’ll issue you a travel credit (applicable to future travel) in the amount of the fare difference less a $40 service fee. The lower price has to be available on the same flights/travel dates that you purchased when you call for the adjustment.

Perhaps if I’d been speaking with local employees who were invested in Hawaiian Airlines, rather than out-sourced hired help in the Philippines, communication might have been better. Instead, it was as though the folks with whom I dealt could only speak what they’d memorized. Unfortunately, they couldn’t even get that right, in light of what Mr. Mannis was able to adequately convey in just a couple of sentences.

In concluding the matter, Mr. Mannis offered my family eTravel Credit towards future travel. I’m not certain the $300+ will convince my husband to book Hawaiian Airlines again, especially since the credit must be used for travel within the next year.

It’s not often we up and fly to Hawaii. Every few years is more our speed. It’s more than likely we’ll go back to booking whichever airline is offering the most attractive rates when we decide to make another trip home to our native islands.

Making a case to resolve what I deem as unfair treatment is something I will undertake without hesitation. There’s a thread of integrity that runs through my moral fibre which I’m unable to ignore when it begins niggling away at my conscience. Blame it on the Catholic nuns who hammered it into my psyche from day one of my schooling. Anyone who received an education from those women in black garb knows of what I speak. You don’t know brainwashing until you’ve dealt with a formidable female disciplinarian of God’s elite staff. 

When I take the time to voice my complaint, however, I make certain I have all my facts and figures at the ready.  I’m not one for blasting away without first lining up my ammunition. Chalk it up to my years as a paralegal for the now defunct Trans World Airlines.

I list dates, name names, and offer proof of conversations. Emails are God-sent, in that respect. I literally blow my unsuspecting adversary out-of-the water with facts. What the recipient of my complaint letter does with it is totally out of my hands at that point.

Voicing my dissatisfaction is what I can do as one individual. I’m not equipped to take on the world, let alone a corporation. 

Once I decide to take on Goliath however, I set about learning who it’s head is…the President and CEO. Once I even copied in the head honcho of the parent company. In this amazing age of GOOGLE, finding corporate information is easy-breezy.

In the not too distant past, I had to finagle the information from a receptionist by asking to whom I could send a commendation letter. Little did she know I was intent upon blasting the company for trying to inflate an original price quoted for delivering a piece of furniture some 3,000 miles, traveling from east coast to west coast. Yes, I ended up paying the original $261. Nowhere near the $900 the local representative wanted to deliver the piece to my home.

Other battles include a bank that tried to increase the interest rate on our mortgage application because the appraiser failed to turn in his paperwork with due diligence. The bank president’s executive secretary intercepted my call to her boss, and made sure we got the rate initially promised. I guess sobbing my frustration helped, although I had no intention of breaking down. Who does?

Rather than bury your stress deep within, put it out there in the form of a complaint letter. You’ll feel better…no matter the end results. And if it gets you concrete resolution, consider it the…

…icing on the cupcake!!!

………hugmamma.Nashville 09-2010 00023

 

 

hawaiian airlines…resolved???

In my previous post, Hawaiian Airlines bureaucracy, irksome…to say the least, I told of my recent dealings with several representatives of the airline as I tried to ascertain if my family was eligible for a reduction in airfare for reservations we’d booked prior to receiving an email touting a better rate.

Long story short, we could only apply if we cancelled our prior booking for which we’d have to pay a penalty, or watch for another email and call in again to see if we could get the better rate.

I can see you’re grimacing as I did, and others to whom I related this story. Duh??? Would you mind running that past me again?

Unfortunately, it’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but…

Feeling I’d hit a bureaucratic, brick wall, I did what any red-blooded American housewife would do under the circumstances…I wrote a six-page letter to the President and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines, Mr. Mark B. Dunkerley detailing my experience from start to finish, including the various emails sent me by the six or so employees with whom I’d been in contact. I copied the three executive vice presidents and sent the letters priority mail to ensure that they didn’t travel by way of the South Pole. I jest, of course. Although I did want them to receive my correspondence sooner, rather than later…or never.

I realized Mr. Dunkerley might never read the letter. Most likely his executive assistant would redirect it to whomever she felt should handle the matter. It’s probably rare that a company’s top man bothers with such matters, although my husband informed me that his company’s President/CEO always reads mail addressed to him. This doesn’t surprise me since I know the man, and he’s one-in-a-million. I’ve not yet met another high-ranking executive who is as concerned about people as he is.

My husband felt certain I’d hear back from a director…at least. But no. My concerns weren’t even warranted that level of handling. Instead I was referred back to the senior counselor in Consumer Affairs from whom I’d received the last email advising me to look for another email offering a lower rate.

The woman told me my letter to Mr. Dunkerley had been referred to her for handling. Talk about bypassing all the levels between the head honcho and a clerk. It’d be like free falling from the top of the World Trade Center to the ground floor.

Closing the lid on my case once and for all, I was informed that in our upcoming trip to Hawaii our family would be allowed one piece of checked luggage for free. Well, I guess that’s something.

Funny thing is, an apology for what I’d experienced in the way of poor customer service would have sufficed. Acknowledging that my family’s business, present and future, meant a great deal to Hawaiian Airlines would have gone a long way in securing our patronage. We would have applauded their efforts on setting the record straight to right a perceived wrong.

Upon reflection, our family agrees that the airline industry as a whole is totally immersed in the “bottom line.” Passengers are simply a means to that end. Management is too busy dreaming up ways to take our last dollar, while the lowest employees on the totem pole are charged with making sure we remain parted from our money.

So as I said to Mr. Dunkerley in closing…“Customer satisfaction is a relic of the past, it seems. As is passenger loyalty.”

…we all do…what we have to do…corporations and individuals, alike…

…sad, but true…

…hugmamma.

hawaiian airlines bureaucracy…irksome, to say the least

Forgive the rant, but tangling with airline bureaucracy is never a “walk in the park.” It’s more like treading water in the middle of the ocean…with no land in sight.

So why get involved with a dragon that breathes fire, while rearing its massive, unwieldy head? Or in this case…Methusala with her many heads, all of which do not converse with one another?

Well, I’ll tell you.

IMG_4514Our family is planning a visit to Hawaii to see relatives and enjoy some time together in the sun, sand, and blue waters. Normally my husband books the cheapest flights he can find. To the islands, it’s more than likely we’ll fly with Alaska Airlines. This time, however, I insisted we fly on Hawaiian Airlines, the unofficially crowned carrier of the islands where my husband and I were born.

Call it nostalgia. Call it hokey. But from what I recollect, the flight attendants pour on the famed Aloha Spirit the minute you step through the aircraft door. And it doesn’t stop until you touch down on a Hawaiian island runway.

At least that’s my expectation.

Unfortunately from what I’ve already experienced on the administrative end…methinks I smell a rotten on-board experience in the offing as well. Or at the very least, little sign of the so-called Aloha Spirit.

What started this rant? A seemingly innocuous email from Hawaiian Airlines.

Almost immediately after our flight was booked, I got an email touting a “Dream Fare” from Seattle to Honolulu for $538, round trip. Almost $200 cheaper than what we’d paid, I took the advice of a niece to call and see if we might take advantage of the lower rate.

Unbeknownst to me, when I called Reservations, I was actually dialing an offshore call center in the Philippines. I wondered as I spoke with the woman whose heavy accent was, at times, difficult to understand. I had to ask her to repeat herself several times.

After explaining my situation, she put me on hold while she went in search of an answer…a couple of times. When she returned the second time, she indicated that she’d be transferring me to another department for what I thought was a price adjustment.

I got Greg in Web Support, which I’ve since learned is also in the Philippines.

Repeating the reason for my call, Greg told me that the only way I could take advantage of the lower fare was to cancel my previous reservations for which I would pay a penalty.

Duh??? What brainiac at Hawaiian Airlines thought I was going to go through the hassle…to pay…to save? 

Having agreed to a survey beforehand, I blasted away with both barrels firing.

Evidently the Marketing Department dreamed up the “Dream Fare” email, ASSUMING the recipient would know not to call if he or she had already booked a flight. No, there was no mention of this in the email. With Hawaii being the destination and the fare being that low, who wouldn’t want to take advantage of the bargain?

As I told both offshore reps for Hawaiian Airlines, had the email specified that the offer did not apply to previously booked reservations I would have deleted it. End of story.

When I asked to speak with a supervisor, Greg directed me to the airline’s Consumer Advocate’s office. “Wow!” I thought.  “Hawaiian Airlines actually goes through the trouble of installing on-site advocacy for passengers?” Well, don’t expect too much. It’s more than likely also in the Philippines. And if it is in fact in Hawaii, it’s a last resort effort to be heard.

As of yet, I still hadn’t spoken with anyone from Hawaiian Airlines itself. It’s cheaper for them to have foreigners front the operation. Not something other corporations aren’t guilty of as well. More money in their pockets if labor costs originate in poorer countries whose folks are willing to work for pittance.

But the Aloha Spirit airlines skimping on…the ALOHA? OMG! What’s this world coming to?

At first I decided to end the charade and not call the consumer advocate. A glutton for punishment, I decided to take Hawaiian Airlines up on its offer to have someone take up my cause…before I took the matter into my own, very capable hands and went directly to the top of the pyramid.

I provided Hannah, the consumer advocate, with a thorough rundown of my conversations. She filled out a form for submission, agreeing that the email misled in its omission that booked passengers need not inquire. Hannah explained that I should receive feedback within 30 business days. I decided I would probably not hear back, but that I did what I could at this peripheral level of Hawaiian Airlines.

Almost immediately, I received an email from Nel/GBA of Web Support asking that I provide her with the fare I was seeking to re-book. I forwarded her the email I’d received to which came an instant email reply that no one was tending the site. Frustrated, I called the consumer advocate back for help. Wouldn’t you know it? I couldn’t speak to Hannah again because Olive was unable to transfer my call.

Okay. So I repeated my entire story to Olive. Of course I huffed and puffed my way through, explaining that this was only adding more fuel to the fire. Explaining that I had to attach the original Dream Fare email to my reply responding to the email I had just received, rather than forwarding it separately, was like telling a very old dog to do a trick he’d only ever done once before. Now, how did that trick go? Instead, Olive sent an email to Web Support on my behalf. Meanwhile, I simultaneously sent a reply telling Nel/GBA of Web Support indicating what the lower fare was.

The final outcome of this several act Hawaiian Airlines farce is that the following email was sent that has seemingly ratcheted up the ante.

…call Web Support at 1-866-586-9419…

We can actually do some price adjustment on your reservation, though when we tried repricing it, we were not able to get the same fare anymore, as it is possible that the fares advertised is already sold out.

We hope you can call us as soon as you can so we can see about possibly doing some price adjustments after assessment. We are open 24/7 so you can call at your convenience.

Feel free to contact us or reply back if you have any more inquiries. Web Support is open 24/7 to take in your web-related concerns.

Mahalo,

Nel/GBA
Hawaiian Airlines Web Support

I called early this morning and had to repeat my entire story for the fifth time to Jervis. Evidently Nel/GBA sends emails, but doesn’t do phone calls. Very matter-of-factly, Jervis told me that the lower fare was no longer available for my flight. Probably the allotted number of seats for $538 had been filled.

Jervis, Olive, Hannah, Greg, and the first rep I spoke with all apologized for any inconvenience caused me by Hawaiian Airlines.

Rather than doing another annoying, pre-programmed, so-called “short” survey at the end of my call with Jervis, I told him I’d be blogging about the long, bumpy road I’ve traveled in less than 24 hours with Hawaiian Airlines.

It all started with an email that came hot-on-the-heels of booking our reservations. Makes me think Hawaiian Airlines’ Marketing didn’t check beforehand to see that we already booked and, therefore, couldn’t claim the Dream Fare being advertised. Were they trying to play…GOTCHA? Or is it that they’re just dumb?

Check out our latest low fares to Hawaii and book your next flight on Hawaiian Airlines today! Enjoy complimentary meals served at appropriate mealtimes and our authentic Hawaiian hospitality as soon as you step on board.***
 Booking Period: Apr 29 – May 5, 2014
Travel Period: Jun 13 – Aug 11, 2014

My thoughts are that as well-intentioned as their consumer advocacy program might be, it is merely a fancy spin on an old ploy of…”dodging the bullet.” A lot of fancy footwork here, even rivaling that made famous by boxing notable Muhammad Ali, in his prime. Jervis indicated I’d hear from Nel/GBA. I think not. She’s probably some phantom embodiment for Hawaiian Airlines Web Support.

So our family will head for the distant shores of our ancestors enjoying whatever Aloha Spirit we find en route. With what I’ve experienced of them thus far, I’m no longer expecting Hawaiian Airlines to provide anything more in the way of on board service than I would find on Alaska Airlines or Delta Airlines, for that matter. And from now on, I’ll remember that age-old saying…

…if it sounds too good to be true…it probably is!

………hugmamma.IMG_4544

 

 

shrinking seats…

I’ve criss-crossed the country numerous times in recent years to visit my daughter who was dancing in the southeast. Those who commute between coasts for their jobs probably feel as I do…airline travel sucks!

airport security wands

Hoisting carry-on luggage onto and off of airport security belts, as well as into and out of airplane overhead bins in record time, is enough to throw anyone’s body out of whack. Make that a six decades old body already twitching with arthritis and fibromyalgia…and you’ve got the beginnings of one grouchy passenger. However being raised a long-suffering Catholic, I’m primed to absorb as much pain as the false gods of travel can dish out.

Whether or not age is to blame, or my brain goes into overdrive knowing my access to bathroom facilities is severely restricted once on the plane…I find I have to go to the restroom several times before I board the aircraft. It seems I have to squeeze every last drop of liquid from my body in order to stave off any possibility of neurotic behavior once on board.

On one flight when I heard what I thought was the signal allowing passengers to move about, I jumped out of my seat and raced down the aisle toward the forward bathroom. While the flight attendant didn’t stop me, she sternly notified me that the sound I heard was for passengers to keep their seat belts fastened.

Airplane Electronics Sign

Oops! Well, when ya gotta go…your brain’s only got one thing on its mind…ya gotta go!

Many plane rides later, I’ve figured out what I can drink and what I can’t.

I can’t drink caffeine. It messes with my digestion. I can’t take regular sips from my water bottle. That’ll get me bouncing in and out of my chair running to the bathroom for the duration.

Cranberry juice. That’s what I can drink and still maintain my equilibrium. Isn’t it suppose to help with urinary tract infections? Maybe that connection calms my mind into thinking “This is good for  urinary issues. So go ahead, have a glass or two.” Which I do.

Knock on wood…I’ve been fine. But who knows? Older age might make spaghetti of that solution. I’ll have to figure this out…one plane ride at a time.

Having just returned from visiting with my daughter in Houston, I was reminded of my disdain for the whole, unsavory stew that air travel has become. As if a festering wound required more salt, today’s Wall Street Journal ran an article entitled “The Incredible Shrinking Seat.” 

Airplane seats.

Airplane seats. (Photo credit: La Shola y EL Gringo?)

Comparing an airline coach seat these days with seats in other venues, the article highlights the fact that airlines really do expect us to morph into sardines when we fly.

A Boeing 777 First Class seat measures 21″ across…a Regal Cinema non-premium auditorium seat measures 25″ across…a Texas Eagle Superliner train coach seat measures 20.5″ across and the Barclay’s Center upper/lower bowl stadium seat measures 19″ across. By comparison the Boeing 777 10-seat economy coach seat measures a paltry 17″ across.

I’m 19 inches wide, shoulder to shoulder. Sucking in 2 inches is probably not a major issue for me since I’m a smallish woman at 5’2″. Maintaining a shriveled up version of my normal self, however, is a trick.Gumby and Monkey

One learns to become silly putty, literally.

I stretch my limbs into whatever shape is required as I’m jostled by air turbulence…flight attendants and their food and beverage carts…and, of course, my seat buddies. And every so often I just have to move, or else I’ll go…stir crazy!!!

Strapped into uncomfortable seats for 5 hours is not my idea of a good time. It’s become the norm that I now deplane with considerably more aches than when I awoke the morning of my flight.

As I waited to board my return trip to Seattle I overheard a woman say that this was her last flight. Once she returned to the comfort of her home, she was never flying again. It sounded like something I could commit to…if it weren’t for my nomadic child. 

I will play the role of long-suffering Catholic…pee 5 times before I get on the plane…lose 2 inches off my 19 inch wide frame…play silly putty…drink cranberry juice…and refrain from an overwhelming desire to start an in-flight revolution…so long as my daughter lives an airplane ride away. 

…just don’t expect me to like it!…

………hugmamma.

lost or delayed baggage, “cha ching!?!”

The following information was posted on 41 NBC News website on 2/14/11. I thought it was important information for all travelers. Readers were invited to leave comments. Mine follows their reporting.
Last year, nearly two million bags didn’t show up on airline luggage carousels as scheduled according to the Department of Transportation, leaving many travelers desperate for every day necessities.Federal rules require airlines pay each passenger up to $3,300 in compensation for lost or delayed luggage.

 

Many people file a claim if their bag is never found, but you have the right to money even if your bag is just delayed.

Most airlines try to keep that a secret.

Sometimes consumer rights are posted; other times the details are buried on the airline’s website.

When you’re at the lost baggage counter, remember to use these words: “my legal rights”, “delayed or lost luggage“, and “compensation”.

Then ask to file a claim and make sure the airline gives you a copy.

Some airlines will give you money right at the airport to help you with necessities until your bag is found.

Others will ask you to pay and reimburse you.

Others may give vouchers for purchases at the airport.

It’s important to note, never expect money for electronics.

They are not covered, even if your bag is never found.

Good to know; not so easy to enforce. Most passengers would probably be intimidated about getting into an argument with airline reps. I’m sure they don’t make it easy to get the cash, probably making passengers “jump through hoops.” Sometimes my blood pressure and stress level are more important than a confrontation, especially since I’m 61, and trying to stave off Alzheimer’s. Money or health? Health or money? I guess it depends on what’s more important to an individual…hugmamma’s mind, body and soul.

“service with a smile”

Having both worked in service-oriented jobs for many years, with my husband still in the business, we agree that customer service is a “dying art.” Shopping on the Internet has made it more convenient for consumers to surf the global market for all their needs. An appealing product, savvy marketing and a credit card completes the transaction. There’s no need to interface with a flesh-and-blood person. After all, Google can answer any of your questions. And if you’ve got a hankering for “warm and fuzzy,” click on “smiley face” or download your choice of YouTube videos, to get your endorphins moving.  

Businesses grew by leaps and bounds when consumers had quantities of disposable income. Customer service was unnecessary, so it became a thing of the past. A few retailers, like some purveyors of travel and TV’s QVC, continued their traditional practice of being solicitous towards customers. But some, like E-Bay, Amazon.com, Craig’s List, department stores, supermarkets, drugstores, fast-food chains, medical practitioners and airlines, may have opted to minimize service in favor of quick turnover, with a “get ’em in, get ’em out,” attitude.

With the downturn in the economy, companies are scrambling to win back customers who have fewer dollars to spend. Customer service may be on the rise again. I hope so. It doesn’t cost businesses more to have employees smile, offer a warm greeting, listen with patience, offer options for resolution, and express appreciation for ongoing patronage. However, a company may want to invest in customer service training. Even employees with impeccable manners and the greatest intentions, will meet their match in irate persons. I know, I’ve sat on both sides of the desk.

In my mid-20’s I worked as a customer service agent for the Hawaii Medical Service Association in Honolulu. It represents Blue Cross/Blue Shield in the islands. I had extensive training in the technical aspects of HMSA’s policies so that I could answer policyholder questions. I did so in person, and on the phone. I enjoyed helping people, especially when I could clarify or demystify the finer points of their coverage. Receiving their thanks, and seeing their smiles when they turned to leave, was extremely gratifying. Of course, there were some who were disgruntled with what I had to say. And there were a few who insisted upon speaking with my supervisor, hoping his response would be different. Sometimes a review was scheduled, but often his answer confirmed mine. One particular encounter left me “shaking” in my muumuu (long, Hawaiian dress).

A gentleman from the island of Molokai had called, unhappy with a bill payment. I think it was a hospital claim, probably of a sizeable amount. I explained how the insurance carrier had determined his coverage. Unhappy with the information, I can only imagine how the man’s eyes bulged, his belly heaved, and how difficult it might have been to breathe, as he screamed profanities through the telephone. The tirade continued when I handed the call over to my boss. We were mistaken to think we’d heard the last of the policyholder. Not long after, the huge Hawaiian man  arrived at our offices, having made the flight specifically to address us in person. I gladly introduced him to my supervisor, who withdrew to the privacy of his office, with the angry islander in tow. I think someone from upper management eventually joined the conversation, but I don’t remember the outcome. Needless to say, the experience left me wary.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been the irate customer. However I’ve certainly done my fair share of yelling, I’m sorry to say. But it’s always been when I felt inconsequential, the company having already snagged my business. There was the time we’d refinanced with a bank at a low-interest rate. Because the appraiser hadn’t submitted his report on time, our rate was due to be increased. Not until I spoke with the President’s secretary, shedding tears of frustration, did she resolve the matter in our favor. 

When my 19-year-old daughter’s VISA bill showed an annual $85 fee for fraud protection on a credit limit of $500, I went ballistic! If she didn’t pay the fee, she’d be slapped with a finance charge. And if that kept up, she’d reach her allowed max in no time.  It was ludicrous that a billion dollar corporation would take advantage of a teenager. Unfamiliar with marketing schemes, my daughter thought VISA’s $2 rebate check was a reward for opening a bank account. Cashing the check actually signed her up for credit card protection, as indicated on the back, in fine print. My nonstop tirade failed to move the customer rep until I asked how she’d feel if her teenager had been scammed. The rep agreed to remove the fee, without requesting repayment of the rebate.

Purchasing a used sofa back table in Atlanta for $300, I agreed to pay the dealer another $265 to ship it to my home in Washington state. He shipped with a small, regional carrier because of its comparatively low-cost. When the merchandise arrived in Tacoma, my husband was told that the price had escalated to $600. In speaking with the seller, I learned that the price change had occurred within the shipper’s bureaucracy. The clerk with whom the transaction originated, wrote up the piece as a “sofa bed,” not a “sofa back table.” Sight unseen, the receiving office modified the price accordingly. When we asked that they open the crate to verify that it was a table, not a sofa bed, we were aghast when the amount shot up to $800+. No reason was given, but I surmised the decision was made that the piece was an antique. If I refused to pay the exorbitant price to retrieve my belonging, it could be sold locally for a hefty sum. After phone calls to 3 different offices, I was directed to the company’s corporate offices in Alabama. I wrote a letter describing, in great detail, the events leading up to my outrage. I addressed it to the President of the freight company, copying the President of its parent company, and express mailed both. It was sent on a Saturday, and I followed up with a call on Tuesday. Long story short, the Tacoma branch delivered the table to my husband for the originally quoted price of $261. That didn’t include door-to-door transportation, but it did in my case.

Who wants the grief that accompanies confrontation? Not me, that’s for certain. I’d just as soon turn my back, leaving it to those with hardier constitutions. But as I’ve indicated in my earlier posting, “put a ‘face’ on the ‘unknown,’ ” sometimes I’m integrity gone amuck! As with most people, there’s a “line” which when crossed, Mr. Jekyl steps in for Dr. Hyde. At that point, I become “warrior mom,” battling until my opponent is “face down,” eating dust from under my high-heeled stiletto, specifically removed from moth balls for the occasion. 

In my travel experiences from one end of the country to the other, southerners and Hawaiians exude genuine warmth and hospitality. The tellers at my mother-in-law’s bank welcome her with sunny smiles, and assist patiently with any questions she may raise. I find Southern wait staff gracious in their greetings, and their drawls hold my attention as they enticingly describe the “specials of the day.” What both ethnicities share is a slower paced lifestyle. That seems to translate to great customer service. Of course, as with anything else, there are exceptions to the rule. But I enjoy spending time in those locales, where “getting to know you” and “service with a smile” are more than fanciful sayings. They’re a way of life. 

for amazing customer service, huge hugs…hugmamma.

ride with strangers

Eagerly anticipating a visit with my daughter, I took a connecting flight to where she lives on the east coast. Rather than fly into a major hub, I chose to connect at a smaller airport closer to my destination. From there it was only another hour until I saw that beautiful face, which always brings a huge grin to mine.

Relaxing into the first leg of my trip I drifted in and out of sleep. Finally the plane touched down on the tarmac. Scurrying through the exit door, I hurriedly made my way into the airport. At the nearest flight schedule board, I searched for the gate number of my continuing flight. I could feel my blood pressure rise when I soon realized that it was not listed. Panicked, I found an agent who directed me to the nearby ticket counter.  Walking towards it I noticed a short line of customers waiting.

When it was my turn, I stepped up to the counter and inquired about my flight. To my dismay I was told that all flights had been cancelled. The next available wasn’t until 9 a.m. the next day. Not accustomed to finding myself in such a situation without my husband who usually manages such dilemmas, my heart sank. All I could think was that my daughter was so close, but yet so far.

As is my custom when I’m flummoxed, I phoned my husband who still happened to be at work. My words came tumbling out faster than he could comprehend. But finally he understood my situation. Stepping away from the counter to speak with him, I soon realized that I’d have to figure this one out myself. While still half-listening to him, I overheard a conversation between a man and a woman. Drawing closer to hear what they said, it became clear that she was traveling with him to the city where I was also headed. The gentleman had rented a car beforehand.

I quickly jumped in to ask if I could also hitch a ride. Just as I was told that I could, a younger man joined us to confirm that he would be our fourth traveling companion. Needless to say my husband overheard my maneuvering and was flabbergasted when I said “Bye. I’m riding with Larry. Call you when I get there.” Without waiting for his reply, I hung up.

Lucky move on my part. Seconds later a woman asked if she could join our group. Unfortunately, the car could only sit 4 comfortably on the 5 hour drive.  I felt badly but knew she had the option of staying the night on the airline’s “dime,” and catching a flight out the next day. If I felt any reluctance about the trip, a ticket agent acquainted with Larry reassured the other woman and I that we were in good hands. As a frequent flier for business he was a regular customer.

The journey was nothing short of amazing. My fellow travelers and I established an easy camaraderie. We spoke of family, work, ourselves, our interests. The two men were natives of the area to which we were headed. Larry was returning home from business; John was visiting family. Jane was joining her husband who had gone a day ahead to attend a conference.  At times it was a four-way conversation; other times the 2 men talked, while Jane and I murmured quietly together in the back seat. We all agreed that Larry could pick the time and place for our one and only rest stop. We were all in a hurry to get where we were headed.

As we drew nearer our destination, I was sad to part with newfound friends. I become attached easily. After dropping Jane off at her hotel, we drove to the airport where Larry would return the car, John would rent one to continue driving another 2 hours, and I would meet my daughter. Getting out of the car I hugged Larry, pressing a $20 bill into his hand. Without pause he pushed my hand away refusing any compensation. It was enough, he said, to have pleasant company on what would otherwise have been a long, lonely drive home. Choking back tears, I thanked him profusely and gave John a big hug as well.

Once I saw my daughter, it made little difference that I arrived at midnight instead of 7 p.m.  She always “makes my day”, no matter the hour. I couldn’t ask for more, especially after being bestowed with the gift of a Good Samaritan who came to the rescue of strangers who became friends.

forever grateful to Larry…hugmamma.