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Friendly Skies?


If there’s anything I can’t resist it’s an airline complaints pile-on.
Unless maybe it’s an insurance company we’re complaining about. Or maybe a bank. I’ll pile on there too. Or any of the other “service” companies you might deal with that can send you screaming into the woods with frustration.
Problems with banks are sort of understandable. I think it’s just too tempting for them: they’ve got access to your money, you’re not touching it, so they figure, why not just pull out a little bit for a “service charge” here and there? And can you blame them? It’s like leaving an open box of chocolates around an overeaters gathering, a toy chest around three-year-olds, a military in the hands of a thoughtless president. And then banks are full of numbers people, so you can’t really expect to find someone who’s into communication when you call to try to correct the problem.
Or there’s my only claim ever with an insurance company, which was only resolved about a year into the process after I wrote a letter invoking Kafka and wondering if the company was acting criminally or simply being completely incompetent. They voted to aim for looking incompetent.
What is it about dealing with the public? Is it so horrible that it creates a crabby, passive-aggressive misanthrope out of an ordinary mild-mannered service worker? Like the Delta flight attendant who kept slamming a drinks cart into the husband’s foot without giving him a chance to move it. Not that all, or most, or probably even many, airline workers are that rude, but whenever I’ve got a problem there’s some degree of possibility that I’ll run across one who’s been trained in the Frank Sinatra school of customer service (my way or the highway, baby). And with all this customer abuse, the airlines still can’t turn a profit. Hmm, maybe there’s a connection? Anyway, it can’t be me, can it? I know I’m always charming.
These customer service problems are made even more annoying because they violate a basic tenet that Americans are brought up to believe in: the customer’s always right. We can let some of the other civics lessons we were brought up with slip away with a wink and a drink–the right to a fair trial, the separation of church and state, the balance of powers, the right to privacy–but darn it, our consumer rights are unassailable. And in defending them, we’re supposed to spend how much time asking to speak to the manager, waiting on hold, writing letters?
We love our customer service, our no-questions-asked returns policies, our 800 numbers. As citizens we might be lost in the wilderness, but as consumers, hey, we know our rights. You gotta believe in something.

Share  Posted by Deborah Klosky at 1:14 AM | Permalink

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