We have been looking forward to taking our holiday vacation to Colorado to visit both my wife's family and my family. With Angie pregnant, it's important to us that they are involved and this year will be the first year we will be with our entire family, both sides.
The airlines had other ideas. AirTran, the airline with hands down the worst customer service phone system in the world, decided to preemptively cancel all fights leaving Sunday, December 20 and Monday, December 21. Our flight was canceled on Saturday the 19th. We, fortunately, booked through Orbitz. They informed us. AirTran did not.
(BTW, ORBITZ IS AWESOME! They tried to help us right away, looking for alternate flights, but AirTran locked them out of their system, making them unable to look at flights or access refund information... Big ups to Ahmed at Orbitz... the only superstar in this entire story.)
Back to our tale. We sprang to action. We immediately started calling AirTran.
AirTran's phone system is set to run you around several automated prompts and then they hang up.
I know this because that is what I dealt with for almost two hours, redialing over and over.
My wife was doing the same.
When we finally did reach someone he told us the only option we had was to reschedule the flight. When prompted, he admitted that he could give us a refund. We considered paying for a flight with another airline, but it did not guarantee we'd leave Sunday.
My wife and I come from a snow culture. I hope one day my son will be able to live out there, to experience it. Utah has the most beautiful snow and you can smell a big storm. We didn't smell a big storm. We knew flights would go out and this would be considered a huge fizzle.
We rescheduled for Tuesday, since AirTran decided to cancel, not only Sunday's flights, but Monday's flights as well.
The next morning, when our flight was supposed to be taking off... there were flights taking off.
Of course there were! Our sidewalks were clear (our super had shoveled them earlier) and the streets were dry. There were piles of snow from snow plows and there was about 6 inches of fluffy snow on the cars.
Flights were leaving both Laguardia Airport and JFK.
We began calling AirTran again, to see if we could get out Monday.
Again, with two phones calling, it took us two hours each to finally be put on hold. Two hours of a phone system designed to simply hang up on you.
DO NOT FLY AIRTRAN. That's my advice, in case you didn't catch it.
I was the first one on hold. My wife was put on hold about five minutes later.
Her call was picked up first. So much for "in the order of your call."
When we finally got a human being, after two and a half hours, that human being said, "You should have called earlier." (It was 11 in the morning. We'd started calling at 8:30 a.m.)
She said it was our fault for not getting an earlier flight when we called the day before... when the earlier flights were all canceled.
I know... the logic is dizzying.
We explained that we had a Tuesday flight already but were looking to depart on Monday. She said she could get us on a flight... Wednesday.
Why in the hell would we want a Wednesday flight if we already have a flight Tuesday? Either this woman is a complete moron or she's just being a bitch. We figured it was the latter.
This seems to be a trend. The corporation can tell the individual to "get bent." Their employees have been empowered, not to help you, not to solve your issue, but to tell say, "screw you, what are you gonna do about it?"
We have no recourse but to blog about it, write a letter that will get read and then tossed in the trash. We are essentially powerless.
Need another example? I had a package sent to me via UPS. It was my wife's Christmas present. I tracked that thing for days. Suddenly the tracking site says it was delivered.
I did not receive it.
I live on the first floor. Right next to the door. I can hear him put his finger on the buzzer, which is not quiet...
I did not get a buzz, I did not have a package, here was no package left for me, there was no note or delivery notice from UPS. Nothing.
Online, there was a notation that the package was left at the side door.
I don't have a side door. I live in an apartment building. We are connected to twenty other buildings. A side door would be the front door of the bodega down the street.
And I was home! Why wouldn't you just buzz me or knock?
I asked the neighbors next door... no one had dropped anything off.
I called UPS.
"Sorry. We did our job. We delivered it."
Yes.... TO THE WRONG PLACE!
I was told I had to call the company from which I ordered the item. They would contact UPS to do a trace, then they would start an investigation which could take months.
Why not just ask the driver? That would be far too simple and UPS really doesn't care. As long as the package get's delivered... somewhere.
So, I went through the trouble of contacting the store, putting a trace on the package, reordering the item so they could send me a new one, getting a refund on the first one - it was a pain.
An hour later, a neighbor from upstairs on the second floor came down... with my package.
On the front it had our address and the apartment number: 1L. Written underneath - "delivered to 2R."
Why? Who knows. He never even came to 1L. Why not put a note that says, "left at 2r"? Because he doesn't have to. He could have tossed it at the building as he drove by and that'd be okay. Why?
He's backed by a corporation. As long as he delivers it, the rest is not his problem.
In the eighties, The Supreme Court gave corporations the right of person-hood. A corporation has the same civil rights as a person. I don't agree with it, it's been the subject of much debate and pointed to as the cause for many problems, but what are you gonna do? It's like fighting a giant... and you're a gnat.
So, AirTran or UPS, or any corporation for that matter, was granted the rights of a person... But I don't think that necessarily gives them the right to act like assholes. That's always been the sole consolation for our lack of real power... We could always have our righteous indignation, we could be very nice and then, be upset because, doggone it, we still matter! It was our only way of standing up to the man. a single finger raised high (you choose the finger) and a string of words strung together colorfully. This "person," still in its infancy, would apologize, help you reschedule your flight and give you vouchers for a flight anywhere. This "person" would say, "We're so sorry, Mr. VanDijk, let's find that package for you." That's what I would do. That's how I was raised.
This "person" has grown up and now knows that we individuals have no real power against the rising tide of corporate indifference.
Heaven help us all.