Friday, August 07, 2009

Flying All Night and Lost Luggage Adventure

Today is a pretty good day.

I have, 1) caught up on lost sleep, after flying all night via O'Hare with my spiffy new (and expensive!) overnighted US Passport. After all the hassle of obtaining that darned passport, I really wanted the Canadian customs agent to look at my Passport and squeal something like a teenage girl, "OMG, will you just LOOK at this shiny new Passport!!", whilst waving it in the ear and shouting, "Fellas, come look at this!" No such luck.

And, 2) as an added bonus, Oldest Daughter's luggage has been retrieved from the mysterious clutches of Air Canada and United, and their evil 3 day international conspiracy to screw up our vacation.

May I comment about the luggage thing for a moment? For that matter, this is really a rant about the subject of customer service and the New World Economy.

It seems as if the entire world of customer service has left the US and Canada altogether. Everywhere across the North American continent, whenever anyone has a need, asks a question, or needs support with software, there is not a soul in sight who can help. We are a nation of people who are unable to help ourselves, or for that matter, employ our own people to help us. We have become a sea of mouth-breathing people who sit in front of PC monitors with malfunctioning software, facing error messages. Dumbstruck, we reach for telephone assistance, dutifully dialing the 800 support line. We are helpless. When we need airline tickets, or just as an example, say, to find our lost luggage, we commence mouth breathing. We grunt something in a single syllable - pick up the phone and call, yes, you knew it was coming....


I fear that some day in the not-to-distant future, we will wake up and find that the inner workings of all government, health care, the phone company, and all vacation planning will have been exported to the Indian subcontinent. This will be their final revenge for British Colonization.

Whenever I struggle with a mysteriously lost file containing every financial transaction I have ever made - my call for help (see, I am slack-jawed too!) is directed to some mysterious room in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, or Hyderabad. A demurring and exceedingly apologetic Indian person, who almost always has a single syllable westernized first name like "Liz" or "Tom" comes on the line to tell me that "I am so sorry, it's not a problem...". Unfortunately, there IS a problem, or I would not be on the line for hours at a time with a person 1/2 way around the world who is smarter than I.

Over the past two days I have been a part of The Incredibly Secret Luggage Confusion (as it shall henceforth be known). I need to add that The Luggage Confusion occurred 24 hours after the very near computer-induced cancellation of my reservation to join my family in Toronto by yet another lovely phone support person in India. During the past several days, I have been apologized to about 500 times. I swear it. The luggage support people can do wonders for your sense of false superiority. But, I don't want apologies, I want an honest answer about my luggage.

Phone support people of India - loosen up a little, enjoy your life, and please, just be honest with us silly Westerners. We need the candor on our end.

Below is a sample of the conversation I had yesterday with Air Canada Luggage Services (after an initial on-hold delay of 20 minutes):
Me: "Yes, this is Steven Norris, calling about lost luggage ticket number 54362. I would like to find out the status of my lost luggage."

Them: "Yes Mr. Norris, we are so sorry for your delay in holding, and for your lost luggage. We are now checking on this matter. Can you please hold again for a brief period?"

Me: "Ah, yes, if it will help you find my luggage." (Additional wait of 5 minutes - I can now hum for you ALL of the hold music they have!)

Them: "Hello again, Mr. Norris, we are so sorry. We do not have a status update on your luggage. But, we can tell you that your luggage may have left Las Vegas for Toronto. This also might have involved a flight to Orlando."

Me: "MAY have left Las Vegas? Orlando? What does that mean? Has it left or not? What flight is it on please?"

Them: "I am sorry, but we cannot give you that information"

Me: "Ok, then, can you tell me WHEN the luggage will be in Toronto?"

Them: "I am so sorry, Mr. Norris, but we cannot tell you that. The luggage must be confirmed to be located in Toronto, before we can confirm that the luggage is in Toronto, and is confirmed."

Me: (Now entering a dreamlike state of confusion) "So you cannot tell me where the luggage is, where it is going, or when it will get there? Do I have this right?"

Them: "I am so sorry, we cannot confirm that information."
Clearly, I was dealing with a room full of people who could not confirm whether they actually were even breathing. This was truly Orwellian. I will not bore you with further details, other than to say two things to complete this saga.

First, we received a phone call at 4:30AM from India with the following information:

"Hello, Mrs. Norris, this is Liz from Air Canada luggage services. I am so sorry, but we have no update on the status of your luggage. I am so sorry, but I am calling to tell you we have no status change. I apologize for the call, but I have nothing further to tell you. So sorry. Thank you. I am so sorry."

One would think they felt, well, a little sorry. Or maybe they just always feel that way. I mean, in 10 years they will probably feel sorry for us all; after they take over the world. The Phone Support people will subtly just lure us all into a stupor of absolute confusion.

Then they will occupy the Capital Building, and put us all on hold. Permanently.

Second thing. This morning at about 10AM, we got a call. This time, from the Luggage Dude at Toronto Airport. They had our luggage. We got it.

Welcome to the New World Economy.
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