31 August 2007

Tell Me Again Why This is My Problem?

You're checking out at the grocery store. The cashier tells you your total is $20.00 and $4.00. You pause for a second and ask why your total isn't $24. She says that the price scanner has trouble reading the UPC bar code on the hot dogs you want so she has to ring them as a separate transaction. You are being asked to pay twice in one visit; two checks, or two debit card swipes, or two currency hand-offs. This is something the store needs to solve, and not a problem that needs to be laid a the feet of the customer.

Earlier this summer, I sent in the renewal for our motorcycle insurance. I mailed a check to the PO box on California, and the USPS got it there about 10-12 days before it was due. About a month after the expiration/renewal date show on the insurance ID cards we carry when we ride, I received a notice that the policies had been cancelled for non-payment. I eventually discovered that the insurance company uses some sort of electronic funds transfer banking trick and there's some route coding anomaly with the check I sent that made it get spit out of their process. The check they recieved was/is legal and valid, issued by US Bank. There's plenty of money in the account and this was/is not an NSF issue. My plumber takes the checks for house calls, my veterinarian takes the checks for doggy check-ups and the Minnesota Wild takes the checks for season tickets. This insurance company took the checks for four years.

Now, for a reason I have no obligation to care about, the insurance company's transactional sleight-of-hand won't process it. Do they walk it over to bank that would gladly accept it for deposit? Nope. Do the call me to tell me what's going on? Nope. Instead, they never notified me of this matter until we'd been riding with cancelled insurance for almost five weeks. Thanks, shitheads; you're fired. Hello, Progessive.

As consumers we get kicked around at every turn. I think we've been numbed to how low our expectations really are. How else can you explain how refreshing this is:

Here's how Capt. Denny Flanagan does it:

He mingles with passengers in the gate area. He makes gate announcements himself, updating passengers about weather conditions and sets realistic expectations for delays. He uses his cellphone to call United operations to ask about connections for passengers. He passes out information cards to passengers with fun facts about the plane; he signs two of them, whose owners will win a bottle of wine. He snaps pictures of animals in the cargo hold to show owners their pets are safely on board. He writes notes to first-class passengers and elite frequent fliers on the back of his business cards, addressing them by name and thanking them for their business. He personally calls parents of unaccompanied children to give them updates. He instructs flight attendants to pass out napkins asking passengers to write notes about experiences on United, good or bad. He orders 200 McDonald's hamburgers for passengers if his flight is delayed or diverted.

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