Monday, August 4, 2014

Lasting Impressions...by Jim Terry

Some of you may know about this experience from being a family member or friend because you have already heard the story, but about six weeks ago my flight was cancelled to fly home to Idaho. 

In the process of the cancellation and unbeknownst to me at the time, you were also then awarded a three hour wait while in line for the “customer service” counter to reschedule your flight. This was of course after you had already endured almost three hours of announcements that your “flight was delayed” which still gave you hope that you were leaving that same day. 

As this waiting for over six hours came to an end, I had become “friends” with this sweet elderly German woman.  We had talked while waiting for our flights and then again in the customer service line.  She could understand English but couldn’t speak it so well. She had been flying all day with this particular airline from Germany and had one more leg to go to get to Southern California to see her family.  As I bid her farewell while she stepped forward to the customer service counter to get her flight rescheduled, I had to control my temper with what I was witnessing. 


While standing in line, again for over three hours, I could easily see the employees who were treating people well and those who were not.  There was one woman behind the customer service counter that had this curt, impolite and rude attitude towards everyone she assisted to reschedule his or her flights.  I actually, if the truth were known, was hoping I would get her as my “customer service” representative and not my sweet elderly “friend” I had just made. I knew I could handle her and her unprofessional manner more easily than a person that does not speak English fluently.

So as I eavesdropped a bit on the conversation of this elderly woman and this customer service representative, I could hear that the airline was not going to put this woman up in a hotel because “all the hotels were full.”   Upon further eavesdropping, I also witnessed that the patron of the airline, my friend, would have to wait until 6pm the next day to get to Southern California. 

As I heard this and my friend’s kind pleas for a hotel room, I simply brought up a site on my phone to see if all the hotels in the immediate area were full…Just so you know, there were DOZENS of rooms available not far from the airport.  Just because your airline doesn’t get a corporate rate on all rooms doesn’t mean that the hotels are all full…right?

I stepped up to the counter by my “friend” and showed the customer service representative what I had brought up on my smart phone and that there were “dozens of rooms available.”  She proceeded to tell me it was “none of my business” and to “step back.” 

I then proceeded to tell her, “I know how this works…Let’s just get your supervisor here now so we can discuss this matter.”  This must have been where I became, I’m sure, a “lasting impression” for this customer service representative…Living in California has taught me not to necessarily be mean when you are confronted with situations like this, but you have to stand up for yourself or people will take advantage of and walk all over you. I was determined that I wasn’t going to let this happen in this situation since again this cancellation of our flights was the airline’s fault with improper scheduling of their employees.

As I left the airport and back to our story, not only did the elderly woman get the hotel room that I felt she deserved that night but I also received a travel voucher towards a future flight, took some free drinks from their beverage cart they provided and was finally able to get my flight rescheduled.  The only problem with my rescheduled flight is that it was a month later due to all the flights being full that particular weekend to my destination in Boise. 

So as my month wait came to an end and as I entered the gate area where I was to board, I noticed that same “rude” customer service representative that I had the “conversation” with just four weeks before.  As I approached the counter at the gate to get a tag for my carry on, I could feel my blood pressure rising.  Did I need to be ready for another round in the ring with my boxing gloves on?  As we made eye contact, I could see the look on her face that indicated she knew who I was.    

“I saw you were on this flight Mr. Terry”, she began to say.  “I just wanted you to know that you made an lasting impression on me with our last encounter…you were simply trying to help someone else and I was wrong for not trying harder to help her.”

I’m not sure this is exactly the way I wanted to make a “lasting impression” on someone but it appears it may have worked somehow...I often think of lasting impressions throughout my life, good ones, which have helped me be a better person and strive to do my best…my Mom, my Dad, my siblings, scout and church leaders, teachers and friends. And for all the people in my life not mentioned or forgotten in the preceding statement, “Thank you.” You have helped this man become a better person because of your kindness, your leadership, your friendship and for your lasting impressions. 

What lasting impressions have you had in your life?