Basic Customer Service?

“The minute you feel the air conditioning aboard the ship your vacation begins, and there will be absolutely no stress or aggravation for four days.  The entire staff aboard the cruise ship is there to make sure you enjoy yourself!”  Our (absolutely fabulous!) travel agent promised.  It was easy to believe, because it was a story we had heard from all of our friends and family who had cruised before.

The porter promised that our luggage would be delivered outside out stateroom within a few hours, and when the first suitcase was delivered we figured the second would not be far behind.  When several hours later it had not been delivered we were told that it was not unusual.  What I found extremely unusual though was that while exploring the ship later that afternoon we came across our suitcase – in front of a different room on a different floor. 

I was upset, but mistakes happen.  I went to the Guest Services counter to complain… and after waiting in line for 90 minutes I was really unhappy.  They compounded the situation by firstly not believing me, then treating me like an idiot, and then (and continuously) mistreating me and generally refusing to be helpful or cooperative at all.

Shocked, surprised, angered, offended, stressed, aggravated.  These are just a few of the feelings that I felt throughout this ordeal, which to date has not been dealt with satisfactorily.  As a very frequent traveler I am not used to being mistreated like this – when American Airlines cancelled, then delayed, then rerouted my flight from New Orleans to Toronto in June (losing my luggage in the process) they were (or at least seemed) sympathetic to my plight.  The staff aboard the cruise ship did not seem to care as they contributed to the ruination of the first 36 hours of my cruise.

At some point during the next couple of days I came up with the thought that maybe the lack of customer service, and the automatic belief that I as a customer was probably lying (I wasn’t, but they can’t read minds) was our fault.  Not us, as in me and Theresa, but us as a society.

So many people are out to screw the system.  They want something for nothing, and are willing to go to great lengths to get it.  I have heard the same story with different players from different sources time and again; in the news you hear about people going after companies (and even individuals) to extract that pound of flesh… whether they deserve it or not.  I won’t say that it is the fault of the dingbat who spilled coffee on herself then sued McDonald’s… but that was part of the same ‘Gimme something I don’t deserve’ culture we seem to have evolved into.

During the ‘Stuck in New Orleans’ debacle I alluded to earlier I had dinner in a restaurant near the airport.  I didn’t particularly like the food, but that was not their fault (it turns out I don’t care for crawfish).  Without going into details the service that evening was terrible.  After the bill was settled up I spoke to the manager and started the conversation with ‘I am not asking for anything, but this is why I will not recommend your establishment.  I had paid the cheque, she knew I was not trying to get my meal for free, and I was not going to badmouth the restaurant… she took me VERY seriously because she knew I was not just complaining to try to get something for nothing, and maybe because of that she did offer me a free meal, drinks, whatever.  She respected that I was unhappy, but not trying to gain or profit from it.

The flipside of that are people – and I know one or two of these who have admitted to me that they do it! – who go to a restaurant (I am sure it happens with hotels and other service industries as well); they finish their meal and whether or not they enjoyed it they complain (often loudly) in the hopes of having the manager cancel their cheque.  I have also heard of people faking medical issues to get out of paying (going back a lot of years it was an episode of Three’s Company!).  Knowing that these scams are so prevalent, I suppose it is understandable that the Guest Service agent, faced with a customer with whom they have no history and who is claiming that their luggage was delivered to the wrong stateroom and that items are missing out of the bag, might easily expect that the customer was just trying to get something for nothing. 

Should they have handled it differently?  No doubt they should have; their behaviour was reprehensible and truly a black mark on the record of what I have heard is a pretty good cruise line.  I am not saying that I am so ready to forgive the way they treated me, but by taking a few days to think about what schemers and scammers they probably face on a weekly or even daily basis (if I am any judge of body language I was in line with one or two that day) I find it easier to understand why on a bad day they might take the position that they did.

…of course now it is up to the parent company to clean up the mess; let’s see what comes of that.  (You may have noticed that as of the original publication of this article there is no mention of the company or ship; that may or may not change later!)

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