Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Flight Is Over

My less-than-epic battle against one of the world's most incompetently run corporate entities ended this week as most of these things do I suppose. Far more whimper than bang.

In my mail on Monday evening I found a letter from the "Continental Airlines Delayed Baggage Center." No, I am not making up the name of the locale from whence my mail originated. One wonders just how many flavors are available and how limitless the supply of Kool-Aid is at the airline's corporate HQ to fuel the delusion that their customers' bags that are either stolen or lost while entrusted to their employees are nevertheless "delayed" somewhere. Then again, I could be wrong. My bag and I had just spent 96 hours together in fairly small quarters. I suppose he could have asked for an indefinite layover somewhere just to get away on his own for a while. But then again, no.

Thus right down to its final word on the subject, the people of Continental Airlines (whose number by my calculation include exactly one good person - Tracey Anderson and countless others who spend part of every work day doing who the hell knows what exactly) refused to admit that either (a) one of their intrepid fellows on the ground in Denver had lost my bag; or (b) one of their enterprising fellows on the ground in Denver had pilfered my bag - specifically the iPod Nano and the Nikon digital camera that I had foolishly secured in it as opposed to my carry-on bag (although in my defense each made the trip from Newark to Denver without incident). Nope. Apparently it bears remembering that one cannot spell "denial" without "e", "n", "i", "a" or "l". Wait one second - I am certain that I can think of another word (Continental) that includes those same five letters. It shall come to me.

I am pleasantly surprised that Continental did not attempt to completely screw me on the adjustment of my claim. They did not reimburse me for the "delayed" electronics, which while annoying is wholly consistent with the "limit of liability" language included in at least the claim forms and (I think) on their tickets as well. Removing my iPod and Margaret's camera from the mix, they paid me 100 cents on the dollar for everything that I lost. That is nice as far as it goes but since it does not go far enough to make items such as my Bolder Boulder race bib suddenly emerge from the mist, forgive me if I do not feel anything close to whole. I may have to see if I can twist Rob's arm to do it again next year just so that I can end up with a memento. Hmmm....

The cherry on top of the sundae o' fun that this whole experience turned out to be the letter that accompanied the check. The check was dated July 21, 2010. The date on the letter? June 29th. Well done Houston. Nothing quite like letting your pi$$ed-off customer know that the lag time between drafting of letter saying, "enclosed please find your check" and releasing the settlement draft is an eyelash short of one month. Apparently in the "Delayed Baggage Center" they have a "Delayed Settlement Check" Department. Again, who knew? Or perhaps they simply used one of their baggage-handling dudes or ticketing agents to ensure the letter's arrival at Point B from Point A. In that case, the "delay" would be wholly understandable.

At day's end, I got no sugar from Continental. No voucher for a free ticket; no complimentary upgrade the next time I fly; no gratis headphones for my listening enjoyment in-flight (perhaps a reminder to put my iPod in my carry-on bag); and no free lifetime supply of Eagle Snacks (had they known what a sucker I am for honey-roasted peanuts perhaps they would have sent me some). Nothing more than a check and some half-hearted, hollow apology and a hope that, "the next time you [I] fly you [meaning me] will choose Continental." Why would I not?

Slightly less than two months after "delaying" my bag (Continental must employ legendary University of North Carolina hoops coach Dean Smith to write its policies and procedures), Continental declared, "Game over." What is done is done. And at this point, it is indeed finished. The Irish in me - of course - will likely ensure that it is some time further on up the road before I forgive either the ineptitude or the attitude displayed by most of the Continental folks I have dealt with since early June - Tracey Anderson excepted. And my Irish heritage shall most certainly ensure that I shall never forget what transpired. I must remember.....

Even if it takes a million years.

-AK

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