THE BLOG
10/17/2007 03:00 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Britney Spears and Your Flight Status

Now that I have your attention.

I titled this "Britney Spears" because she exemplifies incompetence these days and that's what we're going to discuss. However, if you're satisfied with pressing "numero dose per Espanol" and wading through a litany of options, none of which you need for customer service, then don't bother reading this. If you love the airport experience, your cell phone company, cable provider, speaking to an operator in India, and all customer service reps far and wide then feel free to go back to updating your facebook page. If you choose to read on, I promise to give you news you can use.

This past summer, something happened to me that I had, previously, only heard about in the media; I was nearly arrested at Portland, Maine's airport for simply asking a US Air agent to place me on another flight. The one I was scheduled on was nowhere in sight and I decided, without delay, not to be part of another nine hour Jet Blue fiasco. Long story short; I was on my way to appear on the Today Show, leaving from Portland Maine airport when I became a statistic--by the way, Portland, Maine's Jet Port is on the top of my list for the three worst airports in America, followed by JFK and Miami.

A week prior to this trip I was in the green room at the Today Show and their "travel expert" Peter Greenberg told me about "rule 240" and to use it if ever this situation should arise. Rule 240 requires an airline to put you on another flight if your scheduled departure was not delayed or cancelled due to weather. I politely asked to exercise this option and was not only rudely turned down but the flight attendant at the gate put her hand up to my face and said; "I don't want to deal with you, I'm calling the police." At first, I laughed and thought she was kidding. I looked around at the other slack jawed passengers-- staring on in disbelief--before turning back to her. She was on the phone doing just that, calling the cops.

A rosy-cheeked "Ritchie Cunningham" officer arrived and was thrilled he had a "situation". We don't know each other, you and I, but please take my word on this; I never rose my voice, was rude, or made threats. I promised this story would be short, so I'll cut to the chase: Cops came, she kicked me off the flight, I went back to check-in, spoke with a supervisor, and got re-instated on the flight. Later, I called Peter Greenberg, he never called me back, called Us Air customer service and was chastised by their PR rep Andrea Raider; a husky, chain smoking voiced women that was generously irascible and intentionally trying to get me to swear or threaten her--they record the calls and this would get her off the hook.
I didn't break, and she never so much as apologized.

What does this have to do with you? It shows an egregious lack of security and safety because many of the agents handling customer safety are incompetent. So much for their mantra: "a customer's safety is our number one priority". All the nasty taking off of shoes, chap stick in a zip lock, and long lines pale in comparison the assumed power of a junior high school educated flight attendant[s]. Think about it; if she's wasting her time crying wolf with someone like me, then that leaves an open window for a real terrorist to enter undetected. Moreover, this shows a complete lack of judgment and competence on her part. Lack of competence seems to be a disease spreading faster than the flu. Just yesterday, I experienced this same type of behavior from Unicorn Financial and Belmont eye care...both un-provoked, both extremely rude. The good news is that there are still some great "old fashion" customer service reps out there. I discovered them on my recent move to Florida and they were competent and reasonable [email me and I'll provide a list]. Here's the news you can use.

1. Cut your losses; sometimes it pays just to let it go and just never use that service or product again. However, if you have a real case and happen to get a rude person on the phone, then hang up and call back until you get someone intelligent...this may take several attempts.

2. Do not pass go...Go straight for a supervisor. You can often get through the annoying list of options by pressing "zero" repeatedly.

3. All big companies have a PR department and they are there to keep the company's best image in tact. Contact them and politely let them know what your situation is and ASK what they recommend. Tell them that you have exhausted other efforts and are contacting them as an "in good faith courtesy".

4. Always be polite but direct and let them advise you on how they would like to handle it before you get belligerent. [Occasionally, I'll say some very mean things if I've decided they won't budge. However, I'm a Scorpio.] Use your own judgment.

All in all, people are good. Maybe I'm attracting the idiot, who knows. The point is it's time to stand up, boycott the jerks, and reward the pros.