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Persistence pays off, so does treating people like people

posted by Joshua on June 16, 2012 in Blog
2 responses

Sometimes plans get crazy and they can be hard to get to work. I find persistence pays off, as does treating people like human beings and going out of your way to recognize their efforts.

Anyway, I’m proud for pulling off a last-minute travel challenge. The me of a few years ago probably wouldn’t have been able to pull it off.

It began with finding out I had two days unexpectedly free.

I checked online for cheap flights to travel to meet a friend I haven’t seen in a while.

Found them, but the flight left in a few hours.

Tried to buy them.

Site kept giving an error and wouldn’t sell the tickets.

Called the local office. Stuck on hold for ten minutes or so.

Called their head office. They can’t sell tickets within a few hours of take-off. They said I could only buy tickets at the airport, possibly at the same price.

Why not give it a shot? I head to the airport, emailed my friend I’m giving it a shot and if I don’t email in the next couple hours, it meant I barely caught my flight and didn’t have time to email.

Miss the airport express by seconds.

Get to the airport one hour before take-off.

Ask at check-in counter to buy tickets. They point me to ticket desk, ten meters away.

Ticket desk says they can only sell full price tickets, two-and-a-half times more expensive. I tell them I can’t afford that. They point me to a different ticket desk, thirty meters away.

The other ticket desk can give me a slight discount, about two times more expensive, but tell me the first desk can possibly give me a full discount, despite what they said.

Back to the first ticket desk, where they insist they can’t discount at all.

Should I give up? Didn’t look like there was much chance now.

On a whim I go back to the check-in counter. They walk me back to the first ticket desk, who points me back to the check-in counter.

By now take-off is about forty minutes away and I’m no closer to a boarding pass.

A helpful guy at the check-in desk gets out his phone and figures out how to get my ticket online. He knows the company site. It’s only twenty-five percent more expensive. I can afford that, so he gets me my ticket. Score!

Amazingly, security goes fast. Double score! I may just make this flight.

I get to the desk with five minutes to spare to learn the flight was delayed thirty minutes, so I have thirty-five minutes to spare.

I get on the free airport wi-fi (it’s not the United States) to email my friend I’m going to make this flight.

I notice an email from the airline confirming my flight. I browse the email. Everything looks in order.

No it doesn’t! The guy at the ticket desk got me a one-way ticket! It’s not twenty-five percent more. Round trip would cost more than double! Crap, I can’t afford that.

Go to desk and explain my problem. As the flight starts to board they explain my quandary. Using the ticket and not using the ticket both present problems where I lose lots of money. They call their head office to see what they can do.

Everyone boards. They’re still trying to get the head office to refund my ticket.

I take time to recognize and thank them for their effort, especially while boarding a late flight with other passengers challenging them.

Head office doesn’t help. I decide not to board and hope to refund my ticket without too much loss. Plus I have to book a hotel since I checked out.

Plus I have to get my checked bag. So I walk with the manager who tried to help and the guy who bought me my ticket, who had innocently tried to help not realizing I wanted a round trip ticket, back to the check-in desk where it all began.

Things looked hopeless. Worse. I didn’t get on the flight and was now looking at a penalty for refunding a ticket I didn’t use. A big loss for trying an adventure. What a disaster.

Despite the disaster, I recognized the two people did their best to help me and offered to buy them drinks.

They declined, being on the job, and wondered if I was serious. I pointed out that though my situation worked out bad for me, they went out of their ways to help me.

After getting my checked-in bag back, the manager brought me to their office to see about refunding my ticket fully and called their head office.

Then she revealed the saving grace to the entire affair.

A midnight flight, unlisted for some reason on the web site, left in a couple hours and had empty seats. If I bought tickets for the next day’s flight at the same low price as today’s would have been, she would switch my ticket at no cost to this flight, only a few hours later than my original intended flight.

Score!

So I did what she suggested. I got almost what I wanted for only a bit more than I anticipated. Even if I can’t get a full refund, my total cost will be among the lowest I saw for my route.

Going to the airport paid off!

My friend had time to meet me at the airport.

What made it work?

It worked because I

  • persisted through multiple attempts. I knew if I got on the flight everybody would win. If I didn’t, they’d lose business and I would have wasted a trip to the airport.
  • thanked the manager and that other guy when I didn’t have to, recognizing their helpfulness independent of my moo.d
  • offered to buy them drinks even when my situation didn’t work out, recognizing that it would have been worse without them.

The results of my behavior

  • the manager wanted to help a guy who treated her well and recognized her professionalism and grace under pressure
  • I arrived at my destination almost as soon as I could have, given when I decided to travel
  • I paid no serious penalty

I call that success.

Oh wait, one more thing

  • The manager, that guy, my friend, and I all had better evenings than any of us expected. I think the others all enjoyed interacting with me.

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2 responses on “Persistence pays off, so does treating people like people

  1. Haha, great story. You’re definitely right about the “treating people like people” part — one of my pet peeves is people who take out problems with the company on the front line staff. It’s partially annoying because they’re blaming someone for something that’s almost certainly not their fault (the shop clerks don’t run the company), but also because it’s so *ineffective*.

    One thing that bugs me though — how come you could afford the website price but not the 2.5x price? I have no idea what your personal budget is, but I can’t imagine why, say, $100 would be fine but $250 would break the bank? I mean, even if you think the second price is too expensive, by the time you were at the gate sunk cost fallacy would apply, no?

    • Thanks!

      I agree about the importance of effectiveness.

      In fairness to some people who get angry at front line staff, I have seen cases where their behavior is the opposite of helpful and they seem to enjoy showing off whatever authority they have, to nobody’s gain, although such cases may not be what you meant by “take out problems.” In any case, I experienced the opposite in this case.

      For the cost, this was an international flight not quite ten times higher than your numbers, so the difference mattered more. Evaluating the costs and benefits of various alternatives was overwhelming, especially in the moment, until the option for the later flight emerged. Then I forgot about the alternatives.

      Josh

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