So...Ive often wondered about the serious lack of concern for customer service here in Bahrain (is it the same all over the Middle East I wonder?)...Ive often been in business establishments in which the staff are doing absolutely nothing...and yet cant be bothered to stir from their apathy long enough to earn their salary. Walking out, or taking your business elsewhere, seems to bother them not all all...sigh!!
Generally speaking it doesnt bother me too much unless I really need some help and look around to discover every salesperson has quite literally disappeared...grrr!!
Now, complaining about a service that SHOULD be provided as company policy...or because you PAID for that service and therefore should actually get what you pay for is something else all together...if I dont get my customer service taken care of adequately in that regard...then you will see more than a pissed off customer taking her business elsewhere...todays little (big) drama involving my daughter travelling home is case in point. Picture this...
When her ticket was purchased an adult ticket was paid for because as an unaccompanied minor she will need "extra" care and attention. For those that dont know...an attendant will literally take her from one location to another...handing her over to the next person in charge for the next part of her journey until she is delivered personally into the hands of a relative etc. Each person handing her over must sign the document that travels with her indicating she/he is relinquishing responsibility and that the minor is being handed over in good shape and without harm etc...the next handler signs that they have taken over responsibility etc...and it goes from there from the start of journey till ending with relatives joyful to see her....thats the way its SUPPOSED to work.
I called early the next morning to ensure that her status as "unaccompanied minor" was properly indicated so there would be no problems (you have to keep on track of these things just to quiet that little voice in the back of your head that never goes quiet while your child is out of your sight etc)...she was flying Gulf Air, Bahrains national carrier, and the person I spoke with assured me her status was noted...ok...sigh of relief.
Last night when we arrived at the airport I discover in fact that no such notice had been put into affect and she was without an attendant to see her through. Funny enough, even though I was totally pissed off...I wasnt surprised...Ive lived here long enough to know customer service sucks...even with follow up.
With much drama and angry words from my side...much hemming and hawing from the Gulf Air reps about how this "technicality" occurred...it was eventually rectified by me filling out paperwork at that time (rather than the required 48 hours notice) and an attendant was brought to escort her onto the plane.
I was slightly mollified by the Gulf Airs reps who quickly got around the gaff and made things right...all though I wasnt completely satisfied sending my daughter off with an airline attendant that had been hastily brought and had never actually done that particular job before (hence the need for 48 hours notice etc). It couldnt be that hard to do...could it?
Turns out Gulf Air wasnt telling me a very important fact that I needed to know before relinquishing my daughter into their hands...because she was switching over to American Airlines in Germany...apparently this meant there would be no attendant waiting for her from the American Airline side of the journey...because they have no "unaccompanied minor policy when it comes to handing over from one airline to another" service...or something like that.
So I get a frantic message from my daughter in Germany who is all but abandon in the airport as she is shown (I assume here) the American Airlines reservation desk etc...and then left to on her own to figure out what to do next (there is no handing over policy remember...apparently). I call her and she gives her telephone to the American Airlines reservation employee who informs me that she is basically on her own (he is the one that also informs me there is no hand over policy) and is asking for my permission to board her on the plane anyhow. Well gee...I dont know...why not just let her wander around the airport in Germany for eternity...Im sure the experience will be interesting and something to remember for her. HELL YES put her on the plane...however...slight problem with that too (isnt there always)...of course this means there will be nobody to accompany her through customs and passports and luggage claim etc once she reaches the other side.
Now my daughter is intelligent and quite capable of reading signs and following the crowd and asking for help if she doesnt know where to go or what to do...so my biggest fear wasnt that she wouldnt manage to get through all that on her own...
Has anyone seen the movie Taken? Well a quick run down...in this film there is a ruthless gang of human smugglers that hang out at airports looking for young vulnerable girls (over 17 obviously)...striking up conversations to determine their status (someone waiting to pick them up...where they are staying etc) with the eventual outcome that they are kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery. Its a very emotional and heartbreaking movie for anyone interested in seeing it.
Anyhow, my biggest fear was that someone similar to one of those human slave traffickers would spot my obviously young daughters status as "completely alone" and waste no time in setting her up for kidnapping....it happens...watch the news.
So I had to agree to let her on the plane of course...the AA rep said "very well and thank your" and hung up....I quickly called my daughter to once again lecture her on not talking to strangers...not giving out personal info...and also to give her details about what exactly to do once she arrived in Dallas and had to go through customs etc....but her phone went dead as soon as she answered....and so I spent the whole night worrying about what would happen to her once she reached Dallas (even on the plane she isnt safe if she tells a fellow passenger she is alone etc...you cant trust anyone these days) A mothers imagination when it comes to the potential harm that can come to her child has no limit...believe me.
I called my older daughter who was picking her up...told her what had happened and told her to call the American Airlines customer service to get their advice. They told her to come to the airport early and they would "help"....hmmm.
When she arrived and went to customer service this is the conversation that ensued.
Daughter: My 15 year old sister is going to be landing soon and she doesnt have anyone to help her find her way through. Can you send someone to bring her to me?
C.S. rep: Its only one long tunnel with stairs etc...with lots of signs...anyone can find their way. Dont worry.
Daughter: But my mom is worried and wants to be sure my sister is safe and gets through ok.
C.S. rep: Even if she (my daughter) was walking on her hands and knees...she would find her way through.
When my daughter called me and told me the rep had actually spewed those horrible words out (with a dismissing tone while she turned and walked away I was told) I nearly went up in smoke. Is that really what Customer Service is like in America now? Oh well...your 15 year old child is alone and potential prey for God knows what...but if she walks on all fours like a dog she will get through it....any idiot can...no problem!!!
I immediately told my daughter to go find that rep and put her on the phone...but she couldnt find her....not to mention that my older daughter is not the sort to confront and demand action and apologies...so was hesitant to "make a big deal over it"...just wait Daughter until you are a mother...then you will find your voice and understand just how big a deal it is when it comes to your child. For the moment I was stymied how to deal with that.
45 min after the flight had landed my daughter still hadnt come through. Phone calls back and forth, much hand wringing accompanied with heart palpitations, not to mention way to many vivid scenarios of what obviously happened to her being played out in my head, were not helping matters.
Finally a phone call to tell me she had come through with all body parts intact...thank God. Apparently her reason for taking so long was that Gulf Air did not tag her luggage correctly...it had to be hunted down...nice!
I aged over night people...I felt the ache and pain of every single one of my heartbeats from the time she left my sight until I received that phone call telling me she was safe and sound. I did not sleep...not even a little.
I demand satisfaction from someone. This was a gross display of customer service from my point of view. Children are not something to abandon at airports cause there is "no policy of hand overs" (assuming here)...courtesy and just God damned human empathy and the desire to see no harm come to children would seemingly be enough to "overlook policy" long enough to deliver her into safe hands....especially when nobody had informed ME that such a policy did not exist in the first place when I released her into Gulf Airs hands..does policy (or lack there of) take precedent over the safety of a child?
To make matters worse, her return flight goes through London, anyone that has ever had to navigate Terminal 5 for international flights will understand just how daunting and complicated it can be getting from one connection to another. I cant imagine my daughter being able to find her way through that maze on her own without mishap...Ive done it many times and I still find it confusing and frustrating at times. And because there is no unaccompanied minor status indicated on her ticket from the American Airlines side (it is from Gulf Airs side)...even if Im able to get her ticket indicated as such....Im assuming she will be forced to do it alone as AA will seemingly abandon her in a similar fashion at Heathrow once she has disembarked their airplane and tries to make her way through that maze of confusion that is Heathrow to her Gulf Air connection? (there is no hand over policy remember)
Ive got some serious phone calls to make...and Im pissed.
Gulf Air...your customer service sucks.
American Airlines...while your customer service was slightly better...I cant believe you were not willing to have someone waiting upon her landing and seeing her through...even though there is no official hand over policy (apparently)...its just seems like the right thing for you to have done...especially considering she is a child...and that I was not informed of ahead of time...and therefore an on the spot decision could have been made to cover the ineptitude of airline employees that lead to that trouble in the first place. Im sorely disappointed in you...and will be telling you so as soon as I can get someone on the phone...fricken lines are always busy.
Its going to be a long month until she is back safe with me again.
And if I ever discover who the customer service rep was that referred to my daughter as a dog...watch out!!