Monday, August 25, 2008

Why I Intend to Avoid American Airlines in the Future

While I love traveling to new places, I hate the process of getting there. Idiots stand in line at security, not understanding that shoes and belts must be removed and that no, you can't bring that bottle of water with you. Out of staters stop in the middle of highly crowded areas to either check for passports, tie shoes, or to argue with spouse about going to the bathroom/how much stuff they didn't need to bring.

As if this weren't enough at 7 AM, now American Airlines hopes to further crush your day. I have flown American quite often and have noticed a steady decline in their service. Oh wait, did I say steady? Indeed it has been going down for a few years now, but this year it has downright plummeted. In the past year I have flown on American, Continental, and Singapore Airlines. The worst experience I had by far was with American.

I showed up at the checkin line about an hour and a half early yesterday morning and had to wait forever to make it to the ticket counter. Staff confused customers by saying "If you have your ticket already, go in self-service. If you don't, go to an actual ticket person." One customer questioned this to find out what the real difference was between the lines, and the staff member just repeated her statement. I wanted to yell, "It's the same freaking thing, except in the self-service line, a machine can process your order faster and more efficiently than a ticket agent can." Another staff member started yelling line rules at us, which were fairly obvious. Rules like "If you don't want to use self-service, don't stand in this line." Um, thanks lady.

Other staff members stood around looking pissed off and hardly awake. Meanwhile, the crowd stood looking anxiously towards the self-service machines, not knowing which ones were available and which were in use. Instead of directing people to open machines like any other airline would have, the staff members stared off into space. Once I obtained my boarding pass, I was asked to pay $15 to check in one bag. If this isn't bullshit, I don't know what is. American Airlines, do you really think that this $15 is going to help your fuel costs? Wouldn't it make more sense for you to simply raise your ticket prices? When I'm booking my flight at home, I'm already willing to pay x hundreds of dollars on tickets, why not just have me swallow the extra $15 then? Making me pay the money at the ticket counter slows everything down, inconveniences me, and makes me feel like I should have stayed at home. If you're worried about losing money, make me feel like I want to fly American Airlines, don't make me feel like a bad person for visiting friends or family. Do something that makes the airline stand out in a positive light. You want to be remembered for the good you've done, not how you've screwed your customers over. Virgin Atlantic and Singapore Airlines both make their customers feel like stars, no matter where they sit on the plane. They serve hot towels, full meals, and continuously serve free beverages (including free alcohol). I would like to make a small note saying that usually the flight attendants on American are pretty cool. It's not their fault that the company sucks. 

Once I had obtained my ticket, I asked the lady at the counter what to do with my bag. She goes, "you need to show someone your boarding pass first." As I turn to give it to her, she looks away and starts giggling with another staff member. I push my way over to another woman, and she says "Any of us can take it." Instead of taking my ticket, she stares off into space. I finally give someone my ticket and can go off to security. 

I arrived in San Francisco to find that I was one of a couple people whose bag didn't make it on the plane. The reason why? "All it says is TSA: Bag had to be rechecked for security reasons." Oh really? All I had in the bags were clothes, two pairs of shoes, a book or two, and toothpaste. Wow, I must be really dangerous. Most likely, one of the flaky staff members didn't get it on the belt on time (big surprise considering how much attention they were paying to their jobs), and then coded it as "TSA" to cover his/her ass. I landed at 11:00 AM, my bag did not get to the airport until after 10:00 PM. American told me they'd call me when the bag landed. Did they call? No, have they ever called before when my bag didn't make it on the flight? No. I called close to 11, and discovered my bag could either be delivered between midnight and 3 Am or 10 AM and 2 PM. They couldn't guarantee any specific delivery time. I chose the night option. A 2:45 AM finally showed up. Thanks American. I have now officially stayed up 24 hours for you! And now I'm exhausted and pissed off! American has lost my bag several times in the past. I can understand when there are weather issues or if they say they had too many bags on the plane. But security reasons? Also, not once has the airline called me to say my bag has been retrieved. In fact, when I live close the airport, I tend to drive there after a few hours and find my bag just sitting in the baggage claim area. I don't have to sign for it and notify anyone that I'm taking it. Which leads me to believe that anyone could have shown up and walked away with my bag. Also, normally when your bag is searched, there is some sort of evidence that this has been done. They will (or should leave) either a tag or piece of paper saying the bag has gone through additional screening. There was no sign of this on my bag this morning. 

Did American offer me any sort of compensation or travel voucher? No. I have requested to have my $15 check-in fee refunded, but so far haven't heard back. Oh, did I mention that you can e-mail, fax, or mail your complaints in but can't call a customer service line? What a way to discourage negative comments or deny responsibility for fault! As someone who has previously worked in customer service, I know that the easiest way to calm a customer down or to solve their problem is over the phone. Customers will vent in emails, which often times leads to a customer service agent not wanting to really help. On the phone, the customer realizes that you are human too and are actually trying to help. Don't send your customers to a black hole, help them out. Also, when I made a mistake at my job, I'd offer to refund or partially refund the customer. This would make the customer happy and encourage them to shop with us again. If I don't see at least an apology or my $15 back (which is nothing compared to my full day wasted), I do not intend to fly with them again unless no other option is available. 

Hey companies, do you want to know how to lose money and fail at business? Just look at American Airlines! 

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

TV on drugs

Hands down, the best part of television, is the commercials. They keep us updated with what movie not to watch, what new cell phone is exactly like the iPhone, and who Coca Cola thinks you should want to sleep with. Frankly, there is nothing more fulfilling than having my brain be treated like a mail slot which information needs to be shoved into in the most aggressive manner possible to ensure that it sticks.

Drug companies, more than any other advertiser, have their work cut out for them in this dog eat dog world. Many of them can't even say what their drug does without having to go into the lengthy list of side effects. I still don't know what Cialis actually does, I think it makes you sigh a lot. There is one commercial for an arthritis medication that is nothing more than a lengthy list of sideeffects followed by an official sounding voice telling me "your life might suck just enough for this to be worth it."

Advertising for perscription drugs is difficult, because you have to actually get the viewer to think they have symptoms. So when selling anti-depressants, cue the violin music and get the woman with the dullest voice to ask if you feel paralized with pain and anxiety. I'm not sure if I have the will to live after watching a thirty second spot in the middle of J Leno, too bad anti-depressents make you want to kill yourself.

Of course, there is always the classic ED pill ads. There are two directions you can go with this ad. First, the little blue pill will finally let you be able to please your wife again, filling that gaping void in your relationship (try saying that with a straight face sometime). Or, this pill will give to you ability to schtup every semi-attractive femail at your office party. Either way, this pill does not protect you from HIV or other STDs... which logically it should.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Attack of the Clones

We have all had a pet that we have loved, and most of us have had that pet die. This experience can be rough. What most of us have not done, is fork out $150,000 to create the image of the that pet's immortality. That's right, the clones have launched an attack! And they are hitting us where we are most defenseless: our insecurities that we are willing to throw infinite amounts of cash to try and fill. For about three years now, several companies have been commercially cloning pets.

I am not against cloning. On some level it has useful applications, and I doubt that the artificial creation of human offspring will ever find widespread acceptance or use. As for "not playing god," if trying to dictate how everyone should lead their life isn't "playing god" then I doubt cloning is. My one beef with cloning: Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which will be removing money from your wallets this fall.

What is misunderstood about cloning is, when you clone an animal, the clone is a different animal than the original. So the biggest difference between getting your old pet cloned, and getting a new pet, is in your head. While that puppy will look similar to the original and probably have some similar personality traits, it will be a new puppy. So congratulations, you have just spent 5 years of my salary for something you could have gotten by spending fifteen minutes in choosing a new dog at the pound.