Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Very Very Very Fine House

For the next few months I'm living with my in-laws-to-be... and, while I appreciate the time to get squared away and on my feet again, it's quite the challenge to eat my pride and give up my independence and own way of doing things.  I'm not saying that how they do things is bad just that it's different than how I have done it in the past.  And that can be physically and emotionally uncomfortable at times.  Living in someone else's home means you adopt their standards and schedule even when they are vastly different than how you've become accustomed to caring for yourself.  It's a big adjustment no matter how positive a spin you try to put on it.

One example on my mind the past few days is toilet paper.  That's one thing I've never been terribly brand conscious about and only looked to get something 2-ply and substantial enough to do it's job.  Imagine my surprise at a long discussion on 'lint' or those little fibers that low quality TP leaves behind on your oh so delicate lady parts.  I'm not offering up any arguments whether or not Charmin Ultra Soft is the most lint free, I'm just going along with the idea that it is (for now, anyway) the toilet paper that must be purchased.  And doing my best to make sure that there's always a spare roll - my priority, not my future family's - in the bathroom because having to drip dry is just simply not OK.  And within the last couple of days I've been caught in just that horrifying scenario in 3 different bathrooms...

If you're imagining a little grimace of disdain here, you're not too far off my actual reaction.  Except that the grimace was not little.  And it was accompanied by several off-color words spoken, mostly, under my breath.  Mostly.

At the same time I recognize that in the grand scheme of life these adjustments are pretty minor.  I'm safe.  I'm happy.  I have beautiful accommodations and lots of support while I get myself oriented to a new place and back to a self-sufficient point in life.  Those are wonderful blessings and I am thankful beyond words for them.

And nature has been awe inspiring.  The natural beauty of the area is much different than either Idaho or Utah, but it is so very beautiful!  As one friend said when thumbing through some photographs of the area around Kennesaw, "If you can't live in Idaho, that looks like a good substitute!"

And it is!

A winding road through the area as photographed through our car window one afternoon last week. There are individual houses or the entrances to subdivisions/neighborhoods all along the road. The trees serve to provide a little buffer between people and traffic.

Kennesaw Mountain.  Friends had cautioned me not to make fun of the mountains here... because comparatively they are tiny, unlike the soaring 6,000+ foot granite peaks surrounding the Salt Lake Valley... but so far I'm enjoying the rolling terrain and finding the hills challenge enough for my screwed up knees to walk.

On the grounds at Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield, a National Park and the site where a Civil War battle was fought.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

An Open Letter to Ben Baldanza

When I recently moved from Salt Lake City, UT to Kennesaw, GA it was followed up by an almost immediate vacation cruise with my fiance through the southeastern Caribbean.  The vacation was beyond wonderful!  In fact, the sole black spot to mar the memory was the flight home.  And it was so awful that I still say the high point of November 12th was visiting with the Custom's agent about the duty tax owed on some jewelry we bought.  Our cruise originated from (and returned to) Fort Lauderdale, FL and we chose to fly Spirit Airlines as our connector there from Atlanta.  The flight to Fort Lauderdale was uneventful and left both Derek and I wondering what all the fuss was about... why was everyone complaining about the service on Spirit?

Sadly, on the trip home we found out.

Following is my letter about the experience to the President, Chief Executive Office and Class II Director, Ben Baldanza.  I found his name and contact information under Investor Relations on the company's website.

Dear Mr. Baldanza:

November 12 was already a day we weren't completely thrilled with knowing that we'd be spending the better part of it waiting in the Fort Lauderdale Hollywood airport for an afternoon flight home to Atlanta because of your company's sparse scheduling on that route.  The only choices we had were appx 9:00 a.m., a time when we would not have completed the deboarding process from our cruise, or 4:08 p.m.  Obviously, the only choice was the later flight even though we would be arriving at the airport around 11:00 a.m.

On arrival at the terminal, we followed the signs directing us to the counter for luggage check only to be reamed by the agent there for not checking in at the kiosk first.  I'd say she had reason to redirect us if there had been any posted directions pointing us that way but there wasn't and I found her attitude and disposition completely disagreeable.  After so very curtly directing us toward the kiosks she told us to come back once we had the boarding passes.  We tried.  But we were physically stopped by another agent roaming the area in front of the roped off lines and pushed to the opposite end of the counter to the "Fast Line" where we stepped up to the back of a full line just as all but one agent left for break.  With just a single person back there checking bags, the line could have been generously renamed the "Slower Than A Snail Crawls Line."

Finally, with bags checked and boarding passes in hand we navigated through the TSA checkpoint and headed for the gate only to learn that the flight had already been delayed two hours.  Initially we were told it was due to weather delays in New York... that our plane was stuck at La Guardia and couldn't leave there on its trip to Florida until the weather cleared.  Later that story changed to there was no plane to take us to Atlanta because of a mechanical problem until another could be scrambled out of the fleet and brought to Fort Lauderdale.  The delay was pushed back to 6:35, then 7:05.

Boarding was begun for the 7:05 time point and when approximately 1/3 of the passengers were onboard, a problem was discovered with that plane and they were asked to get off, walk across the terminal to another gate and get on a different plane where boarding was uninterrupted multiple times to clear the walkway for international flights to deboard.  Our 4:08 p.m. flight eventually pulled away from the gate around 8:00 p.m. with the captain apologizing for the "unacceptable delays."  Yes, those were his actual words.

What troubles me most is not that there were problems with the flight but your employees' response to them.  And that is a terrible thing to say because your people had so many chances to shine, so many opportunities to wow us with great customer service, so many times they could have won our loyalty instead of leaving us angry, alienated and vowing to use another carrier for future flights.  You see, we are pretty laid back and reasonable people.  We fully understand that things happen.  But we do expect to be treated with honesty, kindness and professionalism as the problems are worked out.  Our anger comes from that fact that none of those qualities were evident in our contact with your employees.  We were treated very badly and are very interested to know what, if anything, you are going to do about it.

That's the body of my letter.  Now we wait and see what happens.  I'd like to hope there'll be some response but after experiencing the way Spirit's front line employees treat customers I'm not exactly counting on it since customer service is usually a trickle down trait in corporate culture.