The shorthand of this title, which I already regret, typically renders a more complicated universal problem black and white, in that moronic (to the death) way that racist formulations always do. This problem I am referring to is a consumer problem, affecting any customer who needs service from virtually any company, though in this particular case it only affects consumers with enough money, and options in life, to be messed with by it. It applies to a large class of privileged consumers believed, rightly or wrongly in our racist nation, to be disproportionately white (which most likely they are).
It is part of our generally downward plunging expectations for anything flowing down to us from our masters, the corporate psychopaths and their human avatars, by way of “service”. The corporations are not in business to serve anyone but the shareholders, who regard the rest of us as ungrateful, eternally taking serf motherfuckers, useless for anything but generating revenues. In their defense, corporations do care enough to create lovely ads telling you how much they care, and their recorded announcements are also eternally upbeat and grateful for our business, and our patience.
Admittedly, I am an almost broken man. Friends have been urging me to take a restful mental health break from my unpaid toils here, leave New York City for a week or two, breathe some fresh air, hike in new hills, play music with strangers far away, walk the streets of a city I don’t know by heart, refresh and reset. It is good advice. I had an invitation to visit friends on the other side of the country, by the Pacific. I finally took them up on their offer. All I needed to do was book a flight.
Not as easy as it used to be, unless you’re prepared to pay at least twice the “economy” fare, of course, for a particular seat. If you have arthritis in both knees, for example, and need to get up and move around frequently to avoid pain, you might want to be sure you have an easy access seat.
The situation I’m describing is a purely middle class, middle-aged problem — a wealthy person will not be affected by it, nor will a healthy young person, a poor person can’t even consider it. You need to have the free time to travel, some extra cash, the need for an airplane to take you three thousand miles and the need not to spend all your vacation dollars on air fare. These are not things the average American needs to worry about. They will only afflict you if you qualify for a vacation in the first place, have some extra money and you are a squirmy baby with a so-called medical need to stretch your legs when you need to during a long flight.
I have been on a short hold with the airline now, after twenty minutes on their website yielded no answer to my yes/no question– is my aisle seat guaranteed? I have ten hours left to cancel the tickets if that’s not the case.
The hold was predicted to be about eight minutes but is already twice that (thankfully without ads or muzak) waiting to cancel flight plans I made last night. I assumed that the cancellation line would be shorter than the other lines, wrongly, it turns out. I will have plenty of time to edit this piece, once it’s done, before my simple yes/no question is resolved by a simple yes or no. The answer is nowhere on their snazzy website, where you are instantly afforded the chance to evaluate their services in a survey.
I think about the arthritis in both of my knees, my need to move them frequently to avoid pain. The flight west is about six hours, strapped into a seat. I was looking for an aisle seat. A seat on the aisle is now, apparently, a premium seat, even in “economy”, the rearmost section of the airplane. Airlines no longer guarantee that the seat you buy in economy class, which used to be called “coach”, one of two former “classes” on a plane, will be the seat you reserved when you bought your ticket. You buy a cheap seat at your own risk, asshole. Guaranteed sufficient legroom must now be purchased also, loser.
I ring off after 36 minutes on silent hold and again check my other customer service options. I send the following email (not all that easy to find the option for email, I assure you).
I need to know that the additional $300 (tickets more than twice the price of “economy”) I spent last night on airfare ensures me an aisle seat. I could not confirm this on your website and it has proved impossible to reach a representative on the phone in well over an hour of trying. If my seat is not guaranteed, I have a few more hours to cancel my reservation. Please advise.
To which a robot promptly replies:
Thank you for your questions and comments. As a valued customer, your input is most appreciated and we will make every effort to ensure a quick response.
Note, I would not have spent the extra $300 for this “peace of mind”, I probably would have cancelled my trip. Thankfully my mate, a wage-earning shopping machine, has racked up a large store of credit card points over the years she was generously willing to spend a portion of on this ticket.
Back to the answer to my simple yes or no question. Delta airlines, on the case! This arrived just a few minutes later:
RE: Case Number 29940314
This is an automatically generated message to acknowledge the receipt of your email. Please do not reply to this email.
Thank you for taking the time to write to us; what you have to say is important. Emails and letters are answered in the order they are received. Usually you’ll hear from us long before 30 days have passed. Sometimes though, it can take almost that long. We appreciate your patience.
If you need assistance with a current reservation, please contact Reservations directly at 1-800-221-1212 or visit delta.com for our international reservations offices. They will be happy to assist you.
Got to love the human emotion behind that exclamation point on the Thank you!
As my father always said of me, whenever I belly ached about anything: “you’d complain if you were hung with a new rope.”
This is customer service in 2019. If you don’t like it, send us an email, we will try our best to reply within 30 days. Don’t hold us to that, you cheeky rascal, it’s not a promise, only a promise to try to promise, a precatory promise, if you will.
Maybe I’m just extra touchy today because I never received the corrected blood pressure medication I requested ten days back, after hours and hours resolving that potential health fiasco. The drug the kindly psychos sent me was four times the strength of my prescription. Thankfully the snafu got resolved in only five business days! Still haven’t received the meds, though I got the other prescription I ordered a few days later, a Vitamin D super-pill, in my mailbox within four or five days. Oh well. I know those hardworking Nazi bastards are working harder to serve me better!
Bill Maher did a piece a few weeks ago about the death of a thousand cuts that it is the nickel and diming of the airline industry. This stands in for the ever-diminishing piss pot of what the masses of Americans are entitled to, by the reckoning of the corporations we do business with. Maher conceded that he has flown only first class since becoming a rich, successful comedian many years ago. Still, he did an excellent piece about how customer comfort and convenience has been whittled down, piece by chintzy piece, by the ever grasping, ever more ingenious, airline industry. Their independent subcontractors are undoubtedly working on a way to monetize the amount of oxygen you get on the plane. Those corporate airline persons are truly the psychopath’s psychopaths, though the healthcare industry is not far behind in its concern for the safety, comfort and convenience of its customers.
Just to be safe, I’m going to bring food for the flight crew and the captain, just in case the airline no longer provides them with a meal, or even a snack, on the long flight. I figure it’s the least I should be expected to do, and I wouldn’t want any of them to be cranky or off their game. It’s going to be a long flight.