Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Look, I don’t know how these things happen, but when they do, I come over all socio-political and tell myself there must be a better way.
The story is told by Erin McInrue Savage.
She says she turned up with her team at Phoenix airport and tried to check her broom.
Savage, you see, is a curler.
Is that the right word for someone who does curling? I hope so. Look, I watch it every Winter Olympics and I find it mesmerizing as teams try to brush their way to victory.
Savage, though, says an American Airlines check-in employee did not find it mesmerizing at all.
“She argued with me about curling being a legitimate sport. We explained what curling is, what a curling broom is, and how AA’s policy for checking sports equipment could not have changed within two days, i.e. between the time brooms were checked on the way to #Phoenix and then again leaving Phoenix,” Savage wrote on Facebook.
Savage claims that the AA employee insisted on a much larger baggage fee because she didn’t believe that curling was a sport and the broom was in a bag that was too long.
The agent, Savage said, claimed “it wasn’t an ‘elite’ sport like golf.”
Ah. Oh. No.
Please I adore golf. But no one with the remotest human sensitivity — or even someone working in customer service — would call it elite, thereby denigrating a customer’s beloved sport.
It’s surely the equivalent of a Denver American Airlines employee saying that they would charge extra baggage fees to Oakland Raiders fans, because Raiders fans are déclassés. (Although, well, Raiders fans…)
It seems that the toe-curling contretemps between the employee and Savage lasted for some minutes, before she wasn’t charged the $150 with which she was allegedly threatened and instead only $25.
The customer, though, was clearly unimpressed.
I asked American Airlines whether it had an institutional anti-curling problem.
“We all agree that curling is a sport, and our colleague in Phoenix never stated that curling was ‘not a sport.’ Our colleague is a former gymnast and coach, and has great respect for all athletes,” the airline replied.
The problem is that others in Savage’s team corroborate her version.
No, here’s the real problem.
Let’s assume Savage’s version is slightly nearer fact.
What would the check-in employee have gained by being picky? Would it not have been a more pleasing interaction for everyone if she’d chosen to learn about curling and applied a little charm and common sense?
Even if she had been technically in the right — because curling equipment wasn’t specifically mentioned in the AA rules — why not simply be kind to the passenger? What was there to lose? A tiny amount of revenue for American Airlines?
What ended up being lost was another little chip from the airline’s image, at a time when most airlines are at a similar image depth to members of Congress.
Some will say that Savage must have been rude to the American Airlines’ employee.
But isn’t one small goal of airlines to create an atmosphere for repeat business? Isn’t customer service itself about projecting the better side of a brand, so that people can tell others how much they appreciated it?
Oh, probably not with airlines. They seem to have placed customer service to one side, in favor of police work. Which is a pity.
I mention all this only because Savage says the American Airlines employee offered her this parting thought: “I hope you never fly American Airlines again.”
I offer you a different parting thought: Why would you ever pick a fight with someone called Erin McInrue Savage?
William Wallace himself would have genuflected if he’d come across a woman of that name.