by guest writer Christopher Thomas Dreyer
I know in these unrelenting economic times, finding a job with a reasonable pay scale, chance for advancement, and benefits is virtually impossible. I will be the first to admit that I was more likely to believe in Unicorns then likely to believe in this sort of job, until my recent holiday travels. First, I must inform you honestly that the job that I’m referring to may not have a reasonable pay scale or chance for advancement, but the benefits are amazing, depending on your moral convictions and ability to take advantage of opportunity. The dream job I’m referring to is “baggage handler” at Northwest Airlines.
Before I let you in on the secret to success under Northwest employment, I think it would behoove you to know the story of how I came to such a, dare I say, life changing conclusion. I recently flew on Northwest Airlines for the Holidays from JFK to Ft. Lauderdale airport via Detroit. I took the reverse route back in early January. Over my years of travel I have learned to adapt to the increasing flight delays, cancellations, sky rocketing fares, and hidden charges. I have also found that, in spite of all that, the most impressive change of all is the lack of customer service. But I digress. This is not a forum for my musings of the well choreographed dance between the customer and customer service, or the part I play in handing over dollar after dollar to help fuel this absolutely impressive business model. This is a chance to do my part and inform you of a fantastically creative, far be it from glamorous, position in the Northwest Airlines baggage division.
As mention earlier, I was fortunate enough to travel Northwest Airlines from Ft. Lauderdale to JFK and although I was not there on time, I did arrive safe and sound. The same, sadly, could not be said for my baggage. An unfortunate turn of events, but one I was assured would be rectified quickly, painlessly, and with the utmost professionalism. I was put into the system, handed a form comprised of my reference number, the phone number of the baggage claim office, and sent on my way. Good. I was simply told that it look as though my bag went on a later flight, through Delta, and should arrive around 6:30PM. Fair enough. The evening came and went and I found myself still without a bag, but quite confident in the airlines ability to follow through on, what seemed like, a very basic procedure. But still, I should probably call. I do. I was informed by a very delightful sounding automated woman that, my bag has yet to be recovered. Fine. 7PM. No need to panic, I figure my inquiries may be best answered by a human representative. I call a second number on my luggage claim form and, presto, an unlikely, but appreciated, encounter with a human. In speaking to the woman I was told my bag had left and should arrive sometime that evening. Better late then never, I guess. 8:30 AM on the following day and still no bag. Damn you all to hell!! As I’m praying for a great flood to wipe out baggage claim, I receive a phone call, from a delivery man, assuring the much anticipated arrival of my baggage in 10 minutes. Haza!! All sins have been forgiven for the almost intentional array of obstacles keeping me from reuniting with my running shoes! Not to mention some of the precious gifts I received from friends and family for Christmas.
In haste, I put my bag down and continue with my day working from home. Around 10AM, I realize that certain notebooks that are imperative to my work are in the bag and now would be a good time to open it up and start putting things away. Imagine my surprise when I realized, as articles of clothing are being put into their proper place, that gifts I had received for Christmas were no where to be found. Did I forget to pack them? No, I remember quite specifically putting them in my suitcase. Maybe they’re deeper down than I anticipated? No, in digging I find no such evidence of there existence. Could it be? Did I dream the gifts? Could the excitement in my mother’s face upon opening be nothing more than a figment of my imagination? Possible, but not likely. My God, I’ve been robbed! By who?! Who would have the time to physically open my suitcase, rifle through my belongings, and remove certain things from their containers or, in some cases, just remove the packages all together? Whose taste is so poor they thought to steal my clothes? O.K., the important thing is not to panic. Thankfully, my bag has been under the watchful eye of a respectable major corporation. Surely, they must have answers. At least a procedure to help renew my faith in large companies. After all, I am the “little guy” they claim to respect and cherish. They must be able to help ease this sense of helplessness that comes, all too often, when being a victim of a crime. Perhaps, even goes as far as to inquire into bringing this perpetrator to justice. You can’t run a reputable business without holding those who tarnish your good name with such deeds responsible, right?
Damage control. First, I’ll call the number used to track baggage. Machine. I’ll call the secondary number in which I had such success previously speaking to a human. Machine. I’ll call customer service; they must have an option to report this to someone. Machine. Ticketing? Machine. Internet? Of course, you can always find someone to complain to over email. But, before reporting this incident via email, I should take the time to research the protocol in reporting such a problem, you know, to ensure I take up no more of their time then necessary.
Hey, wanna know a riddle? How do you report stolen articles from your suitcase to the company involved, from home? Trick question. You can’t. Ha. Turns out, to report stolen material you must be physically present in the baggage claim room and must be there within 24 hours of receiving your bag. It takes and hour and a half to get to JFK from my place. A cab is at least half an hour each way and would cost me $50 for each before mentioned ways. There has to be another way! Doing it now would be impossible.
After 3 and half hours of getting machine after machine, busy signal after busy signal, I finally get to a person in customer service for Northwest Airlines. I simply inform her that I’d like to make a claim and can not do so in person for the next couple of days.
“I’m sorry; I don’t have access to filing baggage claim reports. Besides, our system says you got your bag,” she says.
“Yes I know I have my bag, I just don’t have that which left with my bag,” I impatiently reply.
“I don’t know how to help you,” she admits
“Aren’t you in customer service?” I inquire
“Yeah, but I’m in Sioux City, Iowa. Would you like to speak to my supervisor?”
With an emphatic “yes!” I am put on hold. I am told I am being transferred to Dave, and with a click, and a ring, I am back to the automated voice that started my journey 2 hours earlier.
I know this is taking longer than anticipated, but I find it valuable to relay to you the inter-workings of Northwest Airlines. I think it’s important for you to know how comfortable you can be when under the protective wing of such an employee friendly company. It’s like having an idiot savant for a lawyer. No need to speak, the less they say, the harder it gets.
2 days, 2 hours, and 34 minutes after arriving without my bag in NYC, and excluding the $700 of goods that decided not to come with me, I am finally speaking to a baggage claim representative for, you guest it…….Delta. I know what your thinking, “how can Delta help me take advantage of this great job opportunity with Northwest?”
Great question. You see, their merging and my baggage were supposed to come to New York on a Delta flight. Although she initially told me she couldn’t help me. She did. Even though she suggested it had nothing to do with her airline. It did. Even though she says she didn’t have to give me her name. She did. And through all of the difficulties that Ada had in helping me, through no fault of her own mind you, we finally came to a conclusion that I have officially reported things stolen from my bag. It only took 6 and ½ hours for someone to finally say, “I’m listening.” Or, in Ada’s case “What do you want?” Hey, I’ll take what I can get. This now gives me 5 days to show up with a list of missing things, in person, to the airport.
“What was stolen,” she asks,
“Well, I haven’t really gone through everything yet. One thing I know is gone is the digital camera my father gave….”
“We don’t cover digital cameras.” She insists.
“What? What do you cover exactly?” I ask. I could almost hear my unmolested presents fall farther and father into a cavernous hole.
“I can’t tell you what we do, but what we don’t is jewelry, electronic equipment, film, money, cameras, watches, fragile or irreplaceable items, and some other stuff I can’t remember,” click.
Don’t you see! It’s the job that slipped through the cracks. Think about it. Not only is there no supervision, there is no possible way to have repercussions. Don’t worry if someone has all the information, which could, in turn, lead back to you, NOBODY CARES! Even better, Northwest Airlines has a system put in place that makes the victim feel like the asshole! Oh, the beauty of it. Now that I think of it, I didn’t even consider being a delivery person for the airlines. Eureka!!! According to Northwest, my bag left JFK before 7PM on the second day, and didn’t arrive to me until 8:30AM on the third day. Imagine all the time you’d be given to rummage through luggage and find that perfect gift for the one you love. I know, your mother-in-law can be a pain in the ass, but what the hell, it’s Christmas! Don’t forget to get something for yourself; you worked hard stealing from people who have no other choice when traveling long distances. And the best part of all?!! There’s only like 3 people working the phones. So, there’s no one to report it to anyway. They’ve covered themselves quite well by not being responsible for anything at all. No time? No receipts? No ext. number? No crime. If there not losing money, why would they care if the customer does? Think of the freedom this job allows. Finally no oppressive “supervisor” in charge, telling you to stop raping the customer. Relax. Take your shoes off. This flight to Denver just got delayed and your old lady has been bugging you for a mink coat ever since you got her pregnant. No other job offers that kind of bonus for the do-it-yourselfers of the world. You can’t rob from customers at a bank if you were a teller. You can’t open packages and steal what ever contents you want at the post office. Not only are there rules against these actions, there’s someone around to enforce them. No thanks! I like my stealing to be clean and easy.
So, now that the holiday season is over and you’re not sure how you’re going to cover those credit card bills on your salary. You finally have a solution. This is it. For all those who worry what the next fiscal year may bring, your prayers have been answered. No health benefits? Steal medication. Want to further your education? People always pack books. There is no problem that being an employee of the NWA baggage services can’t solve. So, get off your ass, dust off those cargo pants (your going to need the room), and start turning your life around! Happy hunting and you’re welcome.