January 23, 2014
Watch What You Say to a Waiter or Gate Agent - Customer Service 101
It was 6:40 a.m. as I walked out from the Mirage casino / resort in Las Vegas this morning. As I walked under the massive porte coche're decorated with murals, I spotted the private car that was to whisk me to McCarran International airport. I had been in Las Vegas for the World of Concrete show and was now on my way back to the frigid frozen New Hampshire tundra less than 48 hours after arriving in sunny and warm Sin City.
Off to my right I saw the telltale black rear quarter panel of a Lincoln town car. That had to be it.
The motor was running and because it was a chilly morning, water vapor was puffing out of the exhaust pipe.
I walked up to the closed passenger window and tapped on the glass expecting the chauffeur to roll down the window. Instead, the driver's door popped open and the woman with the long blonde hair said through a beaming smile, "Mr. Carter?"
"Yes, that's me!" I exclaimed through a sheepish grin. I had been up for two hours as I had not adjusted to the three-hour time change. My morning drag was long gone and what a delight to have a beaming blonde chauffeur - not that I have anything against middle-aged slightly overweight male limo drivers mind you!
"Well, you're early," she proclaimed in a very happy voice.
"Yeah, I figured you'd be down here and we might as well get going."
Minutes later we were on our way the conversation spiced with the usual pleasantries one has with a private car chauffeur.
Riding in a private car or limousine is a totally different experience than being in a cab, that's for sure. Limo drivers are trained to be highly respectful and every one I've ever had drive me anywhere has been very intelligent.
My internal radar told me this ride was going to be special. Too bad the McCarran airport wasn't as far away from the city center as is Denver's airport. Oh well, I'll just soak up as much of the experience as I can in the ten-minute ride.
Off to my left I could see the replica Eiffel Tower spire of the Paris casino.
"I wanted to stop into Paris last night and get a $10 chip for a friend, but I was too tired."
"Well, let's stop now! You've got plenty of time."
I was taken aback by that suggestion, simply because I didn't even think to ask if she might stop. Now that's great, no - excellent, customer service. She had picked up instantly on my disappointment of not making it to the casion - even though I tried hard to mask it - and she did the math in her head knowing the stop would not cause me to be late at the airport.
"Sure, if you don't mind."
Being the consummate pro, the driver picked up her two-way radio microphone and radioed into headquarters that she was making an unplanned short stop on the way to the airport.
Me being a ham radio operator and having keyed up microphones for years, I could tell immediately this woman would be a natural on the air. Too bad we weren't going to have more time to talk about that!
We had to stop at the traffic light to turn left into the busy Paris casino.
"My name's Karen and here's my business card with my cell phone number on it in case we get separated. I'm sure I'll be able to wait for you, but the Paris doorman may make me circle."
"No problem, I'll find the cashier's cage and be out in a flash."
Karen let me out of the spotless car and I rushed into the casino. It only took a minute to spot the cage. The cashier wasn't allowed to sell me a chip, instead telling me to just go to a blackjack table and buy what I want.
Mission accomplished, I jumped through the open car door Karen was guarding. She closed it firmly making sure I was safe. The image of a purring mommy cat stuffing a kitten into a warm corner of a cardboard box floated through my head. Karen was a pro.
As we drove out of Paris, somehow the conversation drifted to rude customers Karen may have had and then my father / daughter vacation in the Cayman Islands. I felt compelled to tell the story about how not complaining to a service employee like Karen can sometimes yield magical results.
"Oh, you're so right. I've had all sorts of jobs in the service industry over the years, one of them being a ticket and gate agent for a major airline (name withheld for all the obvious reasons). The people who come to the counter screaming about cancelled or delayed flights were the worst. If they crossed the line, their bags were guaranteed to end up thousands of miles away from where their plane would land."
"Yes, now this was before 9/11. You can't do that anymore because of the automated tags that are on luggage. They have your name, flight number, etc. so the only reason your bags might not make it is because of some other issue rather than being tagged wrong. Many of us did it out of frustration. I often felt bad about doing it, but everyone has their limit on any given day."
"Oh, well I used to manage a chili parlor when I was in high school and college," I mentioned.
"My advice to you is NEVER complain to a waiter or waitress until you have all your food and it's satisfactory."
"You mean they spit in the food," Karen asked.
"Well, I can neither confirm nor deny that happens."
What's the moral of the story?
Treat service folks like Karen with the respect they deserve and they just might take you to Paris - even in the first-class cabin because of an unexpected seat upgrade!
Karen, thanks for the great short trip to the airport and get busy on that novel. Remember, elephants are best eaten one bite at a time.
P.S. NOTE TO KAREN: Next time I come to Vegas, you BET I'll call the limo company and request you as my driver. Be SURE to get lost or find a traffic jam so we have more time to chit chat. I won't mind. ;-)
P.P.S. - NOTE TO SELF: Next time ask the chauffeur for her/his name as soon as you get into the car - get to know them right away. Magic might happen!