Thursday, March 27, 2008

Venting again

It's my blo-og and I'll rant if I want to
Rant if I want to, rant if I want to
You would rant too if it happened to you!

Literacy is a serious problem in our country, but what disturbs me more than the inability to read the writing on the wall is the inability to SEE the writing.

Case in point: A little history first...Our office "TPICC" moved locations last August. The former tenant at this location was a rental office for a large real estate firm in this area "CCRO". They moved Stephens City the earlier part of last year (or maybe earlier than that...I'm not exactly sure). Their parent company owns the building we now occupy and since they have a small satellite office still in the building, their name remains on the outside of the building. When we moved in, I removed the "We've Moved" sign from the door that announced where the rental office had moved to. I held on to it just in case it was ever needed.

In an effort to help establish our identity at this new office, we had two window decals made up, one on one window in the foyer area and the other on the door into our office. It states our name in simple, classic letters. When you step into the foyer, you have a door to your left and a door to your right. The door to your left has no writing. The door to your right has our name. If you don't want us, you must want the office next door, right? Process of elimination. We also have a large outdoor sign to the right of the doorway with our logo. Pretty hard to miss red letters on a white background, or so you might think.

I'm the receptionist/admin, which means I get to sit out front. Nice view out the windows...I get to watch the weather, the traffic driving by, the stray dog that wanders through the parking lot every now and then. And at least once a week, if not more often, someone comes in looking to rent an apartment or townhouse.

Now, I'm usually very polite and direct them to the office next door, which is the aforementioned satellite office. They don't do rentals out of there, but they know where to send people. This gets frustrating after a while, especially when I have to explain to people that this isn't the office they're looking for and they get that stunned "well, what do I do now?" look. But, I know it's not as if it's the same person coming in week after week. It's always someone different and I don't think Apartment Seeker #50 should bear my anger over Apartment Seeker #49, so I strive to be polite to everyone, but I have my limits, people.

Just recently, Boss decided to have another sign installed in another window, this one with larger letters so people driving up can see our name clearly. I said "okay" and placed the order, but I really didn't think a larger sign would do much good. It was installed last week and I have to admit, it does stand out quite a bit more than the other signs, but I wasn't going to hold my breath in hopes that it'll cut back on the rental traffic.

In case you're counting, that makes four signs announcing that TPICC is in this location, not CCRO. that you know all that, here's what happened yesterday...

I overheard a conversation between Boss and the guys in the satellite office and I decided to make copies of the old "We've Moved" sign to hand out to people who came in looking for rentals. It's not my job, but maybe, I figured, I can get rid of these people easier by simply handing them one of the copies.

Later in the afternoon, I saw a car pull into the parking lot and this couple in their mid-late thirties got out. I knew immediately they were looking for an apartment (trust me, after doing this for a while, I've gotten pretty good at identifiying the apartment seekers). So I grabbed the sign and went to make a copy. They walked in and, sure enough, asked about renting.

Can I call 'em or what?

I explained to them that this is not CCRO but if they would wait a moment while I make the copy, I can give them CCRO's new address.

"Oh, this isn't CCRO?"

"No, this is TPICC. Here's where you can find CCRO." I handed them the copy.

"Oh. Okay. Maybe you all should have a sign up or something."

Believe me, it was all I could do not to scream.

I did, however, say "There are several signs up, including one on the door." Yeah, you know, the door you just walked through, you dummies! Of course, that part wasn't said out loud. They left, and I saw through the window as the husband turned back to look at the building. That's when he saw the sign we had recently installed, the one with the larger letters. I had also noticed the wife pointing out the sign on the door as they walked out.

See, this was a well-dressed and obviously educated couple, not someone who just recently emigrated to this country and can barely speak a few words of English, never mind being able to read it. This couple walked right by several signs that said TPICC not CCRO and just breezed right in.

"Maybe you all should have a sign up."

Maybe you all should open your eyes!

I know me, and I know I tend to be a little bit more observant than most people. I recall once, when I worked in the D.C. suburbs, some co-workers and I were going to lunch at a popular restaurant. We saw this really good-looking well-dressed guy standing at the corner of the building. My friends assumed he was waiting for someone but I said no, that it was probably a Secret Service Agent and there was probably a senator or something dining inside. When they asked me how I knew that, I said it was because the first guy was standing at the corner of the building, not the entrance, there was another well-dressed man at the other corner, and they both had a wire coil stretching from their ear into the suit collars. I saw what they didn't see.

When I walk into an office building for the first time, I look for signs to tell me I'm in the right place and that I'm heading in the right direction. If I'm a little confused, I'll say "I'm looking for CCRO." I don't just automatically assume I'm in the right place.

Just now, a salesman came into our office--he works for a tool and hardware supplier that we occasionaly buy from--and I saw him look at the sign before coming in! He came to see us specifically, but at least he looked at the sign to make sure he was where he wanted to be!

It's little things like that that brighten my day.

Spring has Sprung

Yes, I know, it was a couple days ago. I just got back a couple days ago from a little trip down to Myrtle Beach. I'd post pictures...but guess who forgot her camera?

In lieu of that, I offer this link:

Click Here

You'll be presented with a black screen. Click anywhere and watch what happens. Even better, click and drag your mouse all over the screen.

Thanks to the Cook Shack.

Monday, March 10, 2008

It's Official...

I hate the airline industry.

I’m not a frequent flyer. In fact, the last flight I took was in July 2005 (which is a story worthy of a separate post). But my boss travels pretty regularly and I usually make his reservations for him, so I’m familiar with the way the airlines work.

Last week, I made a reservation for Boss to fly to Huntsville, AL. He wanted to leave Monday afternoon (today) and return Thursday afternoon. If I couldn’t find a good flight Thursday, then he’d fly back Friday morning. I found one that worked for him so I bought the tickets through Expedia.

He left this afternoon in what he thought was enough time (to get through security, etc) to make his 4:45 flight, but I guess the time change kinda messed with the clock in his head and he left later than he wanted. Still, we figured he should arrive about 45 minutes to an hour before his flight, which should have been okay.

He arrived at the airport and 4:00 and called me…his flight took off ten minutes earlier.

“What?” I said. “That flight’s not supposed to leave for another 45 minutes!”

“I know,” he said. “Nevertheless, it’s gone. I need another flight.”

And that’s when the drama began.

The airline he was booked with, United, didn’t have any more flights this afternoon, so he was going to have to change airlines. I called Delta real quick and made a reservation. And of course, the time that Expedia was displaying for the Delta flight (5:35) was different than the one the ticket agent gave me on the phone (5:05). While I was doing that, Boss made his way to the Delta counter. I called him back and gave him the info, hoping that would be the end of it.

Of course, you know, it wasn’t.

He called again about 10 minutes later. Seems making that kind of flight change at the last minute highlights you to the TSA, which means extra security on you, which could mean delaying or missing the flight. So he wanted the info on the later flight (8:00 per Expedia, but who knows for sure?) and he said he would take care of everything from there. As of right now, I have no idea where he is. He could be in the air, eating dinner at the airport waiting for the later flight, or he could be driving home and will catch the 6:01 am flight tomorrow.

But the fun’s not over yet, folks.

Since he’s not using his original outbound ticket, the inbound one was going to be cancelled, unless I called United and reserved that portion of his flight (according to the agent at Expedia who, by the way, was surprised to hear about the early flight departure). We couldn’t make the changes then because, according to her computer, we were within one hour of the flight time (wrong—flight’s already gone!) I’d have to make the changes directly with United. Fine. So she connected me to United. I went through their little computerized menu, got to where I was holding for an agent…and got disconnected (show of hands for all who knew that would happen). I called again, went through the menu again, and this time hooked up with “Whatshername” ticket agent in “notanAmericancity”. Her accent was pretty strong, but she spoke slowly and clearly, so I understood her okay. To summarize our conversation, she said “well, your original reservation was made through a travel agency so you’ll have to make your changes through them.”

“No,” I said. “They said they couldn’t because we’re within one hour of the originally scheduled departure time so I have to deal with you directly.”

“Oh, okay, well, there’s nothing we can do then until after the trip is completed (note: meaning Friday) and you can then call and get a refund.”

“But what about the return portion of the ticket I already purchased? He’d like to take that flight home. How do we make sure that portion of the ticket stays active so he can use it?” Keep in mind, this is what the agent at Expedia told me to do.

“No, that portion cannot be used if the first portion goes unused. You have to buy a new return ticket and get a refund for the original ticket.”

Okay, I’m done. I hate it when two separate professionals in the same trade give you two different answers. I supposed the United agent was the one I should believe more because it’s her company, but I was done trying to talk to her.

“Let me speak to your supervisor.”

“Ma’am, she can’t make the return portion of your ticket active if you don’t use the first portion.”

“I want to speak to your supervisor.” Supervisors can do a lot more than the line agents, which is why I wanted to talk to someone above the agent. So she put me on hold points for her for not arguing too much. Ten minutes she comes back on the line.

“Ma’am, I spoke to my supervisor and there’s nothing we can do at this time. You’ll need to make a new return reservation and call on Friday for a refund.”

Well, say goodbye to those points you earned by NOT connecting me to your supervisor as I requested.

“Fine. Thank you. Good bye,” and I hung up. I was done dealing with her.

But the fun doesn’t end there, folks!

I get back online so I can make a brand new reservation for Boss’s return flight. And guess what I found? Anybody? Yes, you, there in the corner…you got it! Extra points to you! The flight at that time is no longer listed! He wanted to leave Huntsville around 3:30—which is what I had originally reserved—but that flight no longer exists. The latest direct flight leaves Huntsville at 1:35. There is one that leaves at 3:30, but it goes through Dallas and doesn’t get into Dulles until 11:55 at night! And it's an hour drive from the airport to here. I wouldn’t book my own worst enemy on that kind of flight.

So I gave up at that point and I went home. I’ll call Boss in the morning and leave him a message on his voice mail letting him know that the fun isn’t over yet. He’ll probably wind up staying Thursday night and leaving Huntsville on Friday morning.

What really ticks me off about this whole thing is the way United changed the flight times. I would think these kinds of changes aren’t made on a whim. They have to be planned out and scheduled carefully so as to be competitive and at the same time considerate of other airlines. If they knew these changes were going to be implemented, why couldn’t I have reserved the new times when I was booking the flight last Friday instead of times that weren’t going to be any good?

Like I said way back at the beginning, I’m not a frequent flyer, so I don’t have the answers to my frustration. You, there, in the corner…any ideas? What? Well, say goodbye to your points.