Opinion: How Some People Ruin it For the Rest of Us

By | January 5, 2012

Earlier today, we opened up a blog entry by noted travel writer Christopher Elliott, titled “Airline tells hospitalized passenger people pretend to be sick all the time

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 16:  Citibank employee...

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This is a horrible thing for any business to suggest to its customers, airline or not. But people lie, especially in situations like this. In fact, Elliott himself mentioned it in his other, consumer advocacy blog.

Customer complaints often leave out other important details. For example: the product wasn’t new, but refurbished; the warranty ran out, or the product was free. Why would they do that? Because mentioning these very important facts weaken their case. It’s human nature to tell half the story. But customers almost never get away with it. Companies do their research when looking into a grievance, and they’ll know. So what’s the takeaway here? When you have a grievance, put down all of your cards and let the system work. You’re far likelier to be rewarded for your honesty with a fair resolution than for your dishonesty.

Airlines used to give bereavement discounts(Some still do), but after some suspicious circumstances, they started needing documentation. Thus you end up with the famous Seinfeld episode where George is trying to get the death certificate to save money on his plane ticket. Ultimately, these discounts faded away for other reasons.

You would be hard pressed to find someone in the customer service industry who doesn’t have a story of someone trying to gloss over the facts. What are customer service representatives to do? It is horrible to say what was allegedly said, but it is an unwritten truth.

It is how some people behave that makes it harder for the rest of us to get good service. The first time there is a problem, instead of giving the company a chance to respond, they are taking their case to the internet. People lie, skew the facts, and do not give companies the chance to satisfy them.

There are a lot of problems with the system. We are often waiting for a company with a profit motive to render a fair decision and sometimes that has its own issues in fairness, and perhaps that needs to be looked at. We often on this blog side with flight attendants as, for the most part, hard working, dedicated individuals charged with our safety.

We want to take a moment to appreciate customer service agents at airlines both the ones who work at the airport, and the ones who work in airline call centers. Like many things, a good agent is worth his or her weight in gold, and many are legitimately trying to provide good service even with what few resources they have at their disposal. There are also bad agents, like in any another industry. But the abuse often heaped on people in the customer service field is unfair. Most of us at one time or another have taken out our frustrations on someone who is just doing their job.

Most experts state that the best way to get good customer service is to empower the agent to assist you in finding a solution…for example, “I understand you have said you cannot make this change for me. But can you help me by advising me on how I might proceed?

By becoming abusive, or out and out lying, it makes it harder for those of us with legitimate problems to get through the system efficiently. Perhaps this post is the result of frustration, after a recent customer service issue with a non-airline. And part of the problem is indeed on the side of the airline. But what does a customer service representative have to experience to start thinking that all customers are against them? It is a dangerous thought that should be quashed, but some people out there must have contributed to the problem.

We try to mention the opposing viewpoint whenever we can on this blog. Too many stories are coming up of late that are outrageous, and people always blame the airline staff, and certainly there are employees of any company who make mistakes. But it is not always the fault of of the airline when things go badly. Sometimes it is the fault of the customer, but good customer service usually involves avoiding that conclusion.

All that said, please don’t be part of the problem. Be aware that the people on the other side of your conflict are human beings. That cheating a company, or lying to a company, while they may or may not ‘deserve’ it, is certainly dishonest, dishonorable, and hurts those of us with legitimate problems, making it just that much harder for us to get through things.

What do you think? Are we just rambling off our own frustration? Do you agree? Disagree?