Recognizing Out-standing Customer Service when you get it

Delta Rocks

I travel a fair bit. Ok – that’s possibly a lie – maybe I qualify as ‘travels a lot’. It’s hard to judge, as far as I know the airlines don’t publicly share stats on frequent travelers. I do know that among the aproximately 100 folks I know the travel patterns of – I rank #1 for most trips, followed closely by my husband.

I’m not in the travel industry – so I’d guess they accumulate more travel miles than I possibly could and I don’t travel for business – or to commute from home to work – I am officially still fully employed in IT close to my home in Montreal – but still – I do travel a lot.

In any case – I feel capable of recognizing outstanding service when I experience it – and I just had an ‘outstanding’ guest service experience.

To draw the picture – I’m on a Delta flight heading south – one of those tiny commuter planes with faux leather seats, moderate head room (thank goodness) – and overhead storage on both sides of the plane. This compares quite favorably with planes with almost no head room (at 5’4″ you wouldn’t think I’d notice) – and literally no overhead storage.

On the down side – I couldn’t just stroll onto the plane. I walked out a gate – along a carpet ‘tunnel’ and ended up at an extremely narrow stair case. In fact – it was the door of the plane – converted into a series of narrow steps up. So I had to lift my bag up to carry it into the plane. Awkward – seriously awkward.

But on to the over the top guest service experience.

I got to my seat, settled down, and put my nearly empty coffee cup (purchased at 2nd Cup in the airport) in the seat pocket in front of me.

Without my saying ANYTHING – the stewardess came along and asked if I wanted a refill! A refill. Amazing. I said yes – and then she asked – how do I like it. How much milk, how much sugar.

Delta – I’m impressed. And I was travelling economy class! She really made me feel special.

So here I sit – full and reasonably hot coffee in hand, watching a trainer teach a new employee how to de-ice a plane! They used the lift truck to go up – sprayed us down, and then actually got out to test the wings for ice. This against a rosy sky hearlding dawn over the city of Montreal.

I toast the sky – Here’s to a safe and healthy trip!

I live in a cool city.

Signing off – The Soup Lady.

Frighteningly Awesome Theatre Experience

Why do we go to live theatre – seriously – you ever asked yourself that  question? I mean it’s expensive, you have to buy tickets in advance, arrive early, wait in line, and risk disappointment since most live theatre, at least in Montreal, doesn’t stay around long enough to get much of a reputation.

Well, I can share why I go. It’s the thrill of the chase. The anticipation when you are sitting in the lobby – will this be a winner – or a loser? The tension between audience and actors – can they make me believe it’s real – do they want to?

All of which leads up to my review of “Butcher” – the current offering from Centaur Theatre. This is a 10 out of 10. Top rating – must go – Loved it review. But go prepared for heart wrenching, stomach turning, reality check level experience.

This play is not easy to experience, well worth it, but not easy. How hard is it? During our performance, close to the climax – suddenly the lights went on in the Theatre. An older woman had apparently fainted and fallen to the floor near the back stairs. The ushers and her husband were attempting to revive her – and the action on the set froze as the people helping her got her to her feet and out of the theatre. Close on their heels were another couple – much younger – clearly taking this opportunity to make a fast exit.

Questioning the staff after revealed that this had happened several times already during the run of this play. Okay – seriously brutal topic – so well acted that you totally buy into the story.

I’m not going to reveal plot – or plot twists – but I will tell you to go. This is a tale ripped from today’s headlines – complete relevant to what we’ve been reading in the newspapers – and yet a story as old as time itself. When is enough, enough? When do we agree it’s time to stop hating people for what they have done to you?

What is an appropriate punishment for crimes against humanity – and why does it happen? When do these things start, where and when do they end?

The author has crafted a wonderful piece of theatre, the talented actors and directors at Centaur have brought it to life, and the sold out audience stood to appaud their efforts.

Get tickets – Go.

Bumped into no man’s land – Bound to happen if you travel a lot.

Oh Bummer – I got bumped on the way home from St. Croix.

Planes never ever leave on time from tiny islands. There are just so many things that can go wrong – and so little back-up. So color me amazed when my flight from St. Croix (the first of 2 legs heading back to Montreal) left full – and on time. It was a pleasure to watch.

I’m flying American – and the plane from Miami arrived, the folks deplaned (with us watching), and seconds later they opened the gates for us to load. No cleaning needed – or else it was done so fast – who noticed. I should have been alarmed – but nope – not a whisper in my gut that things were going to go badly.

The flight was lovely – nice ladies sitting next to me – not inclined to chat, but I occupied my self with ipad games and a good book. No worries. The Captain announces that we’re arriving in Miami – 15 minutes early – and he hopes we enjoyed our flight from St. Thomas. Ok – not a huge error – and still no worries. We land – and that’s when things went badly.

The plane rolls to a stop – no terminal in sight. Where are we? And why are we sitting on a runway. Is that normal? Is everything ok? Turns out that Terminal D in Miami has had a bomb scare – they have vacated a huge section of the Terminal building, and – as googled by my seat mates – the authorities are investigating. So we wait. Then the engines start, we roll around to the other side of the terminal. And we wait. And then the engines start again – and this time the pilot announces that after 1.5 HOURS of sitting on the runway – we’re clear to dis-embarck.

The guy behind is yelling F**K into his cell phone – I’m guessing that whoever is on the other end of the line has the phone way far from their ear.

But I’m sure that I’m ok. The flight to Montreal leaves from Terminal D – surely if they have held everything for an hour and a half – that flight got held too.


Probably the only flight that left on time had to be mine. I’m stranded in Miami. Now what. Lunch was delicious, but it was hours ago – and I know no-one to call in Miami. Fortunately – I do have a cell phone. So I call American – they rebook me for the first flight out in the morning. Hey – good news – no charge! Bad news – not their problem that my flight sat on the runway – so hotel is my problem.

I’m too old, and too grouchy to put up with sleeping at the airport – so it’s Hot Wire to the rescue. I’ll have them on speed dial – and a pleasant young man tries to figure out what option will work best for me. $60 for 2 stars, but I’ll have to call for the shuttle, $75 for 3 stars – no shuttle, or $100 for 4 stars – with shuttle.

Oh – this is easy – I’m going 4 stars.

If you’ve never used hotwire you may not know how this works. You don’t know the name of the hotel until after you’ve paid – and at that point it’s too late to back out. But you do have a fair idea of what other people think (in this case – 80% loved it), so I figure – for a few hours – who really cares. So I book.

The hotel is called the ‘Pullman’ (nope – I never heard of it before either) – and the young man gives me the phone number to call the hotel for directions to their shuttle. I make the call – and they direct me outside. Just stand and wait – white van will come by.

And it does. Leather seats, free chilled bottles of water – oh, this is nice. Turns out – until 4 days ago – the ‘Pullman’ was a Sofitel – but it’s under new management – and it’s amazingly beautiful.

They offer me a choice of one bed or two – since I’m completely alone – One is fine,

So they check me in, sympathize with my luggage-less state – and give me a tooth brush, a room key – and directions upstairs.

The main lobby is huge – huge, huge, huge! There’s a loung/bar area the size of Sugar Beach Resort – tons of very seriously upscale sofas and chairs, a glorious pool (and me with no bathing suit) – and the rack rate on my room is $1,500. A night. Seriously. The bathroom features granite counters, grohe faucets, a lovely shower, and tiled floors. The bed is a king (I barely muss up 1/4 of it) – and has a wonderful pillow top mattress. The lights are upscale elegant – and I have a marvelous view East to Miami.

Really nice hotel! Very very nice hotel.

Next morning – I’m up early, re-packed – and back at the airport. Clearly not everyone knows about Hotwire – there are ‘sleeping’ bodies all over the airport! Guess mine wasn’t the only connection that just didn’t work. The only restaurants open are Coffee Shops and the Island Grill – I should have gone with the coffee shop. It’s not like I don’t know better. Oh well – what’s a day without food among friends?

I try to chat up the TSA folks to see if they know more than I do – but they all basically say that they just came on shift – and don’t work late afternoons. They were watching on TV, and know even less than I do about the security issue. I did discover that only part of D Terminal was closed down – which explains why my Montreal flight left without me. But alls well that ends well – and I’m on my way again.

I opted for the earlier flight – even though it makes a stop in Philly. Clearly haven’t been watching Amazing Race lately – you never opt to change planes. But I did – and of course the 2nd plane is delayed – and I end up arriving later than had I just hung in Miami and grabbed the non-stop.

What else could go wrong, you ask? Hey – they even lost my luggage.

But all’s well that ends well – I’m in Montreal, my luggage eventually arrived as well – and while seriously tired – I’m finally home.

Signing off to catch some much needed shut-eye – The Soup Lady.