United: Terrible Customer Service >> How United Airlines Lost a Customer for Life

Post Summary:

  • The Situation: Setup
  • How Customer Service Handled my Situation
  • A Second Chance
  • The Policy
  • Contrast: An example of Google’s amazing customer service

The Setup

On Monday, Jan 7, 2019, I bought a round-trip ticket on united.com, as I’d done over a hundred times. It was a round-trip ticket from SNA-SFO for Thursday Jan 10, 2019 (first flight out in the morning, last flight back at night >> Reservation number DT5S2B).

I had a morning meeting in SF at 9:30am. The flight was scheduled to land at 8:23, but it usually lands earlier (as I mentioned, I’ve flown this flight many, many times).

This was a particularly important meeting, however. On Wed evening, I started to get concerned. Everything would have to be absolutely perfect for me to get to this meeting on time. I did not want to be late.

I explored what a car rental would cost to pick up at SNA and drop off at SFO. I could drive up Wed night and then just fly back Thurs. Car rental was only $35! I decided to do that to keep my mind at ease.

The meeting goes well and I carry on with my day. Again, I’ve flown this flight back many times as well and I’m Pre-Check, so I plan my arrival at SFO at 8:00pm; plenty of time.

Except, hmm, “My reservation can’t be found”.

How Customer Service Handled my Situation

I talk to a United agent. Apparently, since I skipped my morning flight, United cancelled my entire reservation. I had no flight back home! If I wanted to get on the flight, I’d have to buy a new ticket!

I skipped the morning flight. I did not ask for a refund. Don’t you guys, as a policy, oversell flights? Free money for you.

I’m calmly ask: “Your policy is to cancel my flight back without any notice to me?”

“That’s our policy, sir”, I’m told.

“Then, please refund me for the 2nd leg – that you cancelled without notifying me – and you can use those funds to buy the new ticket.”

“Sorry, you’ll have to call to book a new reservation. And you’ll have to request a refund through our website”

By this time, it’s about 8:10pm. The flight is boarding…

What I Did

It’s 8:30pm. There were no other flights out that night on other airlines. So, I did what I did the previous night. I rented a car to drive back home.

Having slept very little the previous night (from driving up) and enduring a long day, I was exhausted. But what choice did I have? I wanted to get home to my family.

I rented a car and started the drive down. It was dark and foggy a lot of the way. A lot of the time, I couldn’t see more than 20 ft in front of me. I had to stop several times to take cat naps.

I managed to get home safely at ~5:00am. What would normally be a 5.5 hr drive, it took me 8 hrs because of my breaks to sleep. Ugh.

Customer Service – 2nd Chance

On the drive home, I called United Customer Service. I asked to speak with a supervisor. I wanted to give them an opportunity to make good. My expectation was an apology and a refund.

Instead, all I received was a terse, “It is clearly stated in the policy”.

“Do you actually read the terms and services on websites”.

“Yes, I do sir”.

“So you’re saying that there is nothing you can do. I had to rent a car and drive in the middle of the night. I am never going to fly United again. You are losing a customer for life. You’re okay with this?”

“There’s nothing I can do”.

“Bye Bye, United”.

I then turned to Twitter and vented, tagging @United. They actually responded. Through private messaging though, they couldn’t call me. And they simply pointed me to the refund page on the website.

About an hour or two later, I called United back. I asked for a Supervisor. But got directed to the same one as earlier.

So frustrating. I’m done with United.

I will do everything I can to never fly United again.

The Policy

Firstly, it’s an absurdly dumb policy!

Secondly, how am I supposed to know that they’d cancel?

This totally ruined my night. But I could imagine grander scenarios where this really really screwed someone else.

I went on United.com and started to book a flight. I had to see where this policy is stated.

Reviewing the booking process on United.com

The Terms and Conditions at the bottom are trivial.

There is a link for “fare rules and restrictions”, but look at this gobbly-goop. I mean, c’mon! A. Who’s going to click on this link? B. How is one supposed to decipher this?

So, I called United again. I wanted to find out where this policy existed.

I shared my story with the call center agent. I was very calm and apologetic to her, but I was adamant that she find me where this policy is stated.

I walked her through the booking process. We couldn’t find it.

She put me on hold.

“It’s stated on your receipt, in your email confirmation”.

I find the email: “It is? Okay, I have the email. Show me where. Show me where it states that if I don’t show-up, you cancel my whole itinerary”.

“Uh, please hold on again”

Several minutes later, she comes back: “It’s stated in Contract of Carriage”.

“Where’s that?”

“Hold please”

She comes back again: “It’s on the website on the link at the bottom of the site”.

And yes, there it is. A link at the bottom of the page to the Contract of Carriage.

A couple clicks through and you do see that Rule 5C:

So, yes, technically it’s there.

It’s still an absurd rule!

But really, CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

HOW THE FUDGE AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW THIS?!!!

Do they really expect people to follow this labyrinth to understand all these little policies, rules, and/or regulations?!

Let me share a recent experience with Google…

Customer Service Done Right

I bought a pair of Google Pixel Buds last April.

In December, I accidentally left them in a pocket and they wound up in the washing machine and dryer. Argh! Totally my fault.

I called Google Support.

I explained what happened and just asked, “What does my warranty cover? Is there anything you can do?”

My expectation was that this was NOT covered under warranty. Honestly, I was just hoping for a discount code to buy a replacement pair.

Google’s answer (paraphrased): “Sir, unfortunately, this situation is not covered under warranty. But, here’s what I’m going to do for you. As a one-time courtesy, I’m going to send you a new one, but you have to send me yours back. I will charge you, but once we receive your returned (broken) ones, I will refund the charge”.

“Oh WOW!!! Thank you Thank you Thank you!”

Know what I bought myself for Christmas?

…A pair of wired Pixel Buds, a Google Hub, and a couple Google Minis.

Google empathized with me and demonstrated that they value me, as a consumer. I’m grateful for it and am more than happy to continue to be a Google customer and use their products and services.

The Wrap

I have a family of five. I travel somewhat frequently for work.

United, you lost me by your horrible business practices.

I (and we) will no longer be United passengers or consumers.

The Instant Pot Phenomenon

We got an Instant Pot for Christmas. I’d heard of Instant Pot before. Many times. But, when I think about it, I’ve NEVER seen an ad for one. EVER!!!

No Advertising Marketing!

I decided to look up the founder’s story and found this: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/24/why-robert-wangs-instant-pot-is-a-bestseller-on-amazon.html

“To be honest with you, we haven’t spent much money on advertising,” Wang says. “In fact, that is not part of the business plan. We really spend money on product development and customer support.”

Robert Wang, a fellow Canadian and Techie, invented this. It’s an inspiring story, actually.

The problem: “What if there is a machine which is smart enough, which can automate the entire cooking process for us, so that we can fix dinner when we come back from work.”

While my perception of this brand (or category, which they created, or rather re-invented?) was neutral, I understood that it was this “craze”; almost a cult-like following had developed.

A non-cooking friend told me about theirs over the holidays. And since the price point is very reasonable, that put me over the top.

A relentless focus on a product development that meets a consumer’s problem. Instant Pot built it and their consumers propelled them to amazing growth.

Great business story!!!

Podcast Must Listen: Masters of Scale :: Charity Water

Reid Hoffman’s Master of Scale podcast episode that dropped today is AMAZING on so many levels! “TO SCALE, YOU MUST MASTER THE SKILL OF STORYTELLING”

Link to episode: https://mastersofscale.com/#/scott-harrison-to-scale-you-must-master-the-art-of-storytelling/

It’s the story of Scott Harrison of Charity: Water.

I found within it:

  • Life lessons
  • Marketing lessons
  • An amazing story, amazingly told

I dare you to watch this video “The Spring” and:

  • Not shed a tear
  • Not believe that clean water is one of the most impactful efforts that we can do for civilization
  • Not pull out your wallet to subscribe to this amazing charity (all charities should operate this way!)

Data Engineering is like the Offensive Line in Football

In Football, QBs & RBs get all the glory, but they are nothing without their Offensive Line. In Advanced Analytics, Data Scientists capture all the headlines, but the Data Engineering team is quietly of one of the most important pieces of an Enterprise.

You want to be Data Driven? …you need Data.

Quality Data Data that can be trusted and governed

And available when needed

A Data Scientist can build the most valuable model, but it is always dependent on the data.

As teams evolve to adopt many multiple AI/ML models that depend on the same underlying data, the data pipeline(s) becomes the critical path of the business.

A strong Data Engineering team can make a huge impact on a Data/Decision Science team. Conversely, they can also create a huge drag.

The longest cycles in a ML project is the data wrangling and the production-ization of a model. Data Engineers have the opportunity to drastically reduce these areas and free the Data Scientists to focus on what they do best.

The best QBs take care of their O-Line and are known for giving extravagant gifts (cars, watches, etc.). Data Scientists aren’t star QBs making tens-of-millions, but a simple “Thank You” and acknowledgement of appreciation this holiday season can go a long way!

#TeamWork

In the Mind of a Climate Skeptic

[UPDATE July 25, 2019: Whether you believe in man made climate change or not, the solution is the same: Gen IV nuclear. Follow Bill Gates’ lead on this. So let’s just look forward together!]. On to the orig post…

I’ve become a climate skeptic. Before you bash me, at least read why. I am absolutely open to continued, productive, positive dialogue. My opinion is absolutely subject to change, if presented with pertinent information that I’ve not seen before.

This is going to be a very unpopular post amongst many of my friends and family. But please bear with me. I am absolutely open to continued, productive, positive dialogue. My opinion is absolutely subject to change, if presented with pertinent information that I’ve not seen before.

I used to be a Global Warmist. In 2006, Al Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth” presented a very convincing case for man’s effect on the climate and the disasters that lay ahead if we don’t change.

Around this same time, I moved to Los Angeles. The smog seen when you look at the hills or at the city from afar is disgusting. I then discovered research papers hypothesizing the correlation of air pollution to asthma.

So, while my opinions on man-made climate change have shifted, I am absolutely on-board with Clean Air initiatives, so I remain directionally-aligned with Global Warmists.

Where I and the Global Warmists diverge is on the solution and this is really the key to everything. I (currently) do NOT believe that we are on a devastating trajectory course for Earth, as indicated by the latest reports highlighted in the mainstream media (MSM). I don’t think we should be applying huge carbon taxes on businesses (which will ultimately hit us, the consumers) and providing Governments with more money to waste.

At the very least, based on the science that I’ve come across, I’d like to see us wait a couple more years before doing anything drastic. I will lay out my thinking in this post.

For a cliff notes version, this is a great summary of a perspective that I agree with: https://youtu.be/pBbvehbomrY. This video clip is of Professor Jordan Peterson’s response to a question about the potential for climate change to be a humanity-uniting issue. Short answer (para-phrased): “No. It’s a complicated issue and there are higher priority problems to solve.”

Look, we’ve all heard the line: “97% of Scientists agree…”. That line has been over-used and over-loaded. Some media and personalities often omit the word “Climate”; I believe it’s supposed to be: “97% of Climate Scientists agree…”. And agree on what exactly? That man-made has an effect at all? Or that man has created and is the cause global warming?

My skepticism changed very slowly over time and I didn’t actually cross the line to full-blown skepticism until this year (2018).

It all started…

Back in 2011, I was at a neighbor’s bbq and I met a Geology professor at a local college or university. Somehow the topic of global warming came up and this professor was very adamant that global warming was a big crock. I was flabbergasted. I was blown away that a highly-educated person and someone in his position would think this. But honestly, I had no ground to stand on. I could not combat any argument intelligently; I only knew what I’ve heard from MSM and Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”.

Also, I’d been reading ZeroHedge for a while now. It started as a financial blog in 2009, really writing about all the wrong-doings of Wall Street and how they caused the financial crisis. So, the view points are definitely anti-establishment. It’s branched out over time into politics and what not. It’s now more of a content curation or blog aggregator site, but it maintains it’s anti-establishment roots. This is where I found Martin Armstrong.

I started to follow Martin Armstrong for his economic forecasts. He has developed a computer algorithm that is widely sought after and he supposedly advises multiple foreign central banks. Full disclosure, he’s definitely right-leaning and anti-establishment, politically. His algorithms predict economic cycles. His models suggest that we are actually entering an economic downturn in correlation with a Global Cooling period. [Note, if you read his stuff, don’t conflate economic downturn with stock market prices.] In any case, since he opposes the Global Warming view, against the mainstream, he shares research that he comes across to debunk the MSM narrative.

I’m still a Global Warmist at this point.

Then in 2015, Scott Adams enters my life. I’ve been a Dilbert comic reader for a long time. In August 2015, Scott Adams wrote two prescient blog posts: https://blog.dilbert.com/2015/08/05/how-trump-becomes-president/ and https://blog.dilbert.com/2015/08/13/clown-genius/.

On November 8, 2016 Scott Adam’s credibility shot through the roof!

Scott Adams clearly sees things that others cannot. This guy is worth paying more attention to. Here are his collection of blog posts about climate change: https://blog.dilbert.com/tag/climate-change/. What Scott Adams introduced me to was doubt; doubt in the validity of the models that climate scientists use.

Okay, so Scott Adams has cracked open my curiosity and has me questioning my views about Global Warming and man’s cause/effect. So I start to researching opposing views. What science are the climate skeptics looking at?

I’m no scientist and I can’t pretend to understand half of what all these folks (on both sides) say. BUT, the pattern that I noticed is that the scientists who OPPOSE Global Warming were not Climate Scientists, but they were Geologists, Physicists, Mathematicians; i.e., Scientists from other fields! Hmm, remember the Geology professor from 2011?

Is it possible, that we (humans) are just a tiny part of a much larger system? Is it possible that Climate Scientists have personal gain by being a Global Warmist (or avoidance of personal shame)? The Earth and its climate have been changing for millions of years. You know, plate tectonics and the ice age, kind of thing…

I believe (and please fact check me here) that the primary models that climate scientists use a wide variety of measurements from Earth (surface temp, ocean temp, volume/thickness of ice, etc). But they incorporate into their models, the greatest energy input parameter, the Sun. Hmmm… [More on this below]

Are Climate Scientists simply tuning their models to fit their desired narrative. See “The Art and Science of Climate Model Tuning“.

In this article: “U.N. Predicts Disaster if Global Warming Not Checked”.

A senior U.N. environmental official says entire nations could be wiped off the face of the Earth by rising sea levels if the global warming trend is not reversed by the year 2000.

Coastal flooding and crop failures would create an exodus of ″eco- refugees,′ ′ threatening political chaos, said Noel Brown, director of the New York office of the U.N. Environment Program, or UNEP.

He said governments have a 10-year window of opportunity to solve the greenhouse effect before it goes beyond human control.

This was published in 1989! That model clearly failed.

As recently as October, IPCC published a report and CNN’s reporting (and all other MSM, to be fair) of it is eerily similar to the article from 1989: https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/07/world/climate-change-new-ipcc-report-wxc/index.html.

The report issued Monday by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), says the planet will reach the crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by as early as 2030, precipitating the risk of extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages for hundreds of millions of people.

A month later, the entire study was debunked. The model had math errors and the authors admit it renders the model useless as the margin of error is too big. This is exactly what Jordan Peterson eludes to in the video above (as you extrapolate the models into the future, the margin bars become too big). Of course, you really didn’t hear about this news in the MSM.

Even more recently, which again garnered the attention of MSM, the US Government (U.S. Global Change Research Program) issued a similar report. In this report, they project out to the end of the century. That’s 80 years! Firstly, this is assuming 0 innovations in technology. The odds of that are 0%. That alone debunks this report. Secondly, it suggests a drop of 10% in GDP. This sounds scary until logic kicks in: US GDP per capita is projected to triple by the end of the century, so 10% reduction from an economy 3x the size of today isn’t so alarming.

Okay, but what about the opposing science?

I really like the Sun Spot theory. This is a great video explaining it: https://youtu.be/M_yqIj38UmY. This hypothesizes that the sun plays a greater role in Earth’s climate than anything. And it’s a cyclical occurrence, and hence, predictable. Professor Valentina Zharkova (Prof of Mathematics) is predicting that we’re entering a Global Cooling period with an upcoming grand minimum between 2020-2055.

Let me repeat: An upcoming Global Cooling period.

NASA research corroborates this theory. A NASA researcher predicts a global cooling period is upon us: https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/nov/19/editorial-a-quiet-solar-period-may-be-just-the-thi/

“High above Earth’s surface, near the edge of space, our atmosphere is losing heat energy,” says Martin Mlynczak, a scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center. “If current trends continue, it could soon set a space age record for cold.”

Remember, Martin Armstrong, through a completely different model — an economic model — predicts Global Cooling in roughly the same period. His historical research correlates major economic downturns with cooling periods.

Doesn’t this speak volumes that 3 individuals looking at something from completely different angles reach a very similar conclusion?

The good news about this theory is that we will know whether this is valid or not within the next few years. I will be watching!

So, let’s not act so fast and take drastic measures to tax ourselves for something that isn’t definitive.

Besides, when it comes to clear air, we’re on the right track (the US at least): https://solarindustrymag.com/global-carbon-emissions-rose-last-year-but-not-in-the-u-s/.

What do you think? Am I crazy?!

AI Wins Again!

AI beats humans again!

https://mashable.com/2018/02/26/ai-beats-humans-at-contracts/#Sg3c4D_8TkqS

These victories are to be celebrated as great feats of technology and advancement, until one day… :/

In this competition, lawyers we’re given 5 NDAs to review and identify 30 legal issues.

Humans averaged 85% accuracy rate; AI achieved 95 percent accuracy.

AI also achieved 100% accuracy in one contract, whereas which highest-scoring human lawyer score was 97%.

So, the tech works, but what is the business case?

Human lawyers took an avg of 92 minutes; AI completed the task in 26 seconds!!!

That is at least several hundred dollars of savings.

I’m not a lawyer, but if I was, this isn’t something that I’d be concerned with at all. I’d welcome this with open arms and run to this now, as a potential competitive advantage to provide a better service at a lower cost to my clients. In theory, I’ll be able to serve more clients as well and/or be able to devote more attention to higher valued services.

As a consumer, I’d look for lawyers that have adopted this kind of technology because I will feel more confident in the quality of the service. And presumably, the service might be a little cheaper (relative to others’ that don’t leverage technology).

How Romantic…

https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2018/10/29/japans-princess-ayako-must-leave-royal-family-after-marrying-commoner/1804881002/

Firstly, I didn’t even know that Japan had a royal family.

Secondly, love conquers all.

Thirdly, don’t feel bad for the princess. She still receives a lump sum of money after leaving the royal family to “maintain her high standard of living”.

Kei Moriya: Big score for the little guy. Keeping the dream alive for us commoners! (to be clear, not my dream, I’m happily married!)

 

Is Sexual Abuse in the Church part of the Institution?

60 minutes lead story this week was about a whistleblower that came forward with evidence of sexual abuse allegations going on in the churches in Buffalo for decades and the leaders knew about the incidences, yet kept looking the other way.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/whistleblower-says-buffalo-bishop-knew-of-sexual-abuse-allegations-but-did-nothing-60-minutes/

I’m not religious, but clearly these leaders are serving themselves and not serving their people.

This problem seems very pervasive in Buffalo. Is it pervasive throughout other parts of the country as well? I don’t know, but my suspicion is yes. If it were just a region, then it would be easy for the Vatican to purge one region.

The fact that this has gone on for decades and that there are so many cases, makes me believe that this is institutionalized. Were they abused themselves as children in the church? Do these men then seek priesthood in order to put themselves in a position of power over kids to abuse them?

Absolutely disgusting!

Doubly so when it comes from people who are supposed to be the “holiest of holy”

How Much Time do you REALLY Have?

Would you change anything if you, literally, knew when your time is up? Seems we each have an explicit biological clock embedded in our DNA.

This article talks about how researchers found that your Epigenetic clock can calculate biological age and predict your lifespan.

“Some individuals who fill their lives with fitness and healthy habits die younger than peers who live a much less healthy life. New research into the epigenetics of aging sheds some fresh light on the perplexing phenomenon of premature aging.”

It’s based on this research paper.

I thought this was super interesting.

Loads of implications:

  • Would you retire earlier or later based on your biological age?
  • Surely, this is going to have a tremendous effect on the Insurance industry.
    • I wonder how long until the industry adopts this as common practice to set your premiums.
  • Now that we know the marker (or measure), can we work to improve or manipulate it. (this is all over my head, I don’t even know if that’s a valid question)

Smart People are Flip-Floppers

I’m insecure. I have a small fear of commitment. When I make a decision, I’m always wondering if it was the best decision. What’re the unknown unknowns?

Bezos believes that “the smartest people are constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they’d already solved”

I’m not saying I’m amongst the smartest or smart at all. But this did give me solace, in that, at least I know I might be thinking along the same lines as smart folk.

I’m always curious: Is there a better way?

In the book “Thinking in Bets”, Poker pro Annie Duke says that when it comes to decision-making, decide as if you are betting all of your money on your choice. Don’t take shortcuts based on your biases; seek contrarian opinions and experienced counsel. Talk with folks who have had similar experiences and expertise who can critique your choices and illuminate your blindspots.

I’ll talk to anybody and everybody about anything.

You can always learn something from someone.

And you know what? You’ll probably disagree and hate me for saying this, but Recruiters and Sales folk are amongst the best to speak with because they speak to the most people. So, they often have a good perspective (as long as you understand their bias, you can really learn a lot).