Question Customer Service Authority

The advice for high-powered business travelers trying to get through travel emergencies offered in the New York Times article, “When It’s Time to Call the Cavalry,” can apply to anyone trying to get out of a customer service bind. In it, Paul Tucci, author of “Traveling Everywhere: How to Survive a Global Business Trip,” says:

“Normally travelers will take whatever someone says. Challenge it. I’ll say, ‘I know how airports work and I know where the bag is.’” Mr. Tucci advises being kind and polite but assertive. “When it’s an emergency, I don’t obey the rules. I’ll go to the front of the queue. Do what you need to do.”

Question. Insist. No is not an answer. Get what you want by being clear, direct, calm and in control.

When It’s Time to Call the Cavalry [NYT]
(Photo: de jäck Mamsäll)

Comments

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  1. sir_eccles says:

    But if everyone goes to the front of the queue, there is no longer a queue.

    Being polite goes a long way.

  2. Parting says:

    @sir_eccles: Depends on the queue. For example, when you travel international, there many airports where the queue to security/customs could be skipped in a case of emergency (ex. connecting flight).

  3. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    Oh I love this kind of article!! It works much better than my dad’s old “Do you know who I am???” bit. Which incidentally, never worked. haha.

    Also, that passport expediting service starts at $179 and goes up to $1000 – I wonder how long the $179 service takes…I was at the post office the other day and noticed expedited service costs something like $195…for what, 4 months fast turnaround? :)

  4. DeeJayQueue says:

    “Hey EVERYONE! When you don’t get what you want, act like an asshole and dodge in front of the other guy, because you are more important than they are!” Right, that’s going to work.

  5. vladthepaler says:

    I don’t think that being an asshole is an effective way of getting good customer service. Especially in an airport. “Oh, I see you’ve been randomly been selected for extra screening…”

  6. sir_eccles says:

    @chouchou: Yes there may be times when a queue needs to be avoided but there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. May I suggest that if you want to skip the security line next time you ask politely to be escorted through explaining the reason, rather than pushing through to the front. That way you’re less likely to be shot or otherwise waylaid. Plus other people don’t think you’re being a self important idiot.

  7. csdiego says:

    There’s not really any usable advice in that article. It boils down to “if you get into trouble while traveling, pay someone to shove people around and/or throw cash around”. In other words “be rich and influential”. Hey, thanks! I never would have thought of that.

  8. Buran says:

    @csdiego: They forgot to mention who to call when the people you just rudely cut in front of kick the @&%$*&!! out of you for being a self-centered jerk.

  9. @pinkbunnyslippers – it’s ironic my wife just got her passport, paid for normal service at the local USPS and got it back in 2 weeks! people who think they might need to leave the country in the next 10 years should really just get one NOW and save themselves the hassle.

  10. kimsama says:

    @sir_eccles: I agree — once I had a friend from Japan visiting, and he arrived at the airport 3 hours early…only to be confronted with a 4-hour wait at the ticketing counters (those of you who know me will know which hated airline this was: United).

    He asked a United employee every 30 minutes if he should be worried, but they kept telling him it would be ok and he’d make it through. I wish to god he had just cut to the front, explained the situation to the first person in line and asked to get ahead of them (oh yeah, forgot to mention, they were doing int’l and domestic in the same lines, but were allowing people with domestic flights to cut line — wtf?).

    So, he missed the one flight to Tokyo, and called me. I go back to the airport (it’s now 4 hours later, and I’m pissed), and do the “stay calm and act like you know what you’re talking about” bit for 2 more hours and get him on the ANA flight to Tokyo by the skin of his teeth, by asking the passengers (all 25 or so of them) in the concessions line if we could butt to the front, because the ANA flight was leaving shortly.

    Um…there was a point to that, I think:

    1. Don’t be afraid to ask fellow passengers for a little latitude (it’s always worked for me) in butting in line or talking to someone quickly before they go up to the counter.
    2. Be insistent but nice and you might get what you want — I agree it’s easier if you have money and power (sigh).
    3. Never ever ever fly United, ever.

  11. savdavid says:

    Hmmm…at the beginning the woman is doing wonders for celebrities and the rich. Well, of course, it would work for them! They have clout and star power. She says “if I can do it for celebrities I could do it for the average person”. Really? I would like to see that. As for going straight to the front of the line,well, what is everyone did that? There would be no line, just chaos. I understand frustration but we do some thing they are entitled to more service than others?

  12. savdavid says:

    I messed up above, sorry. I should read:
    Hmmm…at the beginning of the column the woman is doing wonders for celebrities and the rich. Well, of course, it would work for them! They have clout and star power. She says “if I can do it for celebrities I could do it for the average person”. Really? I would like to see that. As for going straight to the front of the line,well, what if everyone did that? There would be no line, just chaos. I understand frustration but why do some think they are entitled to more service than others?

  13. RISwampyankee says:

    @pinkbunnyslippers-I had to get my passport renewed in 06 on an expedited basis. I was pleasantly shocked–I had my new passport in 4 business days. I don’t know if that’s still the case, what with the recent increase in demand. I sometimes wonder if requiring a passport for re-entry from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean isn’t just the first step towards making a US passport a national identity card.

  14. coren says:

    @pinkbunnyslippers: Upwards of 200, probably closer to 400 or 500 depending on circumstances.

    @DeeJayQueue: I must have read a differetn article, cuz the one I read was talking about not being passive and forming relationships with companies that can get things done for you, and being aware of what’s out there.

  15. Edward Wiest says:

    Citibank did the same thing to me about six months ago. Is this blowback from the TJX hack (or something similar)?

  16. ceriphim says:

    I paid a $90 expedited fee at the post office where I applied for my passport and got it in a week. Paying more than that is unnecessary, people.

  17. emilayohead says:

    @ceriphim:

    Paying more *is* necessary sometimes – I paid the extra $90 for a passport and it took 4 weeks. I only got it in time because I called my congressman’s office and they were able to get it the day before our trip. During busy passport-processing times (i.e. summer vacations) it might be very well worth the extra money. As it got closer to my trip and I still didn’t have the passports, my only option was going to be spending $500ish on a last minute flight to San Francisco to pick it up in person.

  18. ceriphim says:

    @emilayohead: Two words: Plan. Ahead.