Denise made a very understandable and common mistake: she stashed her iPad in the seat-back pouch in front of her during a United flight, and didn’t realize it until later. She ran the always handy “Find my iPad” app, and found that the iPad was in the hands of United staff at George Bush airport in Houston. The problem: she lives in Ohio, and no one at United was interested in helping her.
Her iPad was still still turned on, it turned out, and the app even showed her where in the terminal it was: depending on which floor it was on, either at the customer service desk or the baggage claim. Yet she couldn’t get anyone at the airline to help her, when she knew the exact location of her iPad, in the hands of United.
Here’s a map of United’s terminals at the G.H.W. Bush airport, showing where we’re guessing Denise’s iPad was hanging out. Here was the challenge: she had learned that items that aren’t picked up in 7 days get sent to a mysterious “warehouse,” from which they probably won’t return. If she wanted her iPad back, time was running out.
“I’ve been trying to reach United Airlines in every way possible (their online claim site, Facebook, Twitter, phone calls),” she explained to Consumerist in an e-mail. “All I get are automated responses.” She couldn’t really afford to buy a new iPad, but even if she could, why would she have to? She knew exactly where it was. She just needed someone to fetch it for her.
Even actual humans who did reply to her on Twitter weren’t all that helpful, she later noted. While Twitter customer service reps did respond to her and promised that the “team” would get back with her with instructions for how to get her iPad back, they weren’t able to actually help.
“I’ve noticed that quite a few of the United Tweets are “feel good” wishes and sympathetic “Gee, that’s awful” condolences,” Denise wrote. While empathizing with customers is important, it’s not the same as actually helping or getting Denise her iPad back.
That’s when Denise found Consumerist, and we got involved, contacting United’s media relations team. We don’t know what went on behind the scenes, but about 12 hours after our last e-mail exchange with United, someone from the airline called Denise to let her know that her iPad was, indeed, on its way to the Warehouse of No Return. He was able to intercept it and ship it overnight from Houston to Ohio, waiving the fees.
Would Denise have been able to get her iPad back without a media outlet getting involved? We would like to think so, but despite her many methods of contacting the airline, it doesn’t look like she was able to find anyone with the actual power to help her.
“When they offered ‘fees waived’ for the Fedex return, I knew that something larger (than me) was at work,” she wrote after her happy reunion with her iPad. Maybe. Or maybe it was because Denise posted the Find My iPhone screenshot on social media repeatedly, yet United did nothing about it.
Either way, she and her cat Gracie have their iPad back. Let this serve as one of our semi-regular announcements: check your seat pouch before you get off the plane.