Yesterday morning, I was dismayed to hear the voicemail of the United Airlines' automated flight change notification service telling me my flight to San Francisco was cancelled. The message said I'd been rerouted, and would not arrive until much later in the day. I called United Reservations, but the human operator I finally got through to (with a strong Indian accent) was not helpful at all.
As a struggling entrepreneur, I had cut way back on air travel and lost my United Premier status this year, for the first time in about 8 years. After my experience yesterday morning, I was starting to think that maybe this would be a good time to switch allegiance to another carrier. Then last night, I received a call from an extremely helpful agent, Karen Luna (from Chicago), who called my home number. Karen helped me get on another flight, routing through LAX, that got me in to SFO shortly after I was originally scheduled to arrive. With my new job, I expect to be traveling enough to qualify for premier airline status again over the next year, and thanks to Karen's timely and effective intervention, I'll be staying with United.
Upon arriving at SFO this morning, I had another pleasant surprise. I had made my first reservation with Enterprise Rent-A-Car over the weekend (signing up for their Express Lane service), and was surprised that the check-in at the counter was so quick, and even more surprised when I approached the Enterprise section of the garage and Travis came out of the small office to shake my hand, warmly greet me, and introduce me to Michael, who then personally took me to my car, guided me through the checklist and cheerfully bade me farewell as I drove away.
This was in stark contrast to my recent -- and first -- experience with Dollar Rent A Car (also at SFO), where I also signed up for their Dollar Express service, but not until after I'd made an online reservation. I contacted the Dollar customer service through email, and was assured that my reservation had been recategorized as a Dollar Express reservation. Unfortunately, when I arrived at the counter at SFO, the agent told me there was no record of my reservation. When I explained what had happened, she told me "you can't do that", and then proceeded to re-enter all the information I'd entered earlier on the Dollar web site. For reasons I don't understand -- possibly having to do with the fact that a customer in Rockland, MA, has the same name and driver's license number (though different state ... which presumably is not a field in their database key) as I do -- she had to re-enter all of that information a second time. I finally got my car, but the experience was totally different ... as is the probability that Dollar will be the first place I'll look in the future.
Upon reflection, I'm sad to admit that my experiences with the first United agent and the Dollar agent were rather in line with what I had expected ... after all, I don't have "status" on United, and Dollar is a budget rental car company. My experiences with the second United agent, and all the Enterprise employees, help remind me that there are still people -- and organizations -- that really do care about their customers ... and that I often find what I expect to find.