Can I just mention that the automated systems for handling customer service issues at Northwest Airlines suck?
Even by my standards for bad customer service, these are pretty impressive.
- Their preferred system is that you use their web form. It doesn't have an option for lost-and-found. If you use it to send them a note about luggage issues, you get an autoresponse that says they'll get back to you within ten to fourteen business days. I can't imagine anyone with any sort of luggage-related issue being content to wait that long to hear back from the airline.
- So I dug around a little on their site and found their customer service number: 701-420-6282. Which is an automated phone tree. I eventually navigated to the lost-and-found section. Where I got a brief recorded statement saying that since carryons aren't tracked, and lots of people lose stuff while traveling all the time, I was out of luck. Then it just stopped. No further info, no further options, not even an explicit statement that the call was over. It was essentially saying "fuck you" and hanging up on me.
I was so angry that I actually hit my phone, something I've never ever done before. [Note: This did not in fact help. Fortunately, it also didn't damage the phone or my hand.] All I wanted to do was talk with a live human in a lost-and-found department. Other airlines and airports have lost-and-found departments with live sympathetic humans staffing them. It may well be that my house and car keys and my business cards and another important item are gone forever, but to be told flatly by a recording that it was simply impossible to ever recover any lost object was a terrible customer service experience.
This is a "Customers First" Customer Service Plan?
[Added later: on re-reading, this doesn't really seem especially worse than any of my other customer-service demon incidents. I don't know why I got more upset than usual over it. Maybe something about the tone of the recording? Maybe just general background grumpiness? Not sure.]
I ended up calling the reservations desk, because I knew that if I lied about why I was calling, I would get to speak to a live human, and I hoped they could transfer me. At that point, things started getting better. A human agent answered; I put on my most pitiful voice (which wasn't far from the truth by that point except that I was hiding the anger part of what I was feeling), explained that I had lost my keys while traveling, and asked if she could put me in touch with someone who could help. She first suggested that I try the website and the 701 phone number, and when I said I'd tried them and repeated that I had lost my keys and didn't want to have to wait 10-14 business days, she said that although she wasn't supposed to do this, she would contact various people and see what she could do. She took down all my info and forwarded a message to someone, I don't know who. I thanked her profusely, not least for being compassionate and friendly. I wanted to send NWA a note explicitly commending her, but I don't want to get her in trouble for going outside the bounds of her job and helping when she wasn't supposed to.
She also gave me the number for NWA's baggage department: 800-745-9798. The guy there took my info and made a call of his own, and said that he had left a message with the right people and they would only call me back if they find my item.
I still wasn't thrilled with the layer of indirection I was getting, so I looked online and found the MSP lost-and-found department's phone number: 612-726-5141. I spoke to a friendly and sympathetic woman there, who looked around and said they didn't have my stuff, but took my name and number in case it turns up. And she gave me the phone number of the NWA baggage dept in MSP (612-726-2534), which you would think that someone at NWA might have been willing to give me.
I figured I would also try ORD lost-and-found. I lost the bag somewhere between security in ORD and getting on the plane from MSP to SJC; my guess was that it was on the plane from ORD to MSP. But it might've been in ORD. So I looked on the ORD website and found that L&F for ORD is handled by the Chicago police, except for the parts that are handled by TSA and by the airlines themselves. (Notice how clever this is. If you lose something near the gate, it's up to the airlines to handle L&F, but Northwest's recording claims that things lost are irretrievable. Even though if you lose something anywhere else in the airport, there's an appropriate L&F department to talk with. In other words, NWA just can't be bothered to have a L&F department.) Called the Chicago police number given on the ORD site; a brusque police officer said they don't have my stuff. (He did clarify that they handle L&F on both sides of security, not just the public side, which wasn't clear on the ORD website.)
Tried TSA's L&F in Chicago (773-894-8760); got a recording, left a message.
Finally called the NWA/MSP baggage number, and left another message there, with an apology in case I was duplicating previous calls.
So now it's out of my hands; I just wait to see if anyone calls me. My guess is that they won't, and that the bag and its contents are gone. Which sucks, but isn't the worst possible thing ever.
But boy did NWA's "customer service" system make me mad.
I wrote up the relevant bits of the above and submitted them as a complaint via the customer-service web form. I assume I'll get an autoresponse saying that someone will reply in 10 to 14 business days.