When I was young my family had a big gathering each year at the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden. I remember being quite young, maybe 5 or 6, and spilling something on my shirt at brunch beforehand, so had to make a stop at a department store on the way to the event for a replacement. And… I spilled food on that shirt later in the day, too.
My great uncle bought me a t-shirt at a concession stand to wear. It was a young boy sharing his ice cream cone with his horse. The horse was licking the ice cream. And the caption read, “treat your pony as you would like to be treated yourself.”
I still have that shirt, although it doesn’t fit anymore. But it was my lesson very young that you should treat others well, and they’ll care about you in return. (The lesson wasn’t that other people are horses, at least that’s not the lesson I took.)
Fast-forward 35 years, and I try to share my ice cream or good fortune where I can — especially with the people who help me along the way. Sometimes that means a thank you. Thank you’s are easy and cheap but often go unsaid, and a little bit of kindness to people who so often deal with frustrated customers can mean a lot.
Sometimes it means a Starbucks gift card, I usually carry a few ‘just in case’ to give someone a token where it would be inappropriate to offer them a tip. It stays with them more, probably, than just the words. But if someone does something more for me than they have to, and I’m able to, I’d like to show them my thanks.
I don’t really believe in karma, but I think the general attitude that goes with it helps. And it makes it easier to be helped.
Friday afternoon I’m sitting in my office and I get an email from American Airlines: my flight to Dallas was delayed. It was just showing a short 10 or 15 minute delay, so I’d have no problem making my connection. But I started looking into the inbound aircraft, which hand’t taken off yet, and I became skeptical. I was taking the last Dallas flight of the night, and my connection was the last of the night, and I figured things would get worse.
In my experience American tends to post creeping delays, often at the last moment (they’ll post a delay or an update to a delay only once they’ve hit – and missed – the projected departure time).
Things got worse for my flight and I was clearly going to misconnect. I had visions spending the night in Dallas. There was no other way to leave later and still make it.
Then I missed a phone call on my cell. Ten minutes later I checked my voicemail.
One of the agents from Washington National’s Admirals Club called. She saw I was going to misconnect, and had protected me on the Chicago flight instead.
- It left 15 minutes earlier than my original flight. If I could make it to the airport early, I could go up to the desk in the lounge and she’d re-issue my ticket.
It was 6pm, this was the 6:55pm flight. I got my stuff together, hit the button for Uber on my phone, and I was on my way at 6:10pm. I was at the airport at 6:25pm. Through security and in the lounge at 6:30pm. Ticket re-issued and at the gate at 6:35pm, 20 minutes prior to departure.
She even thought to secure me the seat closest to the front in coach for my flight to Chicago. If the flight landed on time it would be a barely legal, short connection, and she wanted me to be able to get off the aircraft quickly. And she managed to preserve my upgrade for my onward connection.
- I had a middle seat in the bulkhead row of coach to Chicago, instead of my first class flight to Dallas.
- I was truly grateful.
The flight to Chicago hadn’t shown any seats when I checked earlier. Maybe she had already grabbed it for me, or maybe she managed to put me in it even though I wasn’t seeing revenue inventory.
Either way she got me on my way. She saw the problem, solved the problem, and reached out to me personally to let me know.
And it was the second time in 10 days that an American lounge agent saved my bacon. A week and a half earlier I was likely to misconnect enroute to San Francisco. The agent protected me on a later flight, which is what I wound up taking — a flight that was sold out by the time I had landed in Dallas. (She didn’t reissue the ticket though because there was still a shot I could have made my original flight.)
I ‘grew up’ on the United lounge agents at Washington Dulles, whom I never found to be nearly so friendly. So I didn’t learn the lesson early of being nice to your lounge agents, they aren’t just the people who check your credentials to let you in. They’re the people who keep you going during your travels. It’s why I really love the lounges — not because of the stale cookies and well drinks.
I don’t know whether the agent in the lounge helped me because she’s come to know me, because I’m expressed my thanks, or because she just provides outstanding customer service as the agents in that lounge do — but whatever kindness I may have ever shown there was repaid to me many times over.
Friday night I tweeted,