It’s a Customer Service Problem

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Had to take Stella to the airport this morning for a flight to Seattle so she could catch a boat to Alaska. A trip that she has been planning for months with her best friend. A trip that she has been looking forward too for months as well.

Now, for those of you that aren’t playing the DonBurnside® home game, Stella broke her ankle taking trapeze lessons. She just had surgery last weekend to begin the repairing of what was broken. Storm Trooper boot, crutches and pain meds. That has been her week.

Fast forward to this morning, 0615. Location: Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. I get her to the Southwest check-in desk, a porter rushes over with a wheel chair. The Southwest agent arranges for a wheel chair at SEA when she lands and arranges a **customer assistance** boarding pass for me so I can get her to the gate. So far, aces.

Roll up to TSA. A very nice agent lets us in the fast lane (since I was pushing a wheel chair and rolling a knee scooter at the same time). Awesome. The man at the podium was patient as we handed over our documents and we go in line.

Items into the tubs as usual, the agent manning this station calls for backup upon seeing Stella in a wheel chair, festooned with her Storm Trooper Boot. I hear her call over the radio “This one is going to take ½ hour”. Great, but could see it coming. Actually, it was expected that some kind of extra scanning and whatever would take place.

Full pat down with Stella precariously balanced on 1 foot complete, they then had to spend 20 minutes x-ray’ing her Storm Trooper boot and wiping it down for explosives.

Now, here’s the problem.

The agent couldn’t have been less pleasant. She was obnoxiously rude and treated Stella like a criminal. She isn’t a criminal, she just has a broken ankle. Never once did she say please, thank you or even hint at some kind of apology for the inconvenience and physical pain. Nothing.

To be sure, the TSA has a shitty job and get hammered in the press on a daily basis. I am one that is happy they are there, doing what little bit they can to help keep flying safe. Whether or not they are actually doing anything to keep the skies safe is another argument that will be saved for another time. My problem is that most, if not all, of the TSA negative press and image could be solved with a little customer service.

A please. A thank you. Some sympathy for the inconvenience of having to go through a full body scan/pat down. A smile. Maybe use a name (it’s on the boarding pass). Something to make the experience a little more tolerable. It would serve the TSA well to model themselves, to an extent, after the modern day police force. Sure, they get a bad rap too, but never have I ever been mistreated by a cop. They are always professional and polite, even when they are giving me a ticket. Sure, you had a bad experience, but I’d bet it was something you did to provoke it. But, that too is not the discussion today.

A little professionalism. A little politeness. Maybe even some suckers. Something. It would go a very long way to improve the image of the TSA, both in the media and in the public eye.

At least until they make a 95 year old woman remove her diaper again. There are somethings that even the best customer service can fix.

By Don

Lead bottle washer at, host at and tech guru for the MotoringFile family of sites.

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