Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Another Grrrr

Or Why Bad Service Can Ruin Your Day

It didn't seem to me to be a particularly complicated request. The sort that you 'drop in' to find out. I want to know the price of a plane ticket to Tokyo on May 27th. I had already picked up a schedule book for April/May, and found the right page, the flight number and time, and even the corresponding page in the back of the book that listed the prices. All I needed was to be pointed to which of several pricing options I would be eligible for.

The travel agent was busy. There were two men seated being served, and as I walked up to the counter she gestured me to sit down. I picked up the schedule book and found the right page, and waited. She came up to me with a form to fill, and said in hesitant English 'make a reservation?' I said in Japanese, 'No, not yet, today I just want to find out the price' and she said Okay, and went away.

She went back to serving an elderly man, and spent about twenty minutes with him sorting through various papers, and once answering the phone. Meanwhile I leafed through ferry timetables, and checked out alternative airlines flight schedules, coming back to where I started. Then she came back to another younger guy sitting by me, who was also in the midst of a pile of papers. Another woman was sitting in another chair, nodding off (more as a method of enduring waiting than because of real sleepiness, I assumed). She spend ten more minutes with him, answering another two phone calls, and leaving the elderly man with a slightly smaller pile of papers. He finally seemed to reach the end of his tether and took off with a pile of brochures.

I thought now was the time, after half an hour's wait for a two-minute answer (and she KNEW what I wanted!) but she went back to the elderly man. I took one look at the other woman, who also seemed in despair of ever being served, and packed up my timetables and left. I will of course go to another travel agent, the question is, should I let that silly woman know she lost at least one customer that day because of her slowness.

And she was slooooooooooooooow. She walked slowly, she put the phone back in the cradle slowly, she looked for a piece of paper and pen slowly and wrote slowly. She got up and walked slowly to the other side of the office, and came back just as slowly with a calculator. I wondered if she did everything in her life that slowly. I wondered if she realized, or noticed that other people do things faster. I wondered if her colleagues despaired of her, or if she ever noticed that they did twice the work she did - or does she just wonder at how they can get so much done? I wondered if her boss regretted hiring her, I wondered what other job she could do, since competent speed seems to be a trait valued in almost all occupations.

Needless to say, I still don't know how much my flight is going to be. Maybe tomorrow I will find some time to get to the OTHER travel agency and get a (hopefully) quick answer

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