December 16, 2015

Getting the customer service we deserve

I’m writing this from the Halifax airport as I’m approaching my 25th consecutive hour without sleep (I’ve had a lot of caffeine, obvi). Lots of things are on my mind this morning, but the most significant thing I’m dying to share with you is my deep, DEEP, passionate hate for airline customer service. 

I don’t want to attack Air Canada as a whole, because I’m sure there are lots of reasons and points by which they stand that proves they are a reputable and trustworthy airline to travel by. But, I AM going to attack Air Canada with regard to the flaws they have in their customer service sector and communications department. The bold, italicized quotations are direct from Air Canada employees that I recently dealt with face to face.

We don’t see what’s behind the curtain in these corporate companies. 
We engage with people who have (or are supposed to, in this case) customer service skills and we use these services based upon reviews and past experiences. And let me tell you, I have heard NOTHING but awful, awful criticism surrounding Air Canada and the disregard they have for their passengers’ opinions and satisfaction. 

"You don't have to choose Air Canada if you're unpleased."

I am travelling with Air Canada this morning from Halifax to Toronto. I arrived to the airport hours early to check in and get settled into my gate before my endeavour. I was with a group of friends, which did make the time pass by relatively quick; however, after spending hours and hours and hours awake and functioning without any sleep, it makes for a long 12am-6am. No one likes to be in the airport to begin with, let alone to be in the airport and treated like shit by an associate of the company you are trusting to safely transport you by aircraft at 350km/h at 30,000ft above the ground.  
Which reminds me… the past 3 flights I’ve had with Air Canada have been delayed at least an hour due to “mechanical issues”. Oh. Great. 

In October, I had a connecting flight from Toronto to Halifax with a stop in Fredericton to switch planes. Due to awful traffic, I made it to the airport 10 minutes after check-in closed for my flight. I still had to get my boarding pass, check my bag, and make my way through security. I explained my situation to the lady at the customer service desk, and the ONLY remark she had was “Well why didn’t you check in on your phone? If you did that, we wouldn’t have this issue now, would we?” UM EXCUSE ME? I was too stressed to deal with that issue in that moment, and I sincerely regret letting her get away with that. But it’s whatever, I guess. Oh, and then she tried to charge me $670 for the next flight to Halifax… the next evening. Long story short, I got my way onto the flight I was late checking in for. It just took a bit of inner strength and courage to speak up. 

“You’re on your own.” 

Air Canada sucks. I normally wouldn’t express my personal finances, but I have to strongly affirm that I have spent nearly $3000 THIS! YEAR! in services from Air Canada (domestic flights only). This may not seem like a lot, but for a student, it’s A WHOLE HELL OF A LOT. 

So, apparently checking a single suitcase costs money now? $28.75, exact. I got curious as to where the weird dollar amount and 3 quarters were included in the total, and as I did some further research, so to speak, it turns out that there is actually a tax charge (15%) to check your luggage. 

WHY! ON! EARTH! DOES THE GOVERNMENT NEED MY MONEY TO STORE A BAG UNDER A PLANE?!?! (This goes for all airlines that fly domestically, but still, it’s 6:30am and I’m mad). There will be room to store my bag regardless of whether or not I pay for it to be put there or not! Seriously. Fuck that. 

I fully expressed my opinion to the lady working at the service desk (I didn’t attack her, because it’s not her fault that it costs $28.75). I expected her to be understanding of the situation - that I am a student, I have already paid copious amounts of my money to Air Canada, and that there would be room for my luggage regardless of whether I paid or not. I expected her to at least try to further help me understand the entire situation, or to provide me with someone who could either explain it better, or, resolve my complaint. She didn’t. And her manner was just straight-up blasphemous all together.

“There’s nothing we can do about this issue, ma’am.”

Unless you’ve flown Air Canada or have had past experiences dealing with their incompetent, lazy, apathetic representatives, then it’s unlikely that you’ll understand where I’m coming from. Like I said, I don’t want to allege Air Canada AS A WHOLE, because I know a few people who do work for this airline and are great at what they do! But as for the 99% that suck…get it together, guys. Please. For the sake of your company. 

I have always had such amazing customer service with WestJet, and every experience, both on and off the plane, have always been exceptional. They have phenomenal customer service, and you can most definitely tell that their first priority is the passenger. A friend recently missed his flight (through WestJet), and within ten minutes a customer service representative had him booked free of charge for the next flight directly to his destination. Ha, AS IF Air Canada would ever do that. Keep it up WestJet, you’re doing it right. 

I flew Porter a few times between Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax. I had great experiences with them, too. Amazing service staff. Professional flight attendants. The pilot even shook my hand as I was getting on the plane! On a previous flight, I had a connection in Montreal between Halifax and Toronto, and I had to switch planes. The flight I was on between Halifax and Montreal was continuing to Toronto thereafter… and the flight attendant went out of her way to keep me on board so that I didn't have to wait two hours for my next flight. Oh, and FREE WINE. How can I complain about that? Good job, Porter. 

I will keep my word when I say that from here on in, I will be informing others of Air Canada’s blatant disregard for their passengers. I have 4 more flights with Air Canada (booked prior to this experience), and then that will be all. Until they get their shit together, at least. I have faith in you, Air Canada. You can do it. 

For my sake and sanity, I hope they serve decent coffee on the plane today, and I hope you all cross better paths than I.

December 03, 2015

Family ISN'T Forever

Growing up, I always had an “off/on” relationship with my family. Perhaps it was because of the phases I was going through… childhood…puberty…adolescence…teenage…young adult… that made it so difficult for me to get along with my family at times. 

The older I get, the more I realize that in addition to my phases, it was also my family that made it difficult, too.

I spent a lot of my early teenage years “hating” (for lack of a better word) my father. I spent every other Friday afternoon begging my Mom not to send me to his smoke-filled apartment, and every other weekend wishing I was anywhere but there. My father and I argued all the time, and I always felt like he never understood how to be a “Dad”. I wanted a real Dad. I spent my wishes on my birthday candles, and shooting stars, and 11:11 wishing for a real Dad who would take me for bike rides, or out for breakfast, or dance with me in the living room to Bryan Adams. I got sad when he didn’t show up to my piano concerts, or dance recitals. I got mad when his girlfriend made rude remarks towards me, and he laughed them off like it was nothing. I got sad when he stopped calling every day. I got mad when he didn’t support my decisions. I got sad when I saw my friends with their Dads. I got mad when he spoke negatively about my other family members. 

Eventually I gave up trying. 

I spent many years trying to form a healthy relationship with my Dad, and it only seemed that the harder I tried, the more that I failed. We didn’t speak or see each other for a long time. Days went on, and I pretended that I didn’t even have a father. It was easier to say “my Dad isn’t in the picture”, then to explain why I only saw him 3 times a year and spoke to him on the phone once a month (to argue, of course). I was scared every day that I would lose contact with him, and that what used to be a healthy relationship with my Dad turned into a thing of the past, forever. 

7 years. 

7 years of my life is how long it took for my Dad to realize that he pushed me out of his life. That the decisions he made reflected his relationship with his daughter.

My Dad is a man of many things. He is smart. So smart, that I can remember keeping my jaw hung open for minutes straight watching Jeopardy! with him as a child. So smart, that to this day, I swear he is one of the world's smartest people. Not only is my Dad smart, but his sense of humour is only that of a Dad, but 10x funnier. He could make anyone laugh for hours at his ridiculous jokes, or from his insane impersonations. He is sociable, and charming. He is someone that anyone should take the time to get to know, because you will always benefit from a conversation with him. Always.

He calls more often now, and he asks me how I’m doing. I tell him things; I trust him. I see him more than I used to, and it’s not awkward or tense. We laugh and we hug, and we spend time together like fathers and daughters should. He supports my decisions, and tells me he is proud. Of course there is still an empty spot in our relationship — I have reserved it for the small bit of resentment I still have for him and the things he has done. But I love my father, and I know he loves me, too. Things improve between us everyday, and I can only hope they continue to do so. People change.
I'll always be your Angel, Dad.

In 2010, my Mom was diagnosed with cancer. If you have ever had a parent, sibling, or close loved one diagnosed with cancer, then you’ll know that the feeling you have when you find out feels similar to a knife going through your heart. It feels like someone kicked you in the back of both knees, and took all of the air out of your lungs. You get dizzy, and you suddenly can’t hear anything. My Mom was so calm when she told me. I can remember the exact expression on her face, and the way the words flowed out of her mouth wth such ease. I didn’t even let her finish explaining before I ran away. I cried all day, and all night. I hid in the dark, under my sheets, and I CRIED. I continued to cry for days following. I screamed, and I hit things, and I asked “Why!? WHY her!? WHY!?!?”

Everyday, I got a little bit stronger. I held her hand. I hugged her. I stayed positive around her. "IT WILL BE OKAY. IT WILL, MOM. I PROMISE. IT HAS TO BE OKAY.”  

It will be five years in March that my mom is cancer free. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how thankful I am. My Mom is my best friend, and I won’t let anyone or anything take her away from me. Not even cancer. 

We fight, though. About stupid things, mostly. But we do. We have had our fair share of expressing our negative thoughts about each other out loud for one other to hear. There have been times I’ve wished she wasn’t my mother, and there have been times, I know, that she has wished I wasn’t her daughter. I resent her at times for the things she has said about my father, and for the times I felt as though she favoured (cared, loved, supported, etc.) my younger brother more than I. There have been times that she has not been proud of me or the things I have done. We have conflicting personalities, and we don’t always see eye-to-eye on the same things. We say mean things to each other time and time again, But we always find a way to forgive and forget. Above all, we love each other unconditionally. I tell her anything and everything. She is my go-to, my support system, my shoulder to cry on. She has been my biggest fan, role-model, and teacher. And more than anything, she has always been there for me near and far, and always will be. (Tip: If you love your mother as much as I do, don’t move 2000km across the country - you will miss her FAR too much).

If you don't already know my Mom, then you won't know how immensely selfless she is. She is kind, empathetic, radiant, beautiful, forgiving, unprejudiced, witty, hardworking (she never stops, I swear), maternal, patient, brave and creative. Of course I could go on for hours about the many things my mother is, but these are just a few that come to mind. If you have ever been fortunate enough to get to know my mother, then you are one of the luckiest people alive.

"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are grey."

In addition to my parents, I have many siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents (Rest in Peace - Nanny B. and Poppy). I don't talk to all of them. Some are considered acquaintances, others are considered best friends. I live close to few. I can reach out to some more than others. 

I have a totally dysfunctional family. There’s a 50/50 chance I’ll get along with any one of them at any given time. It’s the quirkiness, the flaws, the eccentricity that makes me love every last soul more and more. Every. Single. Damn. Day. I'm so very thankful to be a part of this family. 

Your family won’t be around forever. Eventually there will be life-changing circumstances that take your family away from you, forever. You have to embrace every moment with them. Embrace every feeling, every emotion, every good time, every bad time, every heart ache, every smile, every positive, every negative. Hug them. Kiss them. Cry with them. Laugh with them. Make wonderful memories with them. Just embrace your family. They were the people who were there when you were born. They were the people who watched you grow up. They were the people who looked up to you (if they were younger, of course). They were the people who worried about you. And many times, more than you may realize, they were the people who gave up sleep, meals, money, time, and energy for you. They were the people who LOVE you, and still do.

In the end, they are always, ALWAYS going to be the people who love you. At times they may say they don’t, you may not have talked to them in years, and you may resent them for things they have done. But hell, you love each other anyways. It's a different kind of love than you will ever experience. It's painful, almost. It's true, unconditional, unexplainable, beautiful love. 

Family is important. Family is many things. But one thing family ISN'T, is forever. 

Dedicated to my family - the Reid’s and the Boutilier's. I have and will love every single one of you until the world stops spinning.