At time of writing, Easyjet are still looking for it. The bag contained a very expensive camera that I use for business and tourism, my Bose headphones – which I have treated with the loving care of a Faberge egg for four years and, of course, all my favorite clothes – because when you travel, you don’t take all your old clothes do you? I also lost everything I bought as a tourist in Italy.
These things happen. But in twenty years of flying around pretty regularly, it’s never happened to me.
There’s a number of angles to choose here, but the one that I find most interesting professionally is this: What level of customer service am I entitled to expect from a budget airline? Or any other kind of budget service?
I’m philosophical about the loss. It’s only money and everything I lost is technically replaceable. Sure I’d like my clothes back, but if I got to buy new clothes to the same value, that would be OK. I’m also cynical. I watched a tag being attached to my bag. It usually takes me a very strong and deliberate yank to get those tags off after I land. It didn’t fall off did it? There’s also a sticker that duplicates the information that is removed by the check-in desk and stuck on the bag itself. You see where I’m going with this. It’s hard for me to imagine a circumstance where my bag went missing without a little help. So I’m resigned to the fact it’s never coming back.
Let’s walk through the Easyjet process, from the moment where Rima and I exchanged concerned glances as the baggage carrousel thinned down to the two of us and the last bag was pulled off it.
I go to the lost baggage counter, where a private company contracted by the airport tells me that I’m basically not going to see the bag anytime soon. I give my numbers in the UK and US, I give my address in Houston and the guy tells me they will send it on to Houston when they find it. We do the usual sensible things, going back over the baggage claim and checking each carousel. I have a word with a baggage handler, who is friendly but resigned. There’s only one option. I have to go home, cross my fingers and wait for the call. But no call ever comes. My bag went missing 9 days ago.
Again, as a fairly cynical city boy with a lifetime exposure to scams, burglaries and hawkers, I think it’s very possible that my luggage was deliberately stolen for its valuable contents and the unwanted personal items are in a dumpster somewhere. I have no opinion as to who is directly responsible. Just like any other profession, the hard working and honest people of the airline industry will work alongside the occasional colleague who is neither of those things. When you fly, you put your personal belongings in the hands of a number of strangers.
The question that’s much more interesting to me is whether I should just accept that it’s my problem and move on.
Here’s one view. It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have flown with a cheap airline if I wanted to guarantee the safety of my belongings. I went for the low cost option and I’m getting what I deserve. I’ve had no contact from Easyjet customer service to apologize and explain my situation; I am assuming the airline writes off losses as inevitable and will not go through the charade of pretending to care. This is all the price I pay as a consumer for a $40 international flight. I should just accept that in customer service, as in any consumer decision, you get what you pay for. I shouldn’t have put valuables in the cargo hold of an airplane that was charging me the same price to fly as I paid for dinner before I left.
Or is it not on me?
Easyjet took responsibility for my luggage. While I didn’t pay them that much, I paid the price that they set. Easyjet took my money in advance to fly me and my luggage on vacation – and they didn’t do that. What’s more, having failed to do that, they have not been in touch with me to either let me know what’s going on or offer me any idea what I might expect as a customer from this point forward. Easyjet, may deal in small air fees, but It’s not a small business. Late last year, Easyjet Chief Executive Carolyn McCall claimed to be getting real traction with business travelers (that’s you and I mostly) while announcing record profits. Good for them. It’s great to see a business doing well and creating jobs. They are offering choice to consumers and affordable travel to everyone within the context of a sound business plan. Double thumbs up.
So what’s my beef? It’s the marketing. That’s the weight that brings the scales down on my side. They told me I was getting incredible value and I believed them. They didn’t say – get a cheap flight, but be warned – there’s a chance we’ll lose your luggage because of the costs we’ve cut to make it cheap for you. And that’s why, at the end of the day, no matter what they choose to do in my case, I will always think of them as responsible to me as a consumer. Good business is about doing what you said you would do, and if that deal is broken, having the integrity to make it right.
In any business, no matter how big or small, we can’t break the contract we entered into and expect to escape on a technicality, regardless of what we wrote in the small print, it’s what we write in the marketing material that matters. We can’t make promises in a big shiny font and retract them in 5pt type in a website footer.
Integrity is not a question of degrees or shades of gray.
So vote now… What do you think will happen next? I guess we’ll find out next week.
- They’ll find the bag
- They will never find the bag and will offer me whatever the ‘small print’ says they have to. Probably a nominal amount that won’t come close to what they actually lost.
- They will never find the bag and will compensate me with the full price of the contents (which comes to about $1,500.)
UPDATES VIA TWITTER – richard_spragg
3rd April – Day 10 – I finally called them. They think I am a woman who has lost her passport in Fueta Ventura, based on the reference number. I got straight through to a human voice, which was good, but it went downhill from there. The customer service rep was happy to use phrases like ‘they seem to have made a real mess of this’, and ‘there is a lot of confusion,’ without taking any responsibility on behalf of easyJet. I was given no indication of what to expect. She asked for my e-mail address. I asked why. Her reply: ‘because I’m going to e-mail you.’ At that point I decided I wasn’t going to get too far, gave my e-mail address and politely rang off.
4th April – No e-mail arrived. I think it’s possible that the customer service rep was just getting rid of me because it all looked too messy. But I will give everyone the benefit of the doubt and wait.