Tuesday, June 10, 2008

WOM: Road Warrior War Stories

I had the occasion to fly via Continental Airlines to Erie, PA yesterday and have three war stories to recount. The first is a huge missed opportunity that leaves me a Continental detractor. The other two are positive experiences.

My flight out of SFO was delayed for mysterious "air traffic control delays", but only for 15 minutes and we departed under clear skies. When we arrived over Cleveland it was evident from the turbulence that there was "weather" in the area and, sure enough, we landed almost 45 minutes late. I had a close connection on another Continental jet to Erie and - when I checked with the gate attendant upon my arrival - was told they had not yet closed the door and if I hurried I could make my connection. Needless to say, I hurried, but when I arrived the door had been sealed anyway. No amount of cajoling the gate attendants could open it up, notwithstanding the fact that the airport itself was locked down because the local thunderstorm was now dumping buckets of rain on everything. I went to the customer service desk and was told - basically - "tough shit, you missed your flight and it was not our problem so we don't have to help you". I got a coupon with an 800 number to call if I actually wanted to overnight in some motel nearby on my nickel at a "discount". Flying just ain't what it used to be. You already knew that. Other airlines have actually held the doors for a minute or two so late connection passengers could make it. Not Continental.

Needless to say, I did not wish to take that option, so I took the tedious bus trip to the rental car terminal about five miles away to get a car to drive the last 100 miles. Unfortunately, all of the rental cars at all of the agencies had been booked already and there were none to be had. The guy at the Enterprise desk made a helpful phone call and determined that I could take a Greyhound bus to Erie if only I could get way downtown in Cleveland to the bus terminal and wait for up to an hour. At 10pm that was not a really attractive option but there were not any good alternatives at this point so finally I went back to the Hertz desk where I am a gold member. There, a wonderful woman who empathized with my plight said her supervisor was looking for more cars and was soon able to rent one to me. Two hours drive later I was checking into the Sheraton Hotel on the waterfront in Erie.

The Sheraton Bayfront Hotel in Erie is a new hotel and is not even in 411 directory service yet. It has lovely rooms that are well-appointed and comfortable. It is a most agreeable destination at 12pm on a stormy northeast night on Lake Erie and it has a nice little restaurant. This evening I had dinner there and had one the nicer presentations of a salmon Caesar salad that I have ever experienced. In Erie, Pennsylvania, go figure. I will be back to the hotel and to the restaurant for another meal.

I guess the epiphany for me in all of this is that the whole Net Promoter question is most relevant when we relate our personal war stories to our friends via word of mouth. If we have good experiences with a brand we tend to say nice things to our friends about it. When we have some bad experiences, we tend to say bad things. When we have neutral experiences we say nothing at all. And blogging allows everybody who can use Google or Yahoo! to become my virtual friends. Maybe I'm just venting but it feels good.

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