Slip Sliding Away

I was in the coffee shop Tuesday when it started to snow.  We looked out the window and ohhed and ahhed, then went back to sipping our beverages and chatting.  I love the coffee shop because it is designed like a living room and everyone chats with everyone.  After awhile one of the regulars disturbed our joy and laughter by pointing out that the snow was falling rather thick and fast.

As one we turned to the window and ohhed and ahhed again, but this time in gasps instead of sighs. Cups were emptied, newspapers were folded and the place cleared out.  I said to Mona, “You know, I haven’t driven in snow in 14 years.  I don’t remember it being a horrid, big deal, but with the locals acting like this, I think I’d better go on home myself.”

The coffee shop sits on an incline.  No sooner had I stood up and donned my coat, then an SUV slid down the hill sideways.   That convinced Mona that she needed to close the coffee shop and go home herself.  That’s when I suggested we both visit the supermarket in case we were going to be snowed in for awhile.  Mona agreed and we tidied the store quick fast.  Just as we were locking the doors the sanding truck went by, which made me feel much better.

I was parked in front of the store, which means I had to start driving mid-incline.  I did so very cautiously — and was pleasantly surprised to find I had no trouble whatsoever.   I had to make a left-hand turn at the top of the hill and thanks to the sand I did so easily.   Mona pulled out of the store parking lot and followed me.

The corner at the top of the hill was a three way stop.  After we cleared it, a big Silverado was between Mona and I so I couldn’t see her anymore.  The corner at Guard and Blair was slick.  For a few seconds I thought I was staying there, but I applied the gas slowly and managed to catch enough traction to roll off the slick spot.  The corner at Blair and Park was just as bad.  I knew Mona was still behind me because I saw her rear-end fishtail in the intersection.

Spring Street and Blair gets so much traffic it was bare pavement.  I used that bit of reprieve to take a deep breath.   I’m glad I didn’t relax though.  The Silverado made a right turn and Mona was once again behind me.  In fact, just for the briefest moment at the corner of Market Place and Blair I thought Mona was going to end up in my trunk.   That’s when I learned that my reflexes are still good and despite not using my winter driving skills in years, they still function.

The entire intersection at Market Place and Blair was ice.  I was going less than 10 miles an hour and the back end of my car started to fishtail.  I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw Mona having the same trouble.  I needed to get my car under control and get out of her way, but my tires had no traction. I also needed to make a right hand turn but didn’t see how that was going to happen, either.

I decided it was time to stop driving on the ice trail and make my own path. I don’t drive an SUV, but it was only a few inches of snow.  I let my car slide into the parking lane (there were no parked cars on the street) then I simply drove away through the fresh snow.  Mona followed me.

We got our groceries and then went our separate ways, Mona to her home and me to mine.  We both made it without incident.  Even so, Mona is thinking of trading her island beater car in on an Outlander.  She says she’s ready for some muscle in her car.  And I’m looking at finding an SUV that Amoeba will approve environmentally.   Not that I am holding out much hope for getting a new car.  Amoeba’s solution for beating the horrid driving conditions was to walk to and from work this week.

Good-Bye Bellair Charters Airporter Shuttle

Amoeba did much of his training for his PhD at the Friday Harbor Labs on San Juan Island.  Since then, even before we moved here, he returned to the Island many, many times using many modes of transportation. Among the more economical ones was a combination of the Washington State Ferries and Bellair Charters Airporter Shuttle.  That’s why we made reservations for both as we planned this trip to Massachusetts.  The ferry was as reliable as it always is, but when we arrived at the Airporter Shuttle stop, the bus had already departed.

I phoned the Bellair Airporter service desk and Marlena answered the phone.  I told her we were at the Airporter Shuttle pick up zone and asked if by chance the bus was late.  She said the bus left the Anacortes Ferry Terminal as 4:55 p.m. as scheduled.  I said, “But we had confirmed reservations on that Shuttle.  He had to have pulled away from the stop as the ferry was docking!”

The wonderful, friendly, compassionate Marlena answered, “We don’t work for the Washington State Ferry system.  We don’t know what their schedule is and furthermore we don’t care!”

I responded just as sweetly and told her we wanted our money refunded, and — since Bellair Charters had pretty much guaranteed we were going to miss our plane, we wanted compensation for that as well. She asked me for my reservation number and looked up our booking.  She said, “I have found your booking.  You made it yourself online at our website and you clearly indicated you wanted the Airporter Shuttle departing at 4:55 p.m.  The fact that you missed the shuttle was entirely your own fault.”

I said, “We had reservations.  We have done this many times and the shuttle has always waited.  It wasn’t like he couldn’t see the ferry coming in.”

She said, “We have a schedule to keep.”

I snapped, “Your schedule is more important than your passengers?”

She was unequivocal, “You were not there on time.”

I got the message.  The schedule is more important then the passengers. No problem.  “Our refund?”  I demanded.

She said, “That will cost you a $4.00 processing fee and you won’t get your money back for 7 to 10 days.”

“No problem,” I said.

Apparently as far as Bellair Shuttle is concerned, bus schedules and being “right” are more important then client relations. Marlena never even bothered to mention when the next shuttle would arrive or offer to transfer our reservations.  She just kept pointing out who was at fault.

Since fault is so important to Marlena, we wanted to take this opportunity to make it clear why Bellair Shuttle has lost our business.  From now on we will pay a little bit more and use our own car, or we will fly on and off the island, and we will encourage our friends and guests to do the same.

UPDATE: June 24th, 2010  (Four months after the fact)

Dear Quilly,

We here at Airporter Shuttle, on a standard marketing search of the internet, recently came across your blog about our service (or lack thereof).

It is very clear that we did not meet your expectations and for this we would like to apologize. It is entirely possible that this could have, and should have, been handled in a more compassionate, kind and professional manner. We would have welcomed the opportunity to speak with you directly about this incident at the time it happened.

We are a small to medium sized local company based out of Ferndale, WA.  We have 80 employees, all of whom do their jobs well 99.9% of the time. Our employees, along with the majority of our customers, are fellow local residents. We respect our position in the community and strive to provide a valuable contribution. According to a recent survey, we have a 98% customer satisfaction rate, and we continue to shoot for 100%.

We understand that one negative experience on the front lines of a business can be detrimental. Our company is founded on great customer service, and we always welcome feedback, both positive and negative. We find it unfortunate that you and your blog readers have judged us unworthy of your business because of this singular incident, and that we were never given the opportunity to discuss it with you.

I would welcome the opportunity to speak with you, even at this late date. I feel certain that, even if we do not earn back your trust, we could at least clear the air and come to an amiable understanding. Please feel free to contact me via email, or at my direct phone line, listed below.

We attempted to add a comment to your blog posting, , but saw that the comment period for that posting is closed. Your blog posting continues (and will continue) to show up on internet searches, but we are left without an opportunity to respond and make things right. Again, it’s unfortunate we were never invited to be a part of the discussion. I’m sure you, as a business person, can understand. We, as a company, embrace the new social media movement and company transparency, but prefer it as a two-way dialogue.

I appreciate your time and look forward to hearing from you.

Amy Klander
Human Resource Manager
Bellair Charters / Airporter Shuttle
1416 Whitehorn Street
Ferndale, WA  98248


Bellair Charters / Airporter Shuttle cost us a $250.00 dollar taxi ride to get to the airport (not including the tip). Then four months after the fact they discover my post and claim that we are treating them unfairly. My response:

Ms. Klander,

The comments on my blog post were not closed to keep Airporter Shuttle from responding.  The comments on all of my posts close automatically 2 weeks after publication. As a general rule all they gather at that point is spam. I added your letter of complaint, verbatum, to the bottom of my blog post.  I removed your phone number and email address for security purposes, but I will post them if you wish.  I will not take down the post.  I did not write anything in it that isn’t factual.  Marlena was appalling rude and hostile. Rather than blaming us for giving your company a poor reputation, perhaps you should look to your own customer service.