If you've been trying to follow this saga, sorry about the long gap! After I finally got the call from Continental's Customer Care Office (mentioned in the previous posting, August 28), I didn't want to publish anything that might prejudice any case I might make against them. I thought many times about what I could say, and finally decided the safe route was to say nothing at all for the moment.
But if you've read this far, you deserve a conclusion of some sort, so here you go:
CALL #4 (Baggage Resolution, Houston) A week after the nightmare at the
airport, I finally gathered the courage to phone the Baggage Resolution
number again. I spoke with Mario, who again said that if Mr Cook will
do nothing then there is nothing to be done, that the advisory number I
had been given did nothing more than give me 14 days after my flight to
present my damaged instrument at SeaTac, and that my only course of
action would be to return to the airport and try again. He even tried
phoning the SeaTac office directly to see if he could get them to talk
with me, but they wouldn't.
I told him that the only
way I would feel safe returning to the baggage counter was if Cook had
been removed from his position as manager there, and I asked who to talk
to about that; he gave me the number for Customer Care.
CALL #5 (800-932-2732): Maria logged my formal complaint against Mr.
Cook and gave me a case ID number, but said there was nothing she could
do about my loss. The only further action she could suggest was to send
complete documentation of the incident and expenses to the customer care
office in Houston. She also said that according to 'corporate policy',
they would not give me any information about what action was taken, but
assured me that action would be taken.
assembled a package of the entire story, documentation, photos, and a
bill for the damages plus related expenses (mileage, ferry tolls,
parking, etc). In my letter I asked for two things - remuneration and an
apology for the way my complaint has been handled. Here's the closing
statement of my account of the incident to them: "I was, and still am,
absolutely livid, and very confused at how anyone can stand in front of a
wall emblazoned with the words 'Baggage Service' and treat a distressed
customer in such a disgusting manner."
This I faxed
and emailed to every contact Mike had been able to find for Continental
including the Director of Customer Care, Managing Director of Customer
Solutions, and the CEO.
surprise. I got a phone call from the Customer Care Office. Stacey
seemed to have no knowledge of the document I had just sent. She was
responding to Mike's complaint via their web page nine days earlier,
when I had just been evicted from the Seattle baggage desk under police
escort. She stated quite plainly that Mr. Cook had been wrong, both in
his failure to take in policy changes required by the Montreal
Convention (which has only been in place for about ten years), and in
his inappropriate use of the police to remove a customer he was supposed
to be helping. She also said that they've had similar complaints about
the Seattle baggage desk in the past. She was going to contact the
General Manager at Seattle Airport and tell him that this needs to be
dealt with - and that Mr. Cook should not be involved.
email arrived from the CEO's office: "Per our Contract of Carriage,
Continental is not liable for damage to musical instruments...". Also
expressing "regret" for any "perceived rude behavior" I experienced.
This was sent 10 hours after the above phone call, so I thought they
were going back on what they had just told me. And referring to
misappropriation of police authority to intimidate a customer as
"perceived rude behavior" just made my blood boil.
Fortunately I took a couple of days to cool off before I reacted to this, by which time...
has just arrived from Ireland, and we're about to leave for a festival
across the mountains. I get a phone call from the Seattle Airport
Baggage desk, offering to pay up to their limited liability under the
Montreal Convention (so now they know it exists...) This is roughly 70%
of the replacement value of the instrument, or of the repair estimate.
I'm asked to decide whether to have it repaired, in which case they'll
pay the luthiers up to this amount, or to buy a replacement, in which
case they'll reimburse up to this amount when I present proof of
purchase and they take possession of the broken instrument. In either
case, the shortfall is my problem; they're not interested.
not convinced that I should settle for this. After all, the Montreal
Convention caps the airline's legal liability, but it certainly doesn't
prevent them from paying the full amount of the damage if they choose
to. That part is entirely at their discretion.
least I've been assured there's some money coming in to help with this. I
don't trust Continental to follow through, since they seem so
uncoordinated and unhelpful, and more specifically because they flatly
refused to put anything in writing, even so far as an email, and did not
want the conversation to be put on speakerphone for any additional
witnesses to the promise. I don't want to delay; I look into my
replacement or repair options. There are no Chinook model hurdy gurdies
currently for sale. There are other makes and models that come in a
similar price range, but again, none available right now. If I get an
instrument with a different keyboard, I have a lot of re-learning to do,
and I love the sound of the Chinook, so I really have to opt for
With great relief, I finally get my gurdy to Olympic Instruments for repair. It had been waiting for four weeks.
Instruments, after much hassle and chasing, managed to extract the
promised payment from Continental (less a 3% credit card transaction
fee), having completed the main portion of the repair: the top has been
replaced. The instrument is still being re-finished, a process made
frustratingly slow by damp weather as each layer of lacquer has needed
extra time to dry. Next, it still has to be re-assembled and adjusted.
phone call from Customer Care. This is the professionally placatory
Sharon, calling to make sure that I've been taken care of and (the
question she sidled up to several times) that I'm not planning to make
any further claims against Continental over this incident. I didn't make
any promises. She sent me a $300 travel voucher 'as an apology.' I
explained that while I appreciate her apology, it's no substitute for an
apology from Mr. Cook who committed the offense, and that a travel
voucher can't help make up the $800 gap between the damage done by
Continental's baggage handlers and the damages the airline has paid out.
I going to make any further claims against Continental? After what I've
had to go through to get anything out of them at all, after being
treated like a little bitty insignificant customer who should just go
away when they don't want to deal with me, I feel that they deserve
every bit of grief I can give them, but I don't know that I want to put
any more time and energy into it. They have covered their legal, if not
their moral, obligation over the damaged instrument. I suspect I could
make a case for personal damages, corporate malpractice, intimidation,
misappropriation of police authority...
Ask me later.
The important thing is she's back!