As I See It: I'm flustrated!

Columnist Pete Abler shares his thoughts on customer service

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Yes, I know that word in the headline is spelled incorrectly.

That’s the way an old neighbor and friend used to say it, and it seems to aptly describe the state of customer service you might expect from many of the largest corporations.

“Frustrated” is a feeling of distress and annoyance, especially because of an inability to change or achieve something.

“Flustered” means agitated or confused.

Put distress and annoyance together with confusion or agitation and you get “flustrated.”


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I’m not confused, but I sure became distressed, annoyed and agitated a few weeks ago.

Flying from the Twin Cities in winter is sometimes problematic and expected. Our flight was delayed five hours due to heavy snow and its after effects. We knew we couldn’t make our connection in Seattle, but before we boarded we rebooked out of Seattle for the following day.

Since we had to spend the night, we rented a car and drove to Tacoma to visit our son and his family.

Once at my son’s house I was checking the airline website and discovered we had been rebooked for that afternoon — and we had missed those connections.

In calling the airline to hopefully fix the issue, I encountered the, “We are experiencing a high volume of phone calls. Please stay on the line for the next available representative. Your approximate wait time is 1 hour and 20 minutes,” mantra.

I was offered the choice of leaving a callback number, which I chose. That actually worked as I was called an hour and a half later and confirmed seats for the next day.

Meanwhile, I called the hotel in Hawaii. “We are experiencing a high volume of ...” — you know the drill. I stayed online for about 20 minutes this time but wasn’t offered the opportunity to leave a message.

I did send them an email with fingers crossed. I was able to change the dates on my rental car reservation using their website.


At the airport the next day we stopped by the airline baggage office to check on our bag. We were assured they were in the secure baggage area and would be on the flight with us that day.

I tried twice to call the hotel — same message.

The flight was uneventful, other than being in the last row before the toilets. Since I had the aisle seat, I soon felt like a football lineman as I was bumped, elbowed and hip checked by a parade of other passengers and flight attendants.

We arrived in Hawaii close to on time … without our bags. A visit to the local baggage office yielded no information other than they filled out a lost baggage form.

At the rental car counter we were informed they would not honor the quoted rate and that I had to make a new reservation, which I was unable to do over the phone because of another “you can change your reservation online” message.

Eventually, the agent made some calls to straighten things out and we got our car.

On the way to the hotel, I thought the only thing that could make it worse was to not have a hotel room. Thankfully, I was wrong.

Although, I did find an email later that evening in my inbox that said that due to a high volume of emails they did not receive my email before canceling my reservation ... but they reinstated it prior to our arrival.


And that, my faithful readers, is what flustration really is. In so many ways, customer service is dead.

That’s the way I see it.

Pete Abler - As I See It.jpg
Echo Journal Columnist / Pete Abler

Opinion by Pete Abler
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