11 September 2013

The Case of the Stroller Bag Damaged by American Airlines

Not only did American Airlines damage my City Mini stroller, but they also effectively destroyed the custom Baby Jogger bag it was being carried in. When we picked it up in Minneapolis the whole bag was wrapped in plastic and the zipper had been demolished and squished. Ugh.

I was so tired from the travel I just wanted to leave. I knew it would be a big hassle, and I thought maybe we could deal with it on the phone later. I am SO GLAD Shawn insisted and went to talk to the baggage claim person because filing a damaged bag claim has to be done in person within four hours of picking up the bag. The woman Shawn talked to was the agent who said her hands were tied re: the damage to the stroller, but she did say she would approve a claim for the damaged bag.

The next step was to send the bag in for repairs or to be replaced. Because we needed the bag in some form to return the stroller to Baton Rouge, we waited until we were home to take it to an American Airlines counter. (We were told it didn't matter where, and BTR was most convenient). I had called ahead and went at a less busy time, and the counter agent was relatively helpful (albeit dense ... he was going to throw the bag on the conveyer belt without shutting it at all. And I'm pretty sure that would have kept the bag from getting to the repair shop at all). I was given a bag tag number so I could track the bag on its way to Dallas should I need to, and he made it sound like no problem at all to keep tabs on it. I walked away $1 poorer (no one validates parking), but I felt like things would be fine, at least as far as the bag was concerned.

Oh, haha. Joke's on me and all of that.

I waited patiently (as patiently as a person like me can). thinking that these things take time, etc. In my appealing for reconsideration for the damaged stroller I did find out that the bag was received on August 1 for repair. But as our next travel creeps closer I wanted to check in for any progress. When I started calling on Monday it had been about five weeks since I'd taken the bag in for damage repair. I think that's a reasonable amount of time to start looking for an update at least.

I started with American Airlines Baggage Customer Service. Seems like a good place, right? Well, no. They don't handle damage claims at all. They are strictly about delayed luggage. Because the claim started in Minneapolis (with Shawn's smart move that gave us any chance of a claim). I was told to call MSP and leave a message with my file locator and call back number.

Someone answered and was very rude/unpleasant. She didn't want to talk to me and it was clear she didn't feel well -- there was a lot of hacking plus mega noise in the background. In the end she told me that I should call "Ryan" and gave me a number. She said to use the same reference number to get information.

I called "Ryan," which I thought was a person. It turned out to be Rynn's Luggage -- and I had to leave a message there. I gave the reference number and my call back. Of course the return call came while I was out on a quick errand several hours later, but that was OK. She left the information that Rynn had told American on August 7 (i.e., over a month ago!) that the bag is not repairable, and it's up to them to take the next step of replacing it for me. She suggested I call American's main baggage number, option 7.

I did that, la-de-da, thinking that surely with this amount of information I could get the whereabouts of the bag, at the very least since it has probably been sent back to American Airlines, or in my wildest dreams a new bag. Of course I get the b*tchiest woman ever -- and that brings out the b*tch in me (which can be formidable). She said she couldn't help and suggested calling wherever I left the bag. She was another who was unpleasant and very unhappy to talk to me. There's probably a recording out there somewhere with me shouting an expletive and hanging up. (Because I already had the Baton Rouge number from calling ahead before I went to drop off the bag.) Pretty ashamed of that behavior on my part. But moving on.

So I call BTR and speak to a guy who is clearly out of his element. He has no idea what to do/how to check. He has no access and said he'll have to have his "lead" call me back. I assume that means his boss. He give me his name, as if that matters or will help, but I appreciated him trying and was very kind (I was feeling bad about screaming with the other lady too).

Of course no one called back. So today I tried BTR again and spoke to someone different. He was not happy to talk to me either, but somehow he was less rude. I could tell he was at the counter and had customers waiting/other incompetent workers he was trying to help too. I asked if I could call back another time, but he said "I'm already in baggage system." In the end he had no information. He didn't even know the name of the luggage company that would be responsible for repairing or replacing the bag and he didn't know how I could find out. He was generally non-informed and non-helpful. I can understand that an individual employee can't know every detail of how the processes work, but I would assume that the information would be in "baggage system" or whatever computer program he was looking at. I got off the phone, explaining I'm still unsatisfied but know he has other customers to help. He apologized but in a kind of "well shucks" way.

I decided to try Rynn Luggage again, since they had actually given me the most up-to-date information (August 7 date). Someone picked up, and it happened to be the general manager. He was very calm and kind, which was helpful to me because I was (and am) in a bit of a state about the whole thing. He asked me questions and I explained things as best I could. There may be a problem that BTR doesn't have access to information that MSP would have because that's where the claim originated so Rynn would have replied to MSP and BTR would never know. Lovely. But the MSP person had told me she had no information either, so I was stuck.

Then he asked me how much the bag cost. $50 plus $10 shipping. He said "I'll just buy you a new bag." He had me email him the link to the bag and said that he would place the order today. MAYBE it will be ordered and I'll have a new bag, or maybe I'll have to keep calling and whining. I have to do something so we can travel with our stroller this fall -- it happens to be on another airline (although I'm sure if it isn't the stroller and bag being damaged it will be something else).

I don't know if there's a lesson in this -- other than persistence is needed when dealing with any kind of corporation. I certainly don't feel good about any of this and would just prefer that American Airlines take care of my luggage in the first place. I know things happen, and this is a thing. If I do get a replacement bag I'll know at least that much has been righted and can be satisfied. But I still can't say that I believe I will get a replacement bag.

Stay tuned...

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