Customer service

Hmm, I just called up Air Canada to arrange wheelchair assistance through the airport.

First, I must admit – it feels strange asking for a wheelchair. Wheelchairs should be for people who are really sick, or much older, or unable to WALK. I’m a 28 year old woman and I can walk . . . I just can’t walk for very long. My legs start feeling thick, I get tipsy (literally tipping over), and of course there’s fatigue.

I can understand someone’s surprise at my needing a wheelchair. But what I do not understand is being made to feel like an idiot for asking.

Calling the UK Air Canada customer service line today, I requested a wheelchair. The conversation went something like this (following the conversation about my reservation number, which was difficult in itself but quite possibly my fault):

Me: When I fly on the 14th, I’ll have just finished chemotherapy and will be really exhausted. Is there any kind of assistance I could have through the airport?

Lady: What kind of assistance do you want?

Me: Maybe a wheelchair or something?

Lady: Oh, wheelchair assistance.

I think the idea clicked into her head here. Before she wasn’t certain where to place me.

Lady: Is there any medical reason you need a wheelchair?

Me: I’ll have just finished chemotherapy and will be exhausted. I can walk a little, but not for long.

Lady: But is there any medical reason?

This is where I start to feel like an idiot.

Me: I’ll just have finished chemotherapy. I’ll be exhausted.

Lady: So you’ll need a wheelchair because you’ll be exhausted.

What is going on here? How many times do I need to say ‘chemotherapy’ and ‘exhausted’? Thinking about this now, I probably should have said: ‘I’m in the middle of chemotherapy’ – but totally forgot that fact during our conversation. But regardless, to have just finished chemotherapy and to be in the middle is essentially the same, because the effects are still felt a week or two (or more) after treatment.

Lady: I’ll put in a booking— sorry, a request for a wheelchair.

Me: (in my head: a request?) So I won’t know till I arrive if I have assistance?

Lady: That’s right.

At this point I want to cry, and don’t stand up for myself. Instead I say ‘fine’ because I feel like such an ass for even having asked.

Isn’t that crazy? Being challenged really throws me off; I totally lose my train of thought and can only say, ‘yeah, okay, fine’ like a stupid lemming. Mind you, if Zsolt is being challenged and asks for my help – no problem, I can tackle that issue. I’m a tough woman in other people’s battles. Not so great with my own.

Essentially, because I didn’t receive any sympathy from the Air Canada woman, I didn’t know how to handle myself. She treated my request like a form to be filled, which isn’t horrible, but at the same time – I’m not a form, I’m a person. My medical reason (apart from having been stated four times) goes beyond ‘exhaustion and chemotherapy’  – it extends to the fact that I need help, and I need it badly enough to ask.

Who asks for a wheelchair unless they need the bloody chair?

But she’ll put in a request.

Bah! It pissed me off enough to write, and maybe it’ll piss me off enough to call back later, when I feel less sorry for my passive self.

Though honestly, I had expected better.

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9 thoughts on “Customer service

  1. Charlotte, ring again! You’ve encountered automated stupid person. Hopefully next time your call will be answered by normal, caring, understanding person. If not, you should ask to speak to a supervisor or manager because you’re surprised at the lack of support you’re receiving (which isn’t conducive to normal Air Canada care and attention) and you don’t have the energy to go through such a prohibitive process.

    You were dealt with really badly and it stinks.

    This is usually the point on an obstructive call where I talk about being a journalist for consumer affairs and asking for a comment to include for my national press editorial…

    I am screaming for you Catherine. REALLY REALLY LOUDLY.

  2. Honey, if you don’t call them back, I bloody well will. What a completely unsympathetic cow. I’d report her for her lack of empathy and helpfulness. Go over her head and ask again for help. You have every right to request assistance. You are poorly. You cannot be trudging through the airport or terminals. You have an extremely long journey which is exhausting for anyone, let alone a cancer patient. Ring back and state the obvious honey (they obviously need the bare facts!): You are in the middle of chemotherapy as you said. Or scare them with the big C word if that doesn’t work.

    Honestly, I am steaming mad about this. What has this society come to that we cannot help those in need? ARRGGHHHHHH!

  3. Catherine;
    If you have booked through a travel agent, they may be able to offer you assistance in getting the wheelchair so you will not have to deal with “Miss Personality” again. However, I am appalled at her lack of compassion or it may be ignorance and not understanding what chemo therapy does to one’s body. Just remember that you NEED this not want it. Your health needs to come first, so use whatever method you can to obtain that chair so your body does not get more exhusted than the jet lag.

  4. Talked to Air Canada here in Canada to request assistance for you. They were appalled when they heard what you went through and asked if I wanted to lodge a complaint. I said no, just wanted to make sure you would get assistance and it is now all arranged.

    Unfortunalely, you just happened to get some “twit” who doesn’t know which end of the stick is up. It happens, but don’t think it was Air Canada’s doing. There just are some people in this world that we would be better never off not bumping into.

    See you in 2 weeks, eh!

  5. Oh my god I react exactly the same as you! When I get flustered, I either say okay fine or I burst into tears haha. She was obviously brain dead (unfortunately not uncommon for Air Canada). I imagine you’ve heard it enough but definitely call back and start again as if Brain-Dead Lady didn’t actually happen. Maybe have something with you to squeeze or throw 🙂
    You can do it Catherine!!!!

  6. Hi Catherine,

    Call again to ‘confirm’ on your reservation that you need a wheelchair because you have cancer and can’t walk well. My experience with Air Canada is that you have to virtually hit them over the head until they get it.

    When you get to the airport counter, reminder them again when you present your documents that you need a wheelchair and an airline assistant to push you to your gate. It’s the assistent that gets you through security quickly and on the plane in pre-boarding. You don’t not need to waste your energy in line ups and airport confusion. Keep your energy for you and your celebration with your family.

    When I was 29 years old, I went through ‘burnout’by working for a boss from hell. The end result was I was so fatigued that I would have episodic paralysis… my legs would crumble under me while I was walking in the street and I couldn’t get up. When I was on a trip to the UK via British Airways, the lineup to board the plane took so long that I collapsed in the corridor. All the other passengers walked by me while the attendants were trying to make sure whether I was well enought to fly… they thought I had heart problems. I firmly convinced them that I had recently seen my doctor for my condition and had no heart probelems, I just couldn’t stand for long periods of time… and I was getting on that flight! When I got feeling back in my legs, I was the last person to board the plane on my own feet, and they upgraded me to first class… nice touch! Had I had a wheelchair back then, I would not have collapsed.

    Goldenseal Tincture (Hydrastis canadensis): Long airline flights tend to dehydrate me and make me susceptible to colds. I suggest that you carry with you a small bottle of Goldenseal tincture (60 ml) so you can add drops to your throat when you feel a little dryness/tickle/soreness/ in your throat. It’s a preventative measure so as not to catch a cold… you may have people coughing or sneezing on the plane… so protect your throat with a coating of Goldenseal tincture. Both JP and Tony recommended Goldenseal tincture to me many years ago… I always carry a bottle on me to ward of colds.

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