FOR NEWBIES: When An Airline Breaks Something In Your Luggage

I went to New York with a friend not long ago, just for a couple of days, to see a bunch of Broadway shows. We were only going to be out of town from Tuesday to Friday morning, for about 70 hours total, so we were able to get away with just using carry-on luggage, thereby saving us the time of having to pick up our luggage from baggage claim, as well as the worry of them losing our bags or breaking something in them.

Since I grew up in Brooklyn and Staten Island, whenever I’m in Manhattan, the times when we’re not in shows are generally dedicated to food – either the yummy things, like pizza and bagels, that aren’t quite the same down here in Central Florida, or restaurants that were simply an important part of my life before I relocated from the Big Apple. Anyway, while we were at one of these restaurants (Serendipity 3, on E. 60th, between 2nd & 3rd), I bought a glass Christmas ornament, just because. It wasn’t very expensive, only $12.50, and I suspected it would give me warm fuzzies every year when I put it on the tree, so I got it.

On the Delta flight home, thanks to (A) the Delta gate people saying the flight was 100% full, (B) being in Zone 3 (of 3) and (C) 95% of the other Zone 3 people already standing on line while the pre-Zone 1 “people who need extra time” folks were being loaded, by the time my friend and I got up to the gate before loading onto the plane, anyone who had a carry on bag that, like mine, was around the size and shape of a regulation 22x14x9 was told they needed to gate check because there was no more room on the overhead. I told them I would prefer not to, but of course that got me nowhere. The Delta employee said the bag would be brought up with strollers at the gate, so no worries. Not wanting to rock the boat and risk not being allowed to go on the plane at all, I agreed and gate checked it.

As it turned out, there was indeed space for my carry-on suitcase above our seats, and I suspect even more space for it above the 2 empty seats directly in front of us AND above the 2 empty “exit row” seats that I saw several rows behind us when I went to use the lavatory. Cue the feeling of minor annoyance. Increase the annoyance to mid range when I was told, upon landing, that my luggage would not be brought up to me at the gate after all, but would go to regular baggage claim, thereby adding a good 20-30 minutes before I could get to my house. And then I got home, unpacked and discovered that my Christmas ornament, which was packed to be safe as carry-on, but not when it was undoubtedly thrown from place to place by Delta employees, was broken into a million little glass crumbs. ARGH!!!

Photo Mar 24, 3 19 54 PM
Part of my broken ornament. The rest was glass dust all over the bottom of my suitcase

Joe tweeted Delta, saying “Wife having to gate check bag on flight home = broken Xmas ornament. Vacuuming out luggage not how we wanted to spend today.” To their credit, they wrote back quickly and said we should call their customer service number. I had a couple of false starts because I didn’t realize I would need my SkyMiles and flight confirmation numbers in front of me (so I had to find those), plus I wasn’t sure if the contents of my baggage counted as “baggage” or not (NOTE TO NEWBIES: It does.) but I finally spoke to a sweet lady named Shay, who said I needed to fill out their online form. She did give me some helpful suggestions (ignore the “reference number” request, photo must be small or just say that you have a photo available upon request, etc.) and off I went to to fill out my “Comment/Complaint” form. I got an auto reply the next day that said:

Dear Mrs. Heg,
Thank you for contacting Delta.
We look forward to working with you to resolve this matter. You will receive a response regarding the status of your claim within 2-4 weeks.

We appreciate your selection of Delta and will work to resolve this in a timely manner.
Thank you very much.

Customer Care – Baggage

That was on March 25th.

On April 10th (16 days after I contacted them – on the lower end of 2-4 weeks), I got a phone call from a Delta representative but let it go to voice mail because I didn’t recognize the 800 number they used and nowadays, if I don’t recognize the number, I just don’t pick up the phone – sorry, I just don’t feel like listening to another robocall about adjusting a headset. They also sent me an email:

Dear Mrs. Heg:
Thank you for the additional information (NOTE: I didn’t send them any other additional information but OK), and we’re sorry to learn that you encountered a problem with your baggage while traveling with us recently.
Please be assured that every precaution is made to have a passenger’s luggage arrive in the same condition as when it was checked into our care (NOTE: yeah right). We succeed with few exceptions, and regret the mishandling on your trip (NOTE: if you had let me keep my luggage with me as intended, and especially since there was indeed room in the overhead, this wouldn’t have happened).
Our check for $13.61
(NOTE: $12.50 + 8.87% NYC tax) to reimburse you for the damaged property will be mailed under separate cover. You should receive it within the next ten business days.
We appreciate, and thank you for, your choice of Delta to provide your air transportation and look forward to being able to welcome and serve you, once again, on board one of our flights.

Claims Manager
Customer Care-Baggage

And on April 22nd, which was indeed within (albeit JUST within) 10 business days, I received my check.

So there you go – I’m reimbursed. Am I happy? Well, not being out the $13.61 is nice, especially since they were the ones who broke the thing in the first place. But honestly, I’d rather still have an intact ornament as a memory of my trip, and would have been a whole lot happier if I had been allowed to keep my carry-on in the first place, and then none of this would have happened.

With airline travel so uncomfortable and not-user-friendly nowadays, you would think the airlines could at least make “keeping the items they say customers can have with them, with them” would be more of a priority in terms of customer service. Oh, and speaking of customer service, I got a “Give Us Feedback of How We Handled This Situation?” email from Delta on April 11th, the day after they said they were going to send me the check. Only problem was that several of the survey questions had to do with whether or not I was happy with the situation once it was completed…which it wasn’t, because I hadn’t received the check yet. There was still a possibility something could have happened and the check wouldn’t be received, which would have affected my answers. So I held onto the email and waited. But when I tried to fill it out a few days after I finally did receive the check, the survey had expired. So yeah…customer service.

I know I’m not the only one who’s been through something like this. Did an airline ever break anything of yours? Did you have a happy ending with it?

For Newbies: Going Out of Town? What to Bring, What Not to Bring, & Tricks of the Trade

suitcaseHi everyone! While Joe is in NYC, I’m taking over the blog for the day. For those of you who may not know me yet, I’m Sharon, a.k.a. Mrs. Joe. Joe is definitely the points and miles person in our family. Me, I enjoy the benefits of his hobby but really don’t care about which plane is newer, bigger and better, how many cents a point is worth at any given moment, or what hotel gives you feather pillows and a personal concierge. As long as we get from Point A to Point B in a reasonable amount of time, and as long as our room is clean and relatively quiet, I’m good.

However if there’s one thing I’ve gotten really good at for all these trips to all these different places, it’s how and what to pack. For those of you who travel a lot, you probably already know all the ins and outs of this stuff. But for those of you who only go out of town here and there, here are some things to consider:

What Not To Bring With You

  • hairdryerHairdryer. I’ve been to 2-star hotels and I’ve been to fancy shmancy ones. I’ve been to places around the world. Nowadays just about every hotel has a hair dryer in the room (if you want to double check, you can always call or email the hotel before you go). Hair dryers can take up a lot of space and weight in your luggage – why bring one if you don’t have to?
  • Workout clothes. I’ll be perfectly honest…I’ve brought ‘em with me many times and I have yet to ever use ‘em on vacation. Now granted, your mileage may vary, but I bet you won’t use ‘em either, so just don’t bring ‘em ;-).

What To Bring In Your Carry On

  • All of your prescription medication (and if you’re going out of the country, all of your over-the-counter stuff, too, cuz they may not carry your Advil or Imodium where you’re going, or the box may be written in a language you don’t understand). This goes for any medical devices you use, as well. The last thing you want is to not have your meds or CPAP machine because they’re in your checked luggage that mistakenly got sent to the Congo (EWO) while you and your carry on arrived as scheduled at Newark (EWR).
  • A full day’s worth of clothing & supplies. Again, if your luggage gets lost, you want to have everything you’ll need for the next 24 hours. Your mileage may vary but for me that means PJs, a full set of clothes (including a coat or jacket if I’m going to  different climate), a bathing suit if I’m planning to go in the pool or to the beach the next day, my toiletries, chargers for my phone, iPad (with current converters if I’m going out of the country), etc. And yep, I’m saying this from personal experience.

Tricks of The Trade (things to consider bringing that you may not think of)

My travel night light, which allows me to choose green or blue light, has an on/off switch so I don’t have to rely on available light.
  • Night light for the bathroom (I have a small LED one so I don’t have to worry about a glass lightbulb breaking).
  • Chip clip to keep the window curtains together so morning light doesn’t peek through.
  • Portable scale so you can ensure your suitcase weight doesn’t go over (and if you’re going overseas, make sure you know what the limitations are – it’s not always 50 pounds).
  • Use an electric toothbrush? Pack it well, so something doesn’t hit it in your suitcase and turn it on. Happened in my carry-on once; I was rearranging my bags at the hotel’s check in desk, when all of a sudden there was this BUZZZZZZZZ sound coming from one of my bags. You could tell what the guy thought it was just by looking at his face, so I actually TOOK IT OUT OF MY SUITCASE so he could see that it really was just an electric toothbrush and not…something else. True story!
  • Small bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer (or as my friend’s 3-year-old calls it, “hanitizer”). When you get to the room, wipe off the telephone and the remote control for the TV. Housekeeping rarely does and they’re excellent places for germs to hang out.
  • powerqubePower strip (some hotels are awesome at giving you enough plugs. Some not so much. Bring a power strip and you should have as many outlets as you need from only 1 plug. Bonus points if you use one that has both plug and USB inputs). The one in the pic has 6 outlets and 3 USB inputs in a cube that’s about 4″ x 4″ x 1″. Wouldn’t hurt to bring a short extension cord, as well.
  • Stuff rolled socks into your packed shoes to save space and stop your shoes from getting squished
  • Tide pen or other portable stain fighter (it’s your first day and you got tomato sauce on your white shirt. It will set in BADLY by the time you get home. Pre-treat it and it might help get the stain out).
  • Small flashlight (you’re in a room that’s unfamiliar to you. If there is a power outage or any sort of emergency where you need to evacuate, a small flashlight on your nightstand can turn into your best friend).
  • Washcloth (if you use one). It could be that housekeeping ran out of them. Or maybe you’re in a place where social norms suggest they just don’t use them. But if you’re used to using a washcloth and suddenly don’t have access to one, well, better to bring you own because using a face towel as a washcloth is a pretty big substitute (and yep, I’ve done it). I bring a bright pink washcloth so housekeeping knows it’s not theirs and so I don’t forget it when I’m packing to leave. Bring its own quart-sized ziplock bag so it doesn’t get other stuff damp if it hasn’t dried yet when you’re ready to go back on the road.
  • Going somewhere where you may bring home a lot of souvenirs? Either intentionally leave room in your suitcase, bring a small, closable, collapsable bag as a piece of secondary luggage on your way home (stuff it with your dirty clothes so there’s more room for the souvenirs in your suitcase, which will be sturdier) or go to the nearest post office and ship stuff home (NOTE: Shipping can become expensive. Look at 4th class mail, UPS Ground, etc).
  • Laundry. If you’re just going away for a weekend, you won’t have to do laundry. But if you’re out of town for a week or more, consider either giving up half a day to do laundry (see if your hotel has a washer/dryer, or look up where/email ahead of time to see where there’s a self-service laundry place nearby – that’s the cheapest way to do it) or have it done for you (it costs more but it saves you time to have a laundromat just wash/dry everything for you. Or you can use the hotel’s service…expect to pay an arm and a leg for that one) so you can re-wear stuff during your trip and save room/weight in your suitcase.

Your turn. What did I miss? What works best for you? Reply here and let me know!