Vail Valley Voices: Had enough of the job?
August 18, 2010
Steven Slater, a Jet Blue flight attendant, has become an urban hero. Right or wrong, he’s achieved cult status with one single act.
For those who have been paying attention to the more pressing news of the week, last week the flight attendant activated the escape slide of the aircraft he was working on after it pulled into the gate, grabbed two beers and removed himself from the plane, but only after swearing at the passenger with whom he’d just had an altercation over the PA system.
Clearly he’d had enough. He was not able to smile and let it roll off him anymore. I don’t know anyone who has worked on the front lines of customer service who didn’t want to go off on someone like that. I know there have been moments I have wished there was a beverage cart and an escape hatch at close hand to my concierge desk.
I’m not speaking clinically here, but there are some crazy people out there! A guest last week wouldn’t check into her condo because is was No. 13 and it was Friday the 13th.
We had one guest last winter ask if there was a dog he could hire to pull his 2-year-old around the village in a sled. Can you say massive liability issue? We had to fight hard to hold in our laughter until he was well out of earshot.
Last winter at another property, a woman screamed at the concierge, to the point of bringing her to tears, because Beano’s Cabin was fully booked and she was unable to move their reservation to a different night. Seriously? It’s a dinner reservation, ma’am.
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Some people just won’t be wrong or allow others to know something they don’t. A bartender friend had someone tell him he was completely wrong, insisting information he shared about the wine he was pouring was totally inaccurate. My friend actually knew the information to be fact because he had been to the vineyard and toured with the winemaker, but the berating customer wouldn’t hear it.
I had a guest call and request that I schedule him and his sons on a snowcat backcountry skiing excursion. His sons were 8 and 11, and he told me, “They’re really comfortable on intermediate runs. They’ve been skiing since they were 5. We ski several times a year back east.” When I told him I really didn’t think the kids were experienced enough to do it, he insisted they could handle it.
I finally said, “Sir, this isn’t a controlled resort environment you’d
be skiing in. Everyone wears avalanche beacons because the threat of triggering one is real. I wouldn’t take my boys yet, and they are expert skiers, on the mountain 30 days a year. This isn’t an amusement-park ride.”
He still wanted me to book it but acquiesced a little and asked about para-skiing. When I told him I didn’t know of any guides doing it here, he emphatically told me it existed. “I’m looking at a video on YouTube right now labeled ‘Para-skiing in Vail.'” So thank you to whoever posted that clip. The guest thinks I’m a liar.
I have been described as high maintenance, but after two years as a concierge at a high-end resort, I beg to differ. I have seen truly high-maintenance people, and it makes me look like a go-with-the-flow, cooperative, accommodating dream!
What it all comes down to is mutual respect. The people providing the service need to keep their cool and maintain the level of respect that the person is expecting regardless of the circumstance and demands.
And the people receiving the service need to chill out and realize that the flight attendant-concierge-front desk agent-restaurant server-bartender is just trying to give them what they want. With better attitudes, we can all have enjoyable experiences.
Even if outwardly we are not condoning what Steven Slater did, there is a little part of us cheering him. Some of us are living vicariously through his act, allowing it to be the release we have all wanted at some time.
As for our errant flight attendant, I wish him well and suggest he find another line of work when he gets out of jail.
Linda Stamper Boyne, of Edwards, can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org.