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Flying while confused



Updated: August 7, 2012 6:33AM

Dear Readers: Do we have a winner? Steve of the northwest suburbs has submitted the best story so far of spacey customers for The Fixer’s “turning the tables” feature, in which we hear from customer-service people, front-line retail and restaurant workers, service employees, small-business owners and others about their most memorably annoying customers.

The hope is that if any of us see ourselves in these stories, we might do our part to make life in the marketplace just a little bit nicer.

The Fixer already knew about the distracted cellphone talkers, the overly demanding restaurant patrons and the parents with wild kids, but who knew airline customers could be so goofy?

Here’s Steve, with more from behind the scenes:

“I am an airline ticket gate agent. Ticket agents have an ongoing joke that passengers check their brains at the front door of the airport when they enter, but this story takes the cake!

“I was working as a gate agent for a commuter flight to Portland, Maine, with a regional jet that held 50 seats total.

“I had closed out the flight and pulled the loading bridge from the aircraft when I got a call from the control tower to put the jet bridge back up to the plane. We had not one, not two, but three of what the airline terms ‘mis-boards.’ This refers to people who are on the wrong flight.

“With electronic check-in and electronic boarding and security checkpoints, it is virtually impossible for this to happen. But one adult, a 16-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy had boarded a flight to Portland, Maine, when they were actually going to Portland, Oregon!

“The mistake was discovered on board the aircraft when the flight attendant said they looked like a nice family. The adult responded, “Do you know any good restaurants in Portland, Oregon?”

“That’s when the flight attendant realized their mistake and alerted the pilots before departure that we had three people on the wrong aircraft.

“The computer specifically says ‘Portland, Maine’ when you are booking. The luggage tags for checked baggage say ‘Portland, Maine.’ The tickets say ‘Portland, Maine.’ With our boarding announcements at the gate, we specifically say ‘Portland, Maine.’

“Even if the adult did not pick up on one of these triggers, isn’t it safe to say that a 16-year-old would say at some point to their parent, ‘Daddy, aren’t we going to Portland, Oregon?’ ”

Felines more friendly
than some humans

Dear Fixer: As a cat sitter for the past 16 years, my human clients are, for the most part, good.

But you do have those who take advantage of you.

You confirm the dates that service is needed, and then show up at the house and find a note that they now have three cats (there originally was one), and one needs medication. Of course, the two new ones look a lot alike, so figuring out which one needs the meds is a challenge, which prompts a call to the owner, who has changed their cell phone number.

Then the cat turns into Alien Cat when you try to give it the medication and you wind up with bites and scratches. When the customer gets home they balk at paying the extra charge for more than one cat.

Then there are the customers who haven’t scooped the litter box in days because “the sitter will be here.” It’s so full it needs to be dumped, but of course there is no litter to be found so you have to go out and buy more. The client refuses to pay for the litter because “it couldn’t have been THAT bad.”

My favorite is, “My friend might be dropping by to play with the kitties.” That’s fine. But what the customer doesn’t know is the friend has moved in and is making a major mess. Again, I have to send an email, and document it with photos so I won’t be blamed for any damage to the house — or the cats.

What’s your story?

There’s still time to tell us your tale of an especially obnoxious customer. Email it to Thanks!

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