Friday, August 12, 2005

Survivor's Guilt

That's the only explanation I can come up with for the latest development in the Air France Flight 358 incident (for lack of a better word). This is the flight that landed at the Toronto Airport, was hit by lightning, skidded off the runway and was evacuated completely successfully by the crew in approximately 90 seconds so all 309 passengers were safely off the plane before it became engulfed in flames.
Touted by many as a miracle, Air France stated that since their crew spends hours training to accomplish just this type of swift evacuation they felt it was less of a miracle and credit should go to the crew.
Now I understand that certainly it was a traumatic event. I certainly hope to never have to be evacuated from a plane or to be on a plane that skids off the runway. And yes, I can see how this experience could cause such things as Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and back problems. And so perhaps Air France has some responsibility to help passengers with costs associated with dealing with that.
And apparently Air France has already given money to some passengers, but the amounts have differed which frustrated passengers. According to Air France the money was to compensate passengers who did not have access to their money since that and other belongings were left on board the plane.
And yes, it may turn out that there was some pilot error that led to the plane landing farther down the runway than it should have.
But a class action suit has been filed in Ontario for - according to the Washington Post - "$269 million in damages for trauma, any future medical expenses and loss of property and earnings".
So - my point. I accept that we live in a society that feels we should be compensated for any inconvenience we experience. And say this not to belittle the experience these people went through. But I have trouble understanding why - beyond reparation for lost belongings (which I believe is layed out fairly specifically on the back of your ticket) and possibly minimal compensation for psychological and/or medical trauma - I think that's it. I think you deserve very little for surviving.
I'm terribly sorry if this has affected people's ability to sleep, enjoy flying or get to their meetings on time. (And I do mean that, even if I sound a bit flip). But this is not the airline's fault. Even if there does turn out to be some pilot error (which we likely won't know about for months), I'm not convinced. (And yes, since we are without all the facts at this point, this may possibly change). The airline's responsibility is to get you there close to when they promised and safely.
And let's face it - all of those passengers got off that plane. As I stated, that wasn't the way they planned to exit, I'm sure - but everyone made it safely. Given the circumstances, I think that's incredible.
Note: I apologize, while I double checked my basic facts in the more recent articles in The Washington Post, I do not recall where I gathered all the bits and pieces.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

An Interesting Dining Experience

Below is the text of the letter I sent to Red Rock Canyon Grill about our experience. To be honest, I never thought I would complain about over-solicitousness in restaurant staff, but that was before last night.
01/11/2006 - Update - We returned to the scene, and I must say that the service was much better. We had a consistent waitress throuought the evening, and while she still had a few team-members assisting her, there was no hovering, just a feeling that everyone was willing to help us.
I and my friends went to the new Silver Spring location last night and I wanted to tell you about our experience. We had received a mailing concerning the restaurant, so while we knew that it was new, we were unaware that we were attending the grand opening, until our arrival. There were several greeters stationed outside, enthusiastically corralling passersby to come into the restaurant. We were greeted by several people before speaking with the hostess and being led to a table. Our table was placed in the section off to the right as you enter the restaurant, and we were the first table you come to as you come around the column.
Our first waiter explained the team oriented approach they would be using to serve us and took our drink orders. A waitress approached us several minutes later to describe the appetizer special she recommended. With the wood floors and high ceilings (which are beautiful) the sound made it very difficult to hear her, and she was standing right next to me. We placed our orders for entrees and one person also ordered a salad.
Throughout the evening, many of the staff gathered near our table to converse and keep an eye on the area. I never had to worry about finishing my water, in fact it was often replaced before it was finished.
The salad arrived and shortly after that two servers arrived with two meals. One was a cluck ‘n’ oink, which we directed to the gentleman who had ordered that and the other was placed in front of my friend. She had ordered a sandwich and this appeared to be a different entrée. We asked several times what the entrée was (which may have been due to the noise) before being told what it was (pork I believe), at which point we explained that we had not ordered that. It soon became clear that the orders should have gone to the table behind us – which is an understandable mishap in a new restaurant when everyone is still learning the table numbers. However, at that point my friend had begun eating what he thought was his meal (and at that point was).
Several minutes later, what I assume was a manager of some sort – based on the color coding of his outfit – came and informed us that we had taken someone else’s meal. I assume his intent was to explain why the other meals had not arrived at the same time, but the end result was that my friend was made to feel that he had done something wrong in taking the meal that was offered to him. We did explain to this person that both the meals were brought to our table and it was only after they took the other meal to the table behind us that we figured out what mix-up had occurred.
Our meals did arrive a short time later and they were wonderful. We continued to receive attention, and when someone was not at our table, they were usually three to four people standing just behind it. We were approached by a server who offered us desserts and/or coffee. One person ordered dessert and requested a diet coke to go with it. The dessert arrived beautifully presented but there was no drink. We asked another server for the drink and several minutes later a diet sprite was brought to us. We explained that she wanted a diet coke and were told that what we had was a coke. We sent it back and eventually got the diet coke. And about ten minutes later the one arrived based on our second request.
At this point, the feeling of constantly being watched had grown a little too claustrophobic and so we requested a box for the dessert. After several minutes we had not received the box, and we really wanted to leave so we requested it again from a different server. Shortly after both boxes arrived, although it worked out because the first box was too big for the bag we had been given so the second box worked much better.
We were then offered coffee again, which we declined and requested the check. The server who had been our most consistent visitor, asked us about the experience and we explained that we had felt a little crowded.
As someone who lives near Silver Spring, I was thrilled to have another southwest food restaurant to choose from. However, after our experience I would have trouble convincing my friends to go there again. Some of this I understand is natural growing pains. While I think the team oriented approach is a fabulous idea, in our experience it led to inefficiencies and communication problems. I realize we added to this by requesting things twice in two cases.
And I suggest that either the tables need to be arranged so that the staff are not so close to one table or there needs to be a better place or system for them to monitor the tables. While initially we felt well taken care of, it quickly reached a point where we felt crowded.
The food was wonderful, the setting was lovely if noisy and the staff were all very pleasant. Hopefully the kinks can be worked out, communication improved and the hovering lessened so that if I can get someone else to go there in a few months, we will have a better experience. Thanks for your consideration.