Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Reached San Francisco – but my baggage didn’t!

Well, I finally made it to the west coast of the US. Such a long flight, but fortunately, I wasn’t feeling tired at all. If anything, I was wide-awake, fresh, and raring to go!

After deplaning, I realized that my checked-in baggage hadn’t arrived from JFK airport. The airline had checked my baggage right through till San Francisco, from Chennai. But looks like it got lost in the big JFK airport! Anyway, true to the American customer service tradition, the airline officials jotted down the details, and even tracked my suitcase down electronically. They even showed me the photograph of the type of suitcase that I was talking about, from a slew of designs of suitcases!

I exited the terminal in the knowledge that my baggage would reach me at the hotel the next day. And outside the terminal, I had my first glimpse into how infrastructure, and support services in and around an international airport can make life for a foreigner so much easier. I am talking about a shuttle service to the hotel that I was to be housed in. There was a Hotel Shuttle Bus Stop and scores of vans and shuttles from different hotels flocked in one after the other to pick up people from the airport to their hotels. It was such a brilliant way to accommodate customer needs right from the minute that they decided to book their rooms in these hotels. While I initially didn’t know that these shuttles operate in blocks of half hour (one trip to the airport every 30 minutes), I noticed a public phone booth with extension numbers to these hotels. I called up the hotel that I was supposed to go to and in a matter of 3 minutes, the hotel shuttle turned up. Impressive! Its just amazing how customer service is so brilliantly done in this part of the world. Its just amazing. While these things may be a given for the average westerner, for somebody used to “negotiating with” with local cabs and auto rickshaws back home, these sorts of experiences are in a different league altogether! And it makes one learn so much more and become richer by the experience.

For the rest of the trip, I used this shuttle service from the hotel to the airport, and from thereon, the local train to scout the city of San Francisco, and indeed a lot of California. The public utilities and transport systems were just outstanding! I had absolutely no problem in figuring out my ways around this big city; the maps were accurate to the T; the routes to be taken to reach different places were accurate; the schedules of inter-city trains were on the dot each and every time; the schedules of connecting buses were hassle-free; most of all, there was complete ease of travel, lack of pressure, systematic, regulated and highly efficient transport systems, which made my stay so memorable. I didn’t even have to look at the clock and wonder if I am going to be charged double the rate like all of us are charged, back home after 10 p.m!These systems here operate at the same level of efficiency, are free of human interaction and are available at standard tariffs 24 hours a day. Nobody to cheat you, nobody to fleece you, and nobody to misdirect you.

Anyway, got to my hotel, to experience yet another great service experience. Complimentary high speed internet! That helps!

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