Saturday, July 27, 2013

Gambling with the luggage as the machines had taken over humans

It just deserved to get to UK as it was gone through all the packing.
Even though it wen't there after I already got back :)

Here I'll take a little sidetrack from my usual topics and I'll tell you about the events that happen to me couple of weeks ago. How a seemingly small decision, like putting your luggage into cargo instead of taking it as a hand luggage with you, can make your life not only difficult but lead into machines taking over humans.

There I was, spending my summer vacation. Weather was great, sun was shining from the blue sky whole week. Since other Europe have vacations a Month later, I needed to participate one meeting in UK in the middle of my vacation. So I packed my suitcase and took my laptop bag with me and headed to the airport. While driving to the airport I realized that I didn't pack any white shirts with me. I hadn't got the time to stop for shopping so I decided to solve that problem later.

I had already checked in online, as I always do. So at the airport I didn't need to do anything else but take my bag to the baggage drop. The lobby area was crowded and there were very long queues for the check-in but they hadn't got yet to the security check. So in few minutes I was already at the gate with still more than plenty of time to spend. So I visited a clothes shop at the airport and found suitable white shirt to use with my suit. Then to the gate, in to the plane and couple of hours writing report and creating marketing plan with my iPad. Time well spent.

I arrived to the Terminal 3 and remembered that this was the same terminal I had last time. Still traumatized by that what happen then :) - Last time I arrived late at night and wanted to get a cab to the hotel, just to find out that neither cabs nor busses will accept credit card!!! What country is this? Is this really one of the main capitals in the world? I just couldn't believe it. And as a cherry on top of the cake, I didn't get anything from the ATMs ( to get cash) as they couldn't read the chip on my card. Finally, already almost given up and settled with the thought I would be forced to stay there and grow old in terminal 3, one of the Money exchange reps helped me and did the transaction from my Visa account without actually reading the card but using the Visa card number and the Passport. But that was back then and now it's different.

This time I was better prepared and had already exchanged beforehand the amount of money needed to get to the hotel by bus. The hotel and the meeting were near the Terminal 5. So I needed just to get my luggage and head to the hotel. So there I was with about 20 other fellow passengers from Helsinki waiting our luggage to arrive on to the belt. But that never happen. After 30 minutes of waiting I went to the airlines desk and asked if they knew about my luggage and the answer was that it didn't arrive and they're trying to locate where it is. We'll, no worries. I just filled out the form of lost luggage and filled in my home and my hotel address and the length of my staying. Hopefully it would arrive next morning. I had my laptop and iPad in my laptop bag, and the new shirt that I had bought. And the airline even gave me survival bag including white T-shirt, shaving kit, shampoo and tooth brush, so I didn't have any worries about it. Among the other passengers wondering where their suitcases would be, there was one mother with her two daughters obviously going on vacation and for them that loss would be a lot worse than for me. I also trusted that if it would create bigger problem for me then I could go and buy myself if I really needed to get me something. So I left to the hotel, said hello to my colleagues at the hotel bar, went to have a dinner as the food in the plain... well, let's just say that calling it food is actually an insult to real food. After the dinner to the hotel room hoping that my luggage would appear next morning.

The morning came, but my luggage didn't. I went to the meetings, really business casual this time :) I wore my new white shirt and left the other shirt hanging into my room closet. After the meeting we were to go to the dinner into the London City and we had only short time to take a quick shower, change clothes and come back to the lobby to get into the cabs. But the other shirt wasn't in my closet anymore. I had used the hangar for that shirt. The hangar had the small plastic bag attached to it and the note 'if you want your clothes to be cleaned, put them into this bag and fill out the form and place the bag so that it's visible to housekeeping'. Well I hadn't done any of that, but I guessed someone was little bit too proactive and thought my shirt needed washing anyway. I called the reception and asked them to return my shirt and left for the dinner with the same shirt I had worn all day already. We visited London Eye, which was fun and had a little walk by the Thames and then we had dinner there. Around the midnight I returned to hotel to find out that my shirt was returned into the closet, but my airline survival bag had vanished. Now I started to be a little bit annoyed about the hotel staff taking my stuff out of the room and called again the reception asking what had happen to my 'toilet bag' that the airline company gave me. I guess the quality of the products in my survival bag wasn't meeting the hotel standards and they decided to do me a favor and cast all that rubbish away :) They didn't know where it was and who had taken it but promised they will send me a toothbrush kit to my room immediately and find out later where my toilet bag is. After 30 minutes of waiting I thought I had misunderstood something and went to bed. After one hour my door was knocked and the hotel rep brought me toothbrush kit.

Next morning I started to realize that there's a downside that you understand slowly as more time goes by, having only one pair of socks, not able to change new underwear, new shirt etc. We had so tight schedule all days and during the dinner evening we were not near the shops so I hadn't had any chance to buy more clothes and any other stuff I would’ve needed. The hotel didn't have any shop either. Everything I had now I had on me, which made me feel like an immigrant coming into this country wearing only the one suit he owns and having little money in his pocket :)

Meetings were over, as the hide and seek game with the hotel housekeeping and I returned to Helsinki airport. I asked if they'd know about my suitcase, as it didn't appear into Heathrow. They actually did have information about it, telling me that they had around 100 bags sitting there that didn't leave at all, since they had one of the conveyor belts broken. Nice thinking that no one informed about it for the customers. So I told them that now as I'm back already please make sure it will be sent to my home address when you've sorted it all out. They promised to do so. So the adventure seemed to be behind and I went home thinking I will get the suitcase back in one or two days. But instead I started to get messages asking me to confirm where I wanted the luggage to be sent. So I called them again at Helsinki airport and asked them to make sure it would be sent to my home, not to UK anymore. And they confirmed once again that they’d do that of course. Next day I got automated messages telling me my suitcase is now at the Heathrow airport and I need to confirm where do I want the suitcase to be shipped. I called again and asked why it had been shipped to UK as I was already here (and the luggage had been here all the time at the airport). The answer was that they couldn't go through all bags one by one and it was easier just to ship them to the destination addresses. At that time I realized that machines had taken over humans and there wasn't actually anything anyone could do to stop the process. I had heard how the IRS, phone company and some other examples who were collecting the debts even years after the person had died, like dying wasn't any real excuse for not paying your dues. That's how we've mostly build these systems and processes. The common sense and the automated digitalized systems are rarely going hand in hand. When things like this happen, one individual against the huge and complex automated processes and machines is as small as when you're standing outside looking the thunder clouds heading to your direction filling the whole horizon and darkening the sky. Finally I got them to change the address and some days later they called that they'd bring my luggage between 11-15 o'clock. They brought it 17:30 :)

Now afterwards I must admit, I gambled putting my luggage into cargo and not having only hand luggage with me. There was a reason that from the full plane coming from Helsinki to London, only handful of people lost their luggage. I wondered why most of the passengers came into the plane with their luggage trying to desperately fit them into those small compartments and why didn't they put them into cargo. Now I know. Next time hand luggage only and 'don't disturb' sign stapled permanently to the door knob to keep the housekeeping away :)

(The name of the hotel and the airline have been left out from this text as they are irrelevant for the actual point in the story - but we're talking about one of the biggest companies in both of them)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fun story! :)