DEAR MISS MANNERS: After a long flight from overseas, my plane landed and I called my family to say that I had arrived safely. A few minutes after this phone call, and after going through customs, I realized that I had either left my phone on my seat or it had fallen out of my pocket when I went to retrieve my bag from the overhead compartment.
My phone had a case storing my credit card and driver’s license. As I could not return to the plane myself, I found a security guard, who found a representative from the airline to assist me.
Before I could explain what happened, she snapped, “How could you be so irresponsible and not check for all your valuables before leaving the flight?”
I was taken aback and could only mumble in response. I finally must have asked if there was anything that could be done. She said that she was not able to go to the plane and the only thing was to wait to see if the cleaning crew retrieved it.
Luckily, a few moments later, a different representative arrived with my phone. I thanked them politely and walked away.
However, I was so taken aback by this customer service rep. How should I have responded to her? I agree that I should have double-checked for my valuables before leaving the plane, but after a 10-hour flight, I was very tired and obviously, though unintentionally, overlooked it.
GENTLE READER: People are going to tell you that you are lucky they didn’t beat you up. And airline employees are going to tell you that you are the 112th person that day to forget something after their clear announcement about checking for personal belongings.
Nevertheless, this was unprofessional and rude. Those who take jobs dealing with the public should know how to deal with their own understandable exasperation. And as you had already failed to heed the warning, the representative accomplished nothing -- except to get you to vow never to take that airline again (unless the flight is cheap and convenient).
Miss Manners would have said tersely, “Thank you for your courtesy” while checking the person’s nameplate.