Important Lessons Learned from a Training Project

Monday through Friday, I trained a group of twenty-three professionals, how to pass the difficult Project Management Professional certification exam. Kathy traveled with me. While I trained, she worked on various craft projects.

Sunday: Traveling to Fort Mill

Our trip on Sunday from Portland to Fort Mill, South Carolina was uneventful...until the last step. We flew from Portland to Chicago O’Hare airport. We changed planes and flew on to Charlotte, North Carolina, where we rented a car.

I put the address of the Hampton Inn in Fort Mill into Google Maps on my phone. It gave us turn-by-turn directions, by voice. Everything was working fine. We navigated two freeways, crossed into South Carolina, and continued to Fort Mill.

The very last direction didn’t seem to work. We found ourselves on a two-lane road with a Lowe’s hardware store on the left side, and a line of restaurants on the right.

But there was no Hampton Inn.

On my phone, I looked up the Hampton Inn Fort Mill, and called the number that was listed. I said, “I’m in front of Lowe’s. Where are you?”  The Hampton Inn representative replied, “What is your reservation number?” I didn’t have it. I repeated, “I just need directions.” She replied, “What is  your reservation number, please?” That’s when I realized I was talking with a lady in a call center in India. She was doing precisely what she had been trained to do. Finally, she connected me with Caleb in the lobby of the Fort Mill Hampton Inn. Caleb said, “Keep driving down that road. There’s no sign, but when you get to the end of the road, veer left. We’re kind of behind Lowe’s, on the right.”

We arrived within a minute. We sampled the chocolate chip cookies, and we even received a Hilton Honors Club Member goodie bag.

The rest of the week ran smoothly. The Hampton Inn staff was great. The Hampton Inn’s breakfast buffet got my motor running each day. I made a new friend there.

Friday: Traveling Home, Part 1 - The Great Credit Card Adventure

I took special pains to avoid losing my laptop computer, like I did last year when I left my Microsoft Surface Pro laptop in the rental car. Kathy and I even pointed to my new laptop and said, “Got it.”

At the ticket counter, I reached into my wallet for my driver’s license and my Chase Visa Business Card. I found my driver’s license, but my Visa was missing. The last time I used it was in the drive-up line at Chick-fil-a. I placed it in the visor of the rental car. I forgot to retrieve it.

I knew I had to cancel my card immediately. After checking our bags, I sat on the floor of the terminal. I opened my laptop and logged into my Chase account, looking for the Chase customer service phone number. I called the 800 number. A recorded voice said, “To continue, please enter your card number.” I loudly answered, “I don’t know the number. I lost the card.” That didn’t seem to make the automated call direction system happy. Next, it asked, “Enter your security code from the back of the card.” I responded, “I don’t have it. I lost the card. What’s wrong with you?” After several attempts, the automated system finally gave up and said, “I’m connecting you with an agent.” I thought my problems were over. The next automated voice asked me if I wanted to talk about my debit card or my credit card. I said, “Credit card.”

The automated system connected me with the Chase debit card department instead. When the live debit card agent realized I wanted to report a lost credit card, she said, “That’s not my department. Please hold while I transfer you.”

The next thing I heard was a recording saying, “Please enter your card number.” I started pressing the zero button and slowly saying, “Cust-o-mer-Ser-vice.”

After several minutes of this torture, I reached a Chase credit card customer service agent who canceled my credit card and ordered a new one within one minute.

But That’s Not All

As I was sitting on the floor, putting everything into my wallet, I couldn’t find my driver’s license. I would need it to get through the TSA security line. Kathy and I scoured my wallet, my laptop case, her travel case and her purse. My license was nowhere to be found. I began considering alternate ways to get home, such as Amtrak or a rental car. Then, Kathy picked up her travel bag. There it was! My driver’s license was on the floor, beneath her bag. Another problem solved.

Traveling Home, Part 2 – The Long Way Home

Our trip home was supposed to be from Charlotte to Dallas, and from Dallas to Portland. When it was almost time to board, the agent picked up the public address microphone. He announced that he was very sorry, but Hurricane Dorian had caused severe winds and rain over the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. The airport was closed. Therefore, our flight is cancelled. The gate agent directed us to the American Airlines customer service desk, which was several hundred feet down the concourse.

I grabbed Kathy’s hand and said, “Let’s go!” I’ve never seen her walk/run that fast. Imagine a mob of 189 passengers rushing down the concourse. It looked like the annual Black Friday sale at the mall.

When we arrived at the customer service counter, we were ninth and tenth in line. Behind us were 179 not-so-happy travelers. There were only three agents, working feverishly.

When it was our turn, a nice agent named Phyllis helped us. I asked if we could get onto the 8 PM direct flight to Portland. I had chosen an earlier flight home, the one that connected through Dallas. Phyllis said, “You can try, but it’s full, with a very long standby list.” She routed us through Phoenix, and on to Portland. Then she said, “Everyone seems to be booking the flight to Phoenix. It is now oversold.”

Phyllis said our best option was stay overnight in Charlotte, and fly our original route home tomorrow, when the weather in Dallas would be better. I replied that we need to get home tonight. I asked if she could get us to Seattle. She said American Airlines didn’t have a connecting flight to Portland that late. I said it was OK. Another airline has several flights each day from Seattle to Portland. If necessary, we would use one of their flights or a rental car to get to Portland.

Phyllis canceled our original flights through Dallas, and booked us to Seattle. As far as American Airlines was concerned, Seattle was our final destination.

We received our new boarding passes. We had an uneventful flight to Seattle.

The American Airlines app on my phone went crazy. Over the next few hours, it sent the following text messages and app updates:

·         Your flight to Portland has been canceled.

·         You are scheduled to fly to Phoenix and on to Portland.

·         You are scheduled to fly to Dallas and on to Portland, tomorrow.

·         You are scheduled to fly to Seattle, tonight.

·         Zero out of two bags made it to Portland.

·         Zero out of two bags made it to Seattle.

·         Your bags are on their way to Seattle. Click here to arrange delivery within four hours of their arrival.

Traveling Home, Part 3 - Seattle

Clearing TSA. Again.

When we arrived at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport, we got tickets for the last flight of the day to Portland. We had to clear TSA once again. For some reason, “TSA PreCheck” was not printed on our boarding passes. That meant we had to remove shoes, belts, keys, etc. and put them on the conveyor.

After we cleared TSA, we put our shoes back on and headed for the gate. We heard a voice behind us. A young lady was addressing Kathy. “Excuse me, but I think you’re wearing my shoes.” In the chaos at the far end of the TSA conveyor belt, there were two almost-identical pairs of black Nike shoes. Kathy had grabbed the wrong pair. We walked back to TSA, made the exchange, and made the world right once again. As we walked away, Kathy said, “I thought those laces seemed different.”

Time to Go Home

We began boarding the flight for Portland at 11:45 PM. By the time we were all seated and buckled in, it was 12:15 AM. The captain came on the plane’s public-address system. “I’m sorry, folks but we can’t take this plane to Portland. There was a minor maintenance issue that was entered into the aircraft log on Friday. It would have allowed us to fly…on Friday. Now it’s Saturday. On the second day after a write-up of this type is entered, the plane must be repaired and the issue must be cleared from the aircraft log before this plane can fly again. Please de-plane, and take your carry-on bags with you. We’ll announce your new departure gate soon.”

We reached Portland around 2:00 AM. Since we had no bags, all we had to do was walk out to the car and drive home.

A little before 3 AM, Kathy and I thought we would sit in our recliners and watch a little TV before we went up to bed.

We woke up in the recliners around 7 AM, wearing clothes we put on the previous morning in South Carolina.


Re-uniting with our Luggage

I called the 800 number for the American Airlines baggage department. I thought I would be arranging shipment of our bags from Seattle to Portland. Instead, the agent said, “Oh, yes. Your bags are in Portland. They arrived at 11:15 last night.”

Our bags beat us to Portland by almost three hours. Go figure.

I drove to the Portland airport. I showed the baggage agent some of my many emails and texts. He was cheerful and extremely accommodating. (I wish I had gotten his name, so I could write a commendation letter about him to American Airlines headquarters.) He punched a few keys, smiled and said, “Let’s go get your bags.”

Lessons Learned

1.       Always travel with your medication. Never leave it in a checked suitcase.

2.       Use direct flights, when possible.

3.       Keep records of everything during the flight.

4.       Don’t get stressed when things don’t go right.

5.       After you clear TSA, put on your shoes, not someone else’s.

6.       Look for the gems, like Phyllis in Charlotte and the baggage agent in Portland.