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Returning from Berlin

Returning from Berlin

Travel is often burdensome these days, but the beauty of it can still shine through, especially when you’re fortunate enough to be able to indulge yourself.

Last night, Guido and Susanne Quelle and I had an unexpected farewell dinner when Guido found me after a massage and told me he had decided to stay another night. So we went to a small, exquisite restaurant in western Berlin, where I had reindeer and pig beautifully presented. It was a great treat with great people.

This morning I ambled out of my quarters, checked out in a minute, and found a very concerned concierge who ran up saying, “Dr. Weiss, it is only 8 and your car is not scheduled until 8:30!” I told him that was fineand went to read the morning paper by the fireplace. Of course, he nevertheless summoned my car and ten minutes later I was on my way.

My driver, Eric, is 25, born in St. Petersburg, and speaks Russian, German, English, and French. His family is Jewish and he’s studying Hebrew since that was prohibited in Russia. We talked about urban areas, governments, and politics.

I think the world of Lufthansa (I’m settled into their first class lounge at the moment in Munich, where after a meal I’m going to have a cigar in their cigar lounge, all courtesy of the airline). However, at Tegel Airport, where Eric deposited me in Berlin, I ran into their bureaucracy.

My flight was at 11:05 to munich. It was now 8:50. The ticket desk woman just shrugged without smiling. “You have a wait,” she said. She never offered an earlier flight, since that would have entailed work. When I asked where security was, she merely pointed. Why she is in a job dealing with the public, I do not know. But more was coming.

Transiting security, where I was yelled at for putting my liquids and coat in the same bin, I walked to a Munich flight leaving at 9:15. It was now 8:55. No one was around but the ticket agent, and I was to learn that the business class (there is no first domestically) was only a quarter occupied. The gate agent was an attractive blonde.

“Can I get on this earlier fight?” I asked.

“It is late for that,” she commanded.

I simply froze a smile, since I really wanted to strangle her, and said, “Yes, it is.” She wasn’t so attractive any more.

“I will have to call my supervisor!”

“Your supervisor?”

“Yes.” She then dialed with a peculiar arch to her hand, which I realized was necessitated by her very long nails, which would have otherwise punched three keys at once.

After some brief conversation on the phone, she frowned. I at first thought I had been denied, but quickly learned that she had.

She stuck out her hand. Realizing she probably didn’t want to hold hands with me, I handed her my boarding pass, being very careful not to go near her talons. She punched the computer keyboard as if furious with it, and stared at the monitor as if it had offended her.

Finally, she handed me my new boarding pass.

“Thank you,” I still smiled.

“You are welcome,” she seemed to threaten.

Once in Munich I stood in an insane 30-moinute immigration line only to find at the club that there is a separate (bored) immigration agent assigned here, and the Lufthansa man I talked to on arrival directed me to the long line even though he knew I was a first class passenger and could avoid it. He apparently felt no need to help in any proactive manner at all.

The club crew and all the cabin crews have been great, which leads me to believe they are hired by entirely different people.

It’s been a wonderful trip, I was overjoyed with both of the workshops I presented, and fortunately missed all that snow in the northeast. Looking forward to my trip home. But, first, my cigar.

© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.

Written by

Alan Weiss is a consultant, speaker, and author of over 60 books. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients from over 500 leading organizations around the world.

Comments: 8

  • Tim Wilson

    January 14, 2011

    Alan,

    It’s always interesting to read about your trips.

    I was struck by the dichotomy of service you received from employees of the same airline. The difference of treatment from the employees inside the club visa vie those outside of the club.

    They both work for the same company but see their job entirely differently. From your account it’s clear the level of service from the employees working in the club and cabin is several notches above what is provided by those who do not.

    If the difference in service is as you suspect, because they’ve been hired by different people, says a great deal about how two managers see customer service. One sees them as just people who are one time ticket buyers and never will be seen again. The other sees them as future clients who will return and will recommend the airline to friends, family and most of all clients who travel extensively. The latter seems to understand the concept you’ve mentioned often, looking down line at the future sale.

  • Volkmar Voelzke

    January 14, 2011

    Cool that you liked Berlin and the people (until arriving at the airport, at least).

    I can only agree to your observations regarding volatil customer service levels. However, I think it is only half the fault of the hiring person but more of consistent leadership. Simply saying, they are not proud of their work, therefore not committed.

    The good news: It implies a high potential for consulting businesses like yours or ours.

    Why did you not stay longer in Berlin? The city is worth it, there are many things to discover.

  • Alan Weiss

    January 15, 2011

    Volkmar,

    I set my schedules for my efficiency and pleasure. If you want to spend more time in Berlin, then do so. But please don’t question my own preferences.

    • Volkmar Voelzke

      January 15, 2011

      Alan,
      Why do you think I question your preferences (which I don’t really care about) when asking a simple question? You teach people not to become defensive…

  • Alan Weiss

    January 15, 2011

    Well, I originally thought it was a language interpretation thing, but I found your comments about US immigration, which I didn’t respond to, and this one, to be judgmental and aggressive. If you didn’t mean this so aggressively, then I apologize. But that’s the way you come across to me in writing. In fact, you even wrote back to tone down your earlier immigration remark, so I don’t think you take enough care to consider the impact of your words. Again, my apologies if this is not the case in your eyes.

    • Volkmar Voelzke

      January 17, 2011

      Thanks for clarifying this and giving me honest feedback.
      I’ll look at it more carefully and like to take the issue up in our mentoring.
      Btw, sometimes I feel the same about your blog, feedbacks and comments, so perhaps it is also a cultural difference.

  • Garry Beavis

    January 16, 2011

    Alan,

    Just arrived home today after my travels to the US, Canada & England. I had a connecting flight in Dubai where you have to go through security checks upon getting off a plane and heading to a connecting gate. I’m at a loss as to why this is necessary.

    Despite all the hassles and wrangles with airlines and security people it’s great to travel and see and experience different cultures and people.

  • Alan Weiss

    January 16, 2011

    Garry, agreed. I had three checks in Munich alone, one at the gate, but I had a fabulous time in Germany. I may be in Paris in February.

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