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Silver Threads: Please! A little customer service

Bettye Anding

Bettye Anding

When NolaVie went online about five years ago, one of my first columns reported on things people used to do for you that you’re now stuck with doing for yourself.

Among other things, I cited pumping gas for yourself, parking your own car in a multi-story garage in the CBD, and even finding your own seat in a movie without the assistance of an usher. (This last was so easy I usually waved ushers away, with the exception of the flashlight wielding, smock-clad ladies in the Joy Theatre on Canal Street who were tiresomely dedicated to putting you in exactly the right place.)
At that point in my NolaVie history I didn’t realize how many things others were still doing for me and how fortunate I was. Nor did I comprehend how rapidly the “do-it-all-yourself-on-your-computer” era was advancing.
Why couldn’t the guy who booked me for an upcoming two-week cruise in the eastern Caribbean take my passport information, a dozen other small details, and fill out the form necessary for me to board the ship? Why can’t he print it out and mail it to me since I’ll apparently be left at the wharf without it? Instead, I must go back into the system that I spent two hours in and left because my printer was down that day. (In addition I can’t discover where I put the password to my on-board account.)
Why couldn’t the California friend with whom I’m sharing a suite on the ship ask the booking guy to make dinner reservations twice at each of the seven on-board restaurants selected by us? She spent half a day on her computer setting this all up, restaurant by restaurant, and backtracking and rescheduling when one was filled at a time she requested a table.
What became of customer service over a telephone?
Next up is the booking of offshore excursions, which could very well turn out to cause the same pain referred to above. But we are in luck: The savvy woman heading the group of a dozen or so that we’ll be traveling with will handle it when she gets a consensus on the sights we want to see.
I can’t help but think there’s an easier way to accomplish all this. How about phoning a booking agent for a cruise line, telling him that you’re 81, able-bodied and fairly quick-minded, but unable to use a computer because of carpal tunnel syndrome and your doctor doesn’t advise surgery until after the first of the year.
Tell him you’re calling from a city that’s a popular tourist destination, where the ship will be repositioned when the cruise has been completed. Say you write a column for a popular website and would like to share the wonders of your trip.
Let me know what he says.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at [email protected]