Sunday, April 13, 2014

Southwest Airlines Wins My Heart

It's been nearly a month since I've wrote a blog post. I lost my camera and was just too heart broke over it. It just seemed pointless to try to keep up a blog if I didn't find my camera. Luckily I found it so I am back (!!), but before writing about all the mischief I have been getting into I want to explain the story of my hiatus.

On March 19th I was catching an early flight out of PDX to PHX (with a connection in SAJ) for debate nationals at Northern Arizona University. It was a way too early flight. Between that and nervous over nationals I was already a mess. The plane was packed and the classic obnoxious guy sitting beside me was already questioning me about debate tournaments as the plane pulled away from the gate -- that's when it struck me: I left my camera inside the gate. I remembered shoving my Longchamp in the overhead but not my camera. I told one of the flight attendants immediately. Obviously we couldn't go back after leaving the gate, but he told the other flight attendant and together they did everything they could to help me. A lady a couple rows back overheard our conversation and informed me that she saw the camera and handed it in at the counter. Faith in humanity restored. Knowing that information the flight attendants called back to the Southwest employees at the gate as soon as we were in the air and they could make the call. The employees confirm they had the camera, and this is the point where the story heads South (Southwest? -- bad pun).

We had a bit of a layover in San Jose so I immediately called the Port of Portland Lost & Found. They didn't have it and gave me the number to the Portland Southwest Lost & Found where it was most likely taken. That number led me to an automated message to leave a detailed voicemail about my missing item so I did, and never heard back from them. With all the hustle bustle of nations I really didn't have time to worry about my camera so I didn't get back to my search until a week later.

A week after forgetting my camera I again called the Port of Portland who still hadn't seen it and Southwest who again never responded to me. This is going to be my only complaint about Southwest Lost & Found: I left at least half a dozen detailed messages with my name and number without ever hearing back from them although my camera was definitely there.

In addition to contacting these two Lost & Founds I also: file a claim online incase Southwest sent my camera to their Lost & Found warehouse in Alabama, call every other airline's Lost & Found at PDX incase it somehow ended up there, email the PHX and SAJ Lost & Found (because why not at this point), get in contact via emails with the Port of Portland and Southwest Costumer Service, file a police report and check the Portland Craigslist every morning just incase it never made it to the Lost & Found. I highly doubted anyone at Southwest stole my camera but I wanted to cover all possible bases.

I was an emotional mess. Everyone kept telling me they didn't have my camera. All I could do was hope, pray, and wait. After two weeks the hopes and prayers were dwindling. I had came to accept that my camera was gone and be okay with that.

Three weeks after losing my camera and two weeks after filing an official report with Southwest I received a phone call from my debate director. "Hey Mary, Southwest just called me and if you don't come pick up your camera from PDX they're going to send it to some giant lost & found in Alabama." Whoaa. Wait. What?! I need to come pick up the camera I have asked them for about ten times so they don't send it to the place where they told me it would be sent 24-hours after finding? Whatever. Just give me my camera.

I am beyond ecstatic to have my camera back -- but how the hell did they know to contact my debate director? He purchased my ticket so it somewhat makes sense, but I don't know how they even figured out it was mine. The only thing I can think of is I had a long chat with one of the flight attendants about how much I liked her monogrammed necklace (the flight attendants were from Georgia and just precious). I must have told her my name and she remembered it when she made the call from the air back to PDX. Just ... wow. I feel so blessed that somehow my camera made its way back to me. THANK YOU SO MUCH SOUTHWEST! I will definitely be flying Southwest in the future. (As a poor college student it's not like I have a choice, but I guess I'll be happier about it now.)

While searching for my precious, beautiful, loyal Canon EOS Rebel t3i I read alot of blog posts about Southwest Lost & Found. I wanted to create this post in anticipation that my experience might help someone else who gets suck in a similar boat in the future.

Southwest's Lost & Found system is a true indicator of their exceptional customer service. Truth to be told, for being a cheap airline it's surprising to me that they have such amazing customer service. They are the only airline I know that works so hard to keep track of your lost items. They even apparently use magic to trace you down.

The main lessons I've learned from this experience and suggestions I have for anyone who loses something while flying Southwest are:

  • Contact your home airport asap. The sooner the better.
  • File an online report. You can do that here. My scenario is unique. In most cases your item will be sent to their general Lost & Found facility after 24 hours of being processed. 
  • Don't give up. It might take alot of effort, but your item is somewhere (hopefully with Southwest). Contact all the lost & founds you can and everyone who might be helpful.
  • Come up with a plan to not lose your items in the future. If you're still missing your item this is not something you want to hear but, the best way to keep your item is to not lose it. From now on I am going to make sure to take a carry-on that I can fit all my items in. Carrying multiple bags is just too much to keep track of for me.
Additional important thought: Has anyone thought of asking Southwest employees where the Malaysian Flight 370 is? I am sure they could find it. 

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