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i lost something on a united airlines flight: goodie, a case study

I just traveled to Paris on United Airlines, and enjoyed the flight very much. (The return flight was also nice, although the food was embarrassingly bad.)

I left a book under my seat that was well-marked up (even though it was a new book, I had put a lot of time into analyzing it) and very expensive (about $150). Now that I'm back, I wanted to track it down.

So I contact the lost and found number I tracked down at http://www.united.com. Called it, got a call center, and gave the fellow a lot of information about me (cell phone, mailing address, etc.). At the end, he said he could not help me, and that I would have to call the airport's lost and found number, which he gave me. I asked him if there was a case number for this incident that I should know. "No sir, there is no case number." (This was my first hint that I've got a case study on my hands. You cannot have closed loop processes if the process never gets on the company's radar. Interactions have to be trackable as a baseline requirement.) "The airport's lost and found will help you."

Fine. He could have told me all this before he took my name and number. Anyway, I called the number. Turns out it was for the lost and found (objets trouvés) at Terminal 1 and CDG. 

A fax was attached to the line. After querying me with an annoying buzz, and waiting a few moments, the call hung up. 

So, I looked on the Airports of Paris site for the phone numbers for lost and found services. Found it. Dialed. Got a recording, saying look on our site for information on how to report a lost item. 

I went back to the site - and for items left on the plane, they recommend I call the airline.

You might think I had just been sent back to the first step in the process to be repeated ad infinitum, but I am much too clever for that. 

I called United's FRENCH number. See, I can beat the system. 

And that system has an outgoing IVR system that gives me no option to deal with lost and found items. So I punched the number for another menu item (purchase a ticket) so I could get a human being. (Pressing zero brought me back to the same useless main menu.)

Got someone at a call center. I explained my problem and she said, "From which country will you be buying your airplane ticket?" Ah, I needed to explain my problem again. Which I did. And she was very nice, giving me the phone number to the lost and found service at Terminal 1.

Which of course is answered by a fax machine.

Great book. I hope someone in Paris is enjoying it.All this said, I have indeed sent an email to United via their website to alert them to my problem via their lost baggage service (which in some places is positioning as a lost items service, but on the website only as a lost baggage service). So, I initiated the service request through a non-phone channel, too.

Problem is, they sent me an email apologizing for having lost my baggage and asking me to fill out and MAIL a form. 

Welcome to the 20th century, I guess. I need to print out some dead tree flakes, use up a stamp, and send in a lost baggage form. Can't wait to see just how irrelevant that form will be to finding a book left under a seat on Introductory Econometrics. I am not hopeful at this point.

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