A Poor Excuse for an Experiment

In the recent Toronto Star article “Testing TTC service as ‘guest from hell’”, Raveena Aulakh writes about her recent “experiment” at the One King West hotel, in an attempt to show Toronto that the recently appointed head of the TTC’s Customer Service Advisory Panel, Steve O’Brien, can’t save the embattled transit system.

Unfortunately, she chose to do this by posing as an “unreasonable, difficult and demanding” guest, and harassing hotel staff who have absolutely nothing to do with the public image crisis the Toronto Transit Commission is facing.

It was almost clever. By framing this charade as if it were about the TTC, instead of what it really was – a reporter having a little fun at the expense of the One King West employees — Aulakh might have convinced a few people that it was a reasonable attempt at collecting evidence.

Unfortunately, the flaws in logic are so great, and the subjects are so far away from anything that resembles her target, this article can’t be considered as anything less than shameful.

After spending the night at the Toronto hotel, and irritating the staff to no end with requests such as finding her sanitary napkins in the middle of the night and changing her room service request after her original order had already been prepared (and then changing it back again), Aulakh still wasn’t satisfied.

The staff apparently acted professionally and courteously throughout the ordeal, and yet Aulakh’s final conclusion was this: No one knocked “on the door to ask the guest who made 59 calls what was wrong. I know I would have lost my cool after three such calls. But I think I would have tried to talk to the queen of complaints. ”

Please. After hours spent trying to appease the unappeasable, the last thing anyone wants to do is spend anymore time talking.

This absurd reasoning is nothing more than reaching after she clearly failed to prove her point.

I’m going to take a guess here and say that Ms. Aulakh has never worked in customer service for any length of time. If she had, she would never have treated the unsuspecting staff to those kinds of antics simply for sport.

I’ve worked in customer service for 10 years. I generally deal with amazing customers in my job, but I’ve also had terrible ones that have completely ruined my day. Trying to broker some sort of détente with an irrational customer is not only infuriating, but also demoralizing.

But I do it because it is a part of my job, and I take pride in my job.

There are certain types of customers who can never be satisfied, and Ms. Aulakh’s alter-ego was one of them. So to suggest that the hotel staff didn’t do their jobs well enough after dealing with her ludicrous demands for 15 hours, simply because they didn’t want to chat with her at the end, is outrageous.

But as angry as I am with Raveena Aulakh for disrespecting the One Kind West staff, I am also frustrated that she did so to continue to drag the TTC through the mud.

The TTC is hardly a difficult target to hit these days. In the numerous public shamings in the media recently, people seem to have forgotten that Toronto Transit employees are people with feelings and lives. And after a long day of passengers breaking rules, withholding manners, and being generally disrespectful, I would imagine it can be a very difficult job.

That’s not to say that some employees don’t need serious attitude adjustments, but they do deserve to be treated like human beings – much like those employees of that hotel.

I know that good customer service on the TTC is sporadic, but absolutely terrible service is also rare. Occasionally it is exceptional, but most of it seems rather indifferent.

I’m sceptical that an advisory panel is going to be able to fix that. But setting traps isn’t going to do much to help either.

I wouldn’t want Mr. O’Brien to ask TTC employees to cater to irrational requests of disgruntled passengers. It would be a waste of tax dollars, and a waste of energy.

It is not a ticket taker or a streetcar driver’s job to deal with people like Ms. Aulakh’s character. It is their job to keep the system moving, treat customers with respect, and to be helpful. But that expectation is only fair if we, as customers, are respectful in return.

Aulakh was neither fair nor respectful. Any point she may have wished to make was lost in her mean-spirited and misguided agenda.

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