An organization on whose board of directors I serve was kind enough to give me a gift certificate to iPic Movie Theater for a Christmas gift. If you’ve never been to iPic, it’s really nice. The chairs are big leather recliners, each with its own iPad to order food and drinks. It’s a bit over-the-top, but it’s fun. We decided to take the whole family there to see Creed on Saturday night and use our gift card. What ensued was a pretty terrible customer service experience. Without paining you with all the details, the website did not function for purchasing tickets with a gift card and instructed us to call the theater. We called the theater and got put on hold for about 10 minutes, with a computer recorded message saying, “Your wait time will be less than one minute” every 30 seconds. After about 10 minutes, the computer said, “We’re sorry, nobody can take your call. Good bye.” Needless to say, we were pissed. And, guess what we didn’t do. We didn’t go to iPic. Guess what I won’t do next weekend? I won’t go to iPic again. Or the next weekend or the weekend after that. Does this mean I’ve sworn off movies forever? Not at all, I’ll just go see them at any one of the six or seven or so other theaters within an easy drive of my suburban home. Several of these have also adopted the model of big comfy seats where you can pre-purchase reserved seating on the Internet. One even sells cocktails! And, by the way, they are all significantly cheaper than the $104 price tag iPic put on a four tickets to a movie. Therein lies the beauty of a competitive capitalist economy. We have choices and get to vote with our feet (and wallets).
Then came the harsh reality of returning to work today, which for me means getting up at 3:40 AM to catch a 6 AM flight to Miami, as I have for the past 10 years. When I arrived at the airport about an hour and fifteen minutes before flight time, as instructed by TSA and the airlines, I found that, for about the 20th straight Monday, the TSA pre-check lane in the C terminal at Reagan National Airport was not open. There was a long line of regular Monday travelers waiting, as we’ve had to for many months now. Since there are many 6:00 AM flights, opening Pre-Check at 5:15 AM or later really doesn’t work. For months I’ve been telling that to any TSA agent who will listen. None of them will. The best I can ever get is “go talk to a supervisor.” Usually, I just get that “fuck you; can’t you see I’m a federal government employee and don’t give a shit” look. This morning, I hunted down two different supervisors and voiced my concern that they were consistently opening late, thus rendering the service useless at the busiest airport time on the busiest airport day of the week.
The first supervisor said, “I don’t have the staff to open on time.” Well, that’s clearly bullshit. As we waited in line for 15 minutes for Pre-Check to open, we saw 3(!) different TSA agents sipping coffee at the coffee stand RIGHT NEXT TO PRE-CHECK. TSA’s budget is $7.4 BILLION and the Pre-Check program is fee-based to its customers, both passengers and airlines. So, there’s no funding shortage to get the damn thing open on time. It’s just plain shitty service and nobody gives a crap. In case you’re wondering, the second supervisor said, in fact, she was not senior enough to do anything and I should consider talking to the airlines. This is not the first time I’ve tried discussing this issue with a supervisor and the result is the same every time – excuses are made, the buck gets passed and customers get screwed. Lather, rinse, repeat.
In a rare fit of insight, our federal government realized long ago that monopolies are bad for customers and competition is good. Hence, there are federal anti-trust laws that ensure that when two or more private companies merge, there is no chance for a monopoly to develop. Apparently, despite years of merger activity in the multiplex movie theater industry, there is still sufficient competition that, when iPic Theaters provided us with lousy service on Saturday, we had numerous other options for theater companies willing to provide us great service.
Sadly, however, when I leave the house for my Miami flight next Monday at 4:15 AM, I will have only one choice to get through TSA Pre-Check – the Federal Government. And, guess what, they’ll suck at their jobs and have just as shitty an attitude toward customer service next week as they did this week and last week and the week before that. Again, nobody will give a shit and all customer complaints will be treated as a minor annoyance on the way to Starbucks. There will be nobody to complain to because nobody will care.
This is why people despise and distrust our government. We get rotten service by employees who don’t care and we have no other options. It is a complete monopoly. In the absence of competition, nobody is motivated to do anything, but the minimum amount required and to do so with a bad attitude. Please, let’s elect Hillary so we can complete Obama’s nationalization of healthcare. I just can’t wait until I have to go through that same TSA supervisor to get a timely x-ray of a possible brain tumor instead of just getting an x-ray of my backpack and roller board.