Finders Keepers

Richard Ramis, AYS Dispatch, Inc.

If there was ever an important lesson I learned in Limo 101 it was check the vehicle before you leave the client’s drop off location. It could be an open door glance. It could be a visual and physical check under all seats, magazine racks, and trunk. I knew a chauffeur who had a mini Maglite he would put in his mouth at night and go through that vehicle like the FBI.

Why, you ask? People lose items in vehicles, restaurants, theatres all the time. Every mile you gain leaving a drop off turns into two miles to return to the location and then once again go to your next job, home, or whatever.

Some clients I have spoken to are understanding. They will acknowledge blame, make it clear that a nice tip will be waiting. Some are not so. Stubborn drivers refuse to go back and obstinate clients will make it clear they can’t go home without their keys.

Occasionally, I have even spoken to passengers whose bags have life critical medications and they need them now. It is such a simple issue it shouldn’t be such an industry wide problem. Now we have also had friendly types. Often a call will come in where the client already went through airport security but his favorite designer umbrella was left in the vehicle. He graciously volunteers, ‘text me so I know you have it” and I will retrieve it when you pick me up next week. Those are easy. The real win is simply reassuring the client we have possession, and the item will be secure until pick up or delivery.

Everyone knows an operator who had to overnight ship someone’s property to Tennessee or Tokyo at least once.

It is avoidable on many levels. The bottom line is simply checking the vehicle before you leave. We even had one astute client who had their drivers trained to count the bags before they were loaded so when unloading the numbers would match.

We service a blue-chip Beverly Hills operation, and they have one particular chauffeur who is the highest ranking, most senior and well-respected talent there. One night during prom season he was forced to lower his standards and transport a group of young adults. About 15 minutes after clearing, one of the girls calls and said, “I left my iPhone in the limo.” I immediately call the driver and report this. He says, “Not my problem they can pick it up at the office.” I really did not want to engage with him but I gently reminded him that it is his responsibility to check the vehicle before departing.

At that point he served it right back to me on a platter:

“I pulled up, unlocked the doors and said everyone make sure you have your stuff”

Alrighty then.

Most every agency has a lost and found policy. A lost and found box, maybe even a dedicated email. We are not dealing with rocket science here.

I had an employee who used the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) to commute to work. He notoriously would leave his keys on a bus or train every few months. The CTA runs 1800 busses, 1450 subway cars and moves over 400 million riders annually. This man has never waited more than 24 hours and has always successfully retrieved his keys.

The London Taxi system which is likely the gold standard of ground transportation providers has online lost and found and pick up locations. Any legitimate business offers some form or policy for reuniting people and their property.

In closing, I want to tell the tale of Michigan Matt. Matt is a pro limousine and bus dispatcher. Has been for many years. He could dispatch the Academy Awards while simultaneously battling a major snowstorm at Newark. Some can multitask, Matt can triple task. However, Matt has a personal problem. Matt is a phone loserer.

Home, work, store, bar, tavern, club. You get the point. Matt loses his phone. Two months ago, he shelled out $600.00 for his first new phone in 2 years. Matt enjoyed his phone. He was very proud.

This past Wednesday Matt had to go to open-mic night at his primary bar. (By the way, if it appears I make frequent implications to Matt’s social life…Congratulations. I do, and you figured it out.) That evening, Matt’s car Rusty was at the shop and he needed transportation. Matt opted for Uber. Little did he know he was entering the transportation version of the “Twilight Zone.”

The trip going there was uneventful and Matt even mentioned the driver was quite engaging and entertaining. On his return trip all appeared well, but, unbeknownst to him, although he arrived safely at home, his new phone was in the Twilight Zone.

He logs on his computer and sees his phone roaming around Chicago like a Canadian Tourist. Confirmed sighting. This will be a snap. Rumor is, UBER is a large tech giant. He puts in an email claim and is simply waiting for his property to be returned. Nothing happens. He then gets his neighbor’s phone and decides to put his dispatch skills to work.

While watching his phone movements on his computer he starts ordering a UBER car on his left hand by utilizing his logistical gravitas. He keeps coming up with different drivers. He cancels and continually try again. The clock is ticking, his battery is getting weak. UBER responds with form emails essentially stating that it is the prerogative of the driver and they are not responsible for anything unless you are sexually assaulted. Frankly, Matt feels violated but word on the street is the assault backlog is 4 months behind. Then it happens. His battery gave up. Repeated emails to UBER said we already have your report.

Matt’s phone is forever gone.

UBER, we know you don’t care. We know you do not understand the basic tenets of customer service. However, one bit of advice, don’t allow people to get their hopes up. It is cruel.

Change your policy. Next time someone loses their phone. Nicely say, “Order a LYFT, go to a cell phone store, and buy a new one.”

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