Monday, October 27, 2008

The One With The Story of Epic Proportions

Dear blog readers, I have a compelling story to share with you today. I warn you, it's a long one. But it is a story of compassion and kindness that will warm your heart....with a little bit of stupidity along the way. I've tried to make the story as easy to follow as possible, and I promise it's worth the read.

Before I get this story underway, let me introduce you to the characters:

Mr. Firoz Gillani: manager and owner of the Days Inn of East Ridge
Ken Greene: President of Days Inn Worldwide
Apathetic Receptionist: employee of Days Inn, East Ridge
Unhelpful Rude Lady: customer service representative, Days Inn Corporate
Jennifer: customer service representative, Portrait Innovations
Guy On Vacation (GOV): very kind citizen who stayed in room 169 seven days after me
Carol (artsygranny): digital scrapbooker who reunited me with my photos!

This story begins on August 14, 2008. I was on vacation with my 3 kids without David. I decided that I should have some portraits taken of the kids to send him. I had had a wonderful experience in June with the Portrait Innovations in Dayton, so I decided to look on the internet to find out if they had any locations in Florida. They did, and I had the kids' photos taken by Melissa in Clearwater :)

On August 16th, I checked into the Days Inn at East Ridge (Chattanooga, TN).

At this point I was two weeks in to living out of suitcases and staying places with all 3 kids and little help! When Nathan helped me bring in the luggage, he put some things on the entertainment center, and I noticed later that the bag with the portfolio of portraits had fallen behind the entertainment center. I made a mental note to not forget that they were behind there...but guess what? In our haste to get moving the next morning, I left them there. I was filling up at a gas station when I noticed, so I called and spoke with apathetic receptionist at 5:45 p.m. on August 17th. Conversation went like this:

Me: I stayed in room 169 last night and I left something there.
AR: What did you leave in the room?
Me: A bag of professional portraits. I left them behind the entertainment center.
AR: I'm by myself, I can't go look and see if they are there.
Me: Are you serious? There's NO ONE else there?
AR: Well, let me see if my boss will watch the desk and I'll look. Call back in 5 minutes.

5 minutes later:

Me: Well, do you have them?
AR: He said housekeeping has to do it, you have to call back tomorrow.
Me: Oh my gosh, I have to wonder all night? Is there nothing else you can do?
AR: Well if I see a maintenance man I can have him check.
Me: Great! Is it okay if I call back in an hour?
AR: Sure.

one hour later (6:50 p.m.)

Me: It's me again, any luck?
AR: No.
Me: Can I call in another hour?
AR: Sure.

One hour later (7:50 p.m.)

Me: Hi, have you seen a maintenance man?
AR: No.
Me: Well what time do they go home?
AR: 5:00
Me: You mean, BEFORE the first time we talked?
AR: Yes.

Let me take a moment here for a silent scream.

I called back the next day, and Apathetic Receptionist told me that my photos weren't there. Housekeeping had checked the room and they weren't there.

I was devastated. I hadn't had time to really even process what had happened or what I was going to do about it week later, on August 24th at 10:00 a.m., I got a call on my cell phone.

Guy On Vacation (actually I have no idea if he was on vacation or not but for my story he was): Lena?
Me: Yes?
GOV: Hi, I'm staying at the Days Inn in East Ridge in room 169? I have something that belongs to you?
GOV: I found them behind the entertainment center because some of my stuff fell behind there. There was an invoice in the bag that had your name and number on it.
Me: Oh thank you so much! Please just give them to the front desk and I'll get in touch with them.

The next day I called Days Inn and they acted as though they had no idea what I was talking about. Before I had a conniption fit, I called GOV again, since his number was still on my cell. I made sure that he had turned in the photos, which he had. There was only one explanation left for where my photos had gone:

Miraculously when I called back the next day my photos were there on the desk and no one was available to speak to me about them.

I spent the next couple of weeks attempting to get in touch with this mysterious "owner" who was never there and never returned phone calls. He apparently had office hours from 12:00-12:05 M-F, but took lunch from 12:01-12:04.

After a few weeks of that nonsense, I was beginning to lose my patience. I got the pleasure of speaking to AR again who told me, "I didn't lie to you. Housekeeping said it wasn't in there." At this point, the game of pass-the-buck was getting really old. I called Days Inn Customer Service.

They opened an investigation and told me that if in 7 business days, the owner hadn't responded to me, they would see what they could do. Well, surprise surprise, after 7 days, nothing. So I call back to customer service and the Unhelpful Rude Lady told me that there was nothing they could do, that it was my fault for leaving the photos.

So I pick back up where I left off, phoning Mr. Gilani daily. When I finally heard his voice with my own ears, I thought my head would explode.

Believe it or not, he was very friendly. He told me that he would check with his staff but that he would call me the next day, and he was "sure I can send you the photos".

Do you think I ever heard from him the next day?

I called and called and called over the next few weeks. The desk staff would tell me, "I gave him the message already."

Finally, I got in touch with him again. I am being completely honest with you when I tell you I couldn't understand a word he said. I asked why he hadn't returned my calls, and he said something I believe was akin to that he was waiting for me to send the money for postage. I told him how upset I was at the lack of communication and how mad I was for being lied to. He said something like, "I'm upset too. They tell me they check the room, but they no check the room." and then he got very upset and his speech became even more indistinguishable. He told me he would call me back the next day.

Do you think I ever heard from him again?

Nope. Finally I decided to call back Days Inn Corporate again. The Unhelpful Rude lady had plenty to say that was unhelpful and rude. Some of the highlights of her delightfulness included "You could go and get the photos yourself."

and, "Fine, I'll go get my supervisor and she'll tell you what you've already been told."

The supervisor had definitely achieved her position by overacheiving at unhelpfullness. She did put me through to her supervisor, though, Roberta Nichols.

Ms. Nichols was very polite but somewhat ineffective. She did call Mr. Gilani herself and get him to agree to mail me the photos if I would send him the postage.

However, at this point...between leaving my message for Ms. Nichols and receiving her callback, I had posted this plea for help at DST. I had decided that the Unhelpful Rude Lady had a point...I couldn't get the photos myself but SURELY someone lived in Chattanooga and could help me.

I explained to Ms. Nichols that I didn't want to send that man a penny because I didn't AT ALL trust that he would use the money for postage! He had done nothing to impress me at this point RE: doing what he says he will do. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, and his past behavior states he is going to return my photos the way he returned my phone calls.

I spoke with Carol (artsygranny) on the phone later that night. I explained the situation and she agreed to help. I was willing to pay gas, postage, and a fee for her trouble. She wanted nothing of the sort though. she wanted to do this for me for free because David is serving in the military. She went on Thursday morning and picked up my photos (of course they handed them over, no questions asked). I'm sure washing their hands of the situation left them with free time to twiddle their thumbs. She went to the post office and overnighted them. She called me to warn me though, that there was some damage to the photos. My heart sank.

She said that it looked like someone spilled a sugar packet in the portfolio. She said there was a grainy substance on it and that the photos were stuck together. WHAT THE HECK????

Obviously at this point, however, there was nothing to do but wait.

When the mail arrived the next morning, I eagerly ripped open the packaging to find my damaged photos, exactly as Carol had described them.

I cried BIG FAT tears. All of the stress and anxiety over these photos just welled up inside of me and had nowhere else to go. All of the time I had spent trying to track down my memories and to have it end like this.

I wiped my tears and went to find my paper that had Days Inn's number on it. I had originally told Ms. Nichols that I wasn't stopping until I got an answer from Ken Greene himself, and I had a renewed passion for my quest. But I thought better of it. I came to my senses.

Days Inn is NOT going to care that my photos are ruined. They have never cared in the past, they won't care right now, they will never care in the future. I knew that there was another option, but I really didn't want to bark up that tree.

I reluctantly pulled up the customer service phone number for Portrait Innovations and called their corporate office in North Carolina. After getting through to CS promptly, I explained the abridged story to Jennifer and she patiently listened. She acted like this was the simplest problem she had ever encountered.

"Is the CD damaged?" she asked. With a purchase over $99, you get the CD of the images...not in any kind of printable format...they are encrypted and you can only see the thumbnails if you look at them yourself. It is designed for you to be able to return the CD to the studio and can make reprints. I knew that this was an option all along, but didn't have any more money to put into the photos (I paid $116 originally).

Well as luck would have it, the CD wasn't WITH the photos. I had the CD all along...being the photo enthusiast that I am, I had put the CD in my laptop that night at the hotel in order to look at all of my images.

I told her I had the disc and she told me that the local Portrait Innovations would be in touch to arrange printing.

*cue Hallelujah chorus*

Just minutes later, the manager of the Dayton Portrait Innovations contacted me and told me I could come in anytime to have the reprints made, and to bring my damaged photos with me. I told her that a few of them were gone, since I had given some prints to my dad and grandma while I was in Florida. She said that would be no problem at all.

Friday afternoon I went with my damaged photos, my CD tucked firmly under my arm, with a new pep in my step to Portrait Innovations. I looked down at the new invoice they gave me, $220 worth of prints and a zero out of pocket expense for me

I walked out 20 minutes later with a complete new set of photos and a renewed faith in humanity.

The moral of this story is a very simple one. It's amazing how some people go out of their way to make someone's day brighter, while others simply don't care.

To the GOVs in the world, to the Jennifers, to the artsygrannys, to the companies like Portrait Innovations, KUDOS TO YOU!

And to the Apathetic Receptionists, Unhelpful Rude Ladies, the Firoz Gillanis of the world, and the companies like Days Inn, you should be ashamed.

And that's all I have to say about that.


Bev said...

Wow I am so sorry for what you went through and I would not be going back to Days Inn anymore! That was wonderful what the Picture place did and Customer Service can go a long ways! It seems Days Inn can learn a few lessons!

jessica said...

that was a long (but very interesting) story. Im so glad you got the pictures back. I would have been furious at the rude people but also thrilled at the customer service and very nice people who were able to help

Elizabeth said...

Hooray for Portrait Innovations and BOO on Days Inn!!! So glad you got your precious memories!!!

Jennifer (Jennilyn) said...

Ugh...what a hassle! How frustrating for you! I'm so glad the photo place was able to help and with no extra cost to you at all :)

Anonymous said...

What a story Lena. I've often thought that apathy is one of the biggest problems facing us as fellow people these days. I'm so happy that it worked out in the end. Gorgeous portraits. And shame shame on the other people in the story....

BaKsKaF said...

O my gawsh.. what an ordeal. Ridiculous to say the least, but it's so nice to hear there are kind and helpful people still in this world. I'm so happy you were able to get the pics re-done. They are fantastic!

Monique said...

OMGosh you poor thing going through all of that! Thank goodness for good people, it's just too bad there are so few left anymore. Those are beautiful photos, I'm glad you got them fixed. Have a great day :-D

Kresta said...

What a roller coaster. Good grief! Glad it all got solved!

Lynn said...

I am so sorry that you had to go through it all, and so glad that it turned out the way that it has.
The world has a funny way of reminding us that it only takes a second to make someone's day...

Brandy said...

Oh gosh, Lena! I can TOTALLY feel your frustration with Days Inn and the not-so-helpful people that work there!

I'm so glad that your friend was able to help and that PI was so awesome to reprint for you!!! I have heard nothing but good things about that place! I wish we had one here!!

Jenny said...

Wow, Lena! That is quite the story! I'm so sorry about all the drama and B.S., but I'm so glad that you got your photos reprinted. They're just gorgeous!!

ComfyMom~Stacey said...

That is quite a saga! I'm glad the folks at Portrait Innovations were so helpful!

LizzyFizzy said...

i LOVED your story even more reading it!!!!! your an amazing writer, you know that. i laughed so hard and got so angry all in one blog post! YAY!!!!!! you have your photos!!!!!!!!!!! gooo portrait for days inn. not gonna support that nonsense. lol for you lena, for you!!

Tammy said...

OH my gosh!!!!!! I have dealt with rude people at a Days Inn too!! I couldn't believe it. I am so glad you finally got your pictures back and I probably would've reached through that phone until that man could speak where you could understand hime. That makes me so mad at people that don't give a darn for other people. shoot

Eve Recinella said...

OMG, what a pain the the rear!! I am so glad you finally found some good peeps and it ended well.

Bobbie said...

Lena, how amazing. I am glad that a DST'er was able to help you get the photos back. I am glad there are still some citizens in this world that are caring. Glad the story turned out for the better!!

Melinda said...

That is just rotten about the Days Inn. I'm so sorry. Portrait Innovations obviously ROCKS and sound definitely worthy of my business some day! (There aren't any around here that I'm aware of.) Very good story telling, and I love the pictures you used to help tell the story ... perfect. HUGS!

Lori Potts said...

Gosh I was worried that your story never was gonna get good. All I have to say is Screw Days Inn and believe me they wont get any of my money. Seriously!

AmberLV said...

Days Inn just lost my business!

Anonymous said...

OMG!!!!!!! That is amazing. I wonder if the pix were messed up before the dude that found them gave them to the front desk? HUMMMMM! so who spilled the sugar on them. Glad that portrait innovations was so sweet to you.