Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Ferry Story

I'm not writing this to 'get back at' anyone. I just need to tell the story in context to get your opinion on how a situation was handled.

Joe and I were coming back on Sunday from Vancouver Island and I'd made a reservation on a late afternoon boat. As we drove down island we noted that the boat was sold out and were pleased that we had made the reservation. When we showed up we discovered, to our horror, that we'd mistakenly reserved for Saturday not Sunday and were facing over a six hour wait, as the next boat was also sold out.

I was a bit panicked because I knew that by then my legs would be quite swollen and painful. We plan our travel, if at all possible to ensure that we aren't overlong on the road. 10 to 12 hours is kind of a max for me. This wait would put us around 16 hours. I arranged to speak to someone at the ferry and when I did, I explained the situation. We'd made a mistake. I took responsibility for that. I explained why I was concerned with the wait.

Now, let me be clear. I was expecting that there was nothing that could be done. Even so, there's no harm in asking.

The fellow we spoke to listened. He said that as we had made the error there was nothing he could do to help. OK, so far, so good, we expected that. Then, he did something I thought was odd.

He went on to say that he had the power to put us on the boat but just wasn't going to. He gave an example of a fellow whose father was in the hospital in Vancouver and needed to get over. "I put him right on," he said. Then, he said to us, "Well, there was no harm in you asking." Which is what we thought too.

Then we watched him walk away.

Again, we were anticipating a 'no' and would have been okay with the 'no' but ... the 'I could if I wanted to but I don't want to' or the 'the other guy deserved my compassion but you don't' thing really rankled me. It was like he wanted it to be clear that he had to power to help and the power to withhold help. Like he wanted us to know, for certain, that he was saying 'no' ... that it wasn't just the circumstance that we found ourselves in, that it was HIS DECISION that we would not be helped.

That annoyed both of us.

Say 'no' and be done with it. But don't tell me that your 'no' is completely at your discretion and that you have said yes to more deserving others - and that you get to decide who deserving is.

Yep. It was my mistake in making the booking. I was unfamiliar with the website and should have been more careful particularly because I need to be responsible for my needs, I shouldn't need to rely on the compassion or kindness of strangers. I don't like playing the 'disability card' and really hated even asking.

In the end we got on the next boat so the wait was only 2.5 hours and we got in before I needed pain killers. Too, we met a wonderful woman at the ferry who tried to help us all she could and of course the staff on the boat, even though we got stuffed on at the tail end of the line up managed to park us so we could get both me and my chair out of the car. Overall I think the BC Ferries is pretty disability friendly.

But this guy and his 'I can but won't' attitude annoyed me.

Would that have bothered you too??

Please be frank, but respectful, in your comments.


Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

I would report this gentleman to his company - because that was uncalled for.

Send them a copy of this column, and ask whether sensitivity training is available for their employees, because this guy clearly needs some.

That, or a lot of practice not saying what he's thinking, i.e., a filter on his mouth.

I could understand a "No. I'm sorry." Or even, "Can't do that."

But going out of his way to be mean to you is NOT appropriate. And that was mean. Disabled people have trouble with systems designed for able people all the time. We don't need the attitude on top of that.

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

That would have bothered me too. Since he had the power to help, he should have used it to help. Yes it was your mistake, but since the consequences of a mistake like this would be larger for you than for most people, I don't think it's unreasonable to ask for help that might not be ordinarily offered to others if help can be had. Or if he was going to just not try, then I don't see why he felt he had to tell you--except to make himself feel powerful, or to punish you as if you had done something to harm others or as if you hadn't tried. People make mistakes, and although there are times when people need to be left to experience the consequences of their mistakes that doesn't mean that people should be punished on top of it.

tragicsandwich said...

I can't think for a good reason for him to do that. It was unkind, and I can't imagine how he was able to see it otherwise--but I'm sure he did. I'm sorry you had to deal with that person, but I'm glad that after that the people you encountered were more helpful and considerate.

kstableford said...

Hi, Dave. From a Customer Service perspective, I can't see any good reason for the second part of that fellow's message, other than to rub the noses of those who don't have "good reasons" (according to his criteria) in thereality that he's not letting you on board. Seems like needless flaunting of power.

Unknown said...

Yup, that was gratuitous verbal violence. Until he added that remark, it sounds like everything he said was fairly professional, communication in his role at the ferry dock...if he had stopped then, you would have been disappointed, but realistic - after all, no harm in asking.

I'm glad you got onto the next boat...whether that was good customer service by the ferry company or merely good travel karma - you and Joe were on your way again soon enough.

If it is any consolation, I have done that before, too..booked 3 different hotel stays for overlapping dates once...luckily I was still able to cancel the extra ones before having to pay a penalty.

I read somewhere that retention of material on a screen is less than retention of material read on a page, so I wonder if that increases the likelihood of not grasping all the details on a cluttered page, and not keeping all of the information (scattered over several screens) in mind at the same time....
or maybe the brain is using so much energy to hold all those details simultaneously that it then slips on dates or other facts...

just my 2 cents. clairesmum

szera said...

I will spare us all the many adjectives that are on the tip of my tongue...as they serve no purpose.
I do hope hope hope you report this person in hope that he will not play God and potentually bring physical harm as well to another human being with his blatant disrespect, arrogance and ignorant attitude and actions!
Much love to you and Joe 💚

Frank_V said...

I can't be Frank, and be respectful to that doofus. Feel free to delete my wisenhiemer response. If it had been me, I would have answered "I don't normally roll mean people over with my wheelchair, but for you, I will make the exception."

Kat said...

I agree with all above comments. He was using it as a put down specifically to you, there was no need to mention his "powers". I would bring it up with customer service, as he needs additional training.

Kelly said...

It was a rude way to respond. If he didn't want to help, well, I guess he was not required to, although he could have helped if he wanted. But he did not have to be rude. He could have simply said "I'm sorry but I won't be able to put you on this boat."

leslie sobel said...

I agree with those who suggest you report him. It was needless and rude, served no purpose but to rub your nose in having made a mistake of the sort we all make from time to time. Just plain mean-spirited!