Friday, August 2, 2019

A Surprisingly Well-Designed System

Last week, I was hurrying through Baltimore Washington International (BWI) airport on my way to attend the summer meeting of the American Hospital Association (AHA). I clearly had enough time to catch my flight, but I wanted to get something to eat before going to the gate. I checked my bag and headed for TSA screening. I showed the agent my ID and boarding pass and put my carry-on on the belt. I was about to walk through the screening device when I realized that I had my favorite GBMC ballpoint pen in my shirt pocket and my office keys in my pants pocket. So, I stepped back, grabbed a plastic bin, put the pen and keys in the bin, and pushed it into the screening machine. I then walked through, grabbed my carry-on, and headed to the food court.

Approximately 20 minutes later, when I had just passed through the boarding pass check and was on the jetway in line waiting to get on the plane, I realized that I had not grabbed my pen and keys at the TSA screening! I recognized that I did not have enough time to leave the line, explain what had happened to the gate agent, run back to TSA screening to get the pen and keys and run back to the plane. My heart sunk. I clearly could have gotten a new GBMC pen but the keys… I had a bunch of keys that would have taken me a long time and many steps to replace. 

I had visions of multiple phone calls that would go unanswered, offices that were closed, personnel showing their lack of caring about my plight, and me confronting a barrel full of lost keys and other items…I was not looking forward to what I would need to do that would probably all be futile.
But was I pleasantly surprised! When I got to my seat I googled “lost items BWI” and found a website that told me what to do if I had lost an item at TSA screening, in the airport, or on the plane. I chose “at TSA screening” and called the phone number listed. I got an answering machine with a message that told me to leave my name and phone number and that I would get a callback.

The next morning, while at the meeting I got a call from an agent at TSA lost and found at BWI. She asked me a few questions to assure that I was the owner of the pen and keys and then sent me an email immediately with my choices for getting them back. I could make an appointment to come and get them, I could send someone with the proper ID to get them, or TSA would bring them to the UPS store at the airport and UPS would deliver them to my home at my expense. This last option was the most attractive to me, so I called the UPS number on the email. A very courteous UPS employee answered the call and told me he would email a form and if I filled it out and sent it back (of course with my credit card information) they would be happy to deliver my keys. I completed the form and emailed it back. When I didn’t hear back from the agent in a couple of hours, I called him back. He reassured me that the pen and keys were already on their way to my home. This was validated by an email a few hours later showing me on a map the location of my items.

The next morning (and before 10AM as UPS had promised), my wife texted me with the following photo (she sent it because she too was incredulous).

I was really surprised that the TSA Lost and Found system was reliable and customer-focused. A story that started with my absent-minded error, had a happy ending. Thank you, TSA and UPS!

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