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California Screaming

, , , , , , | Working | July 18, 2019

In the late 80s, I worked in Ventura, California, in a satellite office for a large company. My direct boss was in the San Francisco Bay area and I flew up once or twice a month. The best airport for the trip was just north of Santa Barbara, California, about 45 miles from my house. For several months, I used a startup shuttle service that delivered door-to-door for a reasonable price. I was always happy with the service until one bad experience.

I was returning home after a two-day meeting and had landed in Santa Barbara at 6:00 pm. With only carry-on luggage, I was able to get off the plane fast and found my driver; I was looking forward to being home before seven to read stories to my kids and have a late dinner with my wife. But it wasn’t to be.

The driver told me we were going to pick up another passenger whose plane was due to land at 6:45. That delay would have been bad enough, but it got worse. Her plane was late, she had checked luggage, and we weren’t actually in the car until after 7:30. Then, when we were about halfway to my house, the driver turned off the freeway to go to Ojai, California. On the map, it doesn’t look like much distance, but it was by a back road and slow. Plus, her destination was at the far side of the town. All told, the wait and detour got me home over two hours later than I’d expected, and I was not happy.

I called the service the next day to complain and was promised a callback. When that didn’t happen for two days, I called again with the same result. Eventually, I finally talked to the owner over a week later. Had she been prompt in replying and at least apologetic, perhaps explaining there were financial circumstances that led to the events, I could have accepted it and moved on. But she wasn’t. I told her that I and my nine direct reports would not be using her service again.

We also had over 100 total employees in the office, all of whom went to the Bay Area with differing frequencies, and many of whom used the car service. At a Monday meeting of all people in the building, I gave my experience as a cautionary tale and let them take it from there. I don’t know what direct effect that had, but I do know that the service was out of business a year later.

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