Perhaps we're all a tad guilty of this sort of thing from time to time; giving the "customer service advisor" (which is not a job title, it's just a collection of words dreamt up by some plonker in a featureless desert of a head office) a full broadside because something's not quite gone as we would normally expect.
I have been on the receiving end of this sort of thing in my days as a ticket clerk on the railway and it was almost always because the customer-who-is-always-right had failed to get out of bed early enough, had missed their train and it was about to cost them a lot of money. After being shouted at, charging the absolute maximum was often a pleasure. (There's a lesson there, folks!)
To return to the point, we so often then fail to write that letter to senior management, praising the hygiene operative (see comment about job titles above) who stepped out of role to assist us in an unexpected and smile-inducing way.
Well, my story doesn't involve a ticketing or sales error; nor a smiley, helpful cleaner. All the above has merely been setting the scene for this all-but unforgivably delayed piece about, of all things, Brittany Ferries.
I've moaned a thousand and one times about the monopoly operator of cross channel services from Plymouth - especially about the appalling plastic tub they had built to operate the route. There are lots of things I don't like about Brittany Ferries - not least the fare levels (shocking) and the discomfort of endless looped videos on large screens which are unavoidable on the Armorique.
But here's the good bit - when Mrs The Millbrooker took Grandma Dong the Legend, Shazzerooneypoos and Jah Cousteau across to Brittany last month, I had an adventure. I had to leave work on the Wednesday, make my way to Millbay Docks, travel overnight on the ferry and then use French public transport to Trebrivan in order to meet up with the decorating crew.
I rang Brittany Ferries the night before departure to tell them I'm registered blind and ask if I could have some assistance to board the ferry, but more importantly at the other end to be guided through the ferry terminal in Roscoff to the bus stop outside from which I could continue my journey.
Here's what happened.
When I checked in at Millbay Docks, the clerk (note - not "customer care assistant manager"), was expecting me and asked if I needed help to get to the seats she wanted me to use to await my assistance. I didn't need that bit of help and plonked myself comfortably for twenty minutes or so until a fellow arrived and took me through all the boarding procedures before leading me onto the boat by the most direct route, avoiding steps and other hazards.This isn't the chap who escorted me, but he looked a bit like this in Hi-Vis stuff and this post is in desperate need of an illustration at this point.
My Millbay-Docks-based helper took me all the way to my cabin, carrying my bags and then helped me to negotiate the notoriously difficult-to-operate cabin door lock. He then very kindly walked off with my bags.
No panic - he returned within moments, realising the error and smiles were exchanged. I was bidden a good night and off he trogged.
It was the following morning in Roscoff when the Brittany ferries crew really shone.
After breakfast (I'm quite capable in a safe environment of finding my way around and sorting out eating arrangements), I realised that I had no idea where the foot passenger exit was on board. So I headed toward the information desk. I approached the desk from the deck above; there is a stairway which leads directly down in front of it.
Should ever you find yourself aboard the Armorique - the information desk (closed in this shot) is indicated by the carefully drawn arrow. What a helpful chap I am. "My" staircase is left of shot.
I'd only got half way down before the young lady behind the desk asked "Are you Mr The Millbrooker?" - actually, of course, she used my real name - but I wouldn't want to spoil the mystery of these pages.
A driver had been arranged to take me off the ferry (avoiding the hazard strewn walkways), but he might "be some time" as, being off season, staffing levels were low. I explained that my bus would leave in only 25 minutes and if I missed it my whole day would be badly affected.
She immediately collared two officers who were passing through the atrium at the time, commandeered them and off they trotted (and I mean "trotted") to get their passes which would allow them through passport control. They returned minutes later; one took my bag and my guitar (never travel without it), the other led me using the old crook-of-the-arm technique).
We passed into the terminal building - and here's the "exra mile" bit that management types go on about so much....
We were stopped by a call from behind the check-in and information desk - the young lady staffing the desk was on the phone to the bus company, making sure that my bus was both running and on time. So I wouldn't be left in the cool, slightly damp, October weather for any longer than necessary. It was running, and it was reported on time, so I was taken to the bus stop where I thanked my escorts and had only a few minutes to wait.
And so I owe a huge "thank you" to the staff and crew of Brittany Ferries who did more than follow any procedure - they saw a need, dealt with it and gave me a handsome send off on the rest of my adventure.
Well done, good people; I am genuinely grateful for the efforts made on my behalf and I apologise for being so tardy in saying so.
(A link to this article has been sent to Brittany Ferries customer service people along with a message of thanks - I hope both are passed on to the guys on the ground).
photos shamelessly nicked from...
angry man: heraldsun.com.au
The Armorique, Brittany Ferries vessel: consolsoils.co.uk
Brittany Ferries staff at Plymouth: brittanyholidaycottages.co.uk
Armorique Information Desk: bfenthusiasts.com
Gare Maritime: qype.co.uk
TER bus: ledauphine.com