Could anything be more frightening than the thought of Russian service becoming as full of gushing smiles, how-can-I-help-yous and have-a-nice-days as the average California juice shop? We at the eXile believe that the final death blow to the Russian soul will come not from a glut of bad action films or rampant criminal capitalism, but rather from customer service hotlines. That’s why, when we heard that the world’s most notorious airline, Aeroflot, started up a special phone number for English-speaking customers who wanted to vent their complaints, we decided to act. Do they have any idea how annoying customer service can be? Now they will.
Posing as Ugly American businessman Sam Weiss, we called Aeroflot’s customer complaint hotline (752-9073) and unloaded a barrage of petty, annoying complaints on the innocent customer service helper.
eXile (in bad Russian): Hello, is this the Aeroflot complaint line? I read that you have a complaint hot line.
Aeroflot Hotline (in Russian): Do you have a complaint against us?
eXile: Yes, but I want to speak to someone in English. Don’t you have someone there who speaks English?
Aeroflot: Yes, just a moment. (pause, woman takes phone in heavily accented English) Yes hello.
eXile: Hello, what is your name?
Aeroflot: My name is Julia.
eXile: Julia. So this is the right number to call then.
Aeroflot: It’s telephone confidential, sort of like a hotline for Aeroflot, so you can complain, or…
eXile: Oh, I see. Good, okay. Well, I was recently on a flight, on the business class on a flight to London. And, uh, it was my first time on Aeroflot, and I see that you are trying to upgrade to the Western standard, you know, and I am very happy for that, but there are a few things that I wanted to register a complaint about. Uh, the first one is, well, you know you have those little towlettes. You know what I’m talking about? The little-the tiny, tiny little towlettes that you clean your hands with?
eXile: Well, I opened up the packet and it was kind of dry-ish.
Aeroflot (pause): Really?
eXile: And uh, you know, I’m not used to that. When I open up a towlette, I expect it to-
Aeroflot: Yeah, uh-huh.
eXile: I expect it to be wet. Is there something you can do about that?
Aeroflot: Well yeah, that’s good, that’s good. So, and what else?
eXile: Well, I don’t know. The towlettes, that was just one thing. (sighs loudly) Another thing… I don’t know how to say this, but… I think, well, some of your stewardesses didn’t speak English very well. At least this one particular stewardess didn’t speak English very well.
eXile: And basically the problem was this: You know, I’m an American.
eXile: And I expect a certain level of service as an American and I expect to be treated a certain way. And first of all, you know, I don’t think she really appreciated the fact that I’m an American. I kept telling her, “Excuse me, Miss, I’m an American”-
Aeroflot (concerned tone): Yeah-
eXile: “Please service me.” Do the stewardesses not recognize when somebody’s an American?
eXile: I don’t know, maybe she didn’t like Americans.
Aeroflot: No, no, no, it’s not that thing.
eXile: Then maybe she thought that I was, uh-
Aeroflot: Did she ignore you?
eXile: Well, yeah, maybe after about ten times, she, yeah, she ignored me. Maybe she thought I was annoying or something. Sometimes, you know, Europeans are like that. They think Americans are just loud, or whatever.
Aeroflot: Did she say something?
eXile: I just said, “I’m an American, and I want my service.” And she said, “Please, sir, wait a minute.” And I found that, you know, rude.
eXile: And another thing. She didn’t understand all the English. See, there was a woman next to me, and I’m sure it was her… I don’t know how to say this, but the woman next to me I’m sure was passing gas.
Aeroflot: Was what?
eXile: See, that’s just what the stewardess said! The stewardess also said ÒwhatÓ when I complained to her that the woman next to me was passing gas, and I asked to be moved. It’s a very simple request, you know. I asked to be moved to another seat, and they wouldn’t move me to another seat, they said it was already full, and… I’m SURE it was the woman next to me.
Aeroflot: Oh really.
eXile: I’m sure it was. Either that, or maybe it was the person behind me, or the person in front of me, or maybe it was even a stewardess-
Aeroflot: But why you have to move? There was no seats you say? You wanted to move?
eXile: I wanted to move because I thought the woman next to me was-
Aeroflot: Was smoking.
eXile: No, was passing gas.
Aeroflot: Was what?
eXile: See, that’s exactly what the stewardess said to me: “Was what?”
Aeroflot: You mean she was farting or something?
eXile: Yes! Exactly!
Aeroflot: No. (starts laughing)
eXile: So you think it’s funny? Now I’m embarrassed.
Aeroflot (stops laughing): No, it’s not funny when you’re flying somewhere.
eXile: No, it’s not funny at all because you’re stuck.
Aeroflot: So you asked the stewardess to take another seat, and she wouldn’t let you or what?
eXile: I’m sorry, it’s very embarrassing to talk about this.
Aeroflot: Oh yes, that’s all right.
eXile: But yeah, I asked to be moved to another seat. I mean uh, the smell was terrible.
Aeroflot: It’s really funny (suppressing laughter)-but it’s not funny when you’re flying for four hours.
eXile: Right! Because you’re flying four hours to London. You’re thinking about meetings. You have deals to do.
Aeroflot: (bursts out laughing)
eXile: So you’re laughing now?
Aeroflot (stops self): Okay, so you’re thinking about meetings-(laughs)
eXile: Well, I couldn’t think about my meetings because the smell was horrible.
Aeroflot: Okay, okay. Do you smoke?
eXile: No, I’m an American.
Aeroflot: It will help from anywhere.
eXile: You mean if you were the stewardess, you would have suggested lighting up a cigarette to counterbalance the smell.
eXile: But I’m an American. I don’t smoke.
Aeroflot: Yes, okay.
eXile: Anyway, she wouldn’t move me.
Aeroflot: So where’s the problem? I want to know where’s the problem, why not?
eXile: You know what I think? I think it’s because I’m American.
Aeroflot: Ah, no. Just because maybe they’re indifferent a little bit. Just because they said, “Oh it’s just-ah, you know.”
eXile: But how could they say that? You’re in a tiny little cabin, you know, and there’s just one cloud after another.
Aeroflot: Okay, well, I understand.
eXile: Can you guys do anything if I give you the flight information?
Aeroflot: Sure, sure. We’ll find the name of the woman.
eXile: Maybe you could give seminars on this kind of thing, what to do.
Aeroflot: Sure, we’ll work on that. If you’re ready, I’m writing this down.
eXile: You mean the exact flight information?
Aeroflot: Yeah, what date it was, the number…
eXile: It was last Wednesday’s flight to London, and I was in the business section. My name is Sam Weiss.
Aeroflot: Sam Weiss? It’s like Wice President?
eXile: No, it’s Weiss, as in you know, Weissman or Weissberg.
Aeroflot: Okay, uh-huh.
eXile: Well, I wish you the best of luck in your attempts to get up to the American standard of customer service.
Aeroflot (annoyed): All right, all right. Well, if you ever fly Aeroflot, please call us with your impressions, because we try to do anything we can.
eXile: Oh, thank you so much. And you guys will do something about the towelettes?
Aeroflot: Yeah, I’ll write that down. Okay, bye-bye.
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