Delta Comes Through!

Greetings everyone- First of all, I hope everyone has had an excellent holiday season. As a new year is upon us, let me say that being able to share this blog with you has been one of my highlights of 2010. And thanks to those of you who have been gently nudging me as I’ve been ‘slacking.’ Of course, I use that term loosely- I’ve been writing almost everyday, some days for hours on end, for a larger work to be released in 2011, not to mention working on two different albums (AST and Testament) for release next year and on tour much of the time. For all these reasons, its sometimes been hard to pull myself away and focus on a blog post. Of course, this blog is precious to me, as it is to so many of you so thanks for bearing with me during these ‘dry’ periods. In the meantime, for everyone who’s followed the soggy saga of my wet laptop, here’s a nice ‘end of the year’ story for you…

It’s not everyday one reads a story about a positive experience dealing with an airline. However, I’m pleased to report that one does exist. Although believing in this outcome felt like believing in Santa Clause or The Tooth Fairy, this story has a happy ending in the tradition of a classic holiday tale. Many have heard the famous words ‘Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause,’ right? Well, it gives me great pleasure to announce the following: ‘Yes America, there is customer care at Delta Airlines.”

Arriving home from tour the other week, I found, there in the pile of mail, a check from Delta covering the entire amount of a new Apple MacBook pro computer. I’d had to purchase this Mac immediately upon landing in LA after water had been spilled on mine by a flight attendant who, while pouring for a neighboring passenger, failed to take proper precaution. While this situation caused more internal stress than I can remember having in a long time, the outcome is a healthy reminder that the unexpected does happen and when it does, its best to just stay calm and deal with it in as focused a manner as possible.

I easily could have ‘lost it’ on that flight, but I’m glad I chose not to. The guy who spilled the water felt terrible and it wouldn’t have helped if I blew up at him. I did, very firmly say ‘This is bad. I know it was an accident, I know you didn’t mean for this to happen, but we have a big problem here. How are we going to deal with this?” I’m happy with how I handled it, and how he and the rest of the crew handled it, filing a report and giving me a reference number and phone number to call to determine the next steps to take.

I can’t say that the next phase was easy. There was a lot of work to do and time spent filing the claim, stating my case in a letter, gathering up the appropriate receipts, estimates and other documents. It was difficult to get someone on the phone to assist with the process. And then there was a long waiting period.

So while I think Delta could really use some work fine tuning its procedure for resolving incidents like this, not to mention is automated system and processing time, I’m pleased with the ultimate outcome. And I will say, that whenever I was dealing with a live person I felt I was in good hands. In fairness, this situation has been resolved since November, I’d just been away on tour until December and haven’t been able to write about it until now.

Shortly after opening the envelope with the check (and jumping for joy), I noticed a letter from Delta Customer Care Baggage Claims which had arrived a few days prior. It read:

Dear Mr. Skolnick:

We are sorry to learn that you encountered a problem with your laptop while traveling with us recently.

Every precaution is taken to have a passenger’s items arrive on the same flight and in the same condition as when it was checked into our care. We normally succeed with few exceptions, and it is unfortunate that we were unable to meet your expectations on this occasion.

Accordingly, our check for $2,000.00 representing the value of your property as stated in your claim will be mailed under separate cover.

We are doing everything we can to eliminate such incidents, and thank you for taking the time to write of your experience, for this is one of the best ways we have to know which areas need additional attention. Please give us the opportunity to serve you better the next time you travel.


Linda Blier
Claims Manager
Customer Care Baggage Claims

She needn’t worry. Although I plan to take extra care myself to make sure my laptop is never in the line of fire (or rather, line of water), I do plan to keep flying Delta and am happy to recommend others do as well.

If I could have this situation happen all over again, would I? No- simply because of the stress. But lo and behold, some good has come of all this: I have a brand new laptop, which in truth, I like much better. The keyboard is better for typing, the size better for traveling and the updated features are a serious improvement over my previous one. I also learned a lot from the experience. Learning is always a good thing.

And of course, I got a great story out of it. I’m happy about that, especially now that it has a happy ending.

38 Responses to Delta Comes Through!

  1. Glad there was a happy outcome Alex, unfortunately Joe Bonamassa didn't have much luck with Delta this year, they snapped the neck of his beloved Les Paul used at the Albert Hall gig on his way to Australia. Happy New Year, look forward to your new book? And recordings.

    • Joe’s a great player and good guy, he and I did a jam together for folks at NAMM a couple years back. Sounds like he almost got charged for overweight baggage on Delta (you have to be very strategic with check-in weight these days. but was saved by his cases, but in fairness, its not clear that it was Delta who broke the guitar. Thx for sharing.

    • Joe’s a great player and good guy, he and I did a jam together for folks at NAMM a couple years back. Sounds like he almost got charged for overweight baggage on Delta (you have to be very strategic with check-in weight these days) but was saved by his cases, but in fairness, its not clear that it was Delta who broke the guitar. Either way, thx for sharing!

  2. well that's very cool to know ! i'm glad you got the check and new iMac ! Happy New Year Alex , See you soon !
    @ Jon: it's true what you said, but it wasn't his les paul, it was musicman guitar (John Petrucci signature) the one that got broken while being shipped from Israel back to the states …

    “The original Musicman Petrucci model was “altered” ie made into a Stienberger guitar on its was to Tel Aviv last year. Musicman fixed the guitar for me and now is in the collection. Its the one from the Albert Hall DVD. All those guitars are pretty special to me. Two of them in a year have been broken.. Not such a good statistic.. Thanks to A and S cases I have solved the problem. plus they weigh 49.9 pounds all in.. It was great to see the look on Delta airlines faces when they thought they were gonna get a extra 100 bucks out of me. cool
    Joe B”


    • Thanks and Happy New Year. Joe's story reminds of something that happened to me. I had one of my Heritage solidbody guitars (pre-signature model) get damaged courtesy of Spain's Iberian Airlines. Dealing with their bureaucracy while overseas was more trouble than its worth. Heritage will fix it, anytime, I just have to pass through Kalamazoo with it. In the meantime it still plays. So if you see any pictures from the last few years of me playing a 'tobacco burst' colored Heritage, take a good look at the switch, it looks like a broken mirror, lol

      • Sure wish I would know when you were going to be in Kazoo! I grew up near there and actually worked in the same building that Heritage is in (Richard Allen Scientific). We did meet one time at a autograph signing in Grand Rapids with TSO. I think it was the first time TSO was there. I was the last guy in line and in a wheelchair. Like you would remember!!!!!!! LOL

  3. Great to hear that this worked out for you!

    I hope that some of your future writing will talk about your process of learning jazz. You briefly talked about it in previous post ( the struggles to understand even that stage of the style). I went to college and studied music but then went to a different career path (insurance) and now in my free time, going back to re-learn some of my old stuff and to develop some new skills. I am sure that people would like to hear what your early years of jazz and maybe even metal develop was like – what were the struggles and what was easy.
    I looking forward to the AST coming back to MN ( I had my tickets in hand when it was canceled). I can't wait for the new CD in 2011. I have been listening to the trio stuff along with the Sko-patrol CD for years!
    Chris Pokladnik

    • Oh yes, there's going to be a lot about that, at some point.. In the meantime definitely check out my 'Jazz Guitar instruction video (link on the home page), it has everything I wished someone had shown me. There will be lots of writing about learning jazz at some point, but my first book will focus more on learning the guitar, breaking through barriers and some crazy stories from the past.

  4. Thats great, I'm glad it worked out for you.
    I flew on Delta for my trip to NYC last week. While on the way to Tampa to catch my flight to NYC Delta called to tell me my flight was delayed 2 hrs.. When I arrived at the gate to check in they changed my seat from 21A to 1A for waiting so long.That was quite an unexpected surprise.Then I was thrilled that my overbooked flight home left sunday morning on time before the snow hit the fan,it had just started to snow as I sat in my seat.

    • Cool. I know Delta's not perfect, but its good to hear another story about them doing the right thing. Sounds like you dodged a bullet, I mean blizzard…

  5. in all fairness and truth. They likely were motivated to do this by looking at your purchases with them, they may even possibly know who you are. Although I wouldn't expect Delta to be that cool! The poor attendant may have been reprimanded or even let go. That is the reality of the world for the little guy.

    • You might be right. But whatever it was, this was the right thing. It wouldn't have been fair for me to have to eat the costs. The guy told me he'd been working there 20 yrs without a spill. I'm sure it's on his record but I doubt he'd be let go. I hope not. It is possible they Googled me, you never know, although I didn't say anything about being a musician.

  6. Happy Holidays – I know that you dont celebrate xmas, cuz you´re Jewish, but with all this snow on NY, reserve a time for yourself and enjoy !

    That´s good that your “wet history” was a happy end and not a “Delta drama” , on final was good for you, with new laptop. In your next fly, use diving suit and take care lol !!!!

    • Yes, wet suit, for sure! I do enjoy and appreciate Xmas, I'm, to quote a new favorite writer of mine (AJ Jacobs):

      ''I”m Jewish like the Olive Garden is Italian”

  7. All's well that ends well then :). Something I'm surprised you didn't reflect on maybe, given your age (and mine I hasten to add!) is how much these days, the more tools and technology we have access to, the more stress is caused when it goes wrong or we're denied it ~ although obviously even our “old” means of communication ie pen and paper would've got soaked lol. Happy 2011 Alex! 🙂

    • Good observation. Someone else, I forget who, recently pointed out that technology has made the world smaller, things happen faster, we have more access to information, in general its given us more freedom and convenience than we've ever had at any point in history. Yet are we any happier as a society? No. We're more embittered, malcontent, unsatisfied and divided than we've ever been! I found that really fascinating.

      • That's so true. I think technology (the Internet) has been detrimental to our social skills too. Just look at how many people do the majority of their “socializing” online. Don't get me wrong; I love the Internet and I use social networking sites, but I still prefer face-to-face socializing. Maybe that's just because of my age (I'm not far behind you). 🙂

  8. So glad everything turned out well for you… Nice to know that sometimes bad events go the right way.. Hope to see and hear you play soon!
    Happy new Year:)

  9. That's a REALLY cool thing Alex, but ya might wanna black out the check numbers in the picture–just sayin'!

    • That check's already cashed. Don't even think about it! Funny timing, as I just saw 'Catch me if you can' which is about check forging. Great film.

  10. Amazing Alex! simply Amazing! I wonder if your famous blog had anything to do with it? Hmm, so much to be thankful for; all planes carry very precious cargo.

    May your site bring your friend Joe Bonamassa luck as well…
    :)Amazing New Year 1.1.11

    • As I said earlier, you never know. Of course, I would have been all over it if they screwed me. But, as it turns out they stepped up and did the right thing, so its only fair to announce that as well. Sounds like Joe's got a system down with those new cases…

  11. Wow Alex, I am so happy for you because I think I would have had a coronary had something like this happened to me. I guess that would be stemming from the aspect of possibly losing all the data on the drives in addition to the device itself that would have sucked the most. Kudos to you for keeping calm, and getting it resolved to your satisfaction. I will remember this story when dealing with customer service dramatics of my own, should such things come up in 2011. I cannot wait to read the larger work you speak of and also to hear some new Trio material and Testament. Happy New Year, keep on rocking.

    • Thanks KP. I guess there are many lessons here. Don't have a coronary it's not worth it. Stay calm and work for a positive outcome. And most importantly, ALWAYS BACK UP YOUR DATA!

  12. Glad to hear of the positive ending Alex. Especially, since you chose to handle it in a calm manner rather than spew forth a storm of words that would have only spilled more bad feelings on the situation, and, your reaction revealed a dignity within that would be unobserved. While in life a little rain must fall (or beverages) it's good to keep our emotions in check and handle with care and patience for more sustainable growth and development. I had a car stolen once and realized the importance of staying positive and being reliant on customer service. Beyond the hassle, it ended well with a better replacement too. Changing conditions are a guarantee in life, and, we don't always arrive with the same baggage (emotional or otherwise) as much as Delta and others claim. To preserve ourselves and the business of everyday living, it's important to place value on the customer/others and apply empathy and understanding. This approach helps provide the best solutions that can result in a quality finish and shining reputation. Nice to end the year with a good outcome too. May you have a Very Very Happy New Year!!!

    • You're absolutely right. We board these plans with enough baggage as it is, physical and otherwise. There's a great, funny book I mentioned a while back 'Everything Hurts' by Bill Scheft. It's about a self-help guru (who's actually a quack) that comes up with all these theories about 'baggage.' Claiming your baggage, stowing your baggage, excess baggage etc… Highly recommended. I once had a car stolen too, a flashy but impractical gas guzzler.The thief did me a huge favor by taking it off my hands, causing me to grow up. Story to be told soon….

  13. So refreshing to see an airline taking accountability for their actions and making it right. I guess at least one of them really is trying!

    • Yes. It's amazing the amount of positive energy doing the right thing sends out. Hopefully more airlines will learn, god knows there have been enough airline horror stories this year. So glad I wasn't on Cathay Pacific during the blizzard…

  14. glad it worked out for you alex,,happy endings are always a blessing,,,i still wonder about the tragic loss for chris caffery when his les paul guitar was stolen,,whoever stole it deserves to be punished,,did he ever get it back i wonder?,,,,i think about it all the time & hope a happy ending for him as well,,,may 2011 be am awesome year for all of you in TSO,,i can't wait to see what is planned next..god bless & HAPPY NEW YEAR

    • Yes, that was such a shame about Chris' guitar. He hasn't gotten it back yet. My friend Rob Flynn of Machine Head had a couple guitars stolen recently, including one given to him by Dimebag. Hope both those guys get their guitars back.

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