Resolution to the Alaska Airlines Situation

OK, final update on the Alaska Airlines sitch. Last week was nice, not talking about it and not blogging about it. So when I got a voice mail from the Americas SVP at Menzies (Alaska Air's contractor) last Friday, I was hoping it was coming to some kind of resolution and it has. First, let me say that the voice mail from this gentleman sounded sincerely apologetic. He used the word "hideous" to describe my experience several times in the message. That type of corporate contrition is much appreciated and it makes a difference. The Alaska Airlines folks were apologetic, but one of them told me that perhaps the note was meant for someone else. Hopefully he realizes why he shouldn't have said that (especially after I asked "what difference does it make?"). To be clear, the note was not received by me as flattery.

Anyway, it seems that Menzies, through their investigation, has determined that only one person handled my bag during the gate check and that person no longer works for them. Don't ask me about the investigation and how it was carried out. I don't know. I'm not a crime fighter, just a creeped out customer. I'm comfortable that they did the proper due diligence to determine that it was the right person. All involved seemed to be taking it seriously.

Do I feel better? A little. Wish it had not happened in the first place and I don't take pleasure in someone losing their job, even if it was because he did something really stupid that I reported. He should have known better but obviously he didn't and I find that a little sad. Anyway, it's over.

Comments (23)

  1. RobertWrayUK says:

    Kudos to Menzies and Alaska Airlines for, from what you’ve described, handling the situation so well. It may’ve taken them a while, but at least that indicates that they’ve taken the time to investigate thoroughly and make sure that they’ve got the right person.

    And, kudos to you as well. There aren’t many people I know who would’ve handled a situation like this so well!

    (Looks like kudos is my word of the day here!)

  2. HeatherLeigh says:

    Robert-not a bad word of the day ; ) Thanks for the nice words!

  3. A-Nonymous says:

    Nice to know theres a resolution to the situation. I am sure they have instituted new policies and processes as a result. Any thought as to where you will go on your free flight?

  4. ScottPriestley says:


    I’m so sorry you had to go through this.  I am betting that you have plenty of things in in your life that are stressful enough without things like this!  Thanks for sharing it so we lend support and an empathetic ear.

    – SP

  5. HeatherLeigh says:

    A-nonymous…maybe something warm and exotic. I’ve been to Mexico recently, but maybe Hawai’i. It definitely will not be someplace cold! Truth be told, I’m not sure when I would use it but you never know.

    Scott-the only real stress in my life is insomnia. I’m generaly not a stressed-out kind of person. I sure appreciate the sympathetic ear though!

  6. Rick says:

    Part 1

    Heather –

    Heather’s Completely False Premise and Analysis

    I enjoy your blogging and writing,  and appreciate the time you spend  and the information.  I don’t think anyone who reads your well written blog doubts that you are a "real person "  and a very good one as is your blog,  so the comments below are not personal but the empathy is.    I am not making these comments without sensitivity to what was a very unnerving situation and an invasive one, and I want to make it clear that I am way in MSFT’s corner and a heavy supporter in spirit and time,  but  since you made the issue of the note in  your luggage  customer service, and how a large company handles their customers, you evoked some thoughts  comparing MSFT  with Heather’s quest at Alaskan Airlines/Menzies  for "them"  to "do the right thing" when their personnel may not  have remotely been involved.  

    I think the vast majority people understand why and how this note impacted you and any of us can empathize.  Someone invaded your luggage and mentioned something in the note that has intimate connotations who doesn’t know you.  I fixed my car once; rented another, parked it down the street and woke up to two guys in my house who had picked a lock when they presumed no one was there early in the A.M.  They ran, and left an amazing array of burglary tools on my living room floor.  For a long time after that the sense of “violation” of my space was consuming when I thought about it.

    All of your "resolution" is distorted perception and based on your faulty assumptions. Anyone who has sold you that they "determined" (the yuppie upscale spin on the words "found out")—do you determine if you get an undergrad degree but find out if you don’t? that your bag was handled by one person has really sold a naive, gullible Heather with no insight to how a commercial airport works in 2006 a huge bill of goods. You fail to understand that in an airport, the person who does the gate check is hardly  the only one with access to your bags.  Handwriting analysis, fingerprinting, DNA, the presumed employee’s admission of guilt?  Probably none of those things happened.  In the local airport which is one of the largest in the country, a broad number of people have been caught stealing items from luggage since DHS/TSA brought their dog and pony show in.

    This includes ordinary people who walked right through security, a large number of federal TSA employees, and assorted categories of people who do and don’t work for any contractor in the airport.

    “To be clear” as you say,  no one with an IQ of 3 would think the intention of the note was "flattery."  The dynamics in the person who placed the note are probably best characterized as driven by getting it into your luggage and upsetting you–and they might never even have seen you.  You’ll remain equally oblivious and blind to that fact as well as the fact that the placement of the note could have been done by a female.


    All of your blogging in respect to this note  is based on a ridiculously faulty premise.  Unfortunately you seem incapable of gaining the insight to understand it.   You have no way of knowing given your information to date, that anyone who was an employee of Menzies was the only one who could have had access to your luggage in the airport and placed that note.  You have no evidence anyone admitted it, or that Menzies proved their employee had anything to do with your note.  No one would ask you about "the investigation" and how it was carried out because you don’t even know in fact if there was one.

    Someone said words to you that gave you the illusion that someone paid a price for something that someone did.  You don’t know that they have, and you just will never understand that scores of people will always have access to your luggage in an airport when it is checked.  So you have no way to know if a) the person hypothetically referenced had anything to do

    You don’t know what the SVP at Menzies actually did.  You don’t know they fired anyone, and more importantly you don’t have a clue that anyone you or they allude to had anything to do with the note you received.” Taking it seriously" doesn’t establish any of these things.  You don’t know and are blind to understanding that literally thousands of people could have accessed your bag besides anyone who worked for Menzies.  Your assumption of "due diligence" leaves a lot to Heather’s active imagination.  Due diligence would start with your insight that scores of people had access to your luggage in that airport and will in the future if you don’t put it on the plane.

    You don’t know that anyone who worked for Menzies had anything whatsoever to do with the note you received.You haven’t exercised minimal deductive reasoning here.

    You don’t have a clue that “due dilligence," and more importantly what legally was done correctly or not done at all.

  7. Rick says:

    Part 2

    Now that your cascade of faulty premises have "determined" that "it’s over" how about a hint of corporate contrition from MSFT  for a much more systemic customer abuse than that single note you perceive to be from some company employee, and let’s hear what concrete plans MSFT has toward correcting  the perennial mistreatment significant abuse of their customers–the ones who pay Heather’s salary and her bills.

    A Tale of Two Companies:  How Bleak the House can Get (Apologies to Charles Dickens)

    Hopefully,  your concern for invasion of privacy will  channel toward the MSN personnel named below who shook this country with their  deliberate lack of transparency for months that is now a hot topic of the media, your customer base, and scores of MSFT employee bloggers.  Microsoft Press should have posted each and every event that happened with the first subpoena to MSFT which  in fact demanded every piece of info on your customers who made any use of ,,  or http://www.msn.comNot one individual from MSFT who has addressed this at  your own meetings has been explicit or forthcoming in any detail that would respect customers in recounting this revelation delayed by  months.   Brad Smith crafted some bobbing and weaving PR driven statement that fell far short of transparency. Dr. Gary Flake at MSN Search knew full well that DOJ didn’t’ need your customer’s searches for anything remotely resembling their reasons, but you all capitulated and lied to customers for nine months while you did it.

    You wrote more than once: " Like I said, it’s about how companies handle this kind of stuff and I’ll blog about that further."  Let’s talk about that. Let’s compare a company called Microsoft with Alaskan Airline/Menzies who has not been identified as having anything to do with your experience to date. As bright and accomplished as you are, your posts indicate it hasn’t dawned on you the wide variety of people who had access to do this who aren’t anywhere near employees of the airline.  Contractors and government contractors and government abounds at that airport, just as they do on the Redmond campus.  The "they" you keep invoking could be from a broad spectrum of companies associated with airline passenger or cargo transport or not at all.  I fail to see how you know you "saw him."  Heather many people had access to that suitcase once it deplaned.  You have no clue that you "saw him."

    Let’s get to the heart quickly of one of the major ways your company who makes Windows operating systems among hundreds of other software products has the lowest regard for many of its customers and   MSFT makes some huge mistakes that leave their customers on the very short end of the stick.  The masses aren’t collaberating with your Product Managers and engineers in their workplace, and are saddled with the worst possible customer support.

    You mentioned a royal screwing up Heather,  so I’ll show you one of the hugest screw ups  conferred by MSFT in partnership with OEMs on millions of your customers.    This is a topic not one MSFT employee has ever wanted to discuss with me from the top to mid management.  MSFT makes operating systems and in deep collaboration with scores of OEM hardware/PC companies these computer companies sell boxes that are marked up from 500-100%.  The OS is a huge cash cow for Dell, HP, Sony, Toshiba, and Gateway, Notebook,, Laptop Tablet and PDA makers.  It doesn’t take a Nobel Prize winner to understand that more boxes sold mean more MSFT software sold and vice-versa.  Note this projection from Mary Jo Foley’s sit Microsoft Watch:

    Microsoft Is Counting Its Vista Chickens

    Microsoft has some lofty goals for Windows Vista. In the first 24 months the product is shipping, company officials are expecting to have it preloaded on 200 million PCs worldwide. They are counting on the new release making substantial inroads with the Windows 2000 customer base. And they believe they can gain traction with as-yet-untapped emerging markets throughout the world. Read Microsoft’s laundry list of business reasons Windows execs are so bullish about Vista.

    What isn’t planed for those 200 million Vista on the PC customers Heather, is any reaonsable means for them to have any tool with efficacy to recover.  That’s why they will receive worthless recovery disks instead of genine XP disks.  And nearly all of them won’t be smart enough to tell the OEM–you want to sell me a several thousand dollar pc, then you supply me with Windows XP as you and MSFT are legally mandated to do. (MSFT end run the laws requiring a means of recovery to be supplied by allowing the OEM to ship worthless "recovery disks" that rarely ever work.

  8. Rick says:

    Part 3

    One comment you made I want you to think about is that "Alaska Airlines *is* responsible. The contractor was acting as as agent of the airline and anything he does as part of his employment is done on behalf of the airline." Again, Heather we do not know that Alaska, or any of their contractors, like Menzies did this.  It’s possible for anyone to wander into secured areas in airports and a lot of publicized and classified reports have underscored this.  In the largest airport traffic wise in the U.S. right now, testers under cover from DHS were able to gain access right off the street  to the ostensibly "most secure" areas by simply walking in.

    But let’s apply that to Microsoft.  Microsoft is responsible for their contractors.  You proposed an experiment of the guy whispering that message into a female colleague’s ear in the work place to see how that played out.  I propose this one Heather.  Listen in on a hypothetical call I make with a gamut of Windows problems to your Indian outsourced PSS at Convergys and see how that plays out.  Listen to the often impossible accent and more importantly so this isn’t construed as any hint of bias, the objective fact that they don’t know Windows basics and your contractors are held out as support  and even call themselves MSFT instead of Convergys.   We are the ones who have to clean up their messes everyday and PR for your company on  a number of MSFT newsgroups/chat when we volunteer to do so in a high quality way for free.  We are the ones who have to navigate the horrendous search on that still exists despite Gary Flake’s coming on  board as a Distinguished Scientist a few months ago at MSN.

    Heather when will you be ready to hold MSFT responsible for some of your PSS Contractor’s horrendous and often abrasive performances in failing to suport your customers who pay a substantial amount of money for your software?  Are you ready to publish the names of the Executive level who make the Convergys choice year after year with no clue as to what gets said on the phone that doesn’t closely resemble support and could hardly be understood by many of your callers?  Who makes the decision to use Convergys of Cinncinnaiti Ohio as MSFT’s sole contact for millions  of  world wide customers.  And Heather I can show you abundant complaints right now from your customers outside the US as well about their access to and quality of product support.

    One of their favorite phrases at Bangalore and New Delhi and other PSS centers MSFT outsourcers to because it is dirt cheap,  is "okay" no matter what the question.  And please teach your minimum wage contractor about the non-deletable admin.  account in Safe Mode on an XP or Vista box because that escapes them.  Please teach them some Office basics as well.  Even if they grasped them and they don’t, the thick accent often makes it impossible to understand them for those of  us who make a career of listening to people who speak broken English in crucial situations.  It’s one thing to have an international company of an eclectic array of people who are well trained professionals with a wide array of talents and diversity.  It’s another to shove minimum waged butts in seats at the unwitting home and small business customers who are hardly “tech support professionals” and it is equivalante to sticking people who sweep at McDonald’s to treat trauma in a hospital ER. MSFT does precisely that.  That’s quintessentially what outsourced Convergys of Ohio PSS is and does.   They are poorly trained, erratic, contractors that your company shoves at people who buy boxes of Office, XP,and other software expecting professional support episodes and ending up with crap.  It is never explained to the vast majority of Windows and Office users that that OEM PC sold to them for their hard earned money has no repair mechanism with any backup because MSFT and the OEMs are too cheap to arrive at a price point to get those customers an genuine XP retail CD with their expensive hardware.  They make  that discovery when they come to those of us who help them on groups and chats and we have to explain what they have and don’t have as tools that are written about in Chapter 28 by your teams that own that part of XP and now Vista.

    You wrote: "For the same reasons, if you royally screw up at work and cause damages to a customer of your employer’s, the customer can sue your employer."  Heather, your Convergys and other contractors who do phone support (they also support many aspects of product development and Beta testing communication as you well know) can sometimes take "royally screwing up" to an exponentially high level.

    I want to be quick to underscore that if Brad Smith, MSFT VP and General Counsel and his staff or any of the attorneys who sign the chain of class action settlements for MSFT were  general counsel at Alaskan Airlines, you would be getting a letter regretting your unfortunate experience, but also an explicit denial of any responsibility for this incident given that there’s not a scintilla of evidence legally that Alaskan is involved, a fact quickly overlooked by you and your commenter’s.  This is not meant to be lacking in empathy or concern for you personally, but just to point out that as a factual matter, nothing implicates that Airline and very probably nothing ever will.

    1) I  Don’t claim to be prescient or analytical enough to know  the dynamics in the equation of "what this is about"

    for the author sharing this  inappropriate message with you.

    2) On it’s face though, the fact pattern carries no proof that the author of the inappropriate note was an employee of Alaska Airlines or that whomever  alleged that he or she  "like[s] your butt" is not anyone who picked up an ubiquitous, ectopic "pet carrier tag" on the floor at the airport despite the surface appearance.  It takes a nanosecond to realize that a gamut of contractors or just by-standers in that airport could have written that note and slipped it in your luggage, and particularly government employees for TSA/DHS have to be high on the list of possibilities.  The author certainly could have been female  and not a "he" or am I just imagining what I see if I go out on the street?

    The naiveté of some commenter’s who are "sure they can track down" whoever was responsible and that it has to be the airline is a mirror of the indifference and total lack of insight  of a public and the lap dog media,  who accepts invasion of their privacy in the form of wire taps, key logging by Homeland Security, Magic Lantern, Echelon,  and now we know MSN Search, and a government who says can do anything they like including an *original order* to MSFT to turn over *every* nano-molecule of private information they have on their customers who registered in good faith.

    It is also naive to point out this is a "security issue" when in fact next to nothing has been done to any screen cargo that goes in the belly of either airline or passenger transport and this has been  well documented and acknolwedged by Mike Chertoff at DHS/TSA.   A gamut of people also have legal access to your luggage besides TSA and Alaskan airlines who are contractors to them just as Volt, and Kelly contract with MSFT.  

    The vast majority of recommendations of the 911 Commission in fact have been ignored by the gang who couldn’t shoot straight with respect to New Orleans, Homeland Security, or Avian Flu not to mention spreading democracy that seats terrorist governments as each election takes place.

    Yusuf Mehdi and Mike Nash have declined to reveal  in a straight forward manner what was actually requested and what was actually given–and given that  Dr. Gary Flake on board makes it even more ludicrous that MSFT would comply with any  façade of a government request.  There was zero transparency on this from MSFT for months.  You alluded to "apathy", and   the lack of transparency that was revealed last week that evoked complaining blogs from a number of MSFT employees who also raised  the issues in the cafeteria meeting last week with Bill and Steve where there were less than transparent answers push the envelop as to apathy, particularly toward MSFT’s customers and their information provided to MSFT in good faith.  This will forever make all of us feel "invaded" and impact trust.  MSFT and MSN Red West’s customers are not an "apathetic bunch who expect to be treated poorly but they were."

    There were very few stories on   illegal domestic wire tapping in the U.S.,   or  about MSN Search turning over info to DOJ secretly for months last week when the stories broke in the Washington Post and the New York Times or the Seattle papers for that matter, but the day the  story about Monica’s blue dress broke, those papers had triple the number of reporters, stories and words.

    3)  Even if you deployed the now discredited FBI Forensics team in D.C., (some of whose lab personnel are now in prison for purjuring themselves and faking finger print evidence in high profile federal court cases in the last 3 years, including Martha Stewart’s in the Southern District of New York), the felt tip could be from anywhere.  I suppose it could be possible to monitor the areas where you got the pink ticket and try to find a felt tip user, but I’m not even sure Calleigh Duquesne (Emily Procter) and her homies on  CSI Miami could nail the actual pen user to the note.

    I )have no doubts that the airline will apologize profusely to you in a very litigation driven landscape that MSFT’s Brad Smith knows well,  knowing that the note may not have been written by any of their personnel and could have just as easily been penned by anyone in the airport including an employee of the state, local, or federal government.   They will at least be apologizing for your experience which is probably an outgrowth of a format of expression the author did not resolve in grade school and carries with them in their adult life.

    4) You did not describe the content of the "several phone calls" to Alaskan Airlines or whether you realized this may not be an airline employee at all.  I would point out to Charlie that if in fact that phone number were real, and it probably isn’t, the last appropriate thing you should do is to call it.

    5)   Given the unlikely event that the airline or you  could ever proove one  of their employees wrote the note, what exactly do you consider "the right thing" that Alaska Airlines should do for you?  Would it be free travel, perks,  and lifetime access to their VIP Lounge; some swag; an impassioned letter of apology  crafted that adamantly conveys that this is consummately eggrregious behavior on the part of "someone" who was in the airport?  There is tons of great swat at the Sundance film festival for movie stars. Something like that?  Free Movados, Manolo Bhlaniks or Jimmy Choos?  You’re holding Alaskan Airlines responsible for behavior that occured in the airport, but it’s a quantum leap to assume it was at their hand Heather.

    6) No doubt since the note was in your bag, you know about the level of the high rate of theft in baggage (particularly of high dollar items) by TSA employees who are along with their parent DHS (Homeland Security) one of Microsoft’s biggest clients. This has been written about extensively in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA, Chicago and Seattle papers and hundreds of others.  A relative of a high government official was recently caught on video tape doing just this a few months ago at  our airport who was a federal employee of TSA.  So in fact Heather, this note could have easily been written by one of your company’s client’s employees.

    7) You say that this is also "about marketing.. that plenty could be learned about handling customer issues", and that "What I want to talk about is how a company handles something like this. We’ve all seen blog posts about customer complaints and what companies do (or don’t do) to address them.

    That said, this is an excellent time then to parallel how MSFT your company handles "customer issues" and to showcase the point that most MSFT customer issues are handled by those of us who support your product via newsgroups for no pay, no thanks and no acknowledgement whatsoever who know your company isn’t as arrogant as the people we help say they are.  (MSFT is embarking on a $125 million dollar ad campaign right now aside from the massive Vista and Office 12 campaigns to stress what a warm, fuzzy, personable international company they really are despite the fact that their millions of PSS calls are outsourced and contracted to a wretchedly performing mega-company called Convergys of Ohio with minimum wage poorly trained personnel centered in Canada and India.

    Let’s talk about this issue you say is your prime focus for a moment.  If a small buisness user or a home user has a problem with Windows XP, Vista on RTM, Blackcomb aka Vienna aka "stay tuned" ,Office 11 or 12, or another software that sells in less volume than those,  unlike your ease in contacting Alaskan Airlines, contacting MSFT is not going to happen for them.  Consider their options.  If they email via say or one of the many pages for contact on they will be lost in a sea of 8.5 plus million emails received by MSFT per day. They can post on one of MSFT’s public, OEM, or Partner newsgroups for the subset of the population that even knows about them, but even with pressing issues when service packs don’t install for volumes of users, there is often little or no direct response from MSFT employees.  I could show you a gamut of examples that are occuring this moment.  If they pick up the phone, with a small number of licesnses or one box of a MSFT product, or one X-Box 360, ect. they are not going to be talking to a MSFT employee, but they are going to be talking to a large company whose footprint is deliberate indifference.  That would be Convergys of Ohio Heather, and a large volume of the calls will be outsourcced to Indian call centers. Unlike the Microsoft Research presence in India, the vast majority of the personnel who field these calls don’t know many of the basics of Windows or Office, and their English is unintelligible to most people.

    8) Were you able to actually reach Alaskan Airlines, and could you understand their English, and did they know what an airport and a plane and a pet ticket were, in keeping the analagy to the MSFT contractor Convergys that the public is forced to deal with?  Convergs is also deployed widely by Comcast, Symantec, and many other companies because they are cheap with minimal or no regard to quality control.  When someone can’t find their admin account in Windows Heather, most of your collegues at the Redmond campus wouldn’t advise to "format the box."  That’s precisely  what MSFT’s contact to the public does however. Given this set of circumstances for support Heather, particularly when the bell shaped curve of users are not that sophisticated with a PC, software, or hardware how would you do a head on comparison of MSFT to Alaska Airlines in the area of "doing the right thing" for their customer?

    In addition, as you’re well aware, MSFT systemically and extensively deploys armies of  outsourced contractors to deal with their customers.  Your phone calls with Mensies were with a SVP (senior vice president) but MSFT’s phone calls take place a rude, untrained, Convergys Employee contracted  by MSFT because although they want your dollars, they are loath to deal with the masses like Heather.  This is the Microsoft customer service model.  They often talk through the customer and the bell shaped curve of them know next to nothing about Windows and Office.

    Do you understand, Heather,  who really  does the volume of  quality support for MSFT products 24 hours per day, 7 days a week?  Do you understand who  evangelizes for you and promotes your company and makes it possible to fix and use your products at a considerably more sophisticated level than your contractors who handle PSS for a company who Mary Jo Foley and Stephen Bink say is about to spend $125 million to have Wegner-Edstrom circulate the concept that Microsoft is not a large U.S. Company, but rather an international company "sensitive" to their customers who made the 5% quarterly profit possible when the bell closed the NYSE on a couple weeks ago with MSFT rising 3% to $27.50.  They are free volunteers who work their butts—remember the term—off and never get a blink of thanks.  We are the ones who deal with the issues that should have but didn’t get fixed as beta bugs, even when some of us took the time for example to sit down with members of the SP2 team and warn them about bugs unfixed in May 2004 only to see them RTM.

    9)  The people who do the support and work  for Microsoft that you are now repeatedly calling Alaskan Airlines to do are those of us who spend hours helping people with  the under the hood technical aspects your products and diffusing their misconceptions and lack of knowledge of MSFT so that they will enjoy those products and continue to be your customers.  We also understand to a degree that these people coming for help often don’t, the massive amount of work and passion expended in Beta testing and bringing a product to market on the part of thousands of people who own parts of Vista and their teams.  Those people who do what you are asking Alaskan Airlines to do for Heather (when there is not even a scintilla of evidence their employee is involved and not someone  else’s employee at the airport or one of the thousands of people in the airport during your "window" (no pun) of time.

    10) The vast majority of people whose role to  do for MSFT with non Enterprise or large volume license customers what you want Alaskan to do for you that you (haven’t identified explicitly) but have christened "the right thing" are never paid a dime by MSFT, are never thanked by MSFT, and are never acknowledged in the least by MSFT.  The people you do pay Convergys, Kelly Services, Volt, and  Excel (corporation not the app),  are often indifferent to MSFT customers, often ID themselves as "MSFT" when they aren’t, particularly Convergys or they won’t reveal themselves when asked.  Those of us who provide consistent newsgroup support for your products have to calm people down when they rant that MSFT phone support did and said X, when of course they were not talking to a MSFT engineer any more than they were talking to Obi Wan Kenobi or Vader.

    I might add that MSFT hid their turning over MSN  personal Search to the government when MSFT personnel and Search Engine experts  have already blogged extensively and immediately that those searches were not at all needed by DOJ for their alleged purpose. It is the pattern of the US government to always deploy fear and an issue like terrorism or "the children" as a facade to wire tap, to have ISPs plant Trojans for keystroke monitoring, and to do much more invasive searches than your suitcase. It is hard not to see MSFT’s motive in complying with the government subpoena simply to keep their large client happy Post 911 while their large client DOJ still complains that MSFT is "not complying with a settlement agreement" that left Bill “Nuke ‘Em Nukome”  then and Brad Smith now smelling like a quintessential rose.  Let’s get real about this.  MSFT employs Dr. Gary Flake to head up MSN Search as a distinguished scientist who knew darn well that the DOJ did not need for them to turn over MSN searches for their alleged objective of bolstering their briefs to make a desparte attempt to CPR a law already struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court and several lower courts.  Mike Nash still did not connect those dots in his Slash Dot interview.    At Search Champs,little added light was shed by Yusuf Mehdi Senior VP of MSN Information Services,  Ramez Naam, Group Program Manager, MSN Search, and Ken Moss, general manager of MSN web search.

    What most people don’t know is that the original subpoena to MSFT was to turn over every shred of personal data that people give MSFT in good faith which included personal addresses, credit card numbers, ISPs, company affiliations and any and every scintilla of information a partner might register with MSFT or a customer might submit to a Passport account.  Yusuf was less than transparent about everything the government originally asked for, but he knows what it was.  

    So in sum Heather, in view of the above, how much of "the right thing", and obviously you consider access to Alaskan an important component of that equation, is MSFT analagously doing for their customers. In this case, you have no way to know if the person who offended you worked for Alaskan, but in the case of MSFT software and other products, customers can make the  direct connection to MSFT.  Unfortunately often the burden of doing the "right thing" is left to those of us who support your products in forums, groups and chats.

    What is the "right thing" Heather?  How much of it is MSFT doing for their customers (individuals analogous to  Heather in this instance?

    1) Is Heather going to pick up her PDA cell and get XP Vista DVDs into the hands of hard working MSFT customers who pay her salary and Chris Jones’ salary when they pluck down their money for OEM hardware or stay lackadaisical and apathetic that thousands of no boots to Windows cannot be remedied by a repair install because OEM preinstalls send worthless recovery CDs and defective code for recovering that is tantamount to watered down medication?

    2) Is Heather going to pick up her PDA cell and call the people responsible for imposing Convergys of Ohio @ India on MSFT customers who in good faith expect 2 support episodes for that blue box of Windows XP, or Vista, or Blackcomb aka Vienna aka something  down the road?

    3) Is Heather going to publish the names of the executive decision makers who deprive OEM computer buyers of an XP CD or Vista DVD because MSFT refuses to come to a pricepoint for shipping wholesale XP CDs or Vista DVDs to OEMs so they can deliver them to customers with those expensive computers?  It is aximomatic that when MSFT does an uber mega boost to computer sales for OEM Platinum partners whose names are proudly power pointed prior to large MSFT meetings like Tech Ed or launches on the screen to perennial MSFT intro trance-techno music?

    I think that the answer to this, concluding a Tale of Two Companies Bleak Bleak House is a resounding "No Way Baby."

    Thanks for evoking customer service.  Heather no one  who would have concern for you likes to see you treated in a way different than your colleagues treat you, but it is intriguing that  you are displacing the psychodynamics of your indignation onto a company,  Alaska Airlines/Menzies,  who may not be involved except to the extent that you chose to fly them and airplanes usually take off  and land on run ways at airports. It is equally intriguing that you seem to quest for psychological closure by having Alaskan Airlines somehow “make you happy” (what is it truly that Heather wants here) when no one connected remotely to them, including their most peripheral contractor may have sent you the childish note that probably plays out in middle school and high school study halls daily and in text messaging in various forms in schools throughout the greater Seattle area.  Because you can reach out and associate it with the airline, it takes on a more serious dimension for you demanding “consequences” when you have no earthly clue who should be the recipient of the consequences.

    I would hope you would channel this pent up energy misdirected toward an Airline, into fixing MSFT’s customer services and MSFT’s intentionally making it very difficult for those of us devoted to repairing your current  Windows and Office products around the clock 7 days a week for no pay and no thanks   for  your customers.  We try to do it at a high level of competence, but your company’s  depriving them of the best tool to fix is making it difficult for us.    That is the true way for you to achieve something constructive from this experience—not material rewards from or repercussions for an Airline that very probably has no connection to this travel experience.  What did you get from them–you weren’t clear–a free flight–swag?

    At any time if you want to witness  hypothetical Windows and Office problems “royally screwed up” by your contractors in PSS, I would be delighted to show you in vivid detail the ridiculous solutions which often end in the sentiment to “format the box” although the Indian contractors at Convergys of Ohio in India  don’t say it that way, and many can hardly be understood.  It’s not the next table’s conversation at the Belleview Starbucks.  It’s jibberish that’s hard  for people in the U.S. to understand.  It’s outsourcing to minimum wage butts in seats by MSFT to their cheap contractor so that they don’t have to be concerned with customer care or customer service. It’s the opposite of what your new $125 million ad campaing espouses.

    Channel some concern for customer service into a company you know.  Channel it toward Microsoft.




  9. Rick says:

    Comments seem to be censored so they are skewed to read the way you want them to read.

  10. HeatherLeigh says:

    They aren’t censored, Rick. All anonymous quotes are moderated to reduce spam. I’ve responded to you directly via e-mail as you know and I am not going to defend myself to you but I do want to say that you make the assumption that everything I know about the Alaska Airlines situation is posted here, which it is not.  The personal attacks aren’t appreciated. They would hold more weight if you didn’t post anonymously.

    Everyone, I offered to send Rick’s concerns around Microsoft products and services to the appropriate groups inside Microsoft if he would remove the personal attacks on me from his message. I’m always curious when someone I don’t know lets the personal attacks fly.

  11. tsrblke says:

    Rick, I think you misunderstand what happens during a gate check in.  Gate check ins are a misnomer as they typically happen inside the plane.  Thus it is highly probable to determin how many people touched said luggage.  There are no TSA officials on the planes themselves.  That being said, it might be possible for one of the people at an X-ray machine or the like to have pull this off, but it’d have been aweful hard to do (think about how many people actually touch your carry ons at the X-ray machine, not many).  Had this been a normal bag check, I could see your point as more valid, however, given the special circumstances of this particular instance I think you overexaggerate your claims that so many people touched her luggage.

    Obviously anyone with access to that part of the plane (i.e. flight attendents, even pilots) would in theory have access to the bag, it doesn’t take a super slueth to find the trusted person in charge and ask them the simple questions: "Who handled the luggage, did anyone else handle the luggage."

    Luggage theft does cost airlines money, and so they do have people who look into these things.

  12. R.Supwards says:

    Rick, get a life.  I bet you write those big thick technical manuals that no one bothers to read because they are so BORING.  

    Read my name!!!!

  13. Brad says:

    Wow. Just. Wow.

    Rick, buddy. Get some help. The live in-person kind, not the blog kind.

  14. Rick says:

    To "R. Supwards" and "Brad"

    I’ll make it easy for you in little golden book terms that you can metabolize:

    1) No attack on Heather was done or intended.  I don’t believe Heather could be certain who had luggage access and neither can you.  This is well documented in the exponential spike in luggage theft after TSA began their totally worthless airport screens neglecting completely what goes into the plane bellies.  Try a newspaper occassionally–start with the NYTimes or the Washington Post.

    2) I don’t write technical manuals of any type although I have written a few professional journal articles for internationally circulated journals.

    3) If you ever spend a nanosecond trying to fix no boot windows situations, in your neighborhood, at your office, or on a MSFT news group, you’ll learn the nasty little secret of Windows boxes on the planet–most people who run Windows don’t have an XP CD which is the most stable tool to repair the no boot Windows scenarios –not the many miswritten MSKBs that profer lol the Recovery Console that has been kicked to the curb for good by the people who own Vista recovery/fix on the Redmond campus–those 13 original dos commands in the RC have an efficacy rate near zero.  Chdksk /R from there if you can’t stop Windows from shutting down fast enough with a shutdown -a is useful.

    To get a feel for this take all the gas hog SUVs in your garage or other cars and remove the spare tire.  Keep driving without that spare tire until you try to get moving when you have a flat and see how well you like it.  My point was that is what MSFT does to their customers (250 million OEM boxes projected already for Vista when it RTMs).  How many boxes have you bought between 2 and 3 grand and been sucker enough not to insist on an XP CD instead of a worthless recovery disk?

    I would be delighted to hear your ace methods to fix a no boot windows or anyone Heather can find on the Redmond campus.

    In the 2 page *Wall Street Journal* article that ran front and center February 7, 2006 Tuesday, MSFT’s Sr. VP for Client Business talked about that "magic time" when Windows is loaded in setup and the article discussed what MSFT is not fond of discussing–their being foced to bid and lose for real estate for propitiary icons on the Dell Desktop.

    The magic time lulls most end users into the complacency that they have a Recovery Disk that’s going to bail them out when they get in trouble and want to save their non-backed up material.  Windows One Care team on their blog said in their Dec 5 entry on the backup component:

    "The focus is primarily on solving the biggest problem out there, which is that probably more than 75% or so of normal users don’t back up regularly. If we can help at least 75% of Windows OneCare Live users back up regularly, we think that’s a great start."

    That figures is probably about 15% too low. In my experience it’s 90% don’t backup well including CTOs/sys ads with PCs in their own homes.

    Before you reflexly want to type cast me as a MSFT basher, save yourself the trouble because I spend hours a week fixing Windows or Office for people of all strips and evangelizing new features and apps from MSFT.

    3) Most people familiar with MSFT PSS (Convergys of Ohio) who are advanced users know that the support for Office and Windows (2 items of software that are not small and obscure in the MSFT ecosphere of to Heather’s area of finance simply sucks. It’s horrendous and there are stray cats who can do better support of these products and speak better English than the Indian minimum wage butts in seats.  This has nothing to do with India–who arguably according to Tom Friedman’s best seller "The World is Flat" outpace the US in engineering.  It has to do with who MSFT chooses to palm off on their endusers  quite disingenuously as "experts in tech support."

    4) Heather says that she asked me "what groups" to send my comments to.  Heather is enconsed on the Redmond campus.  Heather is well connected there.  Heather says she is a "marketing geek."  Heather does technical recruiting.

    Heather worked in the insurance industry.  An XP CD is the only decent form of insurance you can take out your documents and settings in the Windows Operating System in addition to a backup.

    Heather used to hire developers and Program managers, and system engineers  for

    Paradoxically makes announcements as to how it has beefed up search, and even Microsoft’s own people who blog can’t figure out how you can tell its search capability has changed in years nor can many MSFT MVPs who have commented on this.

    So…. Heather knows where to go to find out why end user PSS is lousy.  Heather knows where to go to ask why MSFT is greedy and won’t give customers who make it so much money an XP CD when they pay $2500 to an OEM for a laptop or a tablet or a bit less or more.

    The more boxes that are sold, the more software is sold and it’s really a cycle that is win win for MSFT and OEMs when software or hardware goes into circulation.

    My message was simple:

    1) MSFT owes end users competent support. There is none for them over the phone.  I see whatever they put on their sites and link to it often to help people with several hundreds of those links in my head.

    2) MSFT and OEMs owe people a free full XP CD when they buy OEMs that benefit both OEMs and MSFT greatly.  OEM hardware is marked up tremendously.

    Heather could  find out who causes this to happen if she wanted in a Redmond heartbeat.

    "Brad" and "Supwords"  you’re MSFTies aren’t you.  Defensive without reflecting about your company.  You don’t like constructive criticism that basically pointed out no CD and no competent tech support so anyone who does LOL needs "live help".  I can fix my boxes Brad

    BTW people on the XP and Vista teams have agreed with my comments about abysmal PSS and no XP CD.

    I look forward to your spiffy methods of repairing no boot Windows or Heather’s since Heather hired developers I figure she can at least fix a no boot easily.

    Or does Heather call for help?  Then would Heather get on the phone and call MSFT PSS Convergys of Ohio or yell down the hall or accross the campus or when at home to some ace who works on the Redmond campus or some other company in the area to come fix her computer.

    I would find it interesting to see Heather going "what’d you say" to the thick tongued non English speaking tech support MSFT proffers to customers.

    Heather’s bio says she supported focus groups.  Heather try  a focus group of end users on your PSS and see how well it’s resonated with them.

  15. HeatherLeigh says:

    Rick-Let me say this once more clearly though I have told you twice before, I am NOT technical. You are figuring wrong. A "technical recruiter" recruits for technical positions, it doesn’t mean they code. Clear?  It’s probably safe for you not to make assumptions about me since you’re are off the mark. I supported focus groups? Are you referring to the fact that I recruited for market research? Please…there’s a difference between "recruiting for" and "doing". I’ve really had enough of this. This blog is not set up for your venting. Please, if you want to post all this stuff, find a technical blog or start your own. Your message gets lost in your vitriol.

    I will, as I said, forward your mail to the appropriate people. Also, I will delete your long comments that take things completely off topic. So please don’t post anymore on my blog. There are plenty of other places for that.

  16. Jason Pettus says:

    J____ C____, Rick, will you get your own f____ blog already? It’s ridiculous of you to leave this long a comment at someone else’s website. If you’ve got a problem with Heather, I humbly suggest that you start your own blog and rant about her that way; it is completely and totally inappropriate of you, though, to hijack someone else’s blog through the comments section like this, and to post thousands upon thousands of words there. That’s not the point of commenting services at blogs, and if Heather wasn’t such a nice person, she would’ve rightly deleted your comments a long time ago, purely for space reasons if nothing else.

    Heather, for what it’s worth, there are a lot of us who feel like you handled the situation entirely right, and that there is nothing at all for you to be apologizing for. Oh, and that perhaps Microsoft’s practices shouldn’t exactly be compared directly to some airport employee leaving creepy sexual notes on customers’ baggage. You know that I’m not exactly the biggest fan of Microsoft myself, but I think Rick’s insistence on directly comparing your employers to some mentally-imbalanced mechanic is entirely off-base, and is pretty much the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen from your commenters yet (and let’s face it, your commenters often say lots of ridiculous things).

    I at least am glad that you’ve been able to find a resolution to it all. And don’t let jerks like the anonymous "Rick" get you down; after all, if they had anything worth actually listening to, they wouldn’t be a coward and publish their thoughts anonymously in the first place.

  17. HeatherLeigh says:

    Thanks Jason, appreciate your comments. I’m just going to delete his comments from here on out. That goes for his e-mails too. Not sure why he’s decided that I am his target but I can’t  and don’t let this kind of stuff upset me at all. I never take the anonymous stuff personally. Guess it’s part of blogging ; )

  18. pat says:


    I am glad you feel that you got resolution, I am still lost (being the novice blogger that I am) as to how we went from an Alaska Air situation (the title of your post) to techincal blah blah about no boots and cds?    I would love to type in a few pages worth right now, but have limited time.  Is there a way to block users with this blog service, that would be the course of action I would take.


  19. HeatherLeigh says:

    Pat-yeah, I can just not publish his comments. Maybe I should have made clear to some folks somewhere that this blog is not a democracy. The fact that comments aren’t "censored" isn’t a right, it’s goodwill. I hadn’t really needed to block commenters before (other than obvious spam), though some regular readers might think that I should have blocked some of the commenters, I think their comments speak for themselves. Anyway, Jason Pettus did a good job of explaining that actual reason for not posting Rick’s comments and that’s the reason I’m going with. So yes, Pat, I will block that kind of stuff in the future. Because if people are going to complain about me or about Microsoft, they should at least make it have something to do with my job so I can do something about it ; )

  20. MG says:

    Heather, good to hear that the matter has been resolved.  You did the right thing.

  21. mikeb says:


    First off, I’m happy to hear that the luggage situation was handled in an acceptable manner.  What an awful experience it must have been.

    Second, I’m totally amazed at the leaps in logic that Rick’s posts display.  What does the luggage incident (or your job at MS for that matter) have to do – in any way – with whether or not OEMs provide a full XP CD?  Or off-shoring tech-upport?  Or anything in Rick’s post’s.

    You were much too nice to him.  I mean you actually forwarded his rants to the appropriate people? – you should have forwarded them straight to the bit-bucket.

  22. HeatherLeigh says:

    mikeb-I try to give folks the benfit of the doubt until they convince me I shouldn’t (OK, that didn’t make much sense but you know what I mean). Even though I’m not involved with product development here, I still care what people think about our products. I am always happy to do what I can to share feedback with people here as long as the feedback is respectful and on topic. Of course, if that were to become a main focus of the blog, I’d have to stop so I could get my work done. If it’s just about forwarding a mail and I know who to forward it to (or can find out quickly), it’s no big deal. But just to be clear, if people can’t write the mail in a respectful tone, it goes nowhere. Most people haven’t had a problem with that. I see fielding customer concerns as the responsibility of every Microsoft employee. we are all stewards of our brand (I imagine some inspiring music playing in the background…sorry if I sound corny).

    There are times, I will admit, when the voice in my head tells me to lash out at people that come on to the blog and act less-then-nice. I guess I *could* delete their comments, criticism (justified or not) is the price of authenticity. Taking the "high road" has really been a character building exercise for me since I started the blog. It was harder at first because people actually got to me. Now, I think I’ve gotten a thicker skin. So it doesn’t bother me as much as folks might think. Either way though, I just keep reminding myself to stay snarky but don’t react with nastiness.

    And I’m so over the Alaska Airlines thing. Mentally, I had to move on.

  23. One Louder says:

    I got an mass e-mail yesterday from Alaska Airlines. I guess I get these because I have a frequent flyer

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