Hey travelers, you can’t win ’em all (so don’t even try)

In travel, as in life, there are unwinnable arguments — like the one Fran Koort and her husband got into with the TSA before a recent flight.

For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, her husband’s Pre-Check number, which allows him to use the shorter and more humane lines, didn’t show up on his boarding pass.

“The TSA agent said that if my husband’s boarding pass didn’t scan as Pre-Check, he could not go in the Pre-Check line,” says Koort, who is retired and lives in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Turns out the problem was United Airlines’ fault, which they discovered after they came home. It’s been fixed since then. But the Koort’s learned a valuable lesson: You can’t really win that argument with the TSA even when you deserve to be in that shorter line.

The travel industry is filled with unwinnable arguments. No amount of begging, negotiating or whining will change that. I know because I run the industry’s complaints department.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve stood in a long TSA line in Orlando. A screener brings out the “randomizer” iPad app and starts sending random passengers to that coveted Pre-Check line. Then it’s my turn and they point to the long, non-Pre-Check line, where I will have to opt out and get patted down.

No amount of sweet-talking can persuade the randomizer to randomize me. I’ve tried.

How about negotiating? Well, there too, talk will only get you so far. In the era of “no waivers, no favors” (and please don’t tell me you think those policies are history), travel companies will not allow their employees to bend a rule for a perk or an upgrade.

When’s the last time you talked your way into an upgrade on a plane? 1998? How about a bigger hotel room, maybe a suite? Without a magic platinum card, unlikely.

Of course, we shouldn’t have to cajole anyone into treating us with a little dignity. For example, those economy “comfort” seats have about as much legroom as the coach seats before airline deregulation. They weren’t called “comfortable” back then, they were standard. No one should have to beg to be treated in a humane way.

When all else fails, travelers throw tantrums. Didn’t get the room I ordered? Throw a diva fit. Wrong seating for my dinner on the cruise? Yell at someone. Uncomfortable in your sardine-class seat? Lash out at the flight attendant. And then, if you don’t get your way, write an angry letter that ends with, “I’LL NEVER STAY IN YOUR HOTEL AGAIN!”

Maybe you’ve traveled with someone like that. Maybe you’re related to someone who travels like that. Then again, maybe I’m describing you.

If I am, cut it out. It does you no good to fret.

Point is, there are unwinnable arguments in travel and you have to accept them. You can’t get something for nothing. The TSA is always right, even when it isn’t. The apologies you get for bad service are almost always empty and meaningless. No amount of bickering will change that.

Every rhetorical tactic you know, including whining, complaining and debating, is completely ineffective in the face of these problems. You have to accept them. The sooner you do, the better your trip will be.

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