Customer Service Really Shouldn’t Be This Hard

Boy, was this supposed to be a different post.  I showed up at Denver airport yesterday afternoon for a flight and the line for TSA PreCheck was pretty long.  That’s something I’m starting to run into more and more lately.  It’s understandable, as TSA has started to offer the service for purchase.  CLEAR can shortcut you to the front of the PreCheck line, which is increasingly valuable.  I snapped a picture of the PreCheck line and quickly hopped into the CLEAR line.  I figured I would use the picture to talk about the benefits of CLEAR in a blog post, illustrating how it saved me time.

There was no wait at all and I stepped right up to a machine.  They even told me I didn’t need to fish out my CLEAR card any longer, just my fingerprint.  Win!  I was all set to go.  Uh, not quite.

I was correctly identified by the machine and then told I hadn’t paid for my service.  That seemed really weird to me, since I was pretty sure I had renewed it earlier this year (more on that shortly).  The person helping me told me I needed to call a phone number to sort it out or I couldn’t use the line.  I politely noted that I was pretty sure I had paid and I didn’t really feel like calling a phone number in the middle of the airport.  I wasn’t running behind, but I didn’t have a ton of extra time.  I asked if it would be fine if I just updated my credit card information when I was sitting on my flight later.  I told her one of my cards had been compromised recently, and maybe there was an issue I wasn’t aware of.

She said that she could make an exception and let me through this time.  Great!  I’m on my way.  Uh, not quite.  A woman with a clipboard who appeared to be a supervisor approached us at this point and specifically ordered the employee not to give me an exception and then walked about 5 feet away.  She never even bothered addressing me or asking about the situation.  I queried as to why she was doing it and she told me there were no exceptions.  I must have had a pretty incredulous look on my face, as she quickly said, “Would you like me to call my supervisor to come over?”  She pointed to a radio (walkie-talkie) on her hip.  I said sure.  She then proceeded to walk away without picking up the radio or contacting anyone and with no further explanation.

I turned to the original employee I was dealing with and asked her what the supervisor was doing.  She said that their office wasn’t too far away and she was probably walking over there.  I decided I’d had enough at that point and just hopped in the regular TSA PreCheck line.  I noticed the supervisor standing to the side talking on her cell phone.  I’ll admit in a brief moment of frustration that I made a passing comment about how Clear was in the time-saving business but didn’t really seem to be living up to that in this instance.  No cursing or raising my voice, just frustration.  But, probably a bit uncalled for on my part.

As I was getting into the PreCheck line it hit me.  Not only had I renewed CLEAR earlier in the year, I had actually blogged about it.  I noticed the supervisor not terribly far away from me and I walked over to her again.  I noted to her that I specifically recalled renewing.  I probably should have shown her the blog post but she kept walking, saying that she was going to find her supervisor.  I was way past the amount of time I wanted to spend dealing with this, at least 10 minutes at this point.  So, I just hopped in the PreCheck line and proceeded through to security.

It was at this point that the original woman who was helping me walked over to me while I was in the security line and asked for my CLEAR card.  She had a pad of paper with her as well.  I asked her why she wanted my card.  She said she needed my card information so they could add some free time to my account. It didn’t seem the wisest idea to have my secure info scrawled on a piece of paper so I politely declined and pointed out that she had my information on the kiosk 10 minutes ago.  If they really wanted to figure it out, I had a decent degree of confidence there was some way for them to pull the logs of who was denied access in the past 30 minutes.  That couldn’t have been a big list.

Her reply, “So, you’re not going to give me your information?”  Nope.

There wasn’t anything even close to an apology or a “let’s look into that” throughout the entire process, just telling me that I needed to call customer service and refusing to let me through. This despite at least 4 CLEAR employees and someone who appeared to be a supervisor and a grand total of less than half a dozen customers in the entire 10 minutes this transpired.

I’m sure CLEAR and I will kiss and make up, if only because there’s nobody else who’s going to provide a shortcut to lengthening TSA PreCheck lines for me.

I’d like to say that there’s some possibility I’m in the wrong here, but seeing as how they already charged my credit card back in February for a year’s worth of membership, I doubt it.

I can deal with the vagaries of travel.  Some bumps in the road are to be expected.  And, I normally don’t write about all of them, since they represent isolated incidents (and I’d only end up writing about problems, which wouldn’t be very fun).  But, I do feel a better after rattling off a dozen paragraphs on it.

I can’t say I’m looking forward to the customer service call to straighten this out based on my last experience……


  1. for that kind of money, really big fail for CLEAR. When will these guys learn that service and people make or break your product?!

  2. So they’re supposed to just take you on your word that you paid? Let me try that along with everyone else in line and see if they’ll make exceptions for all of us…

    1. Go, they’re not supposed to take my word, no. I’d like to think that they’d have a procedure to give a customer a one-time free pass if there’s an issue with payment. But, even if that’s not possible, supervisors overriding front-line employees who already promised a resolution to a customer doesn’t strike me as an effective way to do business.

    2. Go, also, for a company that’s focused on seamless digital technology, having to call a phone number to update your information as opposed to using the existing kiosk setup to do so seems a bit short-sighted.

  3. I think I’ll start a company called CLEARER to give them a run for their (your) money! 🙂 Hope all is well, my friend!

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