There I was running for it again. It was another day, another airport and another tight schedule thanks to meetings that ran late.

Racing to the counter of a major airline, I glanced down at my watch and noticed that I had less than five minutes to check in my bags or they wouldn’t get on my flight.

I made it to the check-in counter in enough time. Pause to breathe!

Then I glanced across the counter. Three workers from the airline just stood there casually BSing with each other. After a few minutes passed with none of them helping the growing line of customers, one of them called me – the guy with the frantic look on his face – to his post.

“I’m on the 10 a.m. to Dallas,” I said to the customer service rep who glanced down at my luggage.

Now, it was exactly one minute past the deadline to check bags for this flight.

“I’m sorry, sir,” she said with actual concern. “You’ve just missed the cut-off point to check your luggage. There’s absolutely nothing I can do.”

“But certainly….couldn’t you…” I began.

“You can go to another counter. A special counter.  It’s actually 20 counters down this terminal and ask them to help you,” she offered.

Suddenly,  I was one of those contestants on “The Amazing Race.” Sprinting with my luggage, I hit that “special” counter about three minutes later.

More bad news.

“Your bags can’t fly on your flight – and you can’t fly without your bags,” the new customer service rep informed me. “I’m sorry, sir, but we have no choice, but to put you on a later flight.”

Let me just say right now that this was my fault. I was the one racing for the airport and I cut it much too close. But as an executive platinum member of this airline, I still expected more than just a brisk morning run that would serve as my cardio for the day. I also expected more than arriving two hours late at my destination for one minute past a deadline.

The problem wasn’t in the customer service reps. This business – the airline – had a system where if you were even one minute late for bag check-in then the computer was set up to deny you. Yes, they created a system that was bad for the customer and bad for business. The focus was on what was good for the business as opposed to what was good for the customer. (Of course, it didn’t help that the reps took so long to come to that counter.)

It was a classic case of WIIFT or What’s In It For Them.

I realize that we live in interesting times where the airlines need time to screen bags for possible terrorist activities. My point here is that unless it’s something that dire then businesses and sales people need to stop with their systems and re-dedicate themselves to extreme customer service.

In sales, your eye should always be on what’s accommodating for your customer. Remember that ultimately it’s about the customer. Realize that right now customers are making their choices in a buyer’s market. There aren’t many people buying, so all things come under scrutiny. Many salespeople lose the customer when it comes to even the slightest service violation.

It costs a lot more to gain a new customer than maintain an old customer. That’s why you need to do everything possible for those customers who are on your side.

By the way, my airline woes aren’t unique. My story reminds me of a musician named Dave whose custom Taylor guitar was damaged by one of the major airlines. He checked the guitar, which was worth almost $4000, and it got pretty badly beat up in flight.

Dave went the customer service phoning route where he got absolutely no satisfaction over nine months of pleading his case.

Did he drop it? Nope. One frustrating day, he told the airline customer service rep that he was planning to create a YouTube video exposing how they wouldn’t help him. “Good luck with that one, pal,” a manager told him.

Oh, he made the video and got over seven million hits. Then a miracle happened. The airline contacted him and offered a settlement if he pulled the YouTube video. He told them, “Good luck with that one.”

By the way, the guitar company sent him 2 new custom guitars to say thanks for advertising their product on his video.

Now, that’s customer service.