The Day the Internet Died

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I'm back in the office now that Deborah and I have returned from our vacation to Costa Rica. As I checked in with clients yesterday their first question was, "So, how was your vacation?" Thanks for asking, it was a disaster. A natural disaster. 

As Tropical Depression 16 grew into Hurricane Nate, thoughts of sun-drenched sandy beaches were replaced by torrential downpours, loss of electricity and flash flooding. Oh, did I mention we lost the Internet? I could share a whole litany of trials and tribulations, but I won't because, in the middle of all those challenges, I found opportunities. Four in fact.

Matt, Victor, Antonio, and Remegius

Matt and Joellen are the proprietors of El Chivo (the Goat) in the little town of Nosara. It is the best restaurant in town. In fact, during the storm, it was the only restaurant in town. Matt's goal was simple, "Keep the lights on." They emptied their refrigerator, slow-cooked everything overnight at their home up in the hills and singlehandedly kept the community together. Each rain-soaked, poncho-wearing patron was greeting at El Chivo's wide open double doors, often by Matt himself. When we arrived, Matt expressed concern about my missing flashlight I'd left behind earlier in the week. I had just met him, but it felt like I'd known him for years. Lessons from El Chivo: Keeping the lights on is not a slick marketing slogan, it's a mindset. It kept the community fed, the staff employed and the operation in the black.   

Victor patiently listened at the United Airlines counter in Libera as I attempted to explain our missed connection to San Jose. We were going to miss the last flight of the day to Houston. There was a flight leaving Liberia, but it was completely full. I thanked Victor and headed back to the Sansa Airlines counter to work on Plan "C". With the thought of spending an additional night somewhere in San Jose in mind, we headed for security. All of a sudden Victor bounded across the concourse and shouted, "We have two tickets for you!" Even with missing luggage and incessant seatback video marketing, I'm left with a positive feeling of United team members. 

Antonio, our Nosara Transport driver, did his very best to miss the potholes on the last 60 Kilometers of gravel road to Nosara. I'll share on Facebook the photo of his Crucifix hanging sideways from his rearview mirror as he dodged quads and pedestrians and an entire heard of Bhrama bulls (morning rush hour). As we neared the Liberia airport, I thought about his lonely ride home. 

Remegius was not the only attraction in Houston. The shiny new airport sports a sea of iPads mounted squarely in front of any traveler brave enough to sit and endure the incessant video marketing. Remegius gave us the gift of elevating our golf cart shuttle ride into a giddy parade float resplendent with princesses' waves and hearty hellos to all the perplexed onlookers. It was the perfect distraction to the last leg of our journey, a mad dash in front of Hurricane Nate on our way home to Jacksonville. 

The most important thing I learned on my vacation is that the customer experience is not about marketing. It's about the customer.