Harassing a Service Dog team in airport

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Should American Airlines compensate in this situation?

  • Yes

    Votes: 10 26.3%
  • No

    Votes: 28 73.7%

  • Total voters
    38
Apr 10, 2019
4
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#1
On Feb 17th, I had a horrible experience trying to check a bag for my flight that morning. Because I was traveling with my service dog, I had contacted AA Special Services prior to my flight to get my seat reserved and to verify if I needed to carry on or check-in the bag that would contain my service dogs food, dishes, and other necessaries for the week long trip. I was informed by the special services department that I could either either check the bag, or carry it on, at no cost, as my service animals needs are considered a medical device. I chose to check the bag, as trying to struggle through the airport with 2 carry ons, a personal item, and a service dog would be a struggle that would aggravate my disability. When I tried to check my SD's bag at the ticket counter at DFW, I***** (she refused to give me her last name and hid her name tag from my view) insisted there would be a charge for my bag. I explained to her what I was informed of by the special services dept, and I packed my bags accordingly. She said she was unaware of this policy, When I told her she could contact special services for verification, she instead tried to find the policy on her computer and by calling a coworker. Again, I asked her to call the special services department for verification. She kept interrupting me while I tried to speak, and refused to cooperate. I asked to speak to a supervisor, and D**** came to the counter with a poor attitude, also, informing me that he had worked for AA for over 30 years, and he had NEVER heard of allowing a bag for a service animal's needs. I found this shocking, as how does a service dog not require food or other needs for care when traveling? Every other airline I have flown allows a bag for my SD at no cost, though each has their own policy of whether it being carry on or checked. Delta is the only airline that specifies it on their website, so I always call for verification prior to flying. Meanwhile, I***** continued to argue with me, even though I was now supposed to be dealing with D****. I informed her that her rudeness and attitude was unnecessary, and that is why I asked for a supervisor in the first place. At this point, they both immediately started to snap at me, which set my husband off. He'd had enough of the rudeness and put them both in their place for the way they were speaking to me. He admittedly cussed them out for their behavior. If you knew my husband, it takes a lot to get his shackles up. He is retired military and tries to keep his emotions in check. I***** then proceeded to call the police on my husband, even though he made no threats of any kinds. I might add, my husband was not traveling with me, but was there to help with my bags and get checked in for my flight. I asked my husband to step outside until I had get the issue resolved, which he did. Then, I again asked D**** to contact special services, and with great reluctance and argument, he finally made a call. It was 5:50am, and the department didn't open until 6am, but he was able to verify that there would be no charge for the bag as long as it had nothing inside that belonged to ME. I informed him that I had thrown a pair of flip flops in the bag last minute, but I would remove them to comply. I had also thrown in some spare incontinence pads, as incontinence is a serious symptom I suffer because of my disability. D**** informed me I would need to remove those from the bag, also. I did not see how this was an issue, as they were a medical necessity, but David made a huge issue of it being in the dog's bag. By this time, 3 police officers had arrived to witness what all was taking place. I informed them that my husband was waiting outside, and I wanted them to remain there to witness the treatment I was getting and what was really happening. 2 of the officers remained, while 1 went out to speak with my husband. I then asked D**** for a bag of some sort to put the pads in, as I had to remove them all and have them out in a public display for everyone in the airport to see. They said they had nothing and to put them in my personal bags, which was already overstuffed with several more of the pads. I was appalled and embarrassed at this point, so I held up a pad for everyone in the AA ticket line to see, so they ALL could witness what was happening and how I was being treated. D**** then conceded that I could leave the pads in the bag THIS TIME. I then asked to speak with the airline CRO. It took about 3 times of insisting before they finally brought out J*** Smith for me to speak with. I asked J**** to step aside to speak, as we did not need to be interrupted by the employees I was filing a complaint about. I explained to him what happened, and how it happened, and he apologized profusely. Unfortunately, the damage was done. He told me that he would be sure a report was filed, which according to the ACAA, I am supposed to get a copy of. I just returned from my trip on the 24th, and attempted to contact AA about the incident. I was given a phone number by a phone agent, but it was for the HR department! A phone supervisor told me that AA does not take customer service calls, and to contact them via social media. After 2 weeks of phone tag, I was able to speak with someone in customer relations. While she sounded sympathetic on the phone, I was informed that there were no violations by the airline, as I was a le to take my flight, but sent me a $50 voucher as a courtesy. I highly disagree with this solution, and expressed that via email. Their response was the same. My next step was to email Sean Bentel at the executive level. I received contact from a different rep in customer relations. His response was the same as the previous response from the airline. I strongly disagree with the resolution. Yes, while I did make my flight, like all the other passengers, but they did not experience the humiliation and harassment I did to get on that flight. I asked for an apology to my husband and myself, and a refund of my $109 airfare. Also, though they claimed to email it to me (not even in junk mail), I have not yet received a copy of the CRO report. That IS a violation of the ACAA. It seems AA can get away with this treatment in the airport, and I am not sure if it's even worth pursuing at this point.
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#2
Looking at the timeline below, several items stand out. Your typing, while comprehensive, takes a while to read. At the executive level, they are looking for the highlights.

Also prevalent is the anger displayed by you, your husband, and the agents. Airport and airline personnel do not respond well to outrage. Your frustration is valid in my opinion, but you let it boil over. I believe that may have factored into their hesitation to offer further compensation.

At this point, I recommend that you stop interacting with AA and report this to the ACAA. I do not say that lightly, however, as that triggers a regulatory agency investigation. If you proceed in this manner, I STRONGLY suggest you refrain from insults. Just explain your struggle in simple terms and let the facts speak for themselves. And acknowledge that you could have handled this more calmly. Humility shows ownership.

Recapping your timeline . . .
  • On ?????? date, AA Special Services stated that the bag containing your service dogs food, dishes, and other necessaries could either be checked or a carry-on, at no cost.
  • You chose to check the bag, as trying to struggle through the airport with 2 carry ons, a personal item, and a service dog would be a struggle that would aggravate your disability
  • On Feb 17th, you attempted to check your SD's bag at the ticket counter the agent insisted there would be a charge for your bag, as she was unaware of the "policy" you were given.
  • You asked her to call the special services department for verification, but she and a supervisor declined. The supervisor stated that he had worked for AA for over 30 years, and he had NEVER heard of allowing a bag for a service animal's needs.
  • In your words, they were rude to the point of "snapping" at you, whereupon your husband, who was only present to help, intervened forcibly (verbal only).
  • The supervisor was asked again and reluctantly called Special Services who confirmed there would be no charge for the bag as long as it had nothing inside that belonged to you.
  • You agreed to remove one item, but were reluctant to remove a deeply personal set of medical items as it would be embarassing and your carry-on was already stuffed. They conceded that I could leave the pads in the bag this one time.
  • You then asked to speak with the airline CRO who apologized profusely, and assured you a report would be filed, of which according to the ACAA you are supposed to get a copy.
  • You returned from your trip on the 24th, and attempted to contact AA about the incident. After 2 weeks of phone tag, you were able to speak with someone in customer relations.
  • She stated that there were no violations by the airline, but sent you a $50 voucher as a courtesy.
  • You emailed Sean Bentel at the executive level and I received contact from a customer relations.representative who echoed the previous offer.

You would like a refund of your $109 airfare at this point, but you are not sure if it's even worth pursuing.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
17,077
15,573
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#3
VoR is just the best at pulling out the important information from a long thread in order to simplify it to a readable post.

I agree with her that you might want to contact the ACAA. If AA lists the information about the dogs foo on their website and the front line employees are not aware of it, it is poor training on AA's part and needs to be corrected and sometimes they don't do anything until the ACAA gets involved.

Before you do this you might want to finish our recommendation of going up the rest of the executive chain one by one first. I would mention that they seem to have violated ACAA rules and don't want to have to contact them if you don't have to.
 

Patina

Verified Member
Dec 22, 2015
1,250
2,097
113
#4
Edit edit edit your post! I was unable to get through 1/10th of it. If you are looking for compensation, please pare down your letter to facts only otherwise no executive will get through your letter much less the rest of us who would love to help you.
 

weihlac

Verified Member
Jun 30, 2017
1,420
1,391
113
Maui Hawaii
#5
American Air has by far the largest number of complaints on this forum, month after month, exceeding the total of UA, DL and SW COMBINED. You can reach out to the AA contacts if you choose to do so or pursue this through the ACAA

https://www.elliott.org/company-contacts/american-airlines/

You will need to pare down your communication to a brief bulleted list. Your initial post on the forum is not comprehensible. No AA customer service rep will read it.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#6
I had a hard time following the narrative.

Check in agents were unfamiliar with policy of luggage for necessary supplies for service dog.

agents rude.

Husband curses at agents.

police called over foul language.

Need to remove items from service dog’s luggage.

Then I am lost as to the being humiliated yet holding up pad for all to see.

Supervisor apologized and passenger made flight.

Could the chronology be edited?

Has the ACAA report been requested in writing?
 
Apr 19, 2017
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#7
On Feb 17th, I had a horrible experience trying to check a bag for my flight that morning. Because I was traveling with my service dog, I had contacted AA Special Services prior to my flight to get my seat reserved and to verify if I needed to carry on or check-in the bag that would contain my service dogs food, dishes, and other necessaries for the week long trip. I was informed by the special services department that I could either either check the bag, or carry it on, at no cost, as my service animals needs are considered a medical device. I chose to check the bag, as trying to struggle through the airport with 2 carry ons, a personal item, and a service dog would be a struggle that would aggravate my disability. When I tried to check my SD's bag at the ticket counter at DFW, I***** (she refused to give me her last name and hid her name tag from my view) insisted there would be a charge for my bag. I explained to her what I was informed of by the special services dept, and I packed my bags accordingly. She said she was unaware of this policy, When I told her she could contact special services for verification, she instead tried to find the policy on her computer and by calling a coworker. Again, I asked her to call the special services department for verification. She kept interrupting me while I tried to speak, and refused to cooperate. I asked to speak to a supervisor, and D**** came to the counter with a poor attitude, also, informing me that he had worked for AA for over 30 years, and he had NEVER heard of allowing a bag for a service animal's needs. I found this shocking, as how does a service dog not require food or other needs for care when traveling? Every other airline I have flown allows a bag for my SD at no cost, though each has their own policy of whether it being carry on or checked. Delta is the only airline that specifies it on their website, so I always call for verification prior to flying. Meanwhile, I***** continued to argue with me, even though I was now supposed to be dealing with D****. I informed her that her rudeness and attitude was unnecessary, and that is why I asked for a supervisor in the first place. At this point, they both immediately started to snap at me, which set my husband off. He'd had enough of the rudeness and put them both in their place for the way they were speaking to me. He admittedly cussed them out for their behavior. If you knew my husband, it takes a lot to get his shackles up. He is retired military and tries to keep his emotions in check. I***** then proceeded to call the police on my husband, even though he made no threats of any kinds. I might add, my husband was not traveling with me, but was there to help with my bags and get checked in for my flight. I asked my husband to step outside until I had get the issue resolved, which he did. Then, I again asked D**** to contact special services, and with great reluctance and argument, he finally made a call. It was 5:50am, and the department didn't open until 6am, but he was able to verify that there would be no charge for the bag as long as it had nothing inside that belonged to ME. I informed him that I had thrown a pair of flip flops in the bag last minute, but I would remove them to comply. I had also thrown in some spare incontinence pads, as incontinence is a serious symptom I suffer because of my disability. D**** informed me I would need to remove those from the bag, also. I did not see how this was an issue, as they were a medical necessity, but David made a huge issue of it being in the dog's bag. By this time, 3 police officers had arrived to witness what all was taking place. I informed them that my husband was waiting outside, and I wanted them to remain there to witness the treatment I was getting and what was really happening. 2 of the officers remained, while 1 went out to speak with my husband. I then asked D**** for a bag of some sort to put the pads in, as I had to remove them all and have them out in a public display for everyone in the airport to see. They said they had nothing and to put them in my personal bags, which was already overstuffed with several more of the pads. I was appalled and embarrassed at this point, so I held up a pad for everyone in the AA ticket line to see, so they ALL could witness what was happening and how I was being treated. D**** then conceded that I could leave the pads in the bag THIS TIME. I then asked to speak with the airline CRO. It took about 3 times of insisting before they finally brought out J*** Smith for me to speak with. I asked J**** to step aside to speak, as we did not need to be interrupted by the employees I was filing a complaint about. I explained to him what happened, and how it happened, and he apologized profusely. Unfortunately, the damage was done. He told me that he would be sure a report was filed, which according to the ACAA, I am supposed to get a copy of. I just returned from my trip on the 24th, and attempted to contact AA about the incident. I was given a phone number by a phone agent, but it was for the HR department! A phone supervisor told me that AA does not take customer service calls, and to contact them via social media. After 2 weeks of phone tag, I was able to speak with someone in customer relations. While she sounded sympathetic on the phone, I was informed that there were no violations by the airline, as I was a le to take my flight, but sent me a $50 voucher as a courtesy. I highly disagree with this solution, and expressed that via email. Their response was the same. My next step was to email Sean Bentel at the executive level. I received contact from a different rep in customer relations. His response was the same as the previous response from the airline. I strongly disagree with the resolution. Yes, while I did make my flight, like all the other passengers, but they did not experience the humiliation and harassment I did to get on that flight. I asked for an apology to my husband and myself, and a refund of my $109 airfare. Also, though they claimed to email it to me (not even in junk mail), I have not yet received a copy of the CRO report. That IS a violation of the ACAA. It seems AA can get away with this treatment in the airport, and I am not sure if it's even worth pursuing at this point.
 
Apr 19, 2017
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#8
If your husband was with you, couldn't he have carried on the dog supply bag? Not only would that would have saved so much trouble. but you might have needed dog supplies in flight, which is why the bag is classified a a medical device.
 
Likes: VoR61
Aug 29, 2015
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#10
I’m struggling here, because of the wall of text.
Your flight cost you $109 total? They offered you a $50 certificate to use later, so you are down to $59?
Ultimately, they waived the bag fee for your medical equipment. Being embarrassed over incontinence pads is not material here.

When you were checking the bag, did you explicitly state you were checking the bag of medical equipment? If you said, “I’m checking the bag of my dog’s food and supplies” I can understand why they thought they should charge you. If you instead stated, “I’m checking a bag of medical equipment” then there should be no question. Also, the incontinence pads are again medical equipment. The rules do say that if the bag has anything other than medical equipment you have to pay for it, so the flip-flops would mean you pay for the bag.

The airlines have so many people claiming service dog to fly free with their dogs that the agents no longer believe people. Been there.

The only issue I see is the ACAA report that you should get a copy of. I’m still not sure what they did to violate the ACAA though. Yiu state they embarrassed and harassed you, but I don’t see how that is the case. The words we choose to use with the agents are important. It sounds to me as if the words you used were not the correct ones.

As a PWD and SD partner myself, I’m sorry you were not happy but it sounds like part of the problem was self-created. Traveling with a SD takes a lot of extra patience and planning, and we must realize that the agents immediately assume we are trying to pass our pet dog off as a SD. It is by having all of our word choices correct and documentation in order, not to mention the patience of a pre-school teacher, that we succeed. Being uncomfortable doesn’t mean they owe you a free flight.
 
Apr 10, 2019
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#11
VoR is just the best at pulling out the important information from a long thread in order to simplify it to a readable post.

I agree with her that you might want to contact the ACAA. If AA lists the information about the dogs foo on their website and the front line employees are not aware of it, it is poor training on AA's part and needs to be corrected and sometimes they don't do anything until the ACAA gets involved.

Before you do this you might want to finish our recommendation of going up the rest of the executive chain one by one first. I would mention that they seem to have violated ACAA rules and don't want to have to contact them if you don't have to.
VoR did a nice job of a timeline. My post was long, but it was not presented to the airline formatted that way. My post has a combination of the experiences and responses between the airline and myself. For those questioning my post, it's not as much about the money as it is that the airlines get away with that kind of harassment, with no enforcement whatsoever. I did not contact the ACAA, as I have done that in the past with another airline complaint, with no results. The ACAA really does not protect the consumer. It is federal regulations that get enforced only if there are numerous of the same type of complaints of an airline, and that enforcement is fining the airline. It in no way does the consumer get restitution. I am a travel agent, and I fly all the time with my service dog, on several different airlines. American Airline employee ignorance is in no way an acceptable excuse for treating me and speaking to me the way they did. Nor is seeing too many fake service dogs, as someone else commented. And saying a cuss word is NOT a crime or reason to call the police. My husband raised his voice because he had enough of the way they were speaking to his wife...for no other reason. I came here looking for assistance and honest opinions. Not to have commenters make assumptions.
 
Apr 10, 2019
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#12
I’m struggling here, because of the wall of text.
Your flight cost you $109 total? They offered you a $50 certificate to use later, so you are down to $59?
Ultimately, they waived the bag fee for your medical equipment. Being embarrassed over incontinence pads is not material here.

When you were checking the bag, did you explicitly state you were checking the bag of medical equipment? If you said, “I’m checking the bag of my dog’s food and supplies” I can understand why they thought they should charge you. If you instead stated, “I’m checking a bag of medical equipment” then there should be no question. Also, the incontinence pads are again medical equipment. The rules do say that if the bag has anything other than medical equipment you have to pay for it, so the flip-flops would mean you pay for the bag.

The airlines have so many people claiming service dog to fly free with their dogs that the agents no longer believe people. Been there.

The only issue I see is the ACAA report that you should get a copy of. I’m still not sure what they did to violate the ACAA though. Yiu state they embarrassed and harassed you, but I don’t see how that is the case. The words we choose to use with the agents are important. It sounds to me as if the words you used were not the correct ones.

As a PWD and SD partner myself, I’m sorry you were not happy but it sounds like part of the problem was self-created. Traveling with a SD takes a lot of extra patience and planning, and we must realize that the agents immediately assume we are trying to pass our pet dog off as a SD. It is by having all of our word choices correct and documentation in order, not to mention the patience of a pre-school teacher, that we succeed. Being uncomfortable doesn’t mean they owe you a free flight.

This was in no way self-created! As a travel agent, I know the rules and policies for every airline I ever fly on. The issue was over the flip flops at all. I did inform them it was medical supplies. They did question what type. I was being patient with them. You are making assumptions. I don't appreciate how you worded your response. You may want to check the forum rules.
 
Feb 21, 2018
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#13
And saying a cuss word is NOT a crime or reason to call the police. My husband raised his voice because he had enough of the way they were speaking to his wife...for no other reason.
You're absolutely right - cursing and raising one's voice is no reason to call the police...unless you are in an airport.

I am not by any means a 'road warrior' traveler, and maybe fly once or twice a year - but in today's world, an airport is no place to show anger or frustration through raised voices and cursing. That's a quick ticket to being denied boarding. As I understand it, any type of behavior that even MIGHT demonstrate a passenger can be a problem on board an aircraft is reason to deny boarding.

Nowadays, the most important thing a traveler can pack when going to the airport is patience and their 'inside voice'.
 
Mar 15, 2018
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#16
I'm sorry that your interactions here were difficult. I can kind of see both sides of this.

Let me first say I have nothing but empathy for what disabled travelers go through. Just the horrific indignities inflicted on the disabled by the TSA is bad enough! I've suffered that myself - after major back surgery I was treated to terribly painful, humiliating full-body searches due to the metal in my spine and the back brace I had to wear. Add to that all of the complications involved in getting around, being treated rudely and dismissively, employees not knowing their own company's rules...it's certainly not easy or pleasant. I just returned from a trip with a disabled friend who uses a scooter - she was left for over an hour during a layover sitting by herself in an empty, dark plane on the tarmac when nobody came out to help her off the plane!

So I have compassion for your situation. But I think some people here were trying to point out that, while the airline employees were absolutely in the wrong, it was also wrong for you and your husband to respond angrily, loudly, and with foul language. NOT that we don't understand how you felt! But in the airport, ANY behavior that can be construed as belligerent, unruly or out-of-control, regardless of how warranted it is or how in the right you are, can quickly lead to a confrontation, expulsion from the airport, even arrest. No it's not fair, but it's the way it is. It's incumbent on us to keep our cool, regardless of how badly we are being treated.

Also, given that your plane ticket was only $109, and they did fly you from point A to point B, getting a full refund seems excessive. They offered you basically half of your fare back in a voucher - that's generally considered a good outcome when the traveler did make it to their destination.

One other comment - the hardworking advocates in here are volunteers who are doing this just to use their experience to help other travelers. It's really hard to decipher a looooong rambling post with no paragraph breaks, no easy-to-follow timeline, and a lot of extraneous details. They all want to help, but it's much easier to do so when you can explain your issue clearly, in more readable format. So I expect there was some frustration there as well.

There was absolutely no excuse for the way you were treated at the airport, and I hope your next travel experience is way better. And if things do go sideways, remember to keep your cool!
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
7,926
7,813
113
San Francisco
#17
Back to your original question, then, it seems you've done all you can and, in my opinion, you should stop pursuing this.

I am truly saddened by your experience . . .
I couldn't agree more with VoR's last sentence, itsmere. It is truly sad that the ignorance level of people dealing with the public is so high. I know it's much better than when I was travelling with teams of disabled athletes, but obviously it's still not perfect. I'll admit that travelling with a big group gets you far better treatment at airports and hotels, but we still had many obstacles to climb over on every trip, domestic or international. I learned early on to pay close attention to agents who might abuse my athletes when they thought I wasn't looking. 99% of the time we solved all the issues one by one and kept a sense of humor about it. Travelling solo means that you are personally hit with these attitudes every time.

It saddens me that someone with a disability has to be exposed to these disgusting, petty human beings. They're supposed to HELP you, not get in your way. I understand that this is not a money-compensation issue, but I urge you to file a concise report on your experience. You might save someone else a nasty experience like you had.
 
Last edited:
Apr 1, 2018
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#18
How many problems (for passengers) are due to inconsistent understanding for airline policies? The author called ahead. Either the person on the phone was wrong or the staff at check-in were wrong. But somebody from the airline was wrong and it is really frustrating for those who actually do everything they can to plan for a smooth journey. Give how this situation devolved, I believe a full refund is in order. I mean, it is only going to cost the airline $109.
 
Sep 27, 2017
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#19
Thank to to the very few who addressed the issue at hand. I will likely drop it at this point. To the rest who commented, blaming the victim, you need to remember what this forum is actually for.
I failed to see where people were "blaming the victim". These message boards are filled with both incredibly experienced travelers and those who work in the travel industry, especially travel agents. Many times, they may explain how the other side views the issue, to help you gain a better strategy when approaching the offending company. These ladies and gentlemen deal with issues daily. They will tell you what is custom, rule, and law so that when you approach the company, you are not wasting time arguing moot points.

You came in with a long-winded complaint. You admitted your husband made a scene at the airport. You criticized at least one remedy offered -- filing a complaint with the ACAA. And now you are chastising these knowlegeable volunteers on these boards with your note that "very few" here wanted to help.

You may want to take a step or two back here.
 
Feb 3, 2017
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#20
I come across this often in my work. In certain situations when a person feels they have been wronged, they hear more judgement in a response which doesn't actually exist but is just a response explaining facts/rules/laws. Sometimes people think I am "siding" with a company which has a truly anti-consumer policy just because I explain that anti-consumer policy.

I get that people are upset about situations perceived as unfair (which many are) but, facts are facts and explained dispassionately can get perceived as the explainer (advocates here, myself in my work, others doing similar work) being in support of many business practices.

We can't hear "tone" online - so emotions get projected onto responses/respondents which are often not at all the case.

I had difficulty with the lengthy post with no paragraphs - For emails to companies, etc., it is strongly suggested to stay only with the facts and, if possible bullet point them and, if not possible - break it into numerous paragraphs to make it more readable for the recipient.