Having a long background in the restaurant industry, I know that it's not easy being blamed for bad service when a number of things (e.g. miscommunication in the kitchen, servers calling out sick) could be responsible. That's why whenever I eat out and am confronted by a lapse in service, I'll usually give the benefit of the doubt. But when the service is really bad, I'll get management involved.
This past weekend, I took the Thursday night redeye from LAX to JFK. Without going into too much detail, there was some glitch that had another person already in my seat. The gate agent was quite rude when I tried to get to the bottom of the situation and in the end I was switched to an inferior seat right next to the lavatory which prevented me from getting any quality sleep. To add insult to injury, I was forced to gate check my carry-on bag while waiting 30+ minutes for the gate agent to reassign me. When I arrived in NYC, my bag was one of the last off of the carousel which contributed to being very late to an important morning meeting in Manhattan.
I'm not a very high maintenance guy, so any one of these issues – save the baggage leading to a late Friday morning – I would've ascribed to bad luck. However, dealing with all of these issues in conjunction really led me to believe that this was a pretty serious lapse in customer service on the airline's part. So similar to my stance with bad service at restaurants, I contacted the management, or in this case, the customer service e-mail page at the airline.
I described the above situation in my complaint and I ended by saying that I was disappointed with the airline's service and I hoped that it would not happen again. In a few hours I received a heartfelt apology and compensation of 12,500 miles from the customer service representative. At two cents a point, these miles are worth $250, which is very close to the $280 I spent on the original flight, not including the elite qualifying miles I earned.
Was $250 of miles worth it to get yelled at by the gate agent, forced into an uncomfortable seat and delayed for a meeting? Probably not. But from a monetary standpoint, I basically got a really crappy flight for $30. Even Spirit Airlines can't compete with that price.
Moral of the story: don't be like this guy but at the same time, don't let serious breaches of customer service go without informing management of the situation. At the very least, you'll get valuable miles and travel vouchers to use in the future, and hopefully you can prevent these things from happening to yourself or other travelers in the future.