The baggage handlers at MBIA

My wife and I visit Grenada twice each year usually in early autumn and again in the spring and naturally on both occasions we do a bit of local shopping for some of the local products such as the local produced rum, wines, De La Grenade products, pepper sauces; mauby and various spices to take back with us to England mostly to give as gifts to family and friends.

I must make the point that we don’t drink spirits. In the case of spirits (rum and wines) we find we can get much better deals/value for money by shopping around in selective supermarkets in St George’s rather than waiting to purchase them on departure at duty free at Maurice Bishop International Airport.

We also believe that these products are likely to get to our destination safer when properly packed in a suitcase.

Our aim is to always support the local economy of Grenada in any way we can and in some cases we purchase things we don’t really need such as spices from different local vendors just to give them some business.

We even purchase sea shells that are displayed as trophies at our home on the island. One gets a proud feeling when one finds products that are marked: “Made in Grenada” or “Produced in Grenada”.

On return flights we usually get to the airport pretty early to get ahead of the queue to try and book selected seating if possible. Most of the time on arrival at the airport we find it is a long wait before booking staffs arrive – this is normal for us as we do experience a similar situation on outward flights from London.

Our problem and frustration if one can call it that is the behaviour of the baggage handling staff and we would really like to know what the hell is going on at the airport with these workers.

Every time we are departing within about 20 minutes to boarding my name is called up on the public address system requesting that I go to a particular gate but when I get there I am asked to accompany a member of staff to the baggage handling area to open up my cases.

One might say there is nothing wrong with that, they are only doing their job, but are they? What we don’t understand is why us? And why it is every time we travel through that airport?

The routine is the same; something we don’t experience on our way out from London. Staff to go through the contents, unwrapping bottles one by one and examine the label. Every damn time it’s the same – so what the hell are they looking for?

The x-rays as far as I understand clearly shows bottles of liquids for which we are not allowed to go through customs with but can be purchased as duty free.

We do understand for security reasons that random checks are carried out at international airports however; one would expect for a proper record to be kept of the passengers for whom their cases have been checked also the findings so as not to have repeats in short spaces of time except under exceptional circumstances or if there are suspicions or doubts relating to certain people’s movements.

Do these people check their records? Or do they keep a proper record in the first place? Why harass people who have been sitting around the airport for up to four hours waiting on a flight out the country? Could the reason be that they have little or nothing else to do or is this to discourage people from purchasing these products other than at duty free?

The last time we travelled through the airport was in March and I have to confess I lost my temper. First with the last minute call for me to report to the gate and secondly, the bold face attitude of one particular baggage handling member of staff (young and arrogant).

I must apologise to the young woman who took me round to the baggage handling area because I was rather abrupt with her; she was merely doing her job. However, when I got to the baggage area, quite a number of mostly men were just standing around. One of them who was at the end of the conveyor nearest the runway pointed out one of our suitcase (the one they wanted to check) but as I went to use my key to unlock the suitcase a young cocky chap at the other end of the conveyor where a table or cupboard was shouted: “bring it over here.”

So I told him in no uncertain terms: “you want to check it you take it over there, I don’t want to check it all I am prepared to do is to unlock it.” His reply was “if you don’t bring it over here to be checked it will not be loaded.” My reply was quick and precise, “When I get to London if all our cases were not on the flight I will report exactly what you just said to me to Virgin Atlantic Customer Service and you will have to explain to them why our suitcases were not loaded;” and immediately started walking back towards the waiting room.

Just then I was told by another member of staff I needed to be accompanied. He then took the suitcase to the other end of the conveyor. I unlocked the case and the cocky young chap carried out the usual checks making a right mess of our packaging. He also questioned the alcohol content of a couple bottles of Clarke’s Courts rum but was told by a colleague they were ok.

On our son’s first visit to Grenada he experienced the same problem. He was bringing a few bottles of spirits back to the UK in his suitcase and that appears to be a problem sadly, whenever he leaves Grenada now on his return flight he doesn’t travel with spirits. It is not his lost; he doesn’t drink spirits; it is the producers; retailers and revenue department of Grenada’s lost. If it is one thing I learn it is if you treat people badly they soon get the message and act appropriately.

If the message from the baggage staff at Maurice Bishop International Airport is buy your spirits at duty free if you don’t want your baggage to be searched, then I think the Grenadian producers, distributors and retailers must be made aware of this because they are the ones who would loose a hell of a lot of retail sales in their outlets, not the short sighted workers at Maurice Bishop International Airport.

It is only right and fitting that consumers including our visitors to our shores be given the freedom to shop for their choice of goods and services wherever they are on the island.

Also; in the economic climate, people the world over have been experiencing value for money is a major contributor to consumers departing with their hard earned money. I love my country and I really want to see it succeed but we have a long way to go in some respect to make people feel welcome and want to visit our shores again.

Winston Strachan

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