What an awful ordeal Rob Napier must be going through, having left his 17th Century violin, worth nearly $400.000, on a Great Western Train. Left on the luggage rack, the prized instrument, made by the master Venetian craftsmen Matteo Goffriller, has not been seen since it went missing in January, despite Napier calling the train company the second the train pulled out of the station. By the time the train got to its destination, the violin had gone…. And don’t I know what that feels like.
I too travel on Great Western Trains and have suffered the loss of many items; admittedly not a 17th Century violin, but still items which were dear to me and never retrieved. They are a PR nightmare, faceless examples of modern corporate PR that spend their time distancing themselves from issues. Interestingly, a fellow Great Western user, Dom Joly, was ranting in the Independent about the issue of lost luggage, but on airlines. There are apparently auctioneers in London who hold auctions specifically for lost luggage. All attempts are supposed to be made to identify the owner of any lost cases. Dom Joly bought a job lot of fifteen bags and found the identities of the owners immediately – he returned the items to the owners doing the job that the airlines are supposed to do. Not only this, but the proceeds of these auctions are supposed to go to charity, yet not one of the airlines that Joly asked could say which charity they donated the money to.
However if you’re a famous supermodel by the name of Kate Moss, mislaid baggage needn’t be quite as disturbing as it is for most. Kate’s ten bags were mislaid when she took a first class flight from the infamous Terminal Five going to LA. Two days after her arrival in LA, the bags were found and delivered to her, but she was already in negotiations with British Airways for compensation. According to the Montreal convention passenger rights, Moss is entitled to compensation of up to £850 per lost case and she has been put on a fast track for a payout.
BA acted quickly and did everything they could to find Moss’s luggage because her PR collateral is so high. If you’re a celebrity, you can promote more traffic to a negative issue and this influences how an airline or train company will act. Humble travellers have to grin and bear the reality that we are just a number with no power to overwhelm the corporate PR flacks who earn a fat fee for keeping their pitiful clients out of the headlines with frustrating systems that confound and confuse. The stress levels these flacks must have are driven by the paranoia that it’s a matter of time before they face a T5 fiasco. So Rob Napier and his lost violin don’t really stand a chance; Great Western Trains are notorious for not giving a shit and he’s just a normal guy with no PR clout.