By George Foster, President of Foster Marketing

Recently, my wife and I made a trip to Washington, D.C., for the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA)spring meeting. It was a somber meeting as the announcement of the horrific blowout in the Gulf of Mexico was unfolding in front of many of the members.

The meeting aside, time after time I was confronted with the pall that hangs over our economy and the nation’s capital in particular – poor service, sorry attitudes and getting nickel-and-dimed to death.

It really started from the moment we checked in for the trip to D.C. Right off the bat, we were charged a $25 fee for each checked bag. These days the charge for bags might be as much as 50 percent of the fare. Thank God, Delta hasn’t followed Spirit’s lead and charged for carry-on items.

Then you get to Washington. As we all know, this isn’t the same old Washington as before.

In the good old days, prior to 2008, you knew what your cab fare was going to be to just about anywhere in D.C. It was posted in the cab. Now it’s a mystery. We traveled from the same place to the same place several times during our stay and the fares were never the same – different routes, additional passengers, language barriers.

And, the cab guys have learned from the airlines. On the way from the airport to the hotel, there’s now a baggage charge. The big bags in the trunk are $2 each and each additional bag is 50 cents. If the driver loads them, it’s an additional fee per bag. Before we left the airport, we were more than $10 into the fare (oh, it’s an additional $3 for another passenger.)

Kind of makes you want to go solo and carry your bags in your lap.

And, the service. At most venues, we ran into zombie-faced workers with no passion or personality, only working for a pay check. It’s sad, especially when so many people are out of work and would cherish a job no matter how menial.

Even at Reagan Airport on the way home, it was distressing to enter a long, long security line and have a young TSA worker hand me a slip of paper. I asked him what it was for and he said, “There’s a time marked on the paper and you’re at the end of the line. When you get through security, hand it to an agent.” Okay, I thought.

Well, 30 minutes later, I handed it to a TSA agent. The bad news: It took 30 minutes to get through security. The good news: At least they are trying to figure it out.

When I see a wayward worker, I’m always reminded of one of my favorite all-time tapes (now on CD) – Zig Ziglar’s A Winning Attitude. There are many great stories on the CD, but my main take-away is his statement: “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”

A great attitude goes a long way toward improving service and even makes the extra fees and waiting in line almost palatable.