Over the past month, I have traveled more than usual. And that’s putting it lightly – I was on a plane 9x (and it should’ve been 11 except 2 flights were cancelled), spent 40 hours driving in road trips, and spent 9 nights sleeping in beds that weren’t my own (no, not in that way.. I’m talking hotel rooms, condos, etc.) That may not sound like a lot for you veteran travelers, but this was after 2 months of no travel at all and before that it was just a trip home for Christmas. With all of this travel time, I’ve had some funny/crazy/frustrating experiences (let’s say a bout of bad luck) – all of which could not be explained in one blog post.
This post, then, will serve the purpose to share with you some customer service stories – and 2 lessons.
Customer service reps do not always know what they’re talking about: On one flight, I had two legs to get to my final destination. When I booked the flight on Continental.com, it appeared I was on two Continental flights. But when I went to check in for my flight, it showed that my first flight was Continental, and the second was United. And of course, I was unable to check into the United flight. So after calling Continental, and being told I had to call United (yes, they are soon to be the same company), I was put in touch with a customer service rep who clearly didn’t know how to help me. His solution for not being able to check in? During my 50 min layover in Houston, leave the secure gate area and check in at the United check in counter – and then go through security again and catch my flight. Ridiculous? Yes. Plausible during a 50 minute layover where I had to dash from one end of the airport to the other? Not at all. When I asked “Charles” if he’d ever been to the Houston airport, he said “Oh yes … this is very doable.” Did I listen to “Charles”? Of course not. I ended up being able to check in to my United flight when I arrived at the airport for the first leg of my trip. Did I still have to make a mad dash across the airport? Yes. But if I had listened to Charles, I probably would’ve missed my flight.
Patience, when it comes to customer service, really does pay off: On one trip, after my hotel room was mysteriously cancelled (I found out the night before my stay and the other hotel rooms were booked due to high school basketball games in the area), I then somehow ended up with two different hotel rooms, booked with hotels.com. Of course I couldn’t be in two places at once, so I called hotels.com to explain the mishap and get the same hotel room for 2 nights. After waiting 35 minutes for my call to be answered, I was told by the first rep that they could not cancel my hotel room, because the reservations had been made more than just a few minutes ago … I explained to him that the reservations had just been made – but I’d been on hold for more than a half hour. So he put me on hold as he “tried to connect with the hotel.” When he came back 15 min later, I was told that he was unable to reach the hotel, because the reservations department at the hotel had already closed for the day and I’d have to try back tomorrow – at which point there would be a charge for the room because it was the same day. At this point, many would’ve given up. But not I. I was determined to take advantage of hotels.com’s free cancellation policy an get the hotel room that I needed.
So after the first call to hotels.com (yes there was another), I called the hotel and was put in touch with the reservations department right away. They told me that they had not been contacted by hotels.com and they were open for 24 hours. They said they’d happily cancel my room if they got the confirmation paperwork from hotels.com. So I called hotels.com back, and waited another 40 min for my call to be taken. This time, the woman told me she was unable to confirm with the hotel because nobody was answering the phone. I assured her that they were, indeed answering their phone and were waiting for her call, as I had just spoken with them. So I was put on hold again as she tried to reach them. When she returned, the hotels.com rep then told me that she had spoken with somebody but their phone kept hanging up on her so she was unable to get their fax number. Of course, I had gotten their fax number so I gave it to her – to which she said she needed to physically speak with someone. After this went on for some time (each time she “tried” the hotel I was put on hold for 5-10 min), I finally told her I would be happy to call the hotel on my other phone and put them on speaker phone so the could communicate directly. She responded that she would try again and see if their phone was working again. Then, she came back and said she had spoken with the hotel and they would not be able to cancel my room, because it was part of a larger reservation, for 5 rooms, and they had to be cancelled all at once. I luckily had asked the hotel about this – and told her what they had told me, that it was no issue at all to just cancel my room. So I waited another 10 min while she “talked over the issue with the hotel.” Sure enough, she came back and the situation was taken care of and I would receive the refund.
I nearly screamed for joy at the end of this saga. I had won the battle of customer service! But did I really win? I had started my calls/inquiries to solve the hotel problem at 5:00 p.m. and got off the phone with hotels.com at 7:30 p.m. I had lost 2.5 hours of my life just so my client wouldn’t have to pay $150 for a hotel room that I did not need. Was it worth it?
PS – I will never use hotels.com again.