Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hey @expedia ! You suck!

My mother and I are going to Marseille the last weekend of March. I booked tickets for the two of us on Expedia. Since it was an international trip, there were a lot of screens to get through as I completed the booking. Somewhere along the way, I accidentally entered my mother's maiden name instead of her married name. It was a dumb mistake that I recognized right away when I received the confirmation. I was pretty sure I would have to pay a penalty to get it fixed, and I wasn't going to let my dumb mistake put a damper on the trip.

On February 14, I called Expedia to explain my mistake and ask for advice on the best way to get it fixed. I talked with a very friendly and helpful gentleman who said it was a bit of a tricky problem, and he needed to call the three airlines I would be using (Delta, Air France, KLM) to see how best to proceed. He asked me to hold as he consulted with each airline, and all told I was on the phone for well over an hour. My cell battery was running low. In the end, though, he said he would fix it by cancelling the ticket and applying the Delta credit to a new ticket under the correct name. There would be a penalty, but not very much, and I said Great! Do it! Thanks! He was working on completing the booking, and I was on hold, when my cell started beeping that it was about to die. I knew the rep had my phone number, so I disconnected.

I went to lunch and checked my e-mail when I got back to work. I had a confirmation e-mail from Expedia for the new ticket. Just to be safe, I went to the My Itineraries screen on the Expedia site and pulled up the new itinerary. Everything looked correct, but there was an "On hold" notice at the top. I called Expedia back and asked why. This new gentleman reviewed all that had happened and said that it was no problem, the booking was going through, and I was all set.

I kept checking the itinerary all week, and the "On hold" notice persisted. So yesterday I called Expedia again. Here's where the fun began. The lady I spoke to said it was on hold because the ticket couldn't be fixed. I had to buy a whole new ticket and I wouldn't get reimbursed at all for the ticket with the wrong name. I explained that the gentleman a week ago had carefully checked with every airline and come up with a solution, had then booked a ticket, and that a different gentleman had confirmed that everything was fine and the booking would go through. She said that was wrong. I said, I don't care if it was wrong; it was your employee's mistake and I have a confirmation e-mail that says everything is a go. She said that the e-mail was a mistake. I repeated that I didn't care; the key was it was their mistake, not mine. I told her to fix it however she needed to, but to do it for the price I paid originally plus the penalty and no more.

She said she wasn't authorized to do that. I said, find someone who is authorized. She said she understood my frustration but wasn't able to help me. (Oh, and by the way, there was a man sitting next to her feeding her these lines. I could clearly hear him saying "Tell her you're not authorized." "Tell her you understand she's frustrated." Oh, the rage.) Additionally, every so often during this argument she would say that she needed to put me on hold for 3-5 minutes, but would actually leave me hanging for 10-15. I believe 100% that this is part of their strategy; they know some customers will be forced to hang up, or will give up, when left on hold for too long.

At one point I said, "OK, this is your mistake, and I have proof that it's your mistake. You can't tell me that Expedia can't afford to just buy me a ticket and fix this." She said, "No, we are not able to do that." I said, "You're able, you're just not willing." She was silent.

Another thing she said to me was that the ticket wasn't fully booked the first time because I disconnected. I told her I did that because my cell was ready to die after being on hold for over an hour, but that I called back on a land line at my first opportunity and was told the booking would proceed. (More proof that keeping people on hold is part of their strategy -- if you disconnect, they try to use it against you.)

I don't get mad very often. I am very even keel, and I try not to yell at low-level customer service people. But after half an hour of speaking with this puppet woman, with her puppeteer feeding her her lines, I told her I was going to post the whole story on my blog, my Facebook account, and my Twitter account -- a combined audience of well over 500 people daily. She said she was going to put me on hold and consult her supervisor. I said she damn well was not going to put me on hold again -- that her supervisor could call me when he had a solution. Twenty minutes later a gentleman called me, confirmed that the switch was just between a maiden and married name, and said he would fix the matter.

I checked with Delta a couple hours later, and they sent me a Delta e-mail showing the booked trip. Relief. Then, about an hour ago, I received an Expedia confirmation for a flight that is sending my mother to Rome. Not Marseille. Rome. I am truly beyond the end of my rope. I will call Delta again tomorrow to double check that we're fine.

I am NEVER using Expedia again. The tactics they use to screw people are so utterly transparent. They don't want to help their customers; they want you to give up asking for help and cave to their demands out of sheer exhaustion. In case you think mine is an isolated incident, I offer the following for your consideration:

Those are just the first five that come up. Please feel free to share this post far and wide. The great thing about social media is the power it gives us, as consumers, to hold companies accountable.


Kate said...

YIKES, that sounds infuriating, as if traveling isn't stressful and expensive enough.

blogfourfiveone said...

I see this all the time (I'm a travel agent). The only reason that they would say that you couldn't refund your first ticket is if it was a truly non refundable ticket, which should have been disclosed at time of booking.
Unfortunately adding a layer of incompetence (expedia) between you and the airline kind of fouls things up.
Sometimes people ask me why they should use a travel agent instead of booking online, I always tell them that if they make a mistake, it will turn into a nightmare. If I make one I have to just fix it.
Wish I could help with your particular issue! Please let me know if you need any "insider" advice!

halfpassgirl said...

@blogfourfiveone: I am sold on going back to using a travel agent! And, when people ask you why they should use a travel agent, you should just give them the link to this post!

blogfourfiveone said...

If you have your delta airlines confirmation numbers you can likely go to their site and check for yourselves exactly what rediculousness expedia has reserved for you. Just click on the "my trips" tab.
If you can't use a travel agent at minimum always book through the airline directly :)

lytha said...

we had a situation very similar to yours over the holidays trying to get my husband from germany to seattle. if you remember, there were hundreds of flight cancellations coming thru london and unfortunately my husband's got cancelled.

i was on the phone with expedia for 2 hours straight, including several holds, and eventually i was assigned a "problem number" and every time i would call back, instead of giving my name i'd just tell them the number so whatever new employee i had would have a clue.

they said they would not be able to find us another flight, it's not their fault about the weather cancellations, and that they to book another flight on another airline at that point it would have costed 4K euros! the only way i could get my husband home for christmas would be for 4K euros? they said "he can come to seattle on a flight AFTER christmas for the same price."

i said "you're expedia, you have to have a solution for me!"

they said "we've called british airways several times to try to get you a flight but they don't have anything"

and almost the whole while i had two phones against my face - the land line, and the cell phone with my husband in germany. he was trying to get thru to british, but the european office, not the american one.

eventually my husband got thru to british airlines and in about 10 seconds they got him another seat on another plane, his flight actually arrived in seattle one hour EARLIER than originally planned.

i was so happy to tell expedia,

YOU SUCK, how is it that WE can call the airline and switch planes, and you cannot help us find a seat on any plane on any airline?

we won't be using them again, despite using them successfully for the last 5 years. that was way too stressful.

we will deal only with airlines directly now.

lytha said...

*lol* some of those stories you linked were amazing, and i had no idea so many people suffered from this company. but i forgot one thing..

after almost 2 hours on the phone with expedia trying to get a flight change, my husband tells me on the other line "i just got an email from expedia that my flight is cancelled."

(we knew it was cancelled because we checked ourselves.) it would have been funny if it hadn't been so horrible at that moment. "NOW they're letting us know?"

halfpassgirl said...

@lytha: Thanks for adding your story!