In November I purchased tickets on Expedia.com from Dubai to Bangkok for my vacation in December. Due to civil unrest in Bangkok during that time, all the flights were canceled and Gulf Air issued full refunds. I called Gulf Air a few days before my flight (hoping that everything would be resolved before that) and went through a very simple procedure to get my refund complete with reference number. They told me it would take 7-10 days business days to process which is pretty standard.
For the seven months following this, I spent countless hours on the phone with Expedia, Gulf Air, and various subsidiaries trying to get my money back. Gulf Air said that Expedia owed me the money and Expedia told me that Gulf Air owed me the money. The thing was, every time I called or wrote to Expedia, it was like talking to a person with dimentia (and sometimes a person who couldn’t speak English) because they had no idea what I was talking about and seemed genuinely confused at my request for a refund. I was told by different people on different dates that I had already been refunded on November 16th. When I pointed out that I hadn’t BOUGHT the tickets until November 18th and hadn’t requested the refund until the 28th, I was met with silence. They were flabbergasted I guess. Their next response was “well that’s what our records show.” Unbelievable.
The thing that burns me is that I’ve spent thousands of dollars on Expedia over the years. I don’t buy the $99 tickets to Miami. I book to Istanbul. Beirut. Bangkok. Moscow. When I brought this up there wasn’t so much as a “thank you” or “we appreciate that.” There was only silence. I’d also recommended them to countless people based on my positive experiences. When I needed to confirm something for my flight to Istanbul last year, I didn’t wait TOO long and I spoke to a gentleman who was so pleasant and took care of my worries immediately.
What had happened in the last year that caused such a turnaround in a company that I had liked and trusted?
A day of procrastinating on Facebook lent some answers. I was shocked to see the amount anti-Expedia groups and the amount of horror stories about Expedia. What shocked me even more was the consistency of the complaints: hours of waiting on hold to talk to customer service, “tough luck” attitude of the people you actually talked to, basically everything I’d gone though.
Eventually I’d talked to a second supervisor and he was unhelpful and rude. His solution was for me to “call back tomorrow” instead of taking care of the issue and calling ME back. When I suggested someone do this since I’d been making phone calls for 7 months, he said “that’s not how we operate.” Einstein once said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Based on that, seven months of phone calls with no results predict ANOTHER phone call with no results. He then suggested that I put myself in HIS shoes, and I flipped out. I told him about how long and all the trouble I’ve spent dealing with this and he said “and obviously it’s eaten up all your patience.” How’s that for customer service.
I’m pretty sure that whatever company took over Expedia took it over based on the idea that they could make the company more profitable. Maybe cutting average customer wait times from under 30 minutes to over several hours was a part of cutting costs. Cutting costs would lead to more sales in a very competitive market. However, there is a theory that states for every unhappy customer, a business loses 9 sales. There’s an interesting and easy to read example with tables posted here.
A friend asked me if I’d paid via credit card or cash and I’d paid by credit card. I was unaware of this, but I had the option to file a dispute with my credit card to get the money back. I thought disputes were just for fraudulant purchases charged to my account and I HAD originally bought the tickets. I contacted Chase, my credit card company. I was told that the statute of limitations was almost up and they asked why I’d waited so long. When I told them that I was waiting in good faith based on information given to me by Expedia and Gulf Air, they told me to fill out a form and they would take care of it.
I faxed the paperwork on Tuesday. The money was in my account on Friday. Lesson to be learned: let the credit card companies take care of it.
I still think it’s a shame that a great customer-business relationship not only had to end, but had to go down in flames. As the link says, I’m a 30-year potential customer, and they just lost the next 24 years, plus whoever else I tell about this.