If anything can go wrong, it will.

Seriously, I’m Not Dead

I swore when I started this blog that I was going to keep it going. Thankfully, it was a vow I was making to myself, so I don’t feel too terribly guilty about having been “missing in action”.

Okay, I feel a little bit guilty.

Life has been, to say the least, interesting and busy around these parts.

My cousin Dylan, who is very often left in my care, has broken bones. I’m pleased to say that these things didn’t happen on my watch, but… the poor kid. As if the first break wasn’t enough, he took a baseball to the face and now has his jaw wired shut.  He’s living on apple sauce, pudding, jello, mashed potatoes, and broth. Oh, and occasionally, ice cream.

And then there’s my father. My father whom I have very mixed feelings about. I love him, but I don’t like him very much. Contact is thankfully minimal, because he’s in prison in South Carolina, more than 1,000 miles away, but what contact there is is often unpleasant.

I’m not particularly religious, but every time my father lands in jail, he rediscovers G-d. When he does, he feels the need to “share the good news”.  What baffles me about this is that he knows full well how I feel about the subject of religion, he knows that I’ve heard “the good news”, and whatnot, and made an informed decision, and knows that the subject is a sore one with me, and yet still continues to push. He’s sent me a bible, a book by … Joseph Prince, I think it is? and plans on sending me another bible. Because apparently I need more than one. Let’s just ignore the fact that I have three or four of them already – the KJV which is neatly bound with the rest of the LDS scriptures, a women’s devotional one, and the NLV. There are several bibles in this house should I wish to read one.

Perhaps the most stressful thing to happen recently, though, is The Great Travel Agency Ordeal of 2015.

Yes, it is such a big deal that it’s a named event. A capitalised named event.

Last week, Alex and I booked tickets for me to visit him in the UK. We did a lot of searching and finally found what we thought to be the best deal. Alex was (is) paying for the tickets, so we used his Visa debit.  All of his information was provided to the agency, but once we had submitted the order, we were informed that the card could not be verified because it was not a US card. We were given instructions to send photos of the front and back of his card to the agency, along with a photo of his ID/passport. Despite feeling a bit wary about this process, we proceeded to follow their instructions, but made one mistake. We sent from the wrong email address. And by wrong email address, I mean one not specifically tied to his bank account.

Upon realising the mistake, I immediately called the travel agency to ask them if they wanted us to resend the documents from the email address associated with Alex‘s bank account. I called, because of course, the agency is US-based, and the call was significantly cheaper (read: free) for me to make. I waited on hold for more than an hour, and when I got through I explained what had happened.  The customer service representative informed me that she needed to speak with Alex immediately, within ten minutes, or else the booking would be cancelled. I told her that I needed a bit more time than that to have Alex call, as he was working at the moment. Still, she insisted ten minutes, or else. I told her that I would try, but asked again could we have time for Alex‘s work day to be over, and if they could contact him instead, since he would likely have difficulty reaching their 800 number from the UK. The representative then yelled at me in a tone which indicated that she thought I was a complete moron, “800 numbers are free to call”! (Ha. Well, I’m not going to call her a moron, but, I thought most people understood that toll-free numbers are not always internationally toll-free. And you would think if you worked at a call center, you’d know whether or not it was the case for yours.) As I started to explain this detail to her, the representative cut me off, accused me of attempting to commit credit card fraud, and hung up on me.

I called back.

Again, I was on hold for more than an hour before I was connected with someone. I tried, futilely, to explain the situation again, and was transferred to someone in their verification department. I tried to be as  pleasant and patient as possible, but ultimately was again accused of attempting to commit fraud and hung up on.

During this ordeal Alex attempted to call the agency.  He actually tried both their 800 number as well as their standard number, and both times got a recording telling him the number was no longer in service. (Which, I too received that message a couple of times when I called the 800 number. I’m not sure why it worked sometimes, but not others, but now that I think of it, that seems fishy.) When calling them failed, he then attempted email. He wound up emailing them at least twice, and I don’t think he ever actually got a response. We waited through the weekend.

On Monday, there had still been no response to either Alex‘s emails, or the ones that I sent requesting that they contact Alex. That morning, Alex left for work early so that he could stop by his bank and ask them how he should proceed. The agency had said they were cancelling the booking, but the money was still unavailable in his account. The bank basically informed Alex that the agency would have up to six months (six months!) for the transaction to go through. To put it mildly, the whole thing had us both in a bit of a panic. Alex asked me to please try to contact the travel agency again, to get them to call him. So I called. Again. I waited on hold. Again. When I finally reached someone, I explained everything, from the beginning. That time, the agent I was speaking with informed me that the booking was still active, but they were still waiting on the documents that they requested for verification. I let him know that we had sent them, and asked if they needed them from the email address associated with Alex‘s bank account. I was then told that they needed to speak with Alex, asked for his phone number, and told they would call him within a couple of hours.

I really didn’t want to have to give Alex that news when he called me on his break. See, that “couple of hours” might have run out while he was still at work, and unable to take calls. I had tried to ask the agent if he could call at a specific time, but as with all of the other representatives I spoke with, he was rude, cut me off, and said “Just give me a couple of hours to call him”.  As I expected, Alex was irritated by this news, for the exact reasons I knew he would be. He asked me to call them again and tell them to cancel the booking, release the hold on the funds in his account and be done with it all. So, with Alex still on Skype with me, I called the agency yet again.

Mercifully, the hold time was only about half as long as usual. And, from the start the woman who answered my call was friendly and pleasant. She gave me her name, which, none of the other agents had ever bothered to do. Rosa. I explained the entire situation to Rosa, and she went through their system and tracked down every email that Alex or I had sent. She let me know that they had in fact received the necessary documents they required for verification. She told me that it was not a big deal that they came from the “wrong” email account. As we were talking, I let her know that Alex was on Skype with me and she asked if there was a means for me to allow him to hear what was going on.  I put her on speaker, and held my phone closer to my headset so that they could talk to one another. And guess what? Five minutes later, I had an email confirming my e-ticket.

I will never, ever book tickets for anything through this agency again. Ever.  I feel fortunate that we were finally able to sort everything out, and fortunate to have finally reached someone there who was willing and able to help us. That does not, however, make up for the appalling customer service experience that we encountered.

I read once that a satisfied customer might tell one or two people about how great an experience they had with a business, but a dissatisfied customer will tell everyone they know. Something that this travel agency might want to consider.

The happy ending to this (lengthy) tale is that I’m boarding a plane bound for London on 1 September.

And this time, I’m going to make it there. Three wonderful months I’m going to spend there. Falling asleep and waking up with Alex for each and every day of it.


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