Third World Customer Service: My Orbitz Experience
, ILLINOIS -- I recently booked my trip to India through Orbitz, a popular internet travel service. I have booked at least a dozen trips on Orbitz over the past decade, so the process was comfortable and easy. Orbitz found me connecting flights to and from New Delhi using a combination of airlines and I was pleased with the short layover between my domestic and international flight segments. I booked my November travel in July and paid with my American Express card.
In August, I received emails from Orbitz advising of flight changes. Unfortunately, the airlines rearranged their flight schedules which created a problem with my itinerary. My connecting flights, no longer connected. I called Orbitz and spent a lot of time on the phone attempting to resolve the issue, but because they could not find an itinerary acceptable to me, Orbitz said I could cancel and they would provide a full refund. "Expect a credit in 8-10 days," advised Bella, a supervisor at Orbitz. "Why so long," I asked? "That's just how long it takes" was her reply. Well, FORTY-ONE DAYS LATER the $1,653 credit was posted to my American Express Account.
For 41 days it felt as if my money was held hostage and I was forced to fight hard to gain its return. As an American consumer, my expectation was a refund in one day, not forty-one days. I'm not so certain that I would have ever received a refund had I not persevered. I spent countless hours on the phone and by email only to be put off or lied to. It was an extremely frustrating experience, but I did learn a few things.
First, I was reminded of the principle - he who holds the money, holds the power. I could grovel all I wanted, but I was powerless.
Second, because the airlines were the cause of the problem, I held a false belief that obtaining a credit from a large corporate Enterprise was a given. I found out that it's not like taking the defective vacuum back to Sears where you make an exchange or the clerk asks you a couple questions and in minutes you leave the store with a credit receipt in hand. No, it's more like the Sears store has relocated to Timbuktu and the clerk tells you over the phone that Eureka in Shanghai will process the refund in 8-10 days or maybe in a couple of weeks or sometime, whenever they get around to it.
Third, when calling Orbitz, you speak with customer service representatives based in the Philippines. But that's only after navigating though the computer prompts and waiting endlessly on-hold listening to melodies of static. And although the young Philippino's are pleasant, the combination of a poor phone connection and their accent makes for a real challenging conversation. The cultural differences don't help either. I just didn't get the feeling these folks really related to my problem. They're at best scripted telemarketers and sometimes liars.
In fairness to Orbitz, my refund did come from the Chicago office of Air India. However, Orbitz wasn't any help to me and Air India refused to talk to me directly. I was finally able to correspond by email with Archana, an Air India representative. I rank her level of service to what I would expect when visiting Mumbai or buying gas at my local 7-11.
So before you book your next trip on Orbitz, take pause and consider. If you encounter any problems with your travel plans you to will have the opportunity to experience third world customer service.
dwittkamp@cinci. rr. com