Monday, May 23, 2005

Travelocity Blows (My Mind): Every time I have interaction with Travelocity I come away shaking my head. First off, let me say that Travelocity employees are some of the politest most helpful people I have ever run across. And, within the framework of what I assume to be Travelocity policies, they do an excellent job. (Note: I am guessing that Travelocity out-sources customer support to India, considering the accents of literally every employee I have spoken with. That's fine with me. If all customer services reps were that polite I'd suggest everyone outsource to India.) But here's the thing. The interactions I have with Travelocity make no sense what-so-ever.

You may recall my previous experience (which I commonly refer to as getting pantsed in New York City) wherein I booked myself into a newly-opened, fairly luxurious boutique hotel in midtown Manhattan and, when the hotel decided they weren't ready to open after all, Travelocity re-booked me into a dingy HoJos nearby. I spent about two hours on the phone (mostly on hold) to try to get them to book me somewhere else, this time a comparable property. They said couldn’t; they just said check out of the Hojos and book yourself somewhere else. I ended up staying at the Hilton, which I booked on their website. I have no idea why they could not do that for me -- presumably they have access to their own website -- and instead had me wait on hold for two hours to essentially accomplish nothing.

This time I had booked tickets to the Caribbean on Cayman Airways (last summer), which meant no e-ticket, I had to have paper tickets. Fine, but then the hurricane flattened the island just a few days before I was scheduled to go. I had to re-book within a year and I started the process last week. After a number of calls, I discovered the correct way to do this when paper tickets are involved. So I followed the procedure, which involves preparing a written request for my re-booking and snail mailing it into the "re-issues department" at Travelocity along with my now useless paper tickets. So that's exactly what I did.

Two days later I get an email stating they could not re-ticket me and give me a number to call to sort things out. OK, so I call the number, and after a brief wait on hold a very polite woman listens to my story. She puts me on hold for another few minutes then tells me that I will need to talk to the re-issues department, and then transfers me to them. Head shaker number 1: Why didn’t you just give me the number to the re-issues department in the email you sent?

So I wait on hold for another, oh, maybe 10-15 minutes until I get a very polite woman in the re-issues department. She asks me the same questions about why I'm calling. So I go through that again, and she says, OK let me look up your record. So she looks up my record and recites my story back to me from the record. Head shaker number 2: If you could easily look up my story, why make me go through it again?

So the nice woman proceeds to ask me what flights I would like to re-book on. Since I don’t know off the top of my head, I have to open a copy of the written request I sent in to tell her. That's what I do. Her response is, "Yes, I see; that's what I have here." Head shaker number 3: If you had it in front of you, why did you ask me?

Next, the polite woman says she'll have to put me on hold and get in contact with a Cayman Airways agent. This wait on hold was well in excess of thirty minutes. Presumably she was on hold waiting for a Cayman Airways rep herself. After the interminable wait, she comes back and tells me that my reservation is all set and they will Fed-Ex me new paper tickets. I ask why they sent an email to me saying they couldn’t re-ticket me when there was no problem. She makes some sort of comment about needing to verify something or other, before re-booking. But I didn't verify anything. WTF?

This goes beyond head shaking. This is where we get to mind-blowing. After two hours on hold, I gave them no information they did not already have. I answered no questions they did not already have the answer to. I cannot fathom why I needed to make this call.

So I'm guessing when you need paper tickets re-issued through Travelocity, the policy is as follows:

  1. You must submit a written request for a re-booking, specifying the new flights you want.

  2. That request will be summarily ignored, but it will trigger an email to you saying we couldn’t do as you requested and to please call.

  3. You will have recite the details of your request to a minimum of two representatives, who only then will look at the written request you sent in and inform you that you did in fact request what you think you did.

  4. Only at that point will an attempt be made to re-book your flight and you must wait on hold for as long as it takes to get that done.

  5. Thank you for choosing Travelocity.

I am so stunned by the consummate lunacy and monumental futility of this interaction that I can’t even get upset about it. Needless to say, I steer clear of Travelocity these days at all costs. I just hope the tickets actually get to me and there isn’t another disaster that makes me have to contact them again. If I do, I shall have to remember to drink heavily ahead of time.