February 08, 2007

Dear Expedia, You're Fired

I don't plan to do this kind of blog entry on a regular basis. But last week I got an email from Expedia.com with the following subject line:


Whoa! Look at ALL THOSE CAPS. They must have canceled one of my flights or something. Yikes! What am I going to do? I didn't see the email until late at night, so the next day I write down my Booking ID and call 1-800-Expedia. It would have been nice if they bothered to include the actual numbers instead of forcing me hunt and peck out “e-x-p-e-d-i-a” but, whatever. That’s a minor quibble.

A computer answers my call. Nothing new here. It asks me if my call is about an existing itinerary. I say yes, feeling uncomfortable and idiotic talking out loud to a computer when other (real) people can hear me. Then it asks me for my itinerary number. Not the Booking ID. The computer helpfully tells me that the number I need to say out loud begins with a “1” – so it’s obvious that "LULLPN" (the Booking ID) isn't what they want.

So I tell the computer I do not have my itinerary number. Yes, I have to actually say out loud: "I do not have my itinerary number." Que idiota! The disembodied male voice seems OK with that, and patches me through to another phone. Then a female computer voice comes on the line and informs me that they cannot take my call right now, I should hang up and try again later.

This was an *URGENT: PLEASE CALL* situation, remember?

Those were Expedia’s words, not mine. Sigh.

So I go back to the original email and try to find the itinerary number. Oh, look! There it is. Underneath the phrase “For Internal use only.” I write down the number with another sigh, wondering how much of my lunch break this is going to take up.

I pick up the phone and call again. This time at least I can hit re-dial so I don’t have to figure out each number based on its letter. I say my itinerary number out loud for the computer. Then I’m on hold for about 10 minutes.

Guess what the customer service rep requests right away? That's right. My itinerary number. I ask her if she needs it for confirmation or because she doesn’t actually have the number. (I’ve taken phone orders for a catalog company, so I have some familiarity with how the process works.) She doesn’t have it because she’s on a different computer system and can’t see any information I already provided.

While I’ve got you on the line, I said, can you forward a note to the email wing of customer service and ask them not to hide that important number at the bottom? Maybe a simple line like: “Please have your itinerary number ready when you call.” You know, nothing fancy. Well, no actually.

She’s really nice about it and agrees with me that it would be better, but she’s not set up to do that. Ohhhhh Kay. How about after we’re finished here, you forward me to someone who can make a note of my suggestion? Sorry. She can’t do that, either. How about a phone number other than 1-800-Expedia? Nope. Charm (that’s the name she gave me) was very nice about it, and even offered to write down a note for me -- but it was clear she had no idea who to send it to. Basically, that was a complete dead end. One lunch break wasted.

Oh, and the punchline?

Not a single departure or arrival time had changed on my itinerary. Just one of the flight numbers. Now, I’ll grant you that’s a crucial piece of information that I needed to have. But how difficult would it have been to simply send me an email saying: “All the times of your flights are exactly the same, but Delta changed one of the numbers. Here's the new number.”

Instead, they chose to inform me that "Delta Airlines has notified us of an update to your flight itinerary. You must contact Expedia as soon as possible to provide instructions of how you would like for us to proceed."

And since the only way I have to contact Expedia customer service is that single 800 number, I can’t even let them know. The return address for the original email is a very unhelpful: NO-REPLY@CUSTOMERCARE.EXPEDIA.COM>.

So now I’m taking advantage of this teeny tiny little soapbox to rant about my experience. Thanks for indulging me, and by all means let me know if you have a way to contact Expedia directly. On the upside, I've already learned about alternatives from coworkers who heard my sad tale. There's one called Kayak that seems promising.


Anonymous said...

Join the club of Victims of EXPEDIA


Anonymous said...

That would do it for me. I've gotten so I only make my reservation with the airline itself. And given what you just wrote, I'll NEVER make one via Expedia.