When Travels Become Travails

My letter of complaint to Travelocity, since I can't bear retelling the story in another fashion, and this will sum it up, although in quite some length!:

Dear Travelocity,
I am writing in regard to significant problems that my husband and I experienced during a recent trip to Phoenix/Scottsdale, booked through Travelocity. One of the premises of your advertising that attracted us to booking through Travelocity was the assurance that knowing if anything came up to cause interruption or disruption to our trip, we’d be alerted. That handy traveling gnome would pop up to alert us and provide solutions. As we stood at the hotel desk, at 1 am in the morning (3 am our local time) struggling with the issues I’ll tell you about later, my husband picked up a pen and wrote “Where’s Your Gnome Now?” across the top of our Travelocity itinerary.

Our United flight leaving Chicago for Phoenix was significantly overbooked. Making matters worse, I received a seat assignment, but my husband had no seat assignment and was in serious jeopardy of not getting on the plane. We stood at the gate, I was in tears, deciding whether to go on our vacation by myself or stay and abandon our trip - which would no longer be refundable, nor covered by travel insurance, even if we’d purchased it. The only alternative United was offering was to bump him to a flight that’d arrive after 5 pm the next day - losing an entire half of our vacation time. If you held true to your advertising, might it be helpful to tell me while I was booking my trip that this flight was XX% full and offer itineraries where both travelers could be better assured of a seat? I will be writing to United about this, but I feel that some blame lies with Travelocity as well, based on the promises you make your customers. (As a another detail, since I waited in the gate crying and begging the United agents to find a way to get my husband on the plane, we were the very last to board and I had to check my carry-on, which United subsequently lost. I’m writing to United about this, but for you this will give context for the later frustrations we experienced.)

We arrived at the hotel, and the startled look of the Night Desk Manager soon revealed that he had absolutely no record of our reservation -- and no available rooms. Even with a confirmation number, and searching for the reservation in multiple ways, he could not find any record of our room -- which we’d already fully paid for through Travelocity.

I called Travelocity to see if the situation could be cleared up. I first spoke with Daniel, who asked for my phone number to call back if we got disconnected. We did. But he never called back. I called Travelocity again and spoke to Annie (having to reiterate everything I’d already told Daniel), and she also took my phone number. After some conversation and putting me on hold, our call again dropped. She also NEVER called me back. This angered me greatly. For all Daniel and Annie knew, my husband and I were still standing at a hotel desk in Scottsdale, past 1 am, with no luggage and nowhere to sleep for the night. What’s the point of politely and diligently taking a contact number down, “in case we get disconnected” if you will never call back? I imagined they might have been relieved, “Phew! So glad I don’t have to deal with that disaster!” Even days later, Travelocity never called us back. How can you abandon customers like that?

One of the first questions Annie asked me was, “Did you inform us that you would be checking in late?” Is this part of the Travelocity script, “#1 - Blame the customer for their predicament?” I quickly advised her that since I booked both our flights and hotel through Travelocity, your company knew what time we’d be arriving! They were on the same itinerary! Later, I looked through our Travelocity paperwork and noticed in the terms of the reservation, “Your hotel reservation is prepaid and guaranteed for late arrival.” So why was your company trying to weasel this into being my fault?

While I was on the phone with Annie, I tried to explain to her that Marriott was offering a solution to have us stay that night in their sister property and come back for the two following nights when they did have openings. After explaining this twice myself and having the Marriott front desk manager explain this to her once, Annie explained that she did not understand. This language barrier added a layer of unnecessary frustration to our experience.

Annie kept on proposing that she’d just book us to another hotel in the Scottsdale area. I explained - REPEATEDLY - that I had researched and chosen the Camelback Inn for a reason and since they were willing to accommodate us the following nights I wanted to do that. I told her we’d even made spa reservations for the following days at the Camelback, and we’d be charged for those if we had to cancel. She was refusing to allow me to take this offer! She insisted that they’d charge us. When I argued that I was standing right there at the front desk and was assured by Marriott they wouldn’t, she instead put me on hold and called the hotel. Ironically we stood there as the phone rang and the guy we were three feet away from picked up the phone, it was Annie. (She’d already spoken to him actually, when I had handed my cell phone across the desk to him.) Even he had to explain that this was the customer’s (my!) choice. I was honestly kind of offended at the thought that Annie might just rebook us arbitrarily into another hotel we knew nothing about, we didn’t have a car to get to... but this understanding of how and why people choose to travel was evidently missing.

I don’t know where the disconnect on our hotel reservation occurred, whether the fault lies with Travelocity or with Marriott, but the caliber of both companies was revealed in how you responded to the situation. Not calling the customer back, blaming the customer, assuming that any hotel in Scottsdale is interchangeable with another, and at its root not honoring the promises of your advertising that induced me book through Travelocity in the first place. (On the other hand, I will be writing a thank you note to Marriott for their thoughtfulness and problem-solving attentiveness.) At the end, we didn’t get to a bed until 3 am that night.

I’d appreciate a reply to address these issues. Without it, my mind is set that I will never use Travelocity again. I will advise my friends to do the same. You can be sure that when my friends and coworkers ask about our vacation, your company’s name will be part of the story. I’d certainly like to add a second chapter where Travelocity can redeem itself by offering a refund of our trip or another make-good based on our problems. (I am at least hoping that the trip I booked through your company next month won’t be the same disaster.)


Joel said...

Hello there. I'm so sorry for the difficulties you faced on your trip. Please email me the Trip ID number to joel.frey@travelocity.com and we'll have a senior customer care agent assigned to look at your case. I hope we can take the necessary steps to win back your confidence.

Claire said...

I replied to Joel tonight! Fingers crossed that something may come of this... I'll let you know!


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