jeffsoesbe (jeffsoesbe) wrote,

Travelocity and the frustration of "process"

I'm attending Viable Paradise in October (yay!) I used Travelocity to make my travel arrangements. Problems arose with the travel. I'm trying to work with Travelocity to fix the problems, but am getting increasingly frustrated by Travelocity's over-dependence on process.

Travelocity is very nice for making travel arrangements: they show you a lot of options and you can easily choose the one that best suits your needs. I decided to fly from Sacramento, CA to Martha's Vineyard, MA on Saturday, September 29, and then return on Saturday, October 6. I found a plan that flew on United and left Sacramento at 6am, arrived in Providence, RI at 4:24 (transferring through O'Hare). From Providence I had a flight on Cape Air that left at 5:00 pm and arrived at MVY at 5:25 pm.

I remember being slightly concerned about the 36 minute layover in Providence, thinking "Boy if that flight to Providence is late I'm screwed" as the Cape Air flight was the last one of the day. But the price was good, so I took it.

While I was on vacation I got an email from Travelocity saying "There is a problem with your trip to Martha's Vineyard, please contact us." Once I got in touch, I found out the problem. The flight to Providence had changed times and now there was only 26 minutes to transfer in Providence. According to Travelocity that was not enough time.

I have now spoken to Travelocity on four separate occasions about this problem and how it can be resolved. What I've realized is that Travelocity has a process that all their customer service agents must follow when someone calls in about a trip. The process apparently must be followed, no matter what the customer says and no matter what information is in the history related to the customer calling.

This process includes the following steps:
- use the Trip ID to get the details of the trip up on the screen
- repeat the details of the trip to the customer
- repeat the details of the problem to the customer
- put the customer on hold while seeing what other travel options exist to resolve the problem
- put the customer on hold while contacting the other airlines for any information that might help resolve the problem.

At each step, the service agent must say "give me a few moments to (do whatever)". The service agent should also repeatedly and profusely apologize for the trouble. If the customer asks a question, the service agent should repeat what they are doing if it doesn't answer the question.

I will say that the service agents are very nice and very apologetic. But the apologies get old after a while, like they're part of the process rather than something which is truly felt.

The first time I called, the process was very useful. The agent confirmed the trip details, told me the problem and gave me some options (like traveling on an earlier flight or staying later or working with the airlines to reconfigure the trip). I said I needed to see what worked and would call back.

The second time I called, I'd realized that flying earlier wasn't going to work because I couldn't get out of work. I also didn't want to hang out in Providence for a day while waiting for a flight. I tried to short-cut the process and say "Here's my trip, I know the problem, I know what I'd like to do." THat didn't work. The agent had to tell me the details of my trip, had to tell me the problem, had to put me on hold while he came up with options (worse options than before). The agent said he could try to work with the airlines, but I had to go to a meeting so I said I'd call back.

The third time I called, same song. I try to short-cut ("Here's my trip, here's the problem, here's the options that were presented to me, here's what I'd like to do which is have you work with the airlines to reconfigure the trip."). No luck. I had to listen to the trip details ("yes, that's the trip I just told you"), listen to the problem ("yup, that's the problem I just mentioned"), go on hold while the agent came up with options (the funny part here was the best option the agent came up with was "you can leave sacramento at 10am saturday and arrive at providence at 11:59pm" and I had to say "so that's 7 hours after my cape air flight leaves, right?").

I said "how about we just cancel the CapeAir portion of the trip and I'll just drive from Providence" (driving through New England in late September was sounding entrancing). No luck - we'd have to cancel the entire trip and start over. Sigh. I then said "well, how about you try to work with the airlines to see what else you can come up with?" (as they had offered to do)

I then went on an incredibly long hold while he tried to work with the airlines. To his credit, he came back and said "we can get you there by flying through Boston instead of Providence at no additional fee". This was just fine, but I had to toss in the deal-killer. I mentioned that I had received paper tickets since Cape Air didn't have e-tickets, and asked what I should do with the paper tickets.

Another long hold. The agent came back and said "well, the change won't work. I recommend you cancel the trip, have us refund your money, and start over." Not the answer I was looking for. I said I needed to check my options and call back. I tried calling the individual airlines but no luck - since Travelocity took my money, I had to deal with Travelocity.

Today was the fourth phone call. Again, I try to short-circuit the process and get to the "cancel the trip and give me back my money" stage. But, we have to go through all the steps. All the steps. With apologies and "give me a few moments to (do whatever)" at every step.

Finally, we get to the "I'd just like to cancel the trip and get my money back, as was offered by Travelocity" stage. I go on another long hold while the agent tries to contact the airlines and arrange this. After about 20 minutes, the agent comes back and says "they hung up on me. You're going to have to call back tomorrow and do this." I don't understand why it has to be tomorrow, but at this point I'm tired of being on the phone. I ask her if I can just cancel the trip on the web site and get my money back, but no - if you cancel on the web site, you get a credit not a refund.

In the meantime, I'd been looking for other ways to get to Martha's Vineyard. The best Travelocity could do was something that was $125 more than my original cost. Now, Expedia had a flight plan that went through Boston, but I don't want to make another reservation until I make sure I'm getting my money back from Travelocity.

So tomorrow will be the fifth call to Travelocity. After I get this situation cleaned up, I don't think I want to use Travelocity again. Argh.

UPDATE: The fifth call, on Sunday, went beautifully. Sure, we had to go through the steps but at the end of the steps the agent cancelled the reservation and said "send in your paper tickets and we'll refund your credit card."

After that was done, I immediately made a reservation on Expedia that was the same cost and had a somewhat more acceptable traveling schedule (one more stop, but more time in transfers). We'll see how *this* one goes.

Tags: travel, viable paradise

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