Good grief! 3 tales of compassion-less customer service

Here at the travel industry’s unofficial complaints department, we count on having a day or two off, Good Friday being one of them. Not this year. Here are three recent stories of compassion-less customer service that arrived in the “in” box on what was supposed to be our “off” day.

“I can only give you ice.” The first report comes to us by way of reader Mike Emich, who flew from Greensboro to Hartford on Skybus recently. His plane sat on the taxiway more than three hours because of a mechanical problem. That proved to be plenty of time for the paid-on-commission Skybus crewmembers to generate more revenue for the airline.

The flight attendants where moving up and down the aisle selling food and drink. After two hours, a young boy next to me who did not have money asked her for something to drink. The attendant said, “I can only give you ice.”

Sigh. I understand the Skybus no-frills model, but even prisoners of war get water. Come on.

Dead? That’ll be $100, ma’am. Shirley Lantz was scheduled to fly from San Jose, Calif., to Bend, Ore., when her husband died just a day before her trip. She asked Alaska Airlines if she could get a refund on her ticket.

They said that I could use the ticket later but I would have to pay $100 more to travel. Is there any way that I could get a refund ? I am legally blind and have some difficulty using the telephone to contact the airline.

I asked Alaska repeatedly to help Lantz. Finally, yesterday, it agreed to a full refund. Common sense — not an inquiry from an ombudsman — should have guided the customer service agents at Alaska.

“Sir, there’s a rash on my legs.” Jeannette Haine just returned from Las Vegas. Just before she checked out of the Paris resort, she noticed little red bumps on her legs.

I thought I had hives until I mentioned this to my roommate. She developed the same rash after one night at the hotel. I called housekeeping and they promptly provided hypo-allergenic sheets for the maid to use on the beds. But the next morning we still had the red bumps.

Even though Haine filed a complaint, nothing was done. No compensation, no apology — nothing.

But here’s where it gets interesting.

So my friend flies back home, and on the plane she strikes up a conversation about the sheet problem with her seatmate. A woman two rows ahead hears this conversation, gets up and walks to my friend. She also has a rash on her legs and stayed at Ballys. As she is standing in the aisle, another woman hears the conversation and joins the group. She, too, developed a rash.

Her theory: all of these resorts use a central laundry facility. And something is not quite right at the cleaners. “Here’s my question,” she says. “What are they doing at this laundry? What’s being used on these sheets?”

Seems her resort should have responded with more than a “we’ll look into it” answer.

Got any stories of compassion-less customer service? Share them here.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on our help forum.

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