Ever since Ruth Harris tried to book a vacation to Hungary through Delta Vacations last month, she’s had nothing but trouble.

First, a phone agent booked the wrong dates, she says — something she discovered only after Delta sent her an email confirmation.

“I have been trying to get it fixed since then,” she says.

Harris spent an hour on the phone with Delta, but was eventually told she had to speak with someone at Delta Vacations to get her dates corrected. She tried to go online to switch dates, but couldn’t. She suspects that one reason for the runaround is that she’s paying for the flights with vouchers that she received when she was bumped from a previous Delta flight.

So she went back online. The email correspondence between her and Delta would probably inspire Franz Kafka to write another novel if he were alive today.

Here’s a sample:

Harris: I have called the wrong place and no one wants to take responsiblity to help me get this fixed. Is is possible to have someone call me to help me with all this? I just want to have my vacation set up for the dates that we need to be in Hungary, not the dates that were booked.

Delta: Our goal is to provide the highest possible standard of service in all areas of our operation, and we regret that we did not meet your expectations on this occasion. We monitor performance throughout our company, and your comments will be very helpful. Our records show that your reservation was ticketed through Delta Vacations. There is a note in your itinerary advising Delta that all changes must be made through Delta Vacations. Please ask to speak to a supervisor regarding this matter. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Harris: Thank you for attempting to help me. I just got off the phone with Delta Vacations and they are once again telling me that to change my ticket, I have to go through the airlines. I tried calling the airlines directly, but they just sent me back to Delta Vacations.

Delta: Thank you for your e-mail describing your recent experience with Delta. We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate you taking the time to share the details. The current time now is 05:30a.m., I contacted our Delta Vacation Department on your behalf and their office was closed. Their office of operations is 08:30a.m. until 6:00 p.m. It does indicate changes are made through calling them instead of reservations at 1-800-800-1504.

You get the idea. At some point, the polite form responses really do drive customers slowly mad. I’m sure there’s a perfectly good reason why Delta and Delta Vacations kept passing Harris off to each other, but if there is, they aren’t about to reveal it.

That’s when she turned to me for help.

Here are her options:

1. She could stop playing games with Delta and contact her credit card company, putting her deposit in dispute. She’d probably win the case, but the vouchers she used to pay for the trip might be lost.

2. She could try sending yet another email to Delta in the hopes that someone would actually take the time to read her request and help her. She might also try to pick up the phone. While it’s possible that she might get through to a compassionate representative who will take the time to fix this reservation, it’s just as likely that she’ll be placed on hold or sent another form.

3. She could appeal to a manager or supervisor at Delta. I list them on my wiki. A supervisor might see the email chain and step in to help. Then again, a supervisor might kick this case right back to the line agents who mishandled her initial request.

In a survey of more than 800 readers today, you chose door number three.

Good answer! That’s exactly what Harris did. She appealed to a manager, by email. A Delta representative contacted her promptly and corrected the tickets.

(Photo: Her bert/Flickr Creative Commons)