This help request went nowhere, thanks to the sarcasm

By | November 10th, 2016

Susan White has requested assistance in getting flights for herself and her husband rebooked from Turkish Airlines to another airline that is not based in a country under a warning from the U.S. State Department. However, this is a case that we are not going to take.

White’s daughter booked a vacation trip to Italy for her parents using Great Value Vacations. You would think White appreciated her daughter’s gift, but fyou would be wrong. As White put it when she wrote to us for help:

My naïve daughter purchased a vacation to Italy for us from Great Value Vacations in July. She never looked at the itinerary though and when I asked her for the vacation number, I discovered that we were flying on Turkish Airlines.

White doesn’t want to fly on Turkish Airlines because the country it’s based in, Turkey, has been the subject of travel warnings by the State Department. But the government’s travel warning does not say to avoid that airline, nor does it say to avoid flights that make a stop in Istanbul. That doesn’t matter to White:

Now I realize that this wouldn’t bother some people but I figured that an American company should have booked us on an airline that the country that did not have a travel warning issued by our State Department. We have a layover on both flights in Istanbul, I think, for at least an hour.

White called Great Value Vacations to complain, telling them that it was upsetting to her to be booked on that airline. She wanted to be rebooked on an airline based in some other country that is not the subject of a travel warning. The travel agency told White there was nothing it could do.

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She wants us to help, but we won’t for several reasons. First of all, we don’t think she has a case. When her daughter booked the trip she accepted the routing, whether or not she actually looked at the detailed itinerary. White may not like the itinerary, but that is what was ticketed. Saying later that you don’t like the selected airline or where the flight stops won’t get you anywhere with the travel agency or the airline.

Another reason is that it’s unclear whether the trip was booked before or after the July coup attempt in Turkey. When she first wrote to us for help, White said the trip was booked in July. But the story changed when she posted her problem to our forum.

In that posting she said that her daughter booked the trip in June. If the June date is correct, it seems unfair to try to fault the travel agency or her daughter when the coup attempt happened after the flight was booked.

Forum members who responded to her posting tried to alleviate her anxiety about Turkish Airlines and included suggestions to consider travel insurance that covers acts of terrorism. There were also pointers on things to think about when booking international travel. But none said the travel agency was in the wrong.

Further complicating the case is what White says is the $500 value of her claim. Round-trip airfare to Italy for two passengers for that price suggests that this was most likely a nonrefundable fare. In the Frequently Asked Questions section of our website, you will see that there are some types of cases we don’t mediate. Those include trying to get a refund for nonrefundable tickets. It would be tough for us to justify making an exception for White.

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There is one more reason: The sarcastic tone of her original complaint, in addition to calling her daughter a name, really turned us off. If she used that tone with the travel agency, it’s likely they would have been put off also. That kind of tone doesn’t help you. As our own Christopher Elliott wrote in a previous column:

Sarcasm may be a useful rhetorical device, when used sparingly. But when it comes to resolving customer service disputes, it’s almost always counterproductive, if not also destructive.

That’s something that we all need to remember when we want someone to help us resolve a complaint. White could have found other valuable pointers on our website on how to resolve a consumer dispute.

The only thing we will do with White’s complaint is move it to the Case Dismissed file.

Should we have advocated for Susan White?

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