My honeymoon photos are ruined — thanks a lot, Target!

Alexey Laputin/Shutterstock
Question: I attempted to exchange a camera we purchased for our honeymoon, which turned out to be defective and ruined all of our honeymoon photos. We were told that because the camera had been on sale, and the item has since returned to its regular price that we would need to pay an additional $100 to exchange the defective item with the exact same model.

The guest services representative, loss prevention person and the team leader (who continuously told us she was the store manager) were extremely rude and condescending while informing us of this fact.
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A flight attendant took my camera and I want it back

The camera never lies. / Photo by Hunter – Flickr Creative Commons
Question: I need your help with a missing camera. I flew from Boston to Minneapolis on US Airways. When I boarded the flight in Boston, the overhead bins were full. A flight attendant told me I would have to gate-check my carry-on bag.
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What’s your problem? A black mark against Sony for losing my camera

Question: I’m having a dispute is with Sony over a repaired camera that they say they shipped back to me but which I never received.

Last year I paid $304 for a Sony Cyber-shot DSCWX5 Silver 12.2 MP 5X Zoom Digital Camera.

A few weeks ago, after black marks began appearing on the images, I filed a warranty repair claim. The LCD screen was defective.

According to Sony’s online records, they completed the repair and shipped the camera back to me. Their website provided me with a FedEx tracking number. But the tracking number appeared invalid as no matching record could be found.

I called Sony and was given a different tracking number, which also confirmed that the camera had been delivered. But it hadn’t.

I checked with FedEx, and it says the package had been left at my front door with no signature requirement. No one had knocked at the door, and besides, how they could ship a $300 camera and not require a signature upon delivery?

The camera has been missing for weeks. Every time I call, Sony says it is “looking into it” and someone will get back to me. When I ask for the call to be escalated, a supervisor suggests I should call FedEx.

Isn’t it the shipper’s responsibility to contact FedEx? My contract was with Sony, not FedEx.

I am so frustrated with this, as it seems I’m just going around and around in circles, and all Sony can do is recite the tracking details back to me. I fear that they won’t call me back, and even if they do, it will just be to tell me the same thing again. Please tell me where I can go from here! — Thomas Hill, Miami

Answer: Sony should have returned your camera by FedEx with a signature required, and when it got lost, it should have taken the matter up with its shipping company — not asked you to pester the shipper for the package.
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Great idea! US government to require rear-mounted video cameras in cars by 2014

I almost ran over my daughter.

It happened a few years ago, before she started walking, but the memory is still fresh in my mind. Somehow, she’d crawled out of the house, and I didn’t see her until I’d backed my car out of the garage. I’d come within inches of crushing her.

Let me tell you, there’s no worse feeling — none at all — than that sickening combination of relief and dread.

Thank God, I missed her! What if I hadn’t missed her?

Well, now the government wants to do something about the issue, and I, for one, think it’s about time. The Department of Transportation today proposed a new safety regulation that would help eliminate blind zones behind vehicles that can hide the presence of pedestrians, especially young children and the elderly.
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“Royal Caribbean should change its name to Pirates of the Caribbean”

majestyA word of warning to anyone taking a cruse: Don’t trust anyone with your valuables.

When a luggage porter took Jim Van Ness’s bag as he boarded Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas recently, he should have stopped him. “I didn’t intend to give my backpack with my cameras inside to the porters,” he told me. “But I laid it down to pick up my granddaughter and a porter grabbed it and off it went.”

Guess what happens next?
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Want better customer service? Look to your inner journalist

The ticket agent just threw the book in your face. The hotel clerk gave you a firm “no.” The rental agent shook his head when you asked for a car.

Do you:

1. Call your travel agent.
2. Phone the toll-free reservation number and tattle on the employee.
3. Whip out your cell phone camera.

If you answered “3” then meet Pat Siefe, who has looked to his inner journalist a time or two for better customer service.

For example, let’s say you were sent to a fleabag motel after your hotel ran out of rooms, a problem I described in yesterday’s MSNBC column.

Photograph everything and everyone. This assures the hotel that you can ID the people you dealt with, can show the hotel that you were suppose to be in, and the quality of it, and the flea trap you were put in and the quality of that.

You need say nothing.

No employee wants to be associated with the pictures, and they will do anything to keep from being, including assuring that you have a better room. If cheap tickets wants to compare the quality of the hotels, and know who did it, you have the pics. If later you want to contest the charge with Visa, or sue the hotel in small claims, you can prove your case.

It helps to get a few specifics. Trying to secure that information often encourages an employee to do the right thing.

Most cameras, and phones now days will also record. Set it between the two of you, announce the person’s name that you are talking to, than ask them if they mind your recording the conversation (this also works for airlines and other groups).

Saying “I do not want to be recorded” looks horrible, and most people know that if the tape of them refusing to be recorded is played for a supervisor or the courts, they will lose. Further, if they get mean, or obnoxious the recording will get them fired.

Usually this means that you are treated politely and with respect and the problem is solved. They know that if this is than played to their boss, it will show the boss that they are doing a good job. Trust me, it works.

It’s a shame that such tactics are necessary. But at a time when customer service scores are circling the drain in the travel industry, what else can we do?

The reservations numbers are staffed by script-reading drones, so no luck there. If you booked through an online travel agency, their 800-numbers are also staffed by employees who sometimes don’t even have the authority to make a phone call or send an e-mail.

Citizen journalism is your last, best hope of getting what you deserve when you travel.