A problem with your reservation? Maybe your travel agency should pay

Ivan Cholakov / Shutterstock.com
Ivan Cholakov / Shutterstock.com
When Jennifer Forbes and her husband checked in for a recent flight from Richmond to Freeport, Bahamas, they discovered that there are worse ways to start a vacation than having an invalid ticket.

Much worse. The airline on which they had reservations, Bahamasair, didn’t even serve Richmond.

“We had non-refundable hotel reservations,” says Forbes, a homemaker who lives in McKenney, Va. “But we had no way to get there.”

Forbes had booked her vacation through an online travel agency called Hotwire, which offers customers steep discounts in exchange for not telling them the exact airline or hotel they’re booking until they’ve made their reservations. And all reservations are final and non-refundable.
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Maybe DirecTV let this Genie out of the bottle too soon

Fer Gregory/Shutterstock
Fer Gregory/Shutterstock
Steve Lipscomb upgrades to a DirecTV Genie set-top box. But it doesn’t work right, and now the company won’t let him out of his contract or allow him to downgrade to his old box. What now?

Question: I was a satisfied customer of DirecTV for years. Then I upgraded to a new service called the Genie. I’ve had nothing but problems since then. The picture freezes and recorded shows jump forward by 30 minutes when you try to fast-forward through commercials.

When I called DirecTV, a representative asked me to start “logging” my problems. I’ve been doing this for six weeks now. They call every week and I read my log of incidents and they say, “Continue to log the incidents.”

Here’s my beef: I had a perfectly working system before I upgraded. To me, upgrade means moving to a better system. I have had nothing but problems. Their own people have told me they had issues with the system since it came out, and yet they continue to advertise it as an upgrade and required me to commit to a two-year agreement to get this upgrade.
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The rate error story that got away — in a big way

Pavel IgnatovShutterstock
Pavel IgnatovShutterstock
Anyone who reads this site probably knows my position on rate errors, which is to say I think it’s wrong to take advantage of someone else’s mistake, even if it’s made by a big travel company.

So you can imagine how dismayed I was when I got a call from Howard Steinberg, who owns several Budget car rental franchises in the United States. Not only had one of his customers exploited a rate error, he says, but I had helped the traveler do it.

How’s that?

Well, to get up to speed on this story, here’s the Q&A column that started it all. It involved a reader named Brandon Chase who had received a mysterious phone call from Budget’s auditing department, notifying him of a billing error. Budget re-charged his credit card $85, apparently not giving him a discount it had promised.
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Oh no, Budget had second thoughts about my discount

Maria Scaldina/Shutterstock
Maria Scaldina/Shutterstock
Question: I’d like to share my recent Budget Car Rental experience with you that has me committed to never doing business with them again.

A couple weeks ago I received a voicemail saying the Budget at the Kansas City airport would be charging me an extra $104 because an “internal audit” found they gave me too much of a discount. My receipt shows the $85 discount, which seemed right since there was an advertised discount.

So, they billed my credit card without my authorization, and then added in all the additional taxes and fees to bring the amount up to $104. I called Budget corporate and the franchise, but nobody would help fix the issue, even though I had a receipt to prove we “agreed” on the lesser amount.
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Attack of the airfare thieves

worker/Shutterstock
worker/Shutterstock

Who could have predicted the furious reaction to the recent story about a woman who booked a cheap airline ticket from Myanmar to Canada, and my characterization of her as an airfare thief?

Not me. But I’m circling back to her case, and the broader issue of fare errors, because many commenters asked me to.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve written about the ethics of taking advantage of a price mistake. I covered the issue in 2010, when a British Airways fare error affected hundreds of travelers. I also refused to mediate a Korean Air fare mistake once I learned that many passengers had knowingly — some would say fraudulently — booked the erroneously-priced tickets.
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Help, my CenturyLink bill is $#!*#d up — can you fix this thing?

Question: I’m trying to get a billing problem fixed with CenturyLink, but am having no luck. I recently signed up for a CenturyLink-DirecTV bundle without phone service through the CenturyLink website. I agreed to pay a rate of $24.95 a month.

When I got my first bill, I saw several fees and charges I didn’t recognize, including an “Internet” charge of $34.95 and a related one-time fee of $5.95.

I called CenturyLink and was advised that the $24.95 rate was only valid for a bundle package of home phone and Internet. I showed a representative the order form on the CenturyLink website, but even after I did, the company refused to adjust my bill.
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