Should I help passengers with their United Airlines “zero” fares?

Anatoliy Lukich / Shutterstock.com
Anatoliy Lukich / Shutterstock.com

At 2:47 p.m. today, I received the first email from reader Nancy O’Neill. She wanted to know if a “zero” fare she’d just found on the United Airlines website would be honored. I’m sure it won’t be the last one.

O’Neill already felt a little beat up by United’s incomprehensible fare rules. She was trying to make a change to a flight from Houston to Louisville, but the $200 change fee would eat most of the value of her ticket.

“I decided to look at canceling my entire trip and just booking one way return from Louisville to Houston,” she says.
Read more “Should I help passengers with their United Airlines “zero” fares?”

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.
Read more “A problem with your reservation? Maybe your travel agency should pay”

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.
Read more “Maybe DirecTV let this Genie out of the bottle too soon”

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.
Read more “The rate error story that got away — in a big way”

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.
Read more “Oh no, Budget had second thoughts about my discount”

Southwest’s Laraba says booking glitch “neither the experience nor the impression we hope to leave with our customers”

At this hour, the likely culprit in this weekend’s Southwest Airlines fare-sale drama is a faulty database, which triggered an excess of 10,000 double-bookings. You’ve read the horror stories. I asked Teresa Laraba, the airline’s senior vice president for customers, to explain what went wrong and what customers should do if they’re affected.
Read more “Southwest’s Laraba says booking glitch “neither the experience nor the impression we hope to leave with our customers””

My bank sent me the wrong tax form — and now it’s ignoring me

Question: Last year I settled my mortgage debt with Fifth Third Bank here in Ohio. After a short sale of the house, I had a deficiency balance of more than $50,000, but through a collection agency, I settled for a $10,000 lump sum payment.
Read more “My bank sent me the wrong tax form — and now it’s ignoring me”

A progressive nightmare: Stuck in a sauna for seven hours

I wasn’t in the house when they cut the electricity yesterday, but I’m told it was swift and merciless.

A utility truck from Progress Energy, our power company, pulled up to the curb, a technician opened our meter, flipped a switch, and then scurried back into her truck.
Read more “A progressive nightmare: Stuck in a sauna for seven hours”

So you have a screen shot of your Expedia booking — so what?

How much more proof does he need?
One of the cardinal rules of getting better customer service is keeping meticulous records. When you’re booking online, a screen shot of the purchase is your trump card.

Paul Towse thought he had that trump card when his Expedia UK reservation didn’t turn out as expected. Back in January, he booked a flight between San Francisco and Las Vegas on flights offered by US Airways and operated by United Airlines.
Read more “So you have a screen shot of your Expedia booking — so what?”