Planes, Pains and Financial Institution Malaise
On October 10th, 2012 I made plans through Orbitz.com to travel from New York to Toledo, Ohio via Spirit Airlines for the last week in November – mistakenly thinking that was the week of Thanksgiving. I made a mistake and I can admit it. On October 11th, I called into Orbitz to change my plans to travel the week prior to what I had booked.
When I called Orbitz, I worked with a nice young man who informed me that there would be a difference of $101 in flight costs to change my dates. If you have ever called into Orbitz, or any 800 number, you know that they record their conversations to monitor for mistakes, customer satisfaction, etc. This detail was important to me as Orbitz had charged me $226 (or so I thought) for the change in dates. In addition to the $101 date change charge, there was a $125 “airline fee” that was to be assessed against me as well. Had I known this, I would not have booked the flight.
After I noticed the $226 charge, I called into Orbitz to register my complaint. I spoke with the call center supervisor who “escalated” the case for review – meaning that they would review the phone recording to determine accountability for the charges I received. I was to receive a follow-up call from Orbitz within 7-10 days. On the 10th day of waiting, I received a call from the same woman who I had spoken with previously. She asked for an extension through the weekend in order to accurately define who was at fault.
I received another call 4 days later. This same woman said that they reviewed the phone conversation and that Orbitz was NOT at fault. Based upon their listening of the recording, they determined that they were not at fault. I told them that I would be more than willing to pay the fees if they let me listen to the recording.
They would not.
Furthermore, they would be charging me the full amount. The associate did say, however, that she would send me two vouchers totaling $100 for any future trips I wished to make through Orbitz. Given that I was the one who made the original mistake, and I can accept this as a lesson in humility, that Orbitz was going to screw me for $125, plus the $101 I honestly incurred, and that was that.
I didn’t think anything more of the transaction until the morning that I traveled in which all of this would come back to haunt me further.
In the meantime New York City was hit by a hurricane, I had to move out of an apartment and look for a job (see my previous post “As Luck Would Have It”).
I was due to travel to Detroit on November 19th. The week prior to that, I opened up a bank account at TD Bank in New York. I have accounts with another institution but needed something local to avoid the mounting ATM fees.
After opening my new account, I transferred the bulk of my finances to TD Bank. I had sparsely $400 left in my other accounts but paid no mind to that fact as I conducted a simple transfer of my money to these new accounts I set up.
On the morning of the 19th I woke up at 7AM for a 9:45AM flight. I live literally 10 minutes from LaGuardia Airport. I was ready to leave my house at 8AM. Before I left, I decided to book a trip home to Charleston, South Carolina over Christmas online and then cash in these $100 vouchers thereafter. The flight home was about $400 with the vouchers only being a refund I would receive in 7-10 business days. I used the remainder of the funds I had in my former bank.
I grabbed a cab and headed to LaGuardia. I was dropped off in front of the Spirit terminal at 8:15AM. When I entered the terminal and attempted to navigate the line, a gentleman asked that I check into the flight at an electronic kiosk. When I did, the kiosk displayed that there were “fees” owed to Spirit – which I assumed was the not-so-secret baggage fees that are now commonplace amongst crappy airlines such as Spirit. I entered the line and when I got the front, learned that I did owe $45 in bag fees and an additional $226 to Spirit directly despite the fact that I booked through Orbitz.
A nice young man named, an agent of Spirit, Moses told me that he was unsure of where the fees came from but that I had to pay them the $271 or else I could not board the plane. I argued with the agent a little but realized that this was something I should address after I landed. I handed over the TD Bank card that I received the week prior. Moses handed it back saying that it was declined. I told him that it was impossible and to run it again. I had, after all, just deposited a huge sum of money into the bank.
I was now “that guy who brazenly declares how much money he has in line when his card is declined”. I hate that guy. Even me, when I am that guy. At that moment, I hated me as much as anyone else.
It came back declined. And now there was a line forming behind me. Moses asked that I call Spirit or my bank to try and sort this out. I asked to see the supervisor. When Moses called to ask his supervisor to come and provide assistance I could hear the supervisor telling him over the phone that he did not want to come and assist me and if Moses had explained that Orbitz/Spirit were screwing me and that it was my problem.
Yes. I heard all of it Supervisor-On-The-Phone. And I was not happy.
I called TD Bank while I waited on the Supervisor, who apparently had to travel from Oz given how upset this made him over the phone, and waited on hold for an explanation as to what happened. After 5 minutes on hold, I got an agent from TD Bank. She informed me that I did not have a record of an account with them – which was even more upsetting because it was as if I wasn’t even a human anymore: no bank account, no money and no travel plans.
After some research it was determined that the agent at TD Bank did not record my information correctly in their bank system. The agent had started the account under my middle name and not my last. So after some deductive reasoning we were able to locate my account – which only had $100 in it. At this point I was losing it.
The TD agent on the phone informed me that TD Bank puts a hold on all funds transferred into their institution to verify the legitimacy of my identification. Something I was never informed of at any point and what I explained to the phone agent. She told me that she would reach out to the branch I opened the account with to see if they could help release the funds.
While I waited on this, the Supervisor graced me with his presence from on high. After I attempted to explain this situation while still on hold, the TD Bank agent came back on the line to tell me that no one from my branch would help me out and that was why she had me on hold so long. I had $100 and that was that. The illustrious Supervisor told me that once I figured out how to pay the $271 I could board the plane. Until then, don’t bother him.
I called my friend who was to pick me up at Detroit Metro and asked for his credit card number over the phone. Moses told me that he could not take a card over the phone like that. I had $100 and whatever money was left over in my previous bank account after I booked a flight from Orbitz and some cash in my pocket. It was now 9:15AM and Moses had to close the flight. We used the two cards I had on me, my remaining cash and $12 that Moses graciously gave me so that I would not miss my flight to see my family.
He took my bags and I ran through the TSA station. After my cavity check, I sprinted to the gate only to have a surly little Asian woman tell me that I missed my flight and I “should have checked in and arrived at the airport earlier”. I was bumped to a 4:45PM flight and I could hang out for the next 8 hours in the gate with the $9 of money I had on a debit card and an iPhone with dwindling power and no charger.
I called Orbitz and cancelled the flight plans I made that morning and told them that I would never use their services again. I started to tweet about my experiences – “tagging” Orbitz in all of my posts. I received a direct message asking for my flight info so that they could research my plans and service. I provided it to them and called TD Bank to find out what happened.
I called the branch directly and spoke to a shift supervisor. He informed me of the policy that they use to hold my money and if he could do anything about it. I waited on hold for 10 minutes for him to come back and tell me that I had to wait. I asked to speak to the branch manager and was placed on hold again.
I was on hold for at least 20 minutes before I hung up and called back in. When I asked for the branch manager I was informed that she was on vacation and unavailable. No wonder it took her so long to pick up my call!
I spoke with the assistant branch manager who told me she was sorry that I was on hold for so long. She would also reach out to the manager while she was on vacation to look into releasing my funds back to me. I thanked her for her time and that I would await her call. It was at this time I received an email from Orbitz:
“I researched your situation and it appears that you have been moved to another, later flight. Our records indicate you will be departing at 4:45PM. We recommend you arrive to the airport 2 hours early so as not to miss your flight.”
At this point I became livid.
I started to tweet again that my trip was turning into a nightmare and that Orbitz’s customer service team was ruining my Thanksgiving. I received another message and I told them that if they wanted a resolution to this case to call me directly.
After my 10 minute conversation with their team, I received a promise for more research and some follow-up. At this time I was able to board my flight to Detroit and land 7 hours after I was initially supposed to.
The next day I received a call from Orbitz. When they attempted to charge me for my change in flights on October 11th they entered the wrong expiration date for my credit card. The charge never went through. So at this point, they were going to refund me the money and I could keep my $100 vouchers.
Should I use those vouchers, that is a $326 loss for Orbitz. Had they, at any point in time, either let me listen to the audio recording of my own voice or admitted they messed up they would have lost $125 they never had in the first place.
Some might consider this a $200 swing in my favor; however, after this ordeal it is safe to say that I will never use Orbitz again. They have lost out on a customer for life. I ended up making it to Toledo and visiting my family. I am very grateful for this opportunity as it seems three separate corporations didn’t seem to want me to make it home.