Your Face (kandigurl) wrote,
Your Face
kandigurl

Hotwire horror story

Hey everyone who travels!

thenewrobroy posted about this in his lj, it's his recent experience with Hotwire. This isn't one of those crazy "GUYS FORWARD THIS EMAIL TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW BECAUSE I MADE UP THIS STORY ABOUT HOW HORRIBLE SUCH AND SUCH IS", it's a legit account by a legit human being whom I've met in person, and I've been following his recaps in his lj for the past few days. ANYWAYS:

"Hey guys, I know this is no bedtime story, and I know it's long-long-long, but please take the time to read it. I think by the end you'll see why I've written it and sent it to you.

"My story starts at around 7pm on September 29th, 2007. I decided to review my upcoming travel plans. As you may or may not know, I love to travel, and so usually have three or four trips in the works. I had made a mistake booking a return flight, and in realizing this, aimed to fix it immediately.

"This particular flight was booked through Hotwire.com, and though I normally book exclusively through American Airlines, their ticket was nearly double the cost of the one I found on Hotwire. At around 7:15 I called Hotwire and waited on hold for more than half an hour (until about 7:45pm) until I spoke to Patty, who informed me that there was nothing that she could do at that time, but that she would put in the change request for the people who could, which I would later learn was the Hotwire Air Team. I was told by Patty, who was incredibly polite, that someone would contact me within 72 hours, and it would be resolved when they called me back.

"On Monday morning, I called for a status update. Not because I disbelieved Hotwire at that point, but because I simply wanted to know what the situation was and if we were still on track. It's the project manager in me, I guess, and this was now a project – especially because I was inside the 14 day period, and every day longer meant a further increase in fare price. I was told by Angie(? - I didn't write her name down yet, I had no cause) that someone should be contacting me on Monday afternoon, or Tuesday at the latest. Tuesday midday, I had yet to hear back, and thus contacted Hotwire again and was assured that someone would take care of my request by the end of the day.

"Wednesday morning, I had not heard from anyone. I called Hotwire again and spoke with Amanda. Amanda said she was aware that it was more than 72 hours (and for those keeping track, that's true, we were now at 84 hours and counting, and a fare increase of nearly $200) but that the Air Team was backlogged and they would 'get to me when they they can.' I found this unacceptable and asked to speak to a supervisor. I spoke with Tina R, who assured me that there was nothing Hotwire could to for me until the Air Team contacted me. At this point I asked for a refund, because they could not provide a reasonable answer as to A) When I would be contacted, B) How I could contact the Air Team directly, or C) What to do about my rapidly approaching travel plans. She told me to contact the issuing airline and that I should be able to change it through that method. Tina R assured me that there was absolutely no way for any supervisor to contact the Air Team.

"Immediately following this, I contacted the airline in question (AirTran) and spoke within two minutes to an agent (Danielle) who looked up my ticket and said that because it was issued through Hotwire, they would not be able to change it. I explained the situation and she got her supervisor, a Mrs. M, to check and see if there was a way around that or they could make an exception. Unfortunately, they could not. Because it was booked through Hotwire, it had to be changed through Hotwire. The AirTran people were extremely apologetic, but they simply could not change the ticket. They also told me that Hotwire should have known this, and never told me to contact AirTran.

"At this point I called Hotwire once more, and as you might imagine, was more than a bit hot under the collar about being given the run around. I after an initial hold period of roughly 10 minutes, I spoke to Katrina around 8:45am, confirmed my data, explained the situation, and then was placed on hold again for her to check on what, if anything could be done. She returned roughly five minutes later and told me that her supervisor was on the phone with the Air Team, directly contradicting what was told to me earlier by Tina R, the first supervisor. She placed me on hold further and then returned and said there was simply nothing they could do, and I would just have to wait for the Air Team to call me. At this point I was beyond frustrated and wrote a letter, which I sent certified and with a return reciept, to Expedia's (because they own Hotwire) Travel Advocacy group – because I was told they had no executive, director or vice president, of customer service that I could address this issue to. I also copied Hotwire's suggestion email, by cutting and pasting into the form on their contact page. I received a notification saying that if there was any fare increase due to Hotwire's poor response time, I would not be required to pay it. For reference, my request number was KMM3390512V34758L0KM.

"I let this go Wednesday afternoon. I had other plans in the evening and was not going to fuss about the situation, and indeed, let it go all day Thursday as well, as I had meeting and things to do at work. Thursday evening, I called Hotwire again, at roughly 8pm. Please note that it had been five full days, and four full business days, since my request was made. The agent who took my call was Patty, the one who took my initial call on Saturday, the 29th. It was now October 4th. I told her that I wanted to check on my change request, and at first she thought I meant making a new one, which upped my ire a bit, because she thought I wanted to do a new exchange. I explained no, that I had already requested one, and it had been five days. She put me on hold to check the status, and returns noting that yes, the change request was in process and had been since 9/29. I explained my frustration level to her, the fare increase, and that I really would like to know if something could be done. I was placed on hold for another 10 minutes, after which I was told (apologetically) that no, there wasn't anything she could do.

"At 9:15 on Friday morning, while I was in a staff meeting, I received a phone call on my mobile phone from a number I did not recognize, and shunted it to voice mail. After the meeting, which ended about 9:20, I checked my voice mail and found it was from Hotwire's Air Team. They said that they could do the exchange and that I needed to call back the main number, which I did immediately.

"I spoke to Brandy, who informed me that because I had missed the call from the Air Team, they would have to put in a new change request. I informed Brandy that was completely unacceptable, as I had already waited six days, and that I was not about to wait another six to get my ticket changed. She said to try calling AirTran. I guess they really don't know that AirTran won't change tickets because they were booked through Hotwire, and informed Brandy of that. I was then placed on hold to see if there was anything else they could do. Nearly ten minutes later, Brandy returns and tells me that they will indeed have to place a new change request.

"I explained this was completely beyond unacceptable, and that this needed to be taken care of at that moment. I did say "this is stupid" but explain I am not mad at the agent, but I am very, very frustrated with the company. I state this needs to be escalated and ask for a supervisor. I was placed on hold for another 10 minutes (and was beginning to wonder if they used an egg timer for these things) and spoke once again to Tina R, the supervisor I had spoken with on Wednesday (and told me vehemently that there was no way a supervisor could speak to an Air Team member about my issue) apologizes for the problems and miraculously finds a way to get an Air Team member on the phone.

"Lorrie, the Air Team member who had left the voice mail message gets on the phone and informs me that they would be able to make the change right then, and confirmed the details, and then informs me of the change fee ($75 dollars) which AirTran charges, and the fare increase. She states that they are waiving the AirTran service charge for the change. I can't help but having internal dialog that runs along the lines of “They had just better!” though in severely less polite language. I also inform her of the email response stating that I would not have to pay any fare increase related to their delays, at which point I am placed on hold to check on that for roughly ten more minutes, I guess to check the validity of the statement of an extremely aggravated customer, at which point she comes back and says they will honor that, and as such I will only have to pay the AirTran change fee. I accept this and am told to expect an email within half an hour confirming my change. Three hours later, when I still hadn't gotten one, I called back and asked what the hold up was, and got the email while I was on the phone (and on hold again, mind you).

"Tuesday morning, October 9th, while checking my bank statement, I discovered that I had been double charged for the change fee. I called and spoke with Sam in billing, who asked me to fax a copy of my bank statement showing the double charge to them. He admitted that they did run the charge twice, but that one had returned an error, so they ran it again. I faxed my bank statement around 10am, and per Sam's assurance, expected to hear from someone that same day. I did not. When I called in today, October 10th, I was told that the fax had not been received and that I needed to send it again.

"Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this has been my experience with Hotwire, and I completely advocate using some other company – ANY other company, to book your travel. As someone has dealt directly with clientèle in the past, I've always maintained that you don't lie to them, and you set their expectations accordingly. If one mishandles this, it should be corrected proactively, and before (like me) the client gets their knickers in a twist.

"As one quick detail, this all stemmed from the fact that I wanted to change my outbound flight from 6:50am, which was my mistake, to 8:30pm on the same day as it originally departed. I've now invested numerous hours in this only for Hotwire to have yet more problems.

"I don't normally request that people forward things, and I don't normally forward them or send mass emails myself, but please, please, please forward this and let others know that they can save themselves time, money, and an amazing amount of frustration by not using Hotwire.

"Thanks - and if there are any questions, I can be reached at thenewrobroy@gmail.com"
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