Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Reservations and the Internet

I just finished a two hour ordeal making plane, hotel, and car reservation for a trip to California I will take in a couple of weeks. My sister had called me and said my father was getting weaker, that I should come visit as soon as possible. I must admit: It might have been easier if money had been no object. However, I was trying to save money. I complicated the process because I wanted to use American Express points to pay for the airline ticket.

I generally do not shop for anything on the Internet. I have bought a few books from Amazon, but other than travel I can't think of any other purchases I've made. I am not an enthusiastic shopper. I've noticed there are people who love to shop, who get a real high from spending money. Not me. I look at shopping as a chore; I try to complete it as quickly as possible.

What was especially annoying about this process was a little glitch I did not consider before I started making my reservations. I logged on to the American Express website, entered my arrival and departure airport, and times, and then waited for all the best choices and costs to appear. My first attempt I screwed up because I forgot to enter 2 adults. I had to start over.

The second attempt went a little smoother. I entered everything correctly; then, when asked to pay, I clicked Pay By Points and was directed to another page. I completed all the information on that page (which it seemed to me they should have already had) and then clicked "complete transaction." An error message appeared saying that the transaction could not be completed.

I was starting to feel a little irritated, but I was determined to get this done. I went back and did the entire process again and received the same error message. I called American Express to find out the problem. I explained to the women what had happened; she said I might not have enough credit on my card. I told her I was paying by points, so it shouldn't matter. She said she doesn't handle the "Rewards Program," so she would transfer me to the right department.

I then explained to the women in the "Rewards" department what had happened. Here I found the glitch. It seems that the reservation you book is only available for a short period of time. If you don't finalize the deal within a certain period it may no longer be available. The process of using your points takes a longer than the usual time. It is not surprising that I could not process the reservation. From the time I originally chose the flight until the time I was ready to pay the flight was no longer available.

She said this was not a "Rewards" problem and she would transfer me back to the travel department. I was starting to sweat. I could feel my blood pressure increasing (another problem I have been concerned about lately, although I don't want to get into it.)

I then spoke to another women in the travel department. I explained the situation to her. I asked , "How can you use your points when it requires completing so much information,
that you should already have? And, if you don't do it quickly enough, you lose the reservation?"

She said, "I'll help you.

I said, "Great, can you book the reservation for me?"

She said, "That will be another $50.00 per ticket if I book it."

I said, "Then how will you help me."

She said she'll stay on the line with me while I go through the process on the Internet.

I said, "But that will take longer than actually booking the ticket yourself."

She said, "Company policy."

The sweat was poring off me, literally.

Finally, she went through the process with me. It took at least ten minutes of what felt like constant torment. Once again when I tried to pay, the reservation could not be completed. She then asked me to hold and said she wanted to talk to her manager. After waiting for a couple of minutes I pressed the "complete transaction" on the open window that had previously rejected the reservation. This time, for some reason, it worked, and the reservation was finalized. When she came back I told her this. I told her that the reservation was made and that I had received a confirmation. She said she couldn't understand this. This began another process of further conversation and torture to determine whether the reservation was real.

I will spare you the details of the next fifteen minutes. Finally, it all worked out. It took a lot out of me. After a while I was beginning to relax until I read on the Internet that a plane had mysteriously disappeared over the Atlantic.

There is a positive ending to this story. When I called my parents to tell them we were coming, they were thrilled. My mother said, "This is the best news I've had all year." It made me feel good.

1 comment:

  1. The same thing happened to me recently, with my medical prescription. Awful.