April 26, 2006


If you talk to Julie at Customer Service for America West Airlines, part of US Airways, you better have the duct tape ready for your head. You will DEFINITELY want to wrap it around tightly before you start your talk.

I think Ron Cole, VP of Customers & Inflight Service at America West better spend some time on the phone as a customer so that he can update the company's rather out-of-date pledge from 1999.

Let's start with Julie. Julie, the Customer Service Representative who would not give us her last name when we spoke to her today, and to whom we were escalated in search of some assistance after five days of the company holding $1100 of our money. She is also the most condescending, unknowledgeable, unhelpful customer disservice person I've ever spoken to. And that's saying a lot.

When I finally arranged, initiated, and held America West Airline representative Julie captive on a three-way conference call with my bank, the Suntrust associate tried to explain to Julie that indeed America West's Merchant Services Group HAD put a hold on $1100 AFTER we made our purchase of $550, and that they weren't entitled to that money. Essentially, the airline tied up nearly $1700 for a $550 ticket. AND they wouldn't let $1100 of it go.

The Suntrust associate explained that Suntrust needed a fax  in order to release that $1100 in funds back to us. That eventually (could be 5 days, could be 10, sometimes 30) pending items fall off, but in the mean time, that $1100 is unavailable to the account holder...i.e., yours truly.

She said the following statements in the most bitter, loud, interruptive manner I've ever heard on the other end of the phone, and Lord knows I've talked to some Pieces Of Work:

Me: If you were in my shoes and $1100 of you money was being held by a merchant, you'd be making this call too.
Julie: No. If it were me, I wouldn't have paid with a Visa debit card. I don't pay for things that way.
Me: Well then, why do you accept Visa debit cards on your site?
Julie: You asked me what I would do. I wouldn't do it the way you did.

next interaction:

Julie: Well, you probably hit the submit button three times, that's why there were three charges.
George/Me: We did NOT hit any button twice--I know how to pay for things online.
Suntust: Actually, America West, it shows that the FIRST charge went through fine--that's the $556.50 that you've been paid. The other two holds were put on after that payment. Those are the holds we need you to release by faxing us authorization.

next interaction

Suntrust: M'am we need a fax from you to release these funds. What the customer is saying--and I get 20 of these through like this each day--is that you are holding up their funds.
Julie: Well, we got our money. The charge for the tickets went through.
Suntrust: What I'm saying is that, it may not be your fault, but we need authorization from America West to take the hold off of the two charges for $560 that are still pending. Your Merchant Services Group put that hold on.
Julie: Well these people think it's my fault.

WHAT THE HECK, EXCUSE ME? Can you climb off your high horse enough to tell me why, once I PAY for an airline ticket and that charge goes through, you deserve to grab an extra $1100 and hang onto that for 5-10 days? And then treat me like excrement for paying for it using a method that you offer on your site?

Hello? Realworld Calling Airline Industry.... Come in Airline Industry That Has Been Abandoned By Anyone With a Clue... Hello?

In the end JULIE HUNG UP ON US after telling Suntrust she would indeed send the fax. I should have thought to have her fax one to me too--in truth, I was too bewildered by her spite.

The only answer is to start recording and podcasting these bad customer service interactions so that people can HEAR what is said, how it's said, and merchants are exposed for the games they play and their positioning lies. From now on, I'm recording. You're on notice, Julie.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , = Powered by Qumana


misterorange said...

Wow, ass-kicking post. Loved it!

Podcasts of these interactions would be heavenly. I froth at the mouth and giggle with delight just thinking about it :)

...e... said...

and now, i hear, they're making planes (Airbusses, i believe) with upright, standingroom "seats," for straphangers. the better to wedge more of you in, my dear. just in cast the $5 peanuts weren't doing it for you.

don't leave home wihout it (just don't leave home.)

Jeneane Sessum said...


The day I stand up in some vertical stall on an airbus is the day they strap a goddam parachute to my back and a seat cushion to my ass so I'm the only one who makes it out alive in a crash. What the hell are they thinking? I'm WALKING to blogher.

bmo said...

you're lucky to be flying at all. be grateful, it's a privilege. these airlines know about things you don't.

personally, I'm looking forward to the day when I can be tranquilized upon airport entry and hung upside down by the ankles on a long flight. it's a win-win. I'm treated like a dead piece of meat - an upgrade in service as far as I'm concerned - AND airline staff get to collect all my loose change.

"..this phone call may be recorded for quality purposes like podcasting."

I've actually developed a technique where I tell them I'm recording them - it's amazing how quickly you get bumped up the chain.

Jeneane Sessum said...

BMO--yes! YES!