Monday, January 26, 2015

Customer Service 101

I woke up with a fire in my belly this morning. And that was before I read the late-last-night email and early-this-morning text from my brother...

Let me tell you more.

In December, my sister and I planned a purely frivolous and extraordinary weekend in Vegas, to go see Dancing With the Stars Live in February.

As I was making the reservation, I kept asking my sister "Are you sure?" "Should I hit the 'I Accept' (and every other) button (there was to press along our way)?"

By the time we got off the phone that fateful night, it was a done deal. We were going to Vegas!

As if that wasn't exciting enough by itself, my sister-in-law texted me a few days later, asking me where we were staying, because she wanted to surprise my brother with the gift of a trip-for-two to Vegas (with her sister-in-laws, no less!) for Christmas; their upcoming 25th anniversary and my brother's looming 50th birthday. All in one.

The exhilaration levels rose by the moment. Between surprising my brother (he is a tough guy to surprise) and my sister with (at the time) that-which-only-my-sister-in-law-and-I-knew, was a gift unto itself.

It took (perhaps) less than a week before my brother admitted he read the confirmation email about the trip and the cat was out of the bag.

But my sister still didn't know.

We all walked around like Cheshire Cats, withholding this great surprise from my sister. It was fun and we were all anticipating her great surprise when we stumbled into my brother and his wife in Vegas, of all places. We couldn't wait to see her reaction.

Long story short, I was the one who spilled the beans to my sister. Perhaps it was meant to be, because due to circumstances beyond our control, it is looking like my brother and his wife may be backing out of the trip. Or at the very least, delaying their departure date by a day.

We had a 'conference call' between the three siblings last night. My sister and I agreed that my brother is in the hardest position of all, as we weighed out the facts we know and needed to decide whether we should all back out of our trip or not.

In the end, we thought the perfect compromise was for my brother and his wife to try and change their flight by one day.

Sounds simple, doesn't it?

Unfortunately this sounded like the best option for them because their 'comprehensive cancellation insurance package' has very strict guidelines about paying out. And our situation, as dire as it feels to us, does not meet their criteria. So they stood to lose their entire holiday and be out the full cost of the trip, plus their insurance costs.

Before I went to sleep last night, my brother emailed me to tell me that "Yes" they could change their departure date. The cost? $1800!! Their entire trip only cost $1600, so their total out-of-pocket-expense was $3400. It was 'cheaper' to bail out completely and not even go.


I woke up before my alarm this morning, with my brother and sister-in-law first and foremost in my mind. I had a plan.

I have learned a lesson within this little life of mine. "Never be afraid to ask". You still may be told 'no', but at least you gave it your best shot.

I called bright and early this morning. I was on hold for less than two minutes. I got a polite representative and once she confirmed I had enough information to continue, I asked her if she had time to hear our story.

She said she did.

Our story is not long. It is not complicated. But it is fresh, new territory for our family, as we tread into this together.

Part two of the story is my brother and his wife.

This trip was booked with the best of intentions and a heart full of love and generosity. This is a couple who works hard for every penny they have, so a trip such as this is not taken lightly. It's a big thing. They will be honoring twenty five years of marriage in four months.

While they were on their modest honeymoon twenty five years ago, my brother looked at his new bride with stars in his eyes and full of wonder and hope for their future. I am not certain what the exact words were but in my mind's eye, I see this young couple boarding a ferry and my newly wed brother (probably) said (something to the effect of) "We will go on a cruise for our 25th anniversary ..."

A three-day-trip to Vegas was a small consolation prize. And one that cost them dearly.

I plead their case to the representative. I did not deny their position of hearing every story in the book, when it comes to reasons for cancellation. But I explained this was new and foreign ground for our family and we would appreciate anything they could offer. Travel credit for a future holiday (for my brother and his wife) perhaps?

This representative listened to me without interruption and then relayed the facts to her supervisor.

Her supervisor first offered her condolences for our situation. She then offered two options (neither of which include losing the full cost of their holiday nor charging a exorbitant amount of money to switch dates).

Number 1 - I appreciated both of these representatives hearing me out. Number 2 - I was relieved neither one of them immediately defaulted to a line akin to "I'm sorry, but that is our policy". Number 3 - I was grateful to be passed along to a supervisor without having to demand that my plea be heard by someone who could make decisions that fell outside of regular company policy.

I wish they had offered my brother and his wife a free cruise as a gift for their 25th wedding anniversary but all stories do not end with a fairy tale ending.

Because the second thing my quiet little life has taught me is to "Dare to dream for impossible things".

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