The thing is, when you are in the travel business, and you make a mistake, you dont just make a mistake, you ruin someone's holiday, and they may have been looking forward to it for months, or even years.
I havent been to the Golden Temple in years. Its a dream to go back and experience the peace of 4 am in Golden Temple like the last time. So finally, one zeroed in on a weekend in July, and got the tickets booked.
The hotel was booked through www.expedia.co.in.
Here is the whole story:
Reservation made online. If you book online, there is a time when they say "checking availability, please wait". So one assumes that the rooms are booked. The full payment is taken in advance.
Day 2: 1700 hours:
To be sure , i call up the hotel to confirm that they have got the booking from expedia.co.in. They say no, and sorry, we are sold out. No place at all. Then i call expedia.co.in and ask them why the booking has not yet reached the hotel. The lady, Gayatri, puts me on hold for 10 minutes and then tells me, sorry the hotel is sold out. I cannot do anything. I can give you a full refund if you want. I do not want a refund. The full refund i will get even if i cancel online. No meherbani there.
I asked for alternative accomodation. She says, sorry , we cannot process that. We will have to get to another department that deals with cases like that.
Me: Ok, so talk to them and get back to me.
Gayatri: Sorry, i cannot do that. I cannot call them if u drop the call, and i cannot call you back or email you.
So, i am put on hold for 15 whole minutes after which i drop off.
Day 2, 2330 hours:
I call again, only to be put through to the lodging team again. This time, the hold time is about 5 minutes. The lady tells me that she has to speak to the original hotel personally before booking me in an alternative place. I tell her that someone from their company has spoken to the hotel and indicated that there is no place, which is the reason why i m making this call in the first place. She says "i understand, but this is policy."
Hold time: 15 minutes while she tries to talk to the hotel (Best Western Merrien)
After that, she unholds me and tells us that she is not able to get to the hotel but she will go ahead and process my alternative accomodation anyway. She recommends another comparable hotel and i say ok. She puts me on hold - 20 minutes this time, and then tells me (You have to hear this to believe it) "Oh, i finally understand why i am not able to get through to anyone in India. Because of the time difference - it is night in India now, and all the reservation desks are closed." - This, from someone who works in an international operation across time zones.
I am promised that tomorrow morning, by 10, someone will make an alternative booking for me and call me back. Great.
Day 3: 1040 hours: No call yet.
I call them, and the agent - Gagan Kalia this time, gives me another runaround and another round of holding while he talks to the lodging team. I ask him whether the agent from last night has left an instruction that i should be booked into another hotel first thing tomorrow morning. He says NO, we do not have an instruction like that, nor do we have an instruction to call u by 10, and anyway we cannot make outbound calls.
I leave instructions with Gagan on the order of preference of hotels and will he please email me within the next 2 hours with the new accomodation details? He says, for sure mam.
Day 3: 1700 hours: No Call or email yet.
Predictably, i call again.. and this time, i am told the same thing "I have to contact the Lodging Dept to authorise this alternative accomodation. May I please put your call on hold while i connect to them? It will only take 2-3 minutes."
Actual Hold time: 15 minutes.
Result of Hold time: This case has been assigned to another person who is finding from the hotel why they cannot give reservation. I will advise you to wait for at least 24 hours because he sits in the US. (Like i care!)
Me: Can you please at least process a full refund?
Asif Ahmad: Not without authorisation from this person mam.
Me: How come Gayatri said she can do a full refund right now?
Asif Ahmad: I dont know mam.
Me: Asif, its on your website. Cancel 4 days in advance and get full refund. Where does approval come in?
Asif Ahmad: Can i place you on hold while i check whether i can get u a refund right now?
Hold time : 15 minutes.
Result of hold time: We are processing your entire refund, and it will take 7-10 business days (thats half a month in calendar time)
Me: Why will it take so long?
Asif Ahmad: Thats the SOP mam.
Why am i taking these names? Because this stellar performance should come up when someone is googling them for employment. If you want employees who are good at giving customers the runaround, i would highly recommend all employees of expedia, and personally recommend these 3. In a cheating and fraud business, these guys will be right at home.