The joys and frustrations of travel

I’m just back from a week-long trip to New York and Boston for family parties. While fun, our trip also had frustration, snafus and hassles.

1) I rented a van from Alamo Car Rentals. While dropping it off at Boston’s Logan Airport, I forgot to remove the charger for my Blackberry. Called Alamo several times and was told to leave a message with the Boston location’s lost and found. No one ever calls back. Guess they can’t be bothered. But it costs $45 to replace.

2) For the New York to Boston trip, we debated whether to take a train or plane. Decided to fly because of a good fare (about $50 one way) with Delta/Comair. Flight supposed to leave at 11 a.m., but delayed again and again while waiting for a staff member. Did he or she sleep in? Can one person delay a scheduled flight for four hours? We got to Boston at 4 p.m. Wish we had taken the train, after all.

3) Boston was busy with university graduations and the hotels were packed. Our two downtown hotel rooms weren’t cleaned properly when we checked in, so we told the desk. Got 2,000 Starwood points as a bonus, which compensated for the 2,000 points we used to bring down the price of the hotel to a more reasonable level. (Starwood points are given with Sheraton and Westin hotels.)

Do you have travel complaints? I get lots of them from readers, but rarely have much luck getting compensation for anyone (apart from offers of a small discount on future trips). Companies write contracts in such a way that they don’t take responsibility for delays.

Author: Ellen Roseman

Consumer advocate and personal finance author and instructor.

10 thoughts on “The joys and frustrations of travel”

  1. I was trying to book a hotel room over the phone. The recording said that due to unusually long wait times Internet reservations were recommended. By using a special code, I’d get 500 bonus points. That’s fair, isn’t it? I hung up and went online.

    The code didn’t work. There was some other reason I couldn’t book online (which is why I called in the first place).

    I phoned back to join the end of the queue. It would have been fitting had the muzak played The Who, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” 😉

  2. I hate to play devil’s advocate but I’ve flown once or twice a year for the last ten years or so and I’ve never had a single problem ever.

    The only thing that caused me to miss one trip was the Toronto blackout – I was supposed to fly to San Fran a couple of hours after the light went out. I didn’t bother trying to get there (it was just a weekend trip) and I had no problem with Aeroplan refunding the points with no charge.


  3. Here’s a doozie:

    A Thursday in April 2006, my sister and I bought two tickets through TicketMaster to an NHL playoff game in Raleigh, NC (Hurricanes / Canadiens)…a 12-hr drive for us.

    Car decorated in bleu-blanc-rouge, faces painted, jerseys on, we headed towards NC that Sat. night for the Sunday evening game. We arrived at the game about an hour early, walked up to Will Call with our confirmation in hand, photo id and the credit card used to make the purchase to collect our tickets. After searching for about 10 minutes, the agent returns to the window to tell us that there were no tickets for us. TicketMaster had apparently contacted me earlier that same day to tell me that there was a problem with my billing address and that the purchase had been cancelled. This, 3 days AFTER the purchase was made, ON game day.

    Oddly enough, I have an online account with TM with all my information saved (including credit card with correct billing address) and all I entered were the security numbers on the back of the card…the same thing I did about a month prior to this purchase for another hockey game. No problems on that purchase whatsoever.

    Apparently I did get a phone call at ~1pm the day of the game, back home in Ontario, some 12 hr drive away, telling me I had two hours to confirm my address or the tickets would be cancelled.

    Thankfully, there were 30 tickets left in the standing area and we were able to purchase new tickets. We would be reimbursed at a later date for the initial purchase. I say thankfully because they would have had to drag two face painted girls, tears streaming, out of the arena as there was no way we were going to drive the 12 hrs back without having seen that game.

    Various emails were sent to TicketMaster and nothing was ever done to compensate us. Not even an apology. What’s worse is that I’ve had to use them again, much to my dismay, to purchase various other tickets.

  4. My boyfriend inadvertently washed his passport 3 months ago. It didn’t do any damage, the paper just had the wrinkly “I’ve been washed” look, but it was very much still intact.

    The Air Canada counter agent decided that, no, there were at least 2 stamps from other countries on the last few pages of his passport that she could not clearly read. Of course, the fact that they were identical to the other US stamps was of no importance. I have never heard of this before.

    So, my boyfriend returned to the airport the following day, as the manager from the day before refused to admit to having a supervisor. (Apparently, the chain of command at Air Canada is CEO and then her. Sure thing.) He goes to another counter agent and recounts the story. This agent sees no reason for him to have been denied boarding, so she calls the acting supervisor. The supervisor listens to the story and, calls over the counter agent from the day before, who is working that day. (What do you know, overnight she has acquired a supervisor!!) She proceeds to tell her supervisor that no, it wasn’t the stamps, it was because of water damage. Hmmmm, not what we were told the previous day at all.

    When I am alone on the plane, I mention my story to the people around me, since I was crying for 8 hours, and all of their passports had stamps that were not 100% legible either. How they managed to get on the plane is beyond me……….

    According to the counter agent who initially refused us, there was a memo received from Heathrow Airport in London stating that under no circumstances would water damaged passports be accepted. Now here’s where it gets sticky. The supervisor has never heard of or seen this memo. We checked with everyone we could at Heathrow while waiting for our connection and no one there has ever heard of this memo either. In fact, they explained to us, water damage is quite common but as long as the picture page was intact, which it was, then there is no problem.

    Oh ya, did I mention that my boyfriend is a pilot? Yup, that’s right, he has been in and out of numerous countries since washing the passport and not one customs official has raised an eyebrow. No comment, nothing. After this happened, he even went to the Canada Customs office at Hamilton International Airport and told them the story and showed them the passport. They deemed it 100% acceptable, by ANY standards.

    So, essentially, we were lied to, had the story changed on us and my boyfriend lost 5 days of his 10 day trip because of an uninformed, lying, overzealous counter agent.

  5. I travel a lot for work and regularly rent cars from Avis. They never cease to amaze me at how responsive and generous they are when trying to right a wrong.

    I rented a car last week in Montreal, and noticed after I’d driven off that the fuel gauge was slightly below full. Sure enough, I only drove 75 kms and the tank was down to 3/4, and cost me $15 to refill. When I returned the car the following day, I had to rush for a flight so did not get a chance to mention it.

    However, today I returned another car to the same location, and brought along my receipt from last week as well as my gas receipt to refill the car. Instead of just crediting me $15 for the fuel, which would have been more than ample since that included some of my driving, they gave me a credit for $39.27!

    I have numerous examples of Avis overcompensating for some faux pas. I will never rent from another rental car company again. They’ve earned 5 stars in my book.

  6. Re: Lorraine’s comment about Avis.

    I would echo it. I’ve used Avis’s Toronto location (Bay and Bloor) and have always had good service. I used the Hartz location at Bay and Bloor Hertz and had a brand new car break down (the alternator never worked and the battery eventually died in the middle of my trip). What a hassle! I asked the Hertz airport location about some sort of reimbursement and they said the renting location (Bay and Bloor) would take care of it. They never did and I didn’t have the energy to go in and demand it.

    I’ve had hit-and-miss success with different Budget locations, but the Budget in Waterloo was always great (I rented there several times as a student and they always took care of you).

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