Customer Service Gaslighting

Life is a wonderful patchwork of highs and lows, exhiliration, despair, good times, better times, and...totally bizarre, unworldly times, that make your head spin 360 degrees.


This is one of the latter.


I had booked a family trip with a certain airline, which shall remain nameless, for the purposes of protecting the not-so-innocent. For various reasons, which are inconsequential to this story, one of my party discovered he was unable to leave Israel on the scheduled date, and would only be able to depart two days later. So I tried calling the airline's customer service line. This number kept me on hold for about fifteen minutes, regularly assuring me that my call was important to them...then abruptly terminated the call. I tried this several times, on different days, with the same result.


Fortunately, the company has a contact form on their website. I filled in the information (X's to hide personal details):


My booking reference: XXXXXX

Please advise cost to change outbound date of flight for Traveler XXX ONLY, from xx/xx/2022 to xx/xx/2022.

Thank you


To their credit, the airline replied within a day.


Dear Valued Customer

Thank you for your email.

The fee to change the flight date is waived. The price difference to change your flight departure is USD 490. New flight details: [ ... ]

If you would like to proceed with the exchange, please provide us with your credit card details.

Kind regards,

H.A.


Okay, fair enough, nice of them to waive the change fee. But still, that seems like a pretty steep price when all I want to do is change the outbound flight. I questioned this:


Hi,

I'm not sure this can be right.

The original ticket was $720.

So if we say that each direction was roughly half of the ticket price, then one direction should be about $360.

And I just checked on your website, and the new itinerary (one direction, on xx/xx) is $519.

So if you're waiving the change fees, how can the difference be as much as $490? I mean, that's just $30 less than a new ticket!

Regards


Response came ten minutes later (not bad).


Dear Valued Customer

We are pleased to be serving you! We are happy to be of service to you! One-way and round-trip prices are not the same.and you can visit our website to make a reservation on xx/xx and return on xx/xx. The price difference will be the difference between the price you will receive and the price you paid.

Kind regards,

H.A.


Not what I wanted to hear, but ok. So the itinerary is a package deal, and if you change one flight, you're effectively cancelling the whole thing and rebooking. So, maybe we have to rethink this airline altogether.


Hi,

Thanks for this info. I'd like to consider other options, then. If I had to cancel his ticket altogether, how much refund would I get?


The reply came less than an hour later:


The cancellation fee is 100 USD per person.

The amount to be refunded is $580.26

If you would like to continue with the refund, kindly confirm by reply to this email.

Kind regards,

H.A.


All right. Not ideal, but nothing to complain about. So, with $580 to offset against the price of a new ticket, I went searching the Internet for another itinerary, found a suitable one, and booked it. Now it was time to cancel the old ticket and get my refund. And this is where things started getting...weird.



I replied to the airline:


Thank you for that information. Please proceed with cancelling XXX's ticket.


Two days later, I received a reply from them:


Dear valued customer,


Pursuant to your request to cancel your flight [...] please find details below:

The cancellation fee is 150 USD per person.

The amount to be refunded is $530.26

If you would like to continue with the refund, kindly confirm by reply to this email.

Kind regards,

G.B.


Uhh...did I just get bait-and-switched?


Hey, why did the cancellation fee suddenly go up to $150? You originally said $100.


Nearly seven hours later, I got another reply.


Dear Mr. Behr,


Pursuant to your request to change your flight booked under reference XXXXXX please find details below:

The applicable fee to change the date from xx/xx to xx/xx is 100 USD per person.

The price difference to change your flight is 162 USD.

The total price willl be 262 USD.

If you would like to proceed with the exchange, please provide us with your credit card details.

Kind regards,

S.M.


Wait. What? I'm trying to cancel the flight, not rebook it! And nice of them to offer me a reduced price to reboook the flight, but it's too late for that, now; I've already booked non-refundable tickets from another airline!


Hi,

I don't want to reschedule the ticket; I want to cancel it.

I was originally informed that the cancellation was subject to a $100 fee. Later, after I had already booked a new itinerary with another airline, I was informed that the cancellation fee was $150. I expect the original $100 fee I was quoted to be honored.

Thank you.


Next morning (today, actually), I got another response.


Dear valued customer Mr. Behr,

We sincerely apologize for advising you wrongly.

Let me clarify again.

The cancellation fee for a ticket is 150.00 USD per rule, and since you did not cancel your reservation 24 hours prior to departure, a no-show fee of 50.00 USD will be deducted from the total amount you paid. Therefore the total amount to be refunded will be 530.26 USD.

Please confirm with us if you want to move forward with the refund procedures.

Kind regards,

G.B.



Okay. Now I'm wondering if they're actually this stupid, or if they're just having fun gaslighting me. I'm doing my best now to moderate my response, because one hand is reaching for the flamethrower.


This is for a future ticket, several weeks away. Logically, there cannot be a no-show fee, because there hasn't yet been a flight to show up for.

That being the case, the cancellation fee should be only $100.

Please cancel the ticket and refund me $580.26

Thank you.


Three hours later, I get this:


Dear Mr. Behr,

Thank you for your email.

Great so can you please fill the below blank space so us to proceed.

CREDIT CARD AUTHORIZATION

[ ... ]

Regards,

E.G.



I. Just. Can't. Anymore.


All right. One more try.


I am actually speechless.

This is the most bizarre email thread I have ever experienced.

Between E.G., G.B., S.M, and H.A, there is no continuity or consistency between your Customer Service reps, and none of them appears capable of working out a simple instruction.

To whichever service rep gets this ticket, please can you either:

  • Cancel only XXX's ticket, apply a $100 cancellation fee, and refund $580.26 to my original payment method. Do not ask me to confirm again; this mail serves as my confirmation; OR

  • Escalate this ticket to a supervisor.

Thank you.

I'm bracing myself for the next round. Watch this space for updates.