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Monday, January 15, 2007

My friend Toenails

The game began after two people had already lost. Though this pair of card players is willing to risk several hundred dollars on the turn of the card, the two ninnies weren't patient enough to wait for flight prices to level off. Rather than play the waiting game, they booked $270 flights out of a city more than an hour away. My friend Toenails and I knew we could do better.

A day or so after Christmas, while I was away visiting family, Toenails called, e-mailed, instant-messaged, and sent smoke signals. Our horse had come in. The flight was from our home airport, a direct trip that would be less than two hours door-to-door, and a mere $220. Within ten minutes, I'd booked both our flights and sent e-mails to the other players. Gloating, while not something I do often, is a lot of fun when you've cut several hours and a long drive out of a trip and done it for $50 a person cheaper.

After gloating for a few days, something poked at my noodle. Wait? How does Toenails spell his name again?

That's the thing about this guy. No one is sure how to say his surname. I've heard it pronounced everyway from Toenails to Thelonious. I'd spelled it semi-phoenetically when I booked the tickets. And, as it turns out, I was wrong. Instead of Toenails, his name was actually spelled something like Toennailss.

I don't worry about many things, but when it comes to making sure this gate-to-gate gloating goes off well, the last thing I want to worry over is some overzealous gate agent giving us the business about a couple misplaced letters.

So, I called Expedia and waited on hold for 20 minutes before giving up and calling Northwest Airlines directly. After going through a five-minute automated process that promised to get me to an agent, a recording came on and said, "Due to high call volume, we are not able to answer your call at this time. Please try again later. And up yours, sir."

While bothersome, it was not the end of the world. I figured I'd try e-mailing customer support. And so I did, to both Expedia.com and NWA. The return e-mails were not a lot of help (emphasis is mine).

Thank you for contacting Expedia.com about changing the name on your ticket.

Without exception, tickets, whether issued on paper or as e-tickets, are not
transferable
. This means that the name that appears on the ticket cannot be
changed nor can it be transferred to another traveler. For this reason, Expedia.
com urges customers to make sure the name matches the traveler's passport or
driver's licenses to avoid travel delays.

These rules emerge partly from increased security following world events over
the past few years, and also the fact that a complete name change would be seen
by airlines as a cancellation.


----

Thank you for contacting nwa.com Customer Service.

Brad, I apologize but we are unable to make a name change as this
reservation was booked on December 27, 2007. A name change may be able
to made within 72 hours of the initial booking.

You may contact Expedia for further assistance. The number is
1-800-EXPEDIA.

I trust this information will assist you with your inquiry. Enjoy your
weekend.

Thank you for choosing Northwest Airlines. We value your patronage and
consider it a privilege to serve your travel needs.


----

Obviously, I'd been unclear. I didn't want to make a complete name change. I just wanted to move a couple of letters around. While Toenails could talk his way off of death row, I didn't want to leave anything to chance.

So, back to the phone. This time, I waited on hold for 27 minutes before the Expedia.com agent answered. It soon became clear that there is a template response for queries like mine. It goes like this, "Let me check. Ah, yes, I see it right here, sir. Fuck your mother."

The longer version was a recitation of the e-mail. Once the ticket was booked, there was nothing Expedia could do. The dude made a show of calling the airline and then coming back to discuss the various ways he'd like to violate my mother and wife. Finally, he said there was one way he could help me. He could cancel my existing reservation and re-book us. I said, "That'd be great." He said, "Oh, but I get to fuck your mother first. And charge you another $200 or so."

Unacceptable. An extra $200 tacked on to the price would get us dangerously close to not being able to gloat over our friends who were going to be getting up earlier, driving out of state, and then flying to arrive at our ultimate destination even later than we were.

I explained to the bumbling Expedia rep that I wasn't at all interested, but that I'd been with his mom the night before and she could use a day at the spa. "Try the wax," I muttered.

So, on to Northwest Airlines, where I got the same screwjob as I has before: automated responses promising the end of the rainbow and then a premature disconnect. I thought for a moment, and then realized during the automated responses, I'd indicated I was interested in talking about an existing reservation as opposed to interest in a new reservation. I wondered...

Three minutes later, after unabashedly lying to the machine, I was directly connected with a woman who had obviously just finished her chicken fried steak and gravy. The tone in her voice was clear: You just fucked with the system, mister, and now I'm going to fuck you...and your mother.

I explained my problem and the lady, none too politely, said, "You booked this online. I can't touch this ticket."

And so here we were at an impasse. Expedia says Northwest won't let it touch the ticket unless I cancel and rebook for more. Northwest says it can't touch the ticket because I bought it from Expedia.

I called my mom and told her to lock herself in a room with a can of mace and a machete.

While I appreciate airline security to the point that it attempts to keep known terrorists from riding first class, I've recently become disenchanted with the system. What we were dealing with here was not airline security. It was a couple of misplaced letters in my buddy's Toenails' name. In the name of security, Expedia was attempting to extract another $200 from me. And the lady at Northwest had a chicken bone stuck in her throat and a lamp up her ass.

Obviously, my incredulity and refusal to back down forced the piece of fatback on the other end of the line to give in--to a degree. She still refused to correct the spelling, but she promised to put a notice in the remarks on the ticket account. That notice will likely amount to, "Make sure you fuck this guy's mother," but at least it is something.

Now, any fellow gamblers are welcome to set the over/under on the number of times we encounter an issue related to this problem.

Now, time to make sure my mom is doing okay. It's been a long week.

Labels: ,

9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ever get the feeling they may not even catch the spelling difference at the airport and you efforts have been in vain?

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My short little friend once booked a flight for me to Vegas using Bill instead of William. I called the airline and asked for a change and they did so with a smile and a hug.

I think the fact that you booked via expedia has more to do with this than the security. Expedia can't make a change because they can't access the booking system. The airline won't make the change because you are an expedia customer and not brand loyal.

2:44 PM  
Anonymous maudie said...

I'll be thining of you as I drive east (not west) tomorrow.. really hope you make it without incidence (guffaw).

2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember to make the confused monkey face if they do ask about the spelling.

3:50 PM  
Anonymous Su said...

I flew probably 10-12 times in the last 12 months and it's scary how many times they don't ask for my ID. So much for security.

6:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least they didn't tell you that they would start implementing more diversity training and they have a diverse staff. I effing hate the airlines, man.

10:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your link here from UFP goes to blogpot.com , and trumpets "The Abundant Bible".

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so it did...wow...thanks Mr. Anonymous!

11:57 AM  
Anonymous Uncle Ted said...

I can't believe you didn't call me with a travel question which I could have solved for you in like 2 minutes.

There is a special # you can call for Skyteam Elite (which you aren't, but I am) where you can fax in the drivers license of the party. Close enough with matching addresses and all that jazz will suffice.

So, for your impudence, I'm booking a trip to Willard and I'm bringing my lube.

1:43 AM  

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