Waive fee? Get it in writing
BY STEPHANIE ZIMMERMANN firstname.lastname@example.org September 14, 2012 6:40PM
THE FIXER HAS SAVED YOU
Updated: October 17, 2012 6:32AM
D ear Fixer: I attempted to make reservations online for my wife and 4-year-old daughter to fly to Japan in October on American Airlines, using frequent flier miles accumulated in two of my other children’s accounts.
The problem is that the website would not let me pay the fees for the reservations with my credit card, because my name was different from the names on the frequent flier accounts. (We all have the same last name, just different first names.) My daughter and son whose names are on those accounts both have special needs — one is a high-functioning autistic and the other has Down’s syndrome — and neither has a credit card.
I called American’s customer service and explained the situation. It is impossible for us to redeem the miles in those accounts online without their own credit cards, which they likely will never have because of their disabilities.
The representative said as long as I made the reservations myself online and put the reservations “on hold” (which lasts for five days) and then called in, they could arrange for an alternative method of payment; namely, my credit card. I asked if I would be charged a fee for that, and she said they would waive the fee in these circumstances.
Taking her at her word, I made the reservations online and put the reservations on hold. When I called back a few days later to make the payment, I was shuffled among five different customer service representatives, including back and forth between website support and AAdvantage International, before finally being told that I would have to pay $25 per reservation, which meant $100 (for two people, two ways, for a total of four reservations).
Remember, I had made the reservations myself online, and payment was being made under the “record locator numbers” that I had obtained. It was basically $100 for taking my credit card information.
So in short, after assuring me that it would cost nothing extra because of the unusual circumstances, American was helping themselves to an extra $100 for the privilege of giving my credit card information over the phone to a customer service rep instead of typing it in online.
What is particularly galling was that the reasons I was given included “the website is working as it should” — I never said that was an issue — and “we have to do it this way because it is a security issue.” How is security improved if the only difference in the transaction is that instead of typing my credit card number and expiration date, I speak it over the phone?
Daniel Jove, Wilmette
Dear Daniel: It seems like you followed all the instructions to avoid these pesky fees before finding out your transaction was stranded on the tarmac anyway.
The Fixer agrees: A promise is a promise. Especially with these circumstances, it would make sense for the fees to be waived.
We asked American Airlines to take another look at the specifics of your case. They did, and we’re happy to report they have apologized to you and agreed to refund your $100. They also decided to give you 5,000 miles as a goodwill gesture.
A mix-up that wasn’t
Last month, we brought you the story of Steve Cepa of Libertyville and the double-bill he and his wife received for medical lab work. The $33.18 mistake had been sent to a collection agency and Steve was worried it would mess up their good credit.
When The Fixer contacted the lab, its president, Dr. Thomas Mientus, immediately swung into action with the outside billing service and had the charge taken off.
Well, now it turns out that they were never double-billed to begin with. After the column ran, Steve discovered that there were actually two separate (and valid) lab transactions with Consolidated Pathology and that he really did owe the second $33.18. Whoops!
Steve promised to send Dr. Mientus a check, and Dr. Mientus graciously told Steve that it wasn’t Steve’s fault that the outside billing service didn’t explain things more clearly.
And now . . . we’ll really consider this fixed.
Getting the runaround over a consumer problem? Tell it to The Fixer at suntimes.com/fixer , where you’ll find a simple form to fill out. You’ll also find a list of consumer contacts and tips.