Friday May 16, 2008

How to lose your customers

There are several ways of alienating your customers. My recent travel to the United States put me in contact with at least two.

The Monopolistic Hubris - Wawona Hotel


Several open source people decided to spend the weekend after JavaOne at Yosemite Park, and the Wawona Hotel was the designated venue.

There was a warning sign, that should have alerted us. Several people who had booked their room at the hotel web site had their reservation canceled for no reason at all. Perhaps we were too eager to go, but we decided to stick to the plan, and off we went.
The first surprise arrived when we saw the accommodation. I and Terri were given two attic rooms, with no corridor and no space at all. BTW, all the hotel rooms are without a bathroom, and the price of $130 is due to their monopolistic position. There is no other venue for 30 miles around. Take it or leave it.
Terri was in a fighting mood, and she got two better rooms. So after some moving around, we finally were accommodated decently.
The day after, we were out in the woods all day. When we arrived back, surprise! All my stuff had disappeared. All the things that I had carefully unpacked and put in drawers and hangers were gone. We went to investigate, and the management was not able to find any explanation, except that my stuff was moved to another room. I collected my stuff and went to enjoy dinner with the rest of the team.
The day after, it was Mother day. Knowing that breakfast would be crowded, we booked the breakfast table one month in advance. However, when we arrived at the given time, there was no table for us. We waited unhappily and fuming for 45 minutes, until a table finally cleared.
The mood was not improved when we went to pay the check. In one of the most crowded day in the season, there was only one (slow) clerk at the reception desk, and we spent another 45 minutes in a line.
The bill had the final surprise that we were charged twice for dinner, and for more nights that we had stayed. Terri went from fighting mood to hurricane, and complained loudly and effectively. The hotel manager, with a clear admission of guilt, decided to forfeit our dinner charges completely. Unfortunately, it took one hour more and four wrong checks to accomplish that simple task.
The bottom line: stay away!

The optimistic careless - US Airways


I bought a ticket from US Airways to fly from San Francisco to Milan. The flight had a short stopover in Philadelphia. The 1 and half hour interval was large enough to allow for changing flights.

The first glitch happened in San Francisco. We boarded on time, but we were kept one hour and fifteen minutes in the plane. That left a tiny margin to board the connecting flight. Unfortunately, we accumulated 10 more minutes of delay while approaching Philadelphia. When we landed, our flight to Milan had just left.
One asks, rightfully, how is it possible that a flight is kept on the runway for 75 minutes, and the related connecting flight can't be held 5 minutes to compensate for the previous delay.
Anyway, the passengers for Milan were given boarding passes to another flight to Zurich, with the theoretical chance of getting a connecting flight to Milan shortly after the arrival. But we were required to stay in line for almost one hour at the customer care office to change our tickets! As if it were our fault that we missed the connecting flight.
The troubles were not over, though. The flight was delayed 30 minutes, and we landed in Zurich in time to see the connecting flight to Milan taking off without us. Guess what? another queue at the customer care office, to get a ticket to the next flight to Milan. When I finally arrived in Milan, 10 hours after the scheduled time, I swore to stay away from US Airways. And I warmly recommend the same to all of you!

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Giuseppe Maxia

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