If you don’t ask…

Although I have precisely zero evidence to support such thinking, I am of the opinion that there is a reliance on customer apathy by many organisations when it comes to their customers. Specifically, I’m referring to organisations that impose undue difficulties on their customers when they need to have something addressed resulting in customers either not asking at all or giving up in frustration.

Here I present two somewhat-contrasting cases of what happens when one does ask.


As I’m a hopeless geek, I had preordered the special edition of a very mature, culturally important video game that came with a collectible thingy. On the day of release, no shipping details were available so I wrote to the good people at Amazon to find out what was going on. The response I received can be summed up as follows:

  • We made a mistake managing our inventory
  • You’ll still definitely get the limited edition you ordered
  • We’ve upgraded the shipping on your order from 2 days to overnight at no cost
  • Here’s a $15 Amazon credit – we don’t imply that this makes up for the delay but we hope you’ll accept this gesture as a show of our want to retain your trust as a customer

This is an example of acknowledging, resolving and making the issue right with the customer. The cause of the issue has been stated clearly, the resolution laid out and things made right with the customer. I was extremely happy with this outcome, but seemingly Amazon weren’t. Later on that same day, Amazon sent me a UPlay code for the game so I could start playing it immediately, effectively allowing me to get started on the campaign before I would have otherwise been able to.

The game itself was more of a letdown than ordering a Meatlover’s pizza and having a Vegan’s Delight pizza delivered instead. With the pizza being cold, stale and missing all analogues of cheese. But that’s hardly Amazon’s fault.

Virgin Australia

In 2016, I had scheduled a month-long holiday in the US so I could be incredibly mature and ride as many rollercoasters as possible. Of course, I needed to fly Business Class but wasn’t willing to pay the asking price and used my wanker-ish status with the airline to upgrade using points.

At this time, Virgin Australia was in the process of refitting their fleet with an excellent, originally named Business Class product and a seat had opened up on a flight featuring this upgraded product. Of course this Arsehole immediately called (because making this change online is seemingly impossible), paid the required $100.00 change fee and secured themselves a seat in this much better cabin. Or so it would seem.

A few days later I’d noticed that my seat allocation had changed, and to my infinite horror it turns out that the flight I’d changed to still featured the old product without direct aisle access for all passengers and lots of other undesirable aspects. I wrote to the good people at Virgin Australia, explaining that I had now paid $100.00 to receive the following benefits:

  • The exact same type of service I previously had secured
  • Earning fewer Velocity Points and Status Credits
  • Having to get to the airport even earlier
  • My then-partner’s (yes, I date – don’t laugh!) unending laughter for securing all this for the incredibly reasonable price of $100.00

I wrote to the good people at Virgin Australia, requesting that this change be reversed (as the only reason it was made was to get access to the shiny new product) and was told the following:

  • Thank you for being a Velocity Platinum member
  • Cabin configurations are subject to change for operational reasons
  • Go away

Of course, being an Arsehole I did not go away. I wrote back, providing screenshots of my seat selection, requests that the call recording be checked and asking precisely what sort of person would want to spend any funds on the “benefits” I’d received by making the change.

At this point those that knew of my arseholery were hoping for imminent defeat, with my antics somehow resulting in me ending up Economy (or the cargo hold) to restore balance in the universe. Alas, a wonderful person named Linda from Virgin Australia called me, credited $100.00 to my Travel Bank balance and added the deficit of points and status credits to my account. It was also admitted that an issue at the airline caused the problem that I saw and the initial response had not considered all the facts, with additional training and reviews being considered to stop this from happening again.

All-in-all, the issue was sorted satisfactorily but at the cost of more effort than was warranted.

The moral of these ramblings

Things are going to go wrong, regardless of how much is put in place in terms of safeguards, planning, mechanisms and good intentions. Focusing on the manner in which issues are dealt with is infinitely more important than focusing on the issue itself.



Please, don’t always be an Arsehole (and when to consider being one…)

As mentioned in some of the posts on this questionable site, there are certain rules that one should follow when being an Arsehole, one of the most important of which is to have basis for being an Arsehole. One must remember that the person who will be hearing your words, reading your missives or questioning the right of Twitter and Facebook to exist is a human being who is performing various tasks as part of their employment and is deserving of respect and to be treated as you yourself wish to be treated.

A recent event occurred that reminded this particular Arsehole to post on this subject. My family and I decided we were going to head to New York and had booked flights and accommodation to facilitate this, even though the trip would see us have to get up at 05:00 (a time that I personally think doesn’t deserve to be acknowledged). At 17:47 the day before, we were informed that our flight had been cancelled due to an absolutely shocking storm impacting the US North East.

The airline did the right thing here, and also indicated they’d be rebooking us as soon as possible.

Which they did.
Via Phoenix.
On a red-eye flight.
In Economy.

I really wasn’t enamoured with the idea of at least 2 of the “features” of this new itinerary and my family was even less enthused. We decided to do something else and the airline happily refunded the flights in full, however the hotel was under no obligation to do so and a $500 cancellation fee seemed to be unavoidable.

One catches more flies with honey than with vinegar

Upon calling the hotel and explaining the situation, they very happily asked for our original flight numbers and cancelled the reservations at no charge. I’ve since written to the hotel to express my thanks and bring attention to the staff member who made the process so incredibly easy and efficient.

The particular hotel superchain involved has gained a larger share of my accommodation spend as a direct result of how they responded to a friendly request. In this particular instance, there was no need to be an Arsehole.



The AA incident – the aftermath

After flying back from the US thanks to claiming victory over American Airlines, this particular Arsehole decided that they’d gotten off way too easily:

  • I had to get myself back to Melbourne after the SYD-LAX leg was terminated
  • The Melbourne to Sydney leg of the journey was not reissued
  • The Sydney to Melbourne leg was also not reissued
  • I’d spent about 3 hours sorting the situation out

I thought I’d give AA the chance to make things right, so I wrote to them.

Dear AA,

Due to an operational decision made by AA, my journey to Los Angeles needed to be rescheduled and the original MEL-SYD and SYD-MEL segments that were purchased were not included in the reissued fare. Please detail how AA will be addressing this issue through either an appropriate refund or awarding of AAdvantage miles.

Sincerely, an Arsehole

Amazingly, AA responded with a well-intentioned but ultimately inadequate offer of 10,000 AAdvantage miles. Although that’s better than nothing, it’s not quite what I had in mind.

Dear AA,

Although I appreciate the gesture, 10,000 AAdvantage miles is not comparable to the value that was not delivered by the reduced itinerary provided. Considering the miles, EQMs and EQDs that I did not earn due to this change and the costs I incurred as a result, I would require that the amount be increased to 75,000 AAdvantage miles to consider the matter settled.

If this does not occur, I will instruct my card issuer to raise a chargeback against the transaction.

Sincerely, an Arsehole

AA responded with “Sorry, there’s nothing we can do” to that particular missive. Of course, that isn’t true and served as excellent evidence for the chargeback process.

The particular issuer of the card used to purchase the airfare unfortunately relies on systems that were designed in 1974 and seemingly have decided to outsource their chargeback handling to an adult daycare centre that provides vodka intravenously. The process went as follows:

  1. Arsehole sends description of issue to card issuer
  2. Card issuer sends a generic e-mail requesting more information.
  3. Arsehole provides extensive information, and includes the statement “Please provide specific questions if any additional information is required”.
  4. Card issuer states that they do not have enough information and close the dispute
  5. The entire process is repeated 3 more times (!!!)

After the third attempt, I decided that the only way I could ensure that I would get any satisfaction at all is by being an Arsehole to the bank involved. So that’s exactly what I did:

Dear Dodgy Bank Corporation,

I have now attempted to comply with your chargeback handling process 4 times and have been given no information as to why the process has been stopped on each occasion. This conduct is in violation of the Scheme rules and is an egregious drain on my time.

Should I not receive confirmation that my case has been escalated and is being handled by someone qualified to and capable of ensuring that the dispute is raised with American Airlines in the next 48 hours, I will be referring the case to the Financial Ombudsman Service. Should I receive additional generic, non-specific requests for more information, I shall take this as an indicator that my request has not been actioned.

Love, an Arsehole

Of course, the only response was a phone call asking me to state the specifics of my dispute. Upon telling the person to stop wasting my time and look at the voluminous correspondence that I’d already provided, they committed to getting back to me the following day. They didn’t.

At this point, I had more than enough material to make a solid case with the FOS. There’s a very convenient online form for this process, and more-often-than-not does not require speaking to any humans. After 5 days, the bank in question made an offer of $1,000.00 to settle the complaint.

10,000 AAdvantage points and $1,000.00 in cash – victory!


UA vs AA (Spoiler: UA wins)

As previously mentioned, this particular Arsehole has taken on both United Airlines and Delta and declared victory in both instances. In March 2017, American Airlines were offering an extremely reasonable fare from Melbourne to Los Angeles in Business Class, which suited this Arsehole perfectly as he needed to get to the US for some business thing. The fare even included flights between Melbourne and Sydney on Qantas, but did require that it be booked through a travel agent (something that this Arsehole normally refuses to do).

3 hours into the flight from Sydney to LA, things started to go more wrong than a Barnaby Joyce-themed porn shoot:

  • The flight diverted to Brisbane due to a medical issue onboard
  • The flight then diverted to Sydney as Brisbane wasn’t in a position to handle AA’s ground needs
  • Announcements were made telling all passengers to stop asking about what would occur after the aircraft landed in Sydney
  • Upon landing, all AA staff decided to fuck off and had Qantas staff tell the passengers to come back the next day at 7am for updates “if available”

This Arsehole was not in a position to wait until the next day, as the business thing in question needed to be rescheduled as a result of the delay. At this point:

  • AA/Qantas staff refused to discuss the issue or rescheduling after determining that no other flights to the US were available that day on AA (no other OneWorld partners were considered)
  • The travel agency stated that they had no idea what they could or could not do to accommodate the changes to my schedule (in direct response to this issue occurring)
  • Neither party was willing to offer any assistance on returning to Melbourne other than “just go buy a cheap flight from Expedia or something”

Obviously, up with this I would not put! Upon the event in the US being rescheduled, the fun started.

Dear Travel Agency,

The engagement I was travelling for has been rescheduled to X/Mar/2017. As previously discussed, please ensure that tickets are issued for MEL-LAX on (X-1)/Mar/2017 and LAX-MEL on (X+1)/Mar/2017.



Of course,  expecting a remotely helpful response to this message would be akin to expecting an admission of error from The Orange One.  Instead of replying in writing, a bloke named Keith called me.

Keith attempted to insist that I would need to pay a change fee of ~$5,000 as I had chosen to not take the flight heading out the following day. The fact that this would have seen me spending barely 36 hours in the US was quite lost on poor Keith, and he refused to investigate options beyond asking me for my credit card number.

At this point, I told Keith that he needed to get my requested changes made at no additional charge by the end of the day or I would come to his office and subject him to my best Elephant Impression . Keith put me onto his manager, Jaydee-Taylah (yes, I did check the spelling) who explained that she would personally call the airline and call me back. Which she didn’t.

Because I was feeling charitable the next day and had picked out the ideal set of pants to pull the pockets out of, I called Keith and was told that he had been given the waiver code required to alter the reservation but could still not get American Airlines to budge, likening the experience to attempting intercourse with a bull. As much as I would normally like to explore a man’s admission of attempting to pleasure a bovine, I decided to focus on the facts:

  • Give me the waiver code. No sayeth Keith, as apparently there’s some sort of super-secret set of rules between Travel Agent proles and Airline proles.
  • Give me the details of the department you’ve been speaking to at the airline. No sayeth Keith, as they’d apparently refuse to talk to me.
  • Which would you prefer – to give me a refund now or to experience a chargeback? At this point the pleading started, and Keith responded to My Favourite C Word with details of who to call at American Airlines.

And this is where the real fun started.

Arsehole: Here are the days I need to fly – change my reservation.
AA Prole: Because you didn’t take our offered option, that will cost $5,123.13.
Arsehole: AA’s offered option was of zero use to me. I needed to be in the US on the days I originally booked and have had to change my plans as a result of the operational decisions AA made. I will not be paying a cent to make these changes.
AA Prole: Well, you need to take that up with your travel agent. They hold the booking.
Arsehole: I don’t think so. Here is what is going to happen – you will reissue the ticket for the required dates now or I will instruct my card issuer to raise a chargeback for the transaction and commence proceedings against AA to cover the cost of the trip on another carrier and I’ll definitely win. Your call.
AA Prole: Would you like to keep your original seat selections?
10 minutes later, this particular Arsehole had the required tickets. In the course of these changes finally being made, American Airlines decided to cut the travel agent out of the loop, thus denying them any of the commission associated with the fare. Keith called me in response to this and started asking many questions (mostly along the lines of trying to figure out what I did), all of which I told him I’d answer once I see the bonus points his agency was offering land in my account. Keith then hung up on me.
TL;DR – airline wanted $5,000 to change a trip that they failed to execute on. Arsehole made them do it for free and managed to remove the travel agent’s commission in the process.
But this is not the end of the story