Monday, May 19, 2008

A happy ending

Once upon a time (9 months ago), in a land far, far away (Amman, Jordan), Royal Jordanian Airlines extorted $800 from us before they would let us board a plane to New York. You may remember this story in the context of us accidentally leaving behind our carry-on suitcase at the check-in counter when we finally were allowed to board said plane.

Well, friends, today I give you the thrilling conclusion to what has become Royal Jordanian Saga: How a Left-Behind Suitcase Full of Expensive Consumer Electronic Devices with No Identifying Marks Whatsoever Was Reunited with Its Owners Across the World Within a Week; or How $800 Took 9 Months to Make the Same Journey.

To bring you up to speed:
Part 1, in which the money is extorted and the suitcase left behind.
Part 2, in which we send in the big guns to Queen Alia International Airport.
Part 3, in which the prodigal suitcase returns (but our money does not).
Appendix A, in which I spend a good portion of my life on hold with US Airways.
Appendix B, in which I am outsmarted by my new arch-nemesis, Mendoza.

My mom and I teamed up and spent a good six weeks playing phone tag with Ms. Mendoza from the Refunds Department. Sometimes, we even spoke with her. She always reassured us that "corporate" was taking a look at the situation and we'd hear back soon.

And we did. After almost two months, I got a letter in the mail telling me that the tickets were not issued by US Airways, so there was nothing they could do for us.

The problem, of course, is that our tickets were issued by US Airways. So now, every time I called Mendoza, I was not only arguing to get our $800 back, I was arguing that her company had issued our tickets.

After several more weeks of this, I called to check up on the situation and they told me that Mendoza didn't work there anymore. I was surprised to hear this, because she certainly was fulfilling her Refunds Division job description - never giving anyone any money back, ever - at an adequate level. Around the same time, I got another letter in the mail saying a decision had been made and it was...that US Airways was not responsible for our loss and we'd have to go after Royal Jordanian for our money. To help us get started with RJ's contact information, the letter listed a PO Box address. In Amman, Jordan.

If a PO Box address in the Middle East isn't a dead end, I don't know what is.

I called Expedia next, even though I knew they were probably the least likely to be able to help us. Their employee said it wasn't their problem, and also wondered why I had taken so long to contact them about the matter. The answer: US Airways took three months and dozens of phone calls to decide that basically, they couldn't do anything to help.

As a last-ditch effort, I called Royal Jordanian's office in New York. I managed to get a live person after several tries, but he referred me to their website and told me to send an email. With absolutely no faith that I would receive a response, I sent an email explaining the situation as well as I could, which was difficult because even I didn't understand why we had been charged $800.

Over the next five months, my mom and I sent the same email to the same address a few times each. And then, out of the blue, last week, I received an email from an actual RJ employee that said, simply, "We're sorry for what happened, we shouldn't have taken your money, and we're going to give it back to you."

Yesterday, the money showed up in our bank account, as if it had never been gone in the first place!

I really can't decide what the most amazing part of this whole story is. There are several.

First, that the relationship between effort invested and result obtained was absolutely inverse. We slaved away at trying to convince US Airways and got nothing. We sent a few emails to RJ and they refunded my money in full. Go figure.

Second, that we still have no explanation for what happened. At this point, I'm not even going to ask. I don't even want to know. My money is back, and I'm not about to question why.

Third, that the same company that could mess something up so completely could also fix it so well.

Fourth, that we are 2 for 2 on RJ miracles, the first one being the return of our luggage.

The moral of this story, much like the moral of the suitcase story, is not to let airlines extort money from you, if at all possible. But if you do, try to have it be Royal Jordanian.


Eevi said...

Troy and I had a similar problem with Expedia. Last summer, we had to buy two last minute tickets to FInland after my mom died and we canceled our tickets that we had purchased for flights that were few weeks later. Expedia let us cancel my ticket and gave us a "confirmation" number so I could use the credit later on. When we called them back, they did not have any information under my "confirmation number" and said they couldn't help us. We talked to all sorts of managers before they finally realized that they had made a mistake and gave us our money back. SO we dont use Expedia anymore because they almost cost us 1500 dollars and their customer service was terrible. Moral of the story is that you better hope that everything goes smoothly when you travel because no one seems to be willing to help you when things dont go well..Sorry for the LONG post:)

Anonymous said...

Happy ending! If you quantify all the time we spent on hold w/ US Air, we clearly worked hours and hours to get the $$ back. And paid for the privilege because remember, there is no 1-800 number for the refund department. Talk about basement level customer service. . .

My notes show that my last US Air contact was Dec. 5 last year. Marla had taken over Mendoza's job and she deserves employee of the year award: Marla told me that it is not uncommon to have to pay these kind of taxes on airline tickets. What a weasely way to squirm out of their obligation!--in all my travel around the world over the past 30+ years I have never heard of this.

The oddest part about this case is that I flew out of the same airport on the same airline a week earlier, having bought my ticket at the same time as Steven's, yet I got out of Amman scot-free and Steven had to pay $200 to leave.


Liz Johnson said...

Halle-freaking-lujah! I'm so glad you got it back.

Any chance they want to pay you the interest lost on that $800 over 8 months? ... didn't think so. :)

Shannan said...

This is why I started reading your blog in the first place - I love your stories.

Maybe after you finish your job editing the dictionary, you could be a consumer advocate. I'd hire you!

Hareega said...

I'm glad to hear you got your money back.
Although many people have very "interesting" stories about Royal Jordanian, I think the airline is doing better since Nader Al-Thahabi (who is now the prime minister of Jordan) left them. It's scary to me knowing that this man is now running the whole country.

Lilianne and Jason Wright said...

Way to go, Bridget! I can't believe they simply demanded $800 from you - that's crazy beans. I'm glad it all worked out in the end - you definitely must be a full tithe payer! :-) I'm also happy to know that your savings account is growing exponentially not only because of this, but also because you didn't have to spend any of your stimulus to buy a vacuum.

Make your way to the Summit Hut and buy yourself a reward!


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