Friday, July 02, 2010

Flashback Friday: Revenge of Royal Jordanian, Part 3

Just because we got our precious carry-on suitcase back didn't mean I was about to let Royal Jordanian keep our $800. Especially because they took it for no good reason. There was no way I was buying the check-in desk agent's explanation that the extra surprise super bonus fee was because the price of our tickets had changed since we bought them. That reason didn't make sense for a minute, certainly not when you considered the fact that $200 of that fee was for Miriam's "ticket," which didn't exist since she wasn't two years old yet.

I set to work just as soon as we had settled back into our lives in Tucson, maybe even a little before. I developed a plan of attack which consisted of dealing entirely with US Airways, the airline that had issued the tickets (RJ was their "operated by" partner for the flight). I called into the generic number and got bounced around from department to department as they tried to figure out what to do with me. Each time I told my story, I got a long silence on the other end and then a variation on the response, "Wait, what??" I got the feeling that this kind of thing did not exactly happen all the time.

US Airways may have enjoyed hearing my wacky story, but when it came down to actually doing something about it, they suddenly became very stingy. Their front lines tried to put me off with all kinds of easy excuses, like how it was RJ who operated the flight so I should deal with them, or how it took place in Jordan so it wasn't their jurisdiction, or how they honestly didn't believe me. That's about when, with considerable glee, I faxed them the cryptic, handwritten receipt from RJ detailing the mysterious charge. Then they got really confused.

But I make this sound like it all unfolded in one sitting. What really happened is that over the next couple of months,  I spent a few hours a week on hold with US Airways waiting to talk to someone named Mendoza. Apparently, US Airways had unleashed their secret weapon when they assigned her to our case. She worked in the refunds department and was highly trained in the art of saying "no, you're not getting your money back" in many different ways. Every time I dealt with her and somehow made no progress in our claim, I was reminded of this scene from The Simpsons.

The $800 was extorted from us in August. It was late October before US Airways sent us a letter giving their definitive final answer regarding the refund we had requested, namely, NO. As a helpful rejoinder, they suggested we contact RJ, and to start us down the right path, they provided the number of a PO Box in Amman, Jordan. In other words, a complete dead end. Oh, and when we called to discuss that letter, we were informed that Mendoza didn't work in that department anymore. I bet she was promoted for getting rid of us.

Internally, I steeled myself for dealing with RJ but as a last-ditch effort, I tried calling Expedia (our tickets were issued by US Airways but we had purchased them on Expedia). From them, I got no more than a "seriously, WHAT happened?" and a "nope, nothing we can do and holy cow, good luck with that, by the way."

I had almost, almost given up hope of getting our $800 when I drafted a detailed email to RJ explaining the situation and asking for our money back. I sent it to an email address I dug up online. And then I waited.

Every week or two, I re-sent the email to the same address even though I hadn't heard anything back. My mom sent it every once in a while, too (remember that my brother's ticket had also been fined). Months and months went by and I didn't hear a thing. But I kept re-sending that email.

Until one magical morning in May 2008, nearly a year after the original incident. Waiting for me in my Inbox was an email from RJ stating that the $800 had been charged incorrectly and they would be returning the money to me within the next few days. Of course I was shocked and ecstatic, but I kept a close rein on my celebrations until the money was actually sitting in my bank account a few days later. I couldn't believe it - one day, perhaps because of the many emails I had been sending them, but perhaps not since they never referenced it, RJ had simply decided they felt like giving me my $800 back. Just as randomly and without explanation as they had taken it from me, they returned it.

To this day I have no idea what was going on when RJ demanded that money from us. But honestly, once it was back in my bank account, I wasn't about to start asking questions. Instead of demanding answers, I just sat back and counted my blessings.

And my $800.

(You can read the posts I wrote as this was happening here, here, and here.)


Liz Johnson said...

I remember this as it was going down, but I didn't realize that it took almost A YEAR to get your money back. Holy crap!

Also, in honor of this story, I named my apartment's AC unit "Mendoza" because the fan always comes on in the middle of the most important part of 24 (or whatever else I am watching), thus drowning out the sound and frustrating me greatly.

Merkley Jiating said...

To think I have been going crazy to know the outcome and it has been in your archives all along!

Here I am complaining about laundry and you have way fewer resources than we do! Sorry. I probably sound ridiculous.

Maybe I will join your naploblomofo thing this year. :)

Suzanne Bubnash said...

I recall it being longer--maybe into December--before USAir finally passed the problem on to RJ. Remember our bitter laughter when we found out, after so many endearing conversations, that Mendoza was "no longer with us [USAir]?" The whole process was comical like that.

To make this whole $800 situation stranger, Dad & I both flew out of Amman the week before you did (on different days), and thankfully RJ did not extort $200 from either of us.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

The most nonsensical aspect of this situation was RJ's explanation that because ticket prices had gone up since you bought them, you owed them $$. If you buy a sofa or DVD or a box of drinking straws, the merchant doesn't come knocking on your door 6 months later demanding that you owe them because the price has gone up!

Kristen said...

OK I thought I was going crazy because I knew I'd already read this story. Now I get it. What a mess. But a happy ending!


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