Community Magazine

A Lesson in How to Piss off Customers

By Eemusings @eemusings

Stress and I are bosom buddies right now. The last few weeks have been a real low point in my relationship – I’m quite looking forward to having the wedding over, work wrapped up and the house packed up. I’m trying NOT to freak out about things that really don’t matter, particularly as the two top of mind items are ridiculous and are things I would NEVER have imagined to be a problem: a) bridesmaid dress and b) flowers. Lord knows there are plenty of other, bigger, non-wedding related things to worry about.

But let’s not dwell on that. On the plus side, one thing that’s been plaguing me for the past month or so has finally been resolved. Let me walk you through Exhibit 1 of How Not To Do Business.

We’ll set the scene. One of the countries I’m set on visiting in Europe is Greece. I’ve even booked flights already from Italy. I figure we’ll carve out a day or two in Athens and spend the rest of the time on Santorini. Knowing that it’ll be a busy time in the Mediterranean, I book a lovely lodge through Hostelbookers, one that’s named after the proprietor (who shares a moniker with the main Soprano).

A few days later, I get an email from an employee on behalf of the owner.

“There seems to have been a mistake on the web site when you booked. It should have been €20 per person per night. [name redacted] is willing to split the difference with you and to let you have the room at €15 per person per night.  I hope that this is agreeable and we will be able to greet you on sunny Santorini this summer. Please let [name redacted] know when and how you are arriving and he will pick you up at the port or airport. We are very sorry for the misunderstanding.”

Well, that’s not thrilling news, but it’s not an outrageous rate. I ask for confirmation of what the new balance payable would be at that price (it’s all complicated slightly by the fact I’ve already paid 10% of the original booking price, in NZD rather than euros).

I don’t hear back that week. That’s fine, it’s Easter. But THREE weeks pass without a peep. Amidst the rest of wedding + travel planning, I dash off another email asking for a reply.

On Friday last week, I received this:

“Sorry about that mix up. Of course we will honor the original price of €10 a night.

We are looking forward to greeting you on sunny Santorini.”

followed by this on Sunday (this time from the owner himself):

“hallo.the new prices  is 39 euro the night.and no tranfer…sorry about that”

At this stage, quite frankly, I’m pissed. The lack of communication, the back and forth between the person supposedly handling the booking and the proprietor jumping in like a loose cannon, and the jacking up of the price … I’ve wasted enough time and headspace on this debacle.

I’m not sure what the usual policy for operators is when prices are wrongly advertised, but if I’d been able to get a straight answer from the beginning, I might have been okay with paying full price – the originals were outrageously low. Unfortunately, the entire thing put me off. I’ve written off my 10% deposit and booked us a room at another lodge, which will hopefully NOT result in a repeat experience, or I may just lose it.

I get the concept of ‘island time’. It was drilled into us while we were over at Rarotonga a couple of years ago. Things move slower. Stress and rushing about just don’t happen.

I’m sure it’s the same on other idyllic islands around the world. But I don’t think that’s any excuse to neglect the basics of business and customer service.

Got any bad business/customer service stories to get off your chest?

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