Rhapsody in Rue

Welcome to the new world order of customer support. It’s been a while since I had a proper rant on this blog.

I haven’t been a big flier. But since we’re moving across the country and will now be flying between California and New Jersey multiple times a year, I’ve reluctantly accepted the reality that signing up for a frequent flier program made sense. Since United offers non-stop flights between SFO and Newark, and because we’d flown United for our trip out scouting the area, I figured I’d use that trip as a basis for starting my frequent flier account.

I figured it would be easy. After all, a recent traveler who liked the flight enough to convert to being a frequent flier is a satisfied customer right?

I gave United way too much credit. I can’t believe how quickly they converted me from being a satisfied customer to being as annoyed and pissed at them as possible.

The main issue is that the website is awful. Signing up for the account is fine. Transferring the miles is where the trouble begins. Website asks for the ticket number I want to transfer. Field is limited to 13 characters. My ticket number is 14 characters. This is annoying but not upsetting yet. I try both logical options and enter my ticket number without either the initial digit or the final digit.

Both fail. One number can’t be found. The other says that the names don’t match.

Name matching is actually a feasible issue. My ticket does not have my middle names on it because many websites are still stupid and can’t deal with multiple middle names. But I did sign up with United with my full name. No big deal though. United’s website says changing my middle name is simple and straight forward.

Except it isn’t. Deleting my middle names results in United requesting my tax records and marriage license. Fuck. That.

This is also the second time that United’s website information has been flat-out incorrect. Which means that I’m beginning to feel lied to. Which is how I start to get upset.

I figure I should at least exhaust the help options before getting upset though.

Mistake. The online help is designed to piss you off. All it does is send you to the webpages which weren’t working in the first place. In other words. It’s completely useless.

So I fired off a bunch of ranty tweets and went to bed.

These actually got a response and all seemed well. United’s twitter representative was friendly and responsive and it seemed like everything had been taken care of. While nothing showed in my account yet, I know these things do take a while.

One week later? Not so much.

Again, I should have expected as much. This time the information from the twitter representative pointed me toward the customer “service” phone line. That line involve talking to voice-recognition software and wading through the response tree. After I navigated to where I wanted to be, the computer told me that my transaction could not be completed and kicked me back to the beginning.

I have no idea why it failed. This is even worse than the website. At least the website offered lame excuses. Phones just wasted my time.

This time, the Twitter rep managed to get someone, a real person, to call me. And, from the department of famous last words, things appear to be all sorted now. I’ll know for sure in 48 hours but having talked to a real person, I’m much more confident.


I’m still not sure if shoving all communication for customer support onto social media is a good strategy. I’m very glad social media is responsive. But it encourages ranting in order to get a response. Since I’m not the type to rant prematurely, this means that I end up getting really upset—not the customer experience any brand should want.

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at njwv.wordpress.com, and the web at vossbrink.net

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