Monday, October 15, 2007

Expedia SUCKS!!!!

Until three months ago, I was a satisfied customer of, the online travel company. During the last few years I have purchased numerous plane tickets from them to many destinations around the globe. Their service was efficient and convenient. I didn't care much for the extra fee for Fedex delivery, but in these days of electronic tickets it seemed nice to have something on paper.

Then, in July, I reserved round-trip flights on SriLankan Airlines from Bangkok to Trichy, India, via Colombo. The cost was $494.80 (which included a $5 "service fee") for itinerary number 120460525267. The tickets came a week later. Then, the next day, I received a second set of tickets, duplicating the first. When I checked my credit card account, I discovered I had been billed twice for the same flights. And I'd been charged over $20 for each Fedex delivery. I sent frantic emails and I called the company. When I finally reached a real person (I think) in Customer Service, they were most apologetic, but could not explain the mistake.

Since the matter was most obviously Expedia's error (the computer must have hiccuped), I expected a quick resolution. At their request, I mailed back the second set of tickets sent to me. Each month I checked my credit card company online to see if a refund had been posted. Nothing so far. Now that I am in Thailand, it is harder to communicate by phone (and no doubt more frustrating), so I continued to send emails. The form responses came quickly but contained no information. Until Sept. 5th, when "Gem" (each form email carries a different name) wrote to me:
I have retrieved your case in our system (case id 35300433) and seen that your request for refund is still in progress as of this time. We do understand your concerns as we are seeing that it is taking much time more than we have expected and we would like to apologize for the inconvenience it is causing you. The case is still in progress and it is already forwarded to the appropriate department.
My case has an ID number! Oh joy! No matter that I had been waiting two months to receive back nearly $500 that Expedia had taken without authorization from my credit card. And never mind that the odd English indicated that Gem was probably emailing from Bangladesh. I was in the system.

That was over a month ago. I am no longer so optimistic. Since returning from Laos, I have fired off several emails, each one receiving a form email response from a different person in "Customer Service." What a euphemism for stone-walling! None of their emails indicates that my emails had been read. I despair of ever receiving my money back and do not know where to turn. Any good lawyers out there? This week I will visit SriLankan Airlines in Bangkok to make sure the tickets I have in hand are valid, since I no longer trust Expedia with anything. Perhaps they can put pressure on Expedia to refund my money for the duplicate tickets.

Because of my troubles, I looked online to see if anyone else was complaining. Yikes! The whole world agrees that Expedia's service sucks. The wonderful graphic above comes from the Marketing Shift web site where their problems are detailed. I intend to link this complaint with theirs.

So, if you're looking for airline reservations, AVOID Expedia. Unless you like to throw your money away.

And now, back to our program which was so rudely interrupted...

My first impressions of Udon Thani, which I visited last weekend after returning to Thailand from Laos, were not good. I could not understand why the expatriates I met were so enthusiastic about living there. It seemed like just another big city, and not as user friendly for farang as Bangkok, a day's bus or train trip away. But over the course of Saturday, my view changed. The streets are clean, the roads wide and well-paved, and the traffic was light. After a few bumps, I found easy access to the internet and a number of shops where a good cappuccino could be made. In the late afternoon I was taken to Nong Prajack Park, a large area of greenery cheek by jowl with a broad pond. Joggers and bikers were traversing the 4k path around the lake, families were feeding fish and groups of aerobics exercisers were hard at work at two different locations. At dusk, after work, the crowd swelled to revolutionary size. Along a side road there were outdoor cafes and massage parlors. Children were learning art at a number of identical shops that featured Disney ripoffs. We bought barbecued fish balls and other Thai goodies and had a picnic on the grass overlooking the water. Clearly Udon was a happy place. In the evening we went to a large restaurant that resembled a road house, named after a "sweet smelling tree," and ate soft shell crab and fried rice while listening to a guitarist with harmonica around his neck a la Dylan who played Thai songs as well as James Taylor's "Handyman."

On my last morning in Udon, I was taken to the Sanjao Phuya Chinese Temple on the edge of Nong Bua Lake in the southeastern section of the city. We were the sole worshippers at that early hour, and we went from station to station (kind of like Stations of the Cross) with fistfulls of incense to pray to our ancestors through the intercession of Chinese deities. It's hard to tell where Confucianism leaves off and Buddhism begins. Both are connected via animism or spirit worship. I tossed a container of sticks until one fell out on the floor. It was number 17 and I took a slip of paper from that numbered box to read my fortune. It was no good, telling me that my prayers would not be answered, so I was encouraged to try again. This time number 49 came out, and the fortune read: "Your family is happy and graceful by virtue of a lot of good deeds in the past. Merit will pile up their happiness every day and night. luck, fame and prosperity will overflow without doubt. Your pleasure and progress will endlessly prolong." Can't get any better than that. I watched some kids riding their bikes in front of the temple. In the basket of one sat an infant, enjoying the ride.

I enjoyed Udon, and its sister city Nong Khai on the banks of the Mekong River and I shall return.

On the short Nok Airlines (their logo is a gecko) flight back to Bangkok, I witnessed with awe the most beautiful clouds I have ever seen, a veritable Grand Canyon of the air. Surely the first pilots must have been astounded at the view from above. Down below it was not so good, flooding everywhere. Thailand is getting more late rain than it's had in years. Jerry says the dikes around rice fields in Surin are overflowing and the fish cultivated for food are flopping out. I saw wide areas of flooding in the area around Khorat. Even here in Bangkok the canals are at the high water level and taxi boats have been suspended for fear of splashing water into dwellings along the canals. A storm late yesterday afternoon was hellish, with zero visibility, drenching rain, lighting and thunder. I took a nap and slept through the worst of it.

Back home at the Siam Court, I have been downloading music (the new CDs from Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock and Steve Earle), and reading Google News. It's hard to feel involved at this distance, reading about Gore's Nobel prize (I still don't trust him), the retired general who says "no end in sight" in Iraq (duh!), Nancy Pelosi's jeremiad against Turkey for the genocide of Armenians (why is this a big issue now when it's been around for years; she should say something about the genocide of Palestinians), Condi's Middle East negotiating failures, the pitiful presidential race (the outcome of which will change nothing, since all candidates are corporate sponsored). In desperation, I've started looking at baseball and football scores and standings. Then there are the reviews I read of new movies, most of which I cannot see over here unless I purchase pirated DVDs from the night market stalls on Sukhumvit. And you know I do not want to break the law.

I have received sad news of the deaths of two good friends from my music business days, Corb Donohue and Diane Gardner, both from cancer. I will write about them, and the golden days of the 1970s in Hollywood, in a later blog.


Anonymous said...

How did your problem with EXPEDIA end up? Please let us know. I'm collecting cases of people cheated by EXPEDIA at:


Jack said...

Expedia does suck. I had a terrible time with them a few weeks ago and wrote my short blog article and passed it along to all of my friends and family. It appears that two years later their suckfest continues.