Practice What You Preach

by Chris Bjorklund

Throughout my years as a consumer advocate, I’ve always encouraged people to be both patient and persistent when they have legitimate complaints. I counsel them to write letters, make phone calls, talk to supervisors and/or complain to relevant regulatory agencies. Sometimes I even advise them to publicize their cases through the media or sue in Small Claims Court (when necessary). I cheer them on when they feel like quitting or are just plain fed up by a lengthy process.

Recently, I had my own consumer issue that reminded me to practice what I preach. In October 2017, I booked a flight from San Francisco to London using frequent flier miles through my credit card company. About a week before my departure, my elderly mother had a health setback and was put into hospice care. When I cancelled my upcoming flight and rebooked it for a few months later through the travel rewards center, the representative said the cancellation fee/rebooking was $300 per ticket. I asked whether exceptions were made for my circumstances and the agent encouraged me to send in proof from the doctor. She wasn’t positive I would get a refund but said there was a good chance.

And so began my seven-month odyssey! I waited until after the holidays to inquire about my refund, and in the beginning, I didn’t make detailed notes about the phone calls (not what I preach!). After the fourth call and multiple emails with documentation, I started logging when I spoke to Kelia, Janika, Lorraine and Corey. After hearing that the airline approved the refund in March but money hadn’t been released to me, I started asking for a case resolution specialist or supervisor. I then spoke to Michele, Pie, Denise, Regina, Christie and Andrea. All apologized and made promises to expedite my refund.

In the end, it was patience and persistence that paid off, not anger, frustration or snap judgments. There were times when I thought it would be easier to pay the fees, but then I remembered the importance of practicing what I preach, and I was rewarded with a positive consumer experience and valuable peace of mind.