Learning to Say “That’s Not Okay” – The Art of Complaining

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I read a lot of travel message boards and blogs.  Its somewhat of a necessity when you travel regularly and need to be a content expert while doing so.  And as I do so, I’m sometimes surprised at how much people complain about little things.  But I’m working on my own skills with saying “that’s not okay” when a situation needs to be remedied.

I’ve had to do this twice in the last week.

First was the hotel room that was not up to description.  I was planning to overnight at the Hyatt Regency DFW Airport before an early morning flight.  When I found out a friend was also staying there, we decided to share a room so we could both catch up and also save a bit over the cost of an individual room for each of us.  She noticed that the cost of a double room suite was less than the cost of two regular rooms so I rebooked my reservation to the suite.  The suite was going to come in handy as she had a 5:15 am flight so thought she could get ready in the adjoined area and avoid waking me up.

When I arrived, I was given keys to my room and proceeded upstairs to find a pretty standard two bed room.  It had a desk and a chair as well.  Nothing about this room would suggest it was a suite – no sofa or extra furniture, no division of the room to suggest extra useable space, just a larger than normal gap between the door and where the bathroom started.  I have stayed at this hotel several times in the past two years and know the room configurations pretty well.  I’ve also had larger rooms with more furniture on regular room rate stays.

I went downstairs to complain because getting a regular room for the price of a suite?  That’s not okay.

I had to spend about fifteen minutes hanging out at the front desk working on a resolution because there were no true suites available (although they insisted this WAS a suite because of the extra square footage).  At the end of it all, the offered me two options – move to a regular room (and have my rate adjusted to a normal room) OR stay in the “suite” (and have my rate adjusted to a normal room).  I stayed put and took the rate adjustment because I didn’t want to move my things but the hassle factor was annoying.  Nonetheless I’m proud I stood up for what was expected in a disappointing situation.

Today I had another frustrating experience.  I returned a Hertz rental car to the Reno-Tahoe airport.  The rental itself was a bit of a debacle which I’ll save for another post.  And due to that debacle, I picked up a car that only had a partial tank of gas.  I’d normally elect the fuel service option if I had a full tank as I drove it from Berkeley to Reno across the Donner Pass so a full tank of gas was my anticipated usage, but I felt like I’d get ripped off on that option without the full tank at purchase and it was a 2 hour ordeal just to get the damned car to begin with.

So at the end of the day, I had to make two fuel stops – one to keep from running out of gas before I got across the pass – and one to fill it back to 3/4 of a tank before returning it.  I tried my best to gauge how far the needle moved (in gallons) on the first fill up and then used the second fill up to make sure my return to the airport was correct (so I didn’t incur the $9+ per gallon charge for refueling as I had no trust that would be calculated correctly either).  And of course, I overshot it by 3/16ths of a tank.

Now in the greater scope of things, there are bigger issues in the world.  But I asked at return anyway if I’d get a credit.  And I was told “no” by the rental return staff.

But that’s not okay… not after my rental pick up was botched which resulted in a delay to the start of my four hour drive.  So I went into the counter to find a supervisor and asked for some kind of credit – and was given $20 off my rental (which covered the cost of the excess gas at $4 a gallon).

The fact that I had two financial tangible issues in one week is unusual for me (or maybe just reflective of how worn out I am from this latest tour on the road).  I have a few friends who seem to call the airline’s customer service department a couple of times a month – or regularly Tweet out complaints to companies about everything they view goes wrong on a trip and I’m not normally on board with that.  I don’t view collecting compensation for issues to be a regularity but rather an exception for unusual circumstances.

But it is totally within my boundaries to speak up occasionally and say “that’s not okay” when you have specific tangible points that can be reasonably addressed however.  In both of my cases, these were definable issues (not related to customer service) and could be remedied with a specific quantifiable outcome.  I don’t expect to make regular complaining a part of my weekly routine  as most of my travels go smoothly (except when I lose luggage or get overcharged by Uber).

My tips:

  1. Be exceedingly polite – raised voices or DYKWIA (“do you know who I am”) behaviors are not necessary when initially addressing a situation
  2. Quantify the problem – use tangibles around the hard product or specific promised service delivery points and how they have not been delivered
  3. Have a specific reasonable remedy in mind and ask for that if one is not immediately offered
  4. If you are not satisfied with the response, ask for a supervisor or be prepared to escalate to another source (elite line, account manager)
  5. Once reasonable compensation has been offered, be gracious and stop complaining
  6. Know when you have reached a wall and are unsatisfied, be prepared to walk the walk .  Either stop and accept the situation, or if you say you are leaving if something isn’t fixed, “do it” and deal with it later


About Jennifer Moody

Jennifer is a management consultant and avid volunteer. Her career and volunteer duty travels have helped her log top-tier airline and hotel status annually for the last nineteen years. In addition, she embraces the opportunity to maximize her vacation time by planning extracurricular trips that have taken her to over 60 countries and 48.5 US states. Once an "every week" road warrior, she now only travels around 100 days a year. She resides in her native Fort Worth, Texas where she enjoys cooking, gardening, sewing, needlepoint, wine, and playing with her Border Collie/Great Pyreness mix puppy Harley Quinn.

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  1. […] 2014 has been one of my rougher travel years. I’ve endured inexplicably lost luggage (that I never wanted to check to begin with), passengers behaving badly or rudely or just unchivalrously.  I’ve had several separate travel days that involved numerous cancellations, shuffling between airlines, or lengthy delays.  I’ve had disappointing hotel stays and times I’ve needed to complain. […]

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