Monday, March 17, 2014

What a Nightmare

What a nightmare.  After this experience, I'll never book a package again!  Only plane tickets, thank you.  When I went to book my flight and a car rental, after all the entries with myself, my wife, my debit card, etc., and hitting the "book" button, I got a message back that said, "We couldn't contact Budget car rental.  Please try again later or choose another car rental company", 
OK, I thought, I'll use another car rental company.  So I went to take another rental company, and found I had to go through THE WHOLE PROCESS AGAIN.  It wasn't just a matter of booking another car rental onto the existing booked itinerary.  NO--I had to fill in all the blanks, including my debit card, AGAIN.  While doing this, I must've made a tactical error--I saw a button that said, "keep your itinerary and book a different car company".  So I hit the button.  Unfortunately, AFTER I again hit the "book" button, I found to my chagrin that the wrong flights had been booked with the new car company.  You mean to tell me that the computer program doesn't remember what flights I just booked??  It just FORGOT?? 
Anyway, I decided it was time to get on the phone and try to straighten things out.  The guy I got on the phone wasn't real interested in my problem; I'm sure he was thinking, "Here's another computer-challenged goof who can't get his booking straight".  But he did cancel my booking and allow me to start over, although I gather there was a cancellation fee charged even though it was only about 10 minutes since I'd booked. 
So I tried again.  Got the itinerary right, went through all the entries yet AGAIN, including the Visa card stuff, and--guess what?  They still couldn't contact the car rental company.  So I tried again with the other company.  This time, I got a message that my bank wouldn't allow the funds to be released!  I checked my bank account online, and there had been 3 withdrawals for the plane tickets!  With the withdrawal for the car, it totaled over $2400 of withdrawals to our account.  No wonder the bank was stopping withdrawals!  I didn't know that every time I attempted to book, I was getting dinged at the bank!
So I called the bank.  The nice lady there assured me that these were only "pending", and not actual debits, and that they'd be cleared once the airline realized there was no booking.  Hmmm...with $2400 at stake, you'll understand I'm not the most trusting individual in the integrity of a large business like UA with billions in capitalization to pay attention to my little peanuts claim.  Anyway, she said she'd raise my withdrawal limit to enable me to book again.  With misgivings I did.
So now I have the correct flights and a rental car exercise which should've cost me around $950, and I'm out $3400 in our account.  Our account shows FOUR debits for the plane tickets, and two for the car rental.  We only needed one of each.  And I'm waiting.  I'm told it'll take 3 to 4 business days for the money claimed from our account to be released back to us.  Till then we're kind of dead in the water.  And what if it's not released??  What do I do then?  I've got no means to fight this out and try to reclaim my money.  I'm basically at the mercy of the airline.  For all practical purposes, I've settled it in my mind that I'm out the money, and if I get some or all of it back, it'll be a windfall.
So the moral of the story, kids, is: Don't do combination bookings!!  Book the plane tickets, THEN go to the car rental website and book with them SEPARATELY.  It may cost a few dollars more (that isn't proven, btw--it may have cost the same or less), but it'll save you a lot of grief.  You can be sure I'll give this advice to people I know.

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