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CheapHotels.com took Food from My Baby’s Mouth

CheapHotels.com took food from my baby. That seems like a strong statement and one might think it must be a joke. Well, it’s hardly a joke. How does an internet company take food from a baby? Why would an internet company – or any company, for that matter – take a baby’s food? I don’t know. What would they do with it? All I know is they did it. I don’t want to make it sound like I’m some kind of whiny, angry consumer. We all deal with the same kinds of consumer things that take up too much of our day. You know the little stuff, like say you want to change insurance companies and you have to submit something in writing and fax it to someone’s fax machine that apparently is next to a wrinkle in time or you need to submit your kid’s immunization information to your doctor for a signature and the doctor’s office is located in a worm hole. Your information goes in but never comes back out. Nobody’s seen nor heard from your information. You need to start over.

So let me start over, since I’m used to it. As a stay at home dad, who’d rather not be there, it behooves me to continue looking for projects and work to get me out of the house. One such project came up on short notice and I needed to fly out of town for a day. My meeting was in the morning so I had to leave the night before. Since I’m well past the age of being able to sleep in a rental car I needed to book a hotel room. I enjoy the time spent looking for a hotel. Sometimes people don’t like travel related chores like this. I like finding the room and I also like being in the room. I’ve always liked hotel rooms. Now, I like them because they’re quieter than my house. I’m sorry, but I don’t miss my family too much for one night.  People need to quit pretending that they miss each other for a day. It’s ok not to miss or be missed. I’m always happy to see them when I get home, but until then I have this thing in my head called a brain. This brain has the ability to let me see them with pictures in my mind (located inside my head).

On the note of travelling for business, let me go one step further and break the truth to you on another front. Men and women travel for business, with the majority of travel probably by men. Sometimes it works out that the woman stays home with the kids and the man travels for business. The woman may be home with one or more kids. The man likes to make his business travel sound like a lot of work. Here’s the news flash, women. It is not a lot of work to travel for business. I don’t care what your business is or how many days you are travelling. There is only one of you to look after. Comfy hotel beds. Meals at restaurants. If you travel for business you’re most likely not doing physical labor. I don’t care if you’re in meetings 10 hours of your day. It’s not that tough. Sorry fellas. Don’t kick me out of the club. I just needed to set the record straight. Flying on planes, sitting in conference rooms, having steak dinners, and sleeping in your own room (with HBO) is not hard work.

With visions of HBO dancing in my head I set out to book my flight and hotel. I did all the searches and found my flight quickly. Next, I was on to locating my room. I have used CheapHotels.com in the past and got very good rates. I decided to use their database when searching. I found a hotel near my meeting and proceeded to book it for one night. I got an email confirmation back immediately. I read through the confirmation and quickly realized that I had made a mistake in booking my room. I had inadvertently booked two nights. Great. Now I had to deal with this. The bookings were non-refundable. I understood this when I booked, but I contacted customer service within one minute of booking and hoped to avoid the booking of the second night. It seems like good business sense to help a repeat customer with a situation like this, I thought.

I got a hold of CheapHotels.com’s customer service line. Of course, there are many options to go through. I think I would feel more comfortable if companies would just include an option like, “Please press 4 if you would like to speak to an incompetent customer service person.” But they don’t, so you just never know when that’s going to happen. The funny thing is that most times you don’t know someone was incompetent until you talk to someone else – who is competent. I had called to correct my problem on a Sunday evening. I talked to a person who I thought was competent.

I had all my information standing by. I told her that I knew the bookings were non-refundable, but I had only booked them one minute ago. She told me that CheapHotels.com would be able to refund my booking, but she needed to check with the hotel that I booked it at. I was told I would be on hold for about 5 minutes. It was an 800 number and that’s what the good Lord made the speaker phone for, so I agreed. I waited for approximately 4 minutes and she came back on the line. She told me she got the hotel and they were getting the manager and could I hold for another 3 minutes. I checked my busy schedule and realized I had time for that. I agreed again. 2 minutes later she came back on the line and told me the manager was not in and I would have to call back Monday morning after 9 am. I agreed again.

Monday morning came with my wife and two of three kids heading out the door. This left me with 19 month Iris. Sometimes it’s hard to be on the phone with Iris, because when she wants things, she just wants things and there’s no explaining to her that I’m on the phone. Funny how babies work like that. In the past, I’d been home with Hoyt when he was a similar age. I try not to answer potentially important calls when one on one with the baby, but one day Hoyt was playing happily on our enclosed front porch and I took a call. The call was close to wrapping up when Hoyt started crying after realizing I was in the living room looking at him from the picture window. He fell to the ground and was sobbing, then screaming. The call was almost over. I had to finish. I shut the door between the living room and porch and stood by the window trying to make faces at Hoyt to cheer him up like he was some kind of zoo exhibit. He stood up and pressed his crying snotty face against the window begging the zoo keeper to throw him some attention or a raw fish or something. At this point, I had to make like another call was coming in, get off the line and rush to get him before social services got there first. He was only crying for a minute, but it seemed like an eternity and I learned my lesson about taking calls. Making calls to schedule things was doable because I could get off at any moment without concern of being abrupt or hiding the fact that my corporation was based out of my child’s room.

Once again I contacted CheapHotels.com to get my extra day at the hotel removed. Once again, I spoke to a customer service representative who placed me on hold to contact the hotel I was booked at. Once again I was put on hold for about 4 minutes and she came back and asked if I could hold for another 3 minutes. I continued to hold. All the while Iris was playing happily. Finally, when the customer service person came back after about 2 minutes into the last hold, she told me that the hotel would not be able to give me a refund. She told me that the hotel could cancel the one night stay, but I would have to still pay for it. This was all starting to sound a little suspicious.  This was starting to get into the realm of “the principal of it”. Don’t get me wrong, the $125.00 was a concern, but was quickly becoming only part of my quest. Iris then seemed to become a little more irritable. I could only assume she was as annoyed as me.

I told the CheapHotels.com rep that I would not be canceling the room if I was paying for it. I confirmed with the rep that CheapHotels.com would be able to cancel the room if it were not for the Hotel. Before we parted she confirmed this.

“Yes,” she confirmed.

I immediately got off the phone and called the hotel and asked for the manager. I asked if she had just talked to someone from CheapHotels.com and she said she had not. I got the manager’s name. Her name was Linda. Linda explained that it was their policy to be able to cancel reservations up to 48 hours before the date. I knew this was the case, and this is what I get for trying to save a measly $10 on this particular room. Iris was getting more troubled. I was glad we were on the same page. As I was dialing the number that I was close to memorizing – that of CheapHotels.com – I gave her some animal crackers. I got through and spoke with yet another rep. Here we go again. I waited for 4 minutes. She came back on and said she was getting through to the hotel. I told her to ask for Linda and that Linda had told me that the hotel had no problem with letting the reservation go. After holding for another 2 minutes I decided to call the hotel on another line. I got through immediately to Linda and she said nobody had contacted her. I got back to my CheapHotels.com hold and continued to wait. Iris started to cry. She needed real food. I was so close. I was on speaker phone so I could hold Iris and start to make food for her. I didn’t care if the customer rep heard a crying baby. After all, she and CheapHotels.com were responsible for her not getting fed – for all practical purposes, taking food out of her mouth.

The rep came back on the line. Noodles were being warmed in the microwave. Iris was crying at the top of her lungs. I was on the other side of the kitchen from my speaker phone. I asked what she had found out, trying to talk over and between cries. She said she was not able to speak to Linda, but talked to someone at the front desk named Mary who, in turn, talked to Linda and said the hotel could not undo the reservation. I asked the customer rep what her name was. She said, “Kat” in her best Indian/English accent. Probably just a little bit proud of the name she picked for herself.

“Kat you are lying to me!” I erupted at almost the same volume as Iris’ crying.  “I know it’s not true. I just talked to Linda 40 seconds ago and she never talked to anyone.” I half screamed over Iris’ screams. It must have sounded like the scene of a crime. There was a moment of silence. Kat was caught and she knew it. She referred to the part of her script that told her that this was the time to give the customer the refund.

“Ok,” Kat said, “Since the hotel will not give you a refund, this time we will do that for you on their behalf.

Then, “Ding,” the microwave alarm went off and the noodles were done. Iris stopped crying immediately, being a little too familiar with the ding of the microwave. And there was silence.

“Thank you, Kat,” I said.

“We look forward to helping you with booking your next stay at CheapHotels.com,” said Kat.

“Sure,” I said. I hung up the phone and Iris and I had a $125.00 bowl of noodles.

Sadly Yours,

Jason Spafford

1 comment

  1. You got your refund! Loved this story. Couldn’t go to bed until I got to the end. Loved the Iris/ Hoyt/ You don’t miss your family being away one night -details!

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