Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Consumer Warning!!! - Taca Airlines

The real impetus for me deciding on going to Costa Rica was that I found a discount Latin American airline that was offering tickets from Dulles for under 400 dollars. At the time, I thought Taca Airlines was a godsend. Naturally, my reaction was to make an impulse purchase and buy myself a two week vacation in surfers paradise. I was in heaven... for two days. I opened my online bank statement like always (like 10 times a day) and found it overdrawn. Now I begin my sad, sad tale... Taca had double charged my account for my ticket. An extra five hundred bucks (after my impulse purchase, I realized that I'd paid taxes on that 395 dollar ticket that ended up making it a little under 500) was charged, and to me, that is big money, especially when its completely unplanned. I needed to get a hold of Taca's customer service. It shouldn't be a big deal to fix this I thought, they'll show two charges to my credit card in their cashflows with only one ticket sold. I soon found that if you buy the ticket online, you MUST go through Taca's E-Desk, which is an e-mail only customer service service. The back and forth e-mails went on for a full week. Taca couldn't find my double charge. They needed me to send my personal bank statement in. I was a little troubled by this, as no one wants to send their banking information to strangers. I did it anyways. I FAXed them this statement showing two 500 dollar charges, not once, not twice, but THREE times. Each time, the E-Desk representative, Guillermo, told me that he couldn't find it and to please resend it. This is now 7 days of this frustrating back and forth, highlighted by e-mails such as this:

I appreciate your effort in getting this matter referred to your billing department. However, I am unbelievably displeased at the THIRTY FIVE days of processing time to handle this transaction. From the time of this purchase originally to the end of that processing time is TWO bank billing cycles. That is thirty five days of me not having the service of my $496.72, nor the over a hundred dollars in overdraft fees that will not be forgiven in my bank account until Taca makes this credit to my account. I am shocked that it will take 35 days to do a simple charge back to my bank account when it is clear that I was charged twice, as seen on my bank statement. That is 35 days that Taca will have use of my money without any offer of compensation. Even a bank would pay interest on that money. Let's keep in mind that this double charge was 100% Taca's fault (whether it was the reservation system or the billing system). Yet, I am the one that is being asked to essentially provide Taca Airlines with a $496.72 loan for roughly 45 days total (Not to mention the overdraft fees that this error has caused me to accrue). At this point, I have to demand that Taca provide me a refund as soon as possible for this double charge. This, in addition to the fact that the seats I chose at reservation are not the seats that are showing up on my itinerary (which I am told I CANNOT change until I check-in, meaning I may be stuck with a middle seat assigned to me despite picking window seats for the entire trip). Yet, the best offer of reconciliation made my Taca is to make me wait for 35 MORE days before I get the money that is rightfully mine. At this point, I am prepared to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Affairs department if this matter is not resolved satisfactorily. Please update me on the status of my chargeback due to the negligent errors that are wholely Taca's doing. I want to enjoy my vacation to Costa Rica, but this entire process has already put a damper on that. Mr. Duque, I realize you are not personally at fault for this, but some quality customer service at this point would be appreciated in resolving or expediting this matter. Thank you.

For some reason, Guillermo didn't seem to be scared by my empty threat of an FTC complaint, whcih really probably wouldn't have accomplished anything except making me fill out more paperwork. My bank told me they didn't want to contest the charge yet, not til I went through the proper channels with Taca. I found that Taca had offices in the DC area. I went to the one in Alexandria on Mount Vernon Ave., near Del Ray. I expected a ticketing office for Taca. I got Chirilagua Supermarket, an El Salvadorean grocery store with a FAX machine to send documents to Taca, as well as someone behind the counter who spoke zero English (I noticed when going to the Play Lounge this weekend that there was a real Taca office in downtown, but if I were betting on it, even this office would have proven completely inept at helping). I walked out of Chirilagua having accomplished nothing. FINALLY, on the fourth FAX attempt, Guillermo of Taca gets the FAX. I finally thought I'd get my money. I get this e-mail:

Your request for a refund to your credit card has been reviewed and
required information forwarded to our billing department.

Please allow 35 work days processing time.

After this is completed, the issuing bank of your credit card will
process our request (this time varies according to the bank).

Thank you for your patience and sorry for all the inconveniences.

Great... thanks Taca. 7 weeks to process it, then however long it takes the bank to
process it. Meanwhile, I'm leaving for Costa Rica in 3 weeks from this date. Utterly useless.

I finally got my bank to just protest the double charge and give me my money back, as well as the 60 bucks in overdraft fees caused by the double charge. The bank makes me write up a couple paragraphs explaining and providing proof that I did everything could trying to deal with the airline. It takes them 24 hours to put the money back in my account. Finally. So 3 weeks after the fact, I finally have the money thats rightfully mine. As a result, it is now my mission to ruin Taca... As soon as I think of a clever enough plan... And probably after I get back from Costa Rica so as not to risk not being let on the plane... But then I'll let them have it... Trust you me, they'll pay... Oh yes... Like seriously, way worse than complaining to the FTC... Or I'll just forget in like 2 days... We'll see.


At 10:53 AM, Blogger RoarSavage said...

OMG. I would've taken legal action. Seriously.

At 2:37 PM, Blogger Nicole said...

Not nearly as expensive nor involved, but I had returned two items to an online vendor recently, and although they've got a crappy $10 restocking fee, I still wanted the remainder of my money back to my credit card. However, whereas by my math $37 + $79 = $116, minus $10 restocking = $106 by their math it only equals $84. When I received the e-mail about the amount to be credited to my card, I immediately replied, that um, someone messed up on their math, so could you give me the rest back? And instead they apologized (heh) that they could not, since the charge refund had already been made, but how about a $22 gift card balance. No thanks, your products obviously weren't worth keeping along with a shitty return policy, I'll pass.

I replied with a threatening e-mail that I've worked in retail before and know how simple it is to void even a refund, and just re-refund the correct total, otherwise I could simply place a stop on the initial charge to get it all back.

No reply. And what have I done? Nothing. Lazy bum with a $22 gift card balance.

At 4:27 PM, Blogger RoarSavage said...

LOL. Empty threat. You're clearly not in the red like me... lol.

At 5:07 PM, Blogger Marci (aka Baby Banana) said...

Agh, shitty people! How effing retarded can you get? I get lazy too, getting all angry in the heat of the moment and I hate that about myself.

At 6:01 PM, Blogger The Virginian said...

You know, all I really wanted out of this whole thing was my money back, and apology, and maybe a seat upgrade. I got a huge hassle instead, and then found out they don't have anywhere to upgrade since their whole plane is coach.

Nicole, your story has only scared me mroe about buying stuff online. I'd almost rather pay a bit more and just go to the store and get it. I don't like hassling to return stuff.


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