Wednesday, October 20, 2010

DECLINED – It Brings Out the Bitch in Me!

I love travelling! Seeing new places, meeting new people and experiencing different cultures is an education in humanity – an education you can’t obtain from any University and can’t be entirely conveyed in any books you read. Next month I will be travelling to Kenya, and as my life goes this year, it will again be for business and not for pleasure. The last few days I have been preoccupied with finalizing my travel arrangements, transferring funds from Italy, booking flights, and as my good friend Murphy would have it, none of this has been smooth sailing. Technology has elevated the phrase “red tape” to a whole different dimension and left me wondering, is the technological substitution of computers over humans in business transactions really making our lives easier or has it in fact made it worse?  Either way both can make me behave like quite the bitch!
Sure shopping online is convenient, after all you can do it sitting in your boxers, while eating ice cream and smoking a cigarette, even burp or fart out load and no one will be the wiser. You can pretty much buy and sell anything online, from second hand sex toys to brand new Russian Brides. In many ways technology has made our lives easier, more convenient and to a certain degree cocooned us from the harsh reality of dealing with real sales people.

You see I prefer to book flights and pay for stuff online. Probably because I hate standing in lines, are too lazy to drive to certain places, having to first look for parking and then search for the company and/or shop I need to be at. Once you finally arrived at the place, you have to stand in a queue for a further 20 minutes, then when you finally reach the front of the queue you also have to deal with the sales person’s personality and whatever their mood is like that day. Dealing with websites seems faster, easier and far less frustrating. Websites don’t have queues, don’t have moods, don’t have an attitude problem and they hardly ever bring out the bitch in me. Well, that is until something goes wrong!

Yesterday the funds I needed for my flights to Nairobi finally got transferred and, as usual, the bank had a hundred and one questions before they finally released it. I was questioned like a terrorist or drug smuggler laundering money from Italy, but after a prolonged Q & A the bank was finally satisfied that I wasn’t militant or criminal and the cash was deposited. With money in my account I decided not to procrastinate and book and pay for my flights. So I went onto Kenya Airways’ website and what followed proved my theory on websites completely and utterly flawed.
Everything was going flawlessly. I managed to secure my preferred seats in Business class, earn my Flying Blue miles and then it came to the payment. I selected trusty old VISA, punched in my numbers and pressed confirm payment. PAYMENT DECLINE! “What?!!!!” The first time the website said this I was sure it was a glitch on their system. The third time those nasty words displayed, I was starting to doubt, and after the fifth time I actually went and checked my credit card balance to make sure there were sufficient funds and there was!

Quite irate at that point I decided it was time to deal with a call centre, so I dialled the number and an automated voice advised me they were closed and I should try again during business hours the next day. After consulting with my sister-in-law who’s a travel agent (which a whole blog post on its own) I contacted the call centre the next morning. “Kenyan Airways, Orbit speaking, how may I help you?” the voice said (I kid you not the guy’s name was really Orbit!) “Orbit, your website is broken! I tried to pay for my flights and your website declined my VISA! Declinnned it!!!” Orbit told me to call the airline’s website’s office, but the catch was it was in Nairobi “The call could be quite expensive if you call from South Africa” Orbit added. “Duh dude!” I thought as I vividly remember the nasty surprises I received in the mail, from my service provider, after my trips to Egypt, Madagascar and Luxembourg. So clearly phoning the “website fucker uppers” was out of the question.

Orbit, I need to book these flights, give me options!” Orbit responded with options I didn’t approve off. I could book them telephonically but then there’s an additional charge. I can book them over the counter but then I have to drive to the Airport. I can book them through a travel agent but then they could be twice as expensive. “Orbit... Honey... listen to me very carefully. Give me online options, options that I can do from my laptop!” Orbit paused and then he said “Well... you can book your ticket online and choose cash payment instead of VISA, and then just do an Internet transfer of the funds into our account within 48 hours” “Isn’t that almost the same as paying by credit card anyway?” I asked quite confused. “Yes sir it is, but seeing as our credit card payment options is broken and Declinnned your VISA, this is the only remaining alternative left to suit your requirements, I do apologize for the inconvenience” he politely responded.
Orbit ended up being very sweat and helpful, and made me feel bad for being somewhat of a irate bitch at the beginning of our interaction. It took me a full 90 minutes from the first phone call to actually having my flights reserved, paid and finally confirmed. Orbit even dealt with the one thing that always causes arguments with staff at the Airport – my hand luggage. On 16 November, for the first time in my flying history, not only I, but my hand luggage too will be expected by both the ground crew and cabin crew and I was promised I will not have any hassles, and the same goes for my return flight on the 18th. Now that’s service for you! I hope this really will be the case as I don’t travel light. If they say the limit is 40KG’s I’ll pack 40 KG’s!! You never know what kind of trouble a Queen can get into while travelling and for that I need options of outfits and shoes!

Yes, in many ways technology, computers and websites have made our lives easier, more convenient and save us from dealing with rude people even though we can be quite rude ourselves. But sometimes technology fails us, declines us and all round just frustrates us. With my experience today, dealing with an actual human with a strangely appropriate name for his profession, I must say dealing with people isn’t always that bad. Sometimes you are lucky and they are friendly, helpful and competent. Kudos to you Kenya Airways for training your call centre staff well, and at the same time, shame on you for having a broken VISA payment page on your website – DECLINED, I mean really?

Till next time.

SHERRY VINE! - Forbidden Love

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