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And The Charges Just Keep on Coming…

by J. Money on Wednesday, October 19, 2011

hate united airlines
Remember how United Airlines charged me for $75.00 against my will 2 months ago?  Well, it seems I’ve been on a bad luck streak ever since… not only is United STILL battling me on it (more to come in a bit) but I’m now facing off with Marriott and very briefly with American Express (it only took them 10 mins to solve my problem and issue me a refund – so it’s also a shout out to them!).  Either way though, it’s probably not a good time for me to be playing around with the lottery, eh? ;)

Update on my hatred for United Airlines

If you recall from my first post on United, they charged me a $75 fee but wouldn’t tell me what it was for, or why I got it.  Which of course is hard to figure out when they a) don’t like to pick up the phone, and b) tell you to email them with the complaint, only to make you wait a few weeks to get a response (which you then can’t respond to because it bounces back! Arghhh….).  This is why I can’t stand United Airlines. Not because they made a mistake in charging me, that’s fine – we all do that – but because they have the WORST customer service so far in all the airlines I’ve dealt with over the years.  And I used to work for the airline industry myself, so I know some bad service when I see it ;)

At any rate, after disputing it through American Express – because at least THEY listen to you and pick up the phone – United shot back a 5-6 page packet documenting why I was charged for this $75.00 to begin with:  a flight change fee. (The packet also contained receipts of my baggage fees which is why it was so big – and those fees I’m okay with, I agreed and used their services completely). Funny enough, though, their “proof” that I changed flights contradicted their own story! They claimed I change my flight from San Diego to Denver, to a *different* flight from San Diego to Denver that morning, when I never even went to Denver to begin with ;)  I flew to Washington, DC.  And those baggage fees I got charged for on that flight?  Shows CLEARLY that I flew from San Diego to Washington, DC – NOT Denver! So that was mistake #1 by them, haha…., using their own receipt to show I didn’t fly to Denver.

Mistake #2?  My favorite one?  That I’m now a Hispanic Woman :)  Yup, according to their OWN records again, I somehow changed names (and gender) from the time I checked my bag in, ’till the time I “flew to Denver,” haha…  what a mess.  5 hours wasted so far and this issue STILL isn’t cleared up.  But I refuse to let them win!!  I will waste another 5 if I need to until it’s finally resolved… I’m sure companies like these count on people giving up…

Minor American Express issue

Now this one I only bring up because it shows the level of customer service that’s AWESOME.  Due to this same $75 issue above there, I was charged $35+ for interest fees which didn’t make sense because Amex had wiped away the $75 completely I first disputed it – but then added it back to the original statement it first appeared on, since they thought the issue was now resolved.  (Guess they didn’t notice the change in gender either).  BUT, what they DID do, was wipe away the interest fees entirely and literally resolved it within 7 mins on the phone. On a Sunday night AND at 11pm.  Now THAT’S service.  And why I’ll always continue promoting them whenever I can.  If you have a small business, and are looking for good credit cards, keep American Express on the radar! :)

New Marriott Battle

Well, not a battle yet, but if it doesn’t go in my favor it will surely become one :) And this one’s a little easier to follow because it clearly states on my credit card statement WHY I was charged this $93 from Marriott:  for not showing up.  Which is funny because I DID show up, for 4 days actually, and the next charge on my statement shows a very powerful $360 charge telling me so ;)  I’ve already spent an hour on the phone with them today, and they’re currently researching it and says I should receive a call back here shortly (we’ll see how that goes), but for now I’m on the hook for another stupid fee.

The only thing I can think happened is that they booked me in a night there w/out my permission. Which of course would trigger a “no show” on my behalf. The week before flying out, I had called to ask how much an extra day would cost at the hotel since I had changed my plans to stay another day, but the room went from $80-something a night to $280 a night!!  Which obviously I’d never do, so I booked a different (crappier) hotel a mile down the street, which set me back a reasonable $55 instead ;)  I was only gonna be there to sleep, anyways, so it really didn’t matter where I was gonna stay. My guess is Marriott booked me another night at their place instead, and is now charging me for never showing up. I’ll update this post in a bit if they do ever get back to me (I wouldn’t hold your breath). **They just called me!  Update below.

Takeaways from everything…

So yeah — bad week for random charges coming at me.  The biggest takeaway from all this is to ALWAYS KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN on your bills and statements because mistakes DO happen! Even if they don’t for years, and then hit you back to back to back out of nowhere ;)  OH!  That actually reminds me of another charge I just got, and disputed, actually!  A double tip on some food!  They had it both in the credit card receipt, AND on the tip line (I had prepaid for it and didn’t notice it until it hit my statement last month), but a quick call to them fixed it all up pretty easily too.  Almost forgot about that one ;)

Of course, the other way to avoid all this – which I’m sure some of you credit card haters are about to remind us of, haha… – is that if you used CASH only, you’d never have these problem to begin with ;)  Though it’s kinda hard to book flights and food and everything else online when you need a credit card (or debit card) to do so.  And you’d have to be talking straight up cold hard cash too, as it gets WORSE when issues come up involving debit cards!  Cuz THEN you’re battling to get all that money sent back INTO your account, rather than credited off your credit card statement.  And if you relied on all that cash in your checking account to pay for your daily bills/food/etc, you’d possibly be $hit out of luck until all your complaints were refunded.  IF they were refunded. Another good reason to have Emergency Funds set up too ;)

Whew it feels good to get all this out there!  Thanks for letting me rant and go over why it’s important to pay attention to this stuff. Every now and then I need reminders too cuz it’s SO EASY to just assume everything is right in order to save some time and sanity.  And maybe it is worth it to some of y’all, but over time this stuff adds up and can really affect your game plan if you’re not paying attention.  If you could at least review this stuff just ONCE a month, I think you’d be happy with yourself and knowing things are going as smoothly as you were hoping for. And if they’re not, just give me a shout and I’ll gladly jump in any battles with you… I’m really starting to get the hang of all this ;)

—————
***UPDATE***  Marriott just called — I got my $90 refunded!!!  WOO!!!  So much easier talking to someone on the phone about it than email/websites/etc… Thanks Marriott! One down, one more to go!

(Photo by cliff1066™, un-friended by J$)


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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Maximus Aurelius October 19, 2011 at 7:36 am

This unfortunate saga underscores the fact that you should NEVER use a debit card for anything other than withdrawing cash from an ATM.

For bigger ticket items or when traveling, you can’t beat the the ability to chargeback. Its like a re-do button. Especially when dealing with marginally competent outfits like airlines.

Treat your AMEX like a debit card – use it for everything, set aside the money as you spend it (I just transfer it from checking to savings weekly), then pay it in full each month. No interest or late fees paid, maybe some rewards back, and free insurance against idiots screwing up with your money.

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2 Martin October 19, 2011 at 8:24 am

Hey J you never paid me that $50 that you owe me? You forget why you owe me? I do too but it’s all good.

Haha imagine! If only life were like that. Well it seems to be for United Airlines.

On a serious note, one concept I often write about (and do in my new eBook, cheap plug) is the idea that even though you should automate your payments, this doesn’t excuse you from checking your bill. Technology has come a long way. The funny thing is that there are still human errors that occur all of the time. This is why it helps to stay on top of things. You never know when some dude behind a computer can make a mistake.

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3 Angella October 19, 2011 at 9:31 am

These are the exact reasons why I use a credit card to pay everything. All monthly bills, large purchases, travel expenses, etc. I learned a hard lesson when Honda charged my debit card for my car payment 100 times. Left us negative $35,000 for nearly 6 months. My bank wouldn’t do a thing about it either! So yes, I always use credit and just pay it off at the end of the month. Much easier and there’s a little more security in it, at least I can chargeback if need be. Plus it’s boosted my credit score quite a bit. ;) Hope you win your battles J!

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4 tom October 19, 2011 at 9:36 am

Have you sent United links to your web pages where you outline these issues? Maybe that will get these guys off their a$$es into action.

This is why I prefer Southwest and Delta. On Southwest, you can always get someone to talk to, and they are very, very interested in fixing the problem. On Delta, I sent a customer service complaint, 2 in fact, and the next day I had 4 $50 vouchers for my troubles (the issue was that on the flight, the noise level in our seats was deafening).

As for Marriott, I’ve had issues with them in the past, and they’ve always been very quick to resolve them. I would hope they extend you the same courtesy.

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5 Jeffrey Trull October 19, 2011 at 9:39 am

Damn, what is the deal with these companies! Sounds like such a headache. Not to make fun of your finances or anything, but I feel like you’re often faced with crap like this all the time, whether it’s fees or lawsuits or something else. I hope things can only go up from here for you. For what it’s worth, I at least feel like I’m learning some good lessons from your posts. Hang in there, J!

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6 Ashley @ Money Talks October 19, 2011 at 9:45 am

Man you have some bad luck sometimes. This story made me think of a time when my mom was at the airport picking me up and had parked in short term parking. she paid for the parking with her credit card and then a month later she got another $5 fee from the parking lot. She called and they said it that she had parked in two spaces or something dumb and totally unprovable like that. It’s just big scam. Nothing she can really do and the amount is small enough that no one would really pursue it very far so they get away it. Terrible.

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7 Megan October 19, 2011 at 10:04 am

I recently had an issue with Marriott quite like your recent tipping issue–breakfast was charged to my room (I wasn’t even there for it! But one of my guests was), and they added up the before tip line + after tip line (instead of the before tip line, and the tip line), hence billing me over $100 for breakfast. I spoke to the night manager while there (the bill was slipped under my door), and she had it fixed by check out. So just a reminder to folks that 1. I find it easier to work with the individual business, if possible, instead of the corporate level, and 2. You catch more flies with honey!

I also just resolved an issue with a bar yesterday–a friend and I split a massive tab (folks gave us cash, and we put on our cars). She got charged the amount I was supposed to pay, which was more, and vice versa. She challenged the charge through her bank and got back what was owed, but that left me paying less than I owed. After wrangling with my conscience (we go there pretty often), I called and spoke to a manager–he was so impressed that I would report owing them $60 more, and couldn’t easily change it, that he waived the extra and offered to buy me a drink next time I come in. So my third takeaway with billing errors is–faith in KARMA!

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8 MichiganGal October 19, 2011 at 10:16 am

I had a TERRIBLE issue with Delta airlines for $200+. After SEVERAL calls and a few “emails” I finally wrote a letter and sent through snail mail. Maybe a week later I got an email saying I would be refunded in full and the refund came through the next day. It was AWESOME! Maybe try writing a letter and sending along documents to back it up.

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9 SmartAssetTeam October 19, 2011 at 11:07 am

This post is sad but true. You really have to keep an eye on your statements to make sure nothing fishy is going on, and if a charge does show up that isn’t correct, its completely up to you to fight the fight. Companies really do count on people giving up, its very sad. Everyone knows how frustrating it is to lose 5 hours or more in a fight to get money that is already yours back! I applaud you for your perseverance!

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10 Cathy October 19, 2011 at 11:59 am

Yuck for all the fees and charges! I’m a fan of Southwest and have never had a problem with them. And thanks for the reminder about checking your charges. I had a similar situation a few months ago. I was working late and took a cab home. When I checked my credit card bill, the cabbie had charged me twice! I submitted on online claim through my bank to dispute the charge since I didn’t have the contact info for the cab company. They easily reversed the charge for me within a few days.

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11 bogofdebt October 19, 2011 at 12:41 pm

This reminds me of an issue with a bank. They double charged me an overdraft fee and refused to give me it back. Thankfully I had kept all recipts, and statements–I wasn’t denying that I had overdrafted, I was denying that I had overdrafted twice–they’d just lumped two different transactions together (different times shown on recipts and everything) and decided I’d overdrafted twice. I had the money in the account to pay for one and didn’t have enough for the second purchase. After a week, they eventually gave me back the money–actually they tried to give me back both overdrafts fees. I refused the one and kept the other. I didn’t want to keep both as that would have been dishonest. I also learned to keep better tabs on my accounts-so that I wouldn’t be charged a overcharge fee.

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12 J. Money October 19, 2011 at 12:59 pm

@Maximus Aurelius – Yup! Already doing my good sir. I put all biz expenses on my Amex, and all personal expenses on my USAA card – then pay them all off in full every month. Makes my life a LOT easier – esp. when jokers like these come a knockin’.
@Martin – Agreed — which is why I don’t automate ANY of my credit card payments. It forces me to check before I pay, so I can find awesome mistakes like these ;)
@Angella – WHAT????? That is isane!! Wow. I can’t even fathom that. Would you ever want to write a gues post for this site on your experience? And what you learned from it all? That would be SO interesting to read. And you can plug your blog too ;) What do you say?
@tom – Nah, haven’t sent any links over to them. I actually thought they monitered the web enough to catch it and stop by – esp after blogging (and tweeting) about it a good 5+ times already. Guess not. Good thing other airlines do though ;) And yeah!! Heard back from Marriott — we’re all good now in that department! Woo!
@Jeffrey Trull – Haha… true, but at least it gives me something exciting to blog about ;) And plus, if I didn’t get all this crap, I wouldn’t appreciate all the HIGHS as much… gotta have the downs to ejoy the ups.
@Ashley @ Money Talks – Oh jeez, yeah – that’s annoying. And so true — how much time are you willing to spend to prove a point if it’s $5.00? I’d make 1 or 2 calls and that’s it. $20 or more and I start putting up a big fight ;)
@Megan – WOWWW cool!!!! You saved $60 AND got a free drink! Haha… now that is what I call service :) Proud of you for speaking up, even though it’s hard as $hit to do sometimes!
@MichiganGal – Hmmm… you might be on to something there. Cuz if it takes real, physical letter, they probably know you’re not playing around anymore ;) I’ll add it to the arsenal if this keeps continuing like it has been, thanks!
@SmartAssetTeam – Thanks! I can be very stubborn at times – which goes in your favor in instances like these ;)
@Cathy – Awesome! Well done :) I’m always afraid of cabby fares and the charges — I triple check those bad boys, haha… and *really* try to use cash for them too, but sometimes I forget to plan ahead.
@bogofdebt – Awww good for you! That really shows some good morals my friend – I doubt many of us would have returned that 2nd one, esp after the trouble you were put through. I’m impressed :)

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13 too funny October 19, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Oh boy–I’m a battle with a shady contractor who’s trying to collect on work never done. If you heard the whole story, you’d have bloodlust (sending felons to house to do work, causing serious damage, reneging on the substantial discount they offered, doing crappy work and not finishing the job).

I really get tired of letting people try and take advantage of me, whether its United or some local outfit. You motivated me to keep fighting and to not budge until I’m happy.

Your encouragement was very timely.

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14 Christa October 19, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Congrats on clearing up Marriott so quickly! I’ve always loved their customer service. As for American Airlines, I haven’t flown in a while, but you can bet your tush I’d be upset if they stuck me with an additional $75 fee for nothing. Good luck sorting it out!

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15 Jason October 19, 2011 at 6:50 pm

Thankfully all of my air travel has been through Southwest. They have treated me greatly the few times I’ve needed to fly, and I plan on booking my trip to Florida in January through them. I can’t imagine having to pay fees to change flights or for baggage.

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16 Peter October 19, 2011 at 10:46 pm

I had an experience a while back where we got a rental car for 8 days to drive around New England – putting about 1200 miles on it or so. We had rented the car using a coupon code and corporate code – and were supposed to be getting free mileage.

When we showed up at the airport to drop off the car on our way home (on our way to catch a fllight) we got a rude awakening when the agent slid our bill across the counter. Instead of the $500 or so that we were supposed to be charged, the bill had morphed into a 1000+ whopper!

The situation was stressful as we were heading into the airport to catch a flight, but thankfully we had all our paperwork with us showing that we should have gotten unlimited mileage/etc – and they were able to fix our bill.

Just glad that I didn’t just take the receipt and walk through the airport doors – and have to deal with it later. Would have been much harder to prove. :)

Rental car mishap

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17 Ben Edwards October 20, 2011 at 1:49 am

I know what you mean about the service from AmEx, I called them at like 3 AM one night back in January right before I left on a trip and grilled them about my rental car insurance.

They were chipper and helpful and answered the barrage of questions I threw at them. I even took notes as I went so I could write up this blog post on insurance surprises and they were very patient as I kept asking questions and scribbling away at my notes.

I figured if I was going to be up researching it at 3 AM I mine as well get a blog post out of it :)

Good luck with United. Maybe you should make a video, kind of like the “United Breaks Guitars” ones a while back.

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18 J. Money October 21, 2011 at 1:43 pm

@too funny – GREAT!!! Yes, stick to your guns and don’t give up! It’s annoying as $hit, but you’ll feel a lot better in the end for fighting no matter what the outcome. Giving it your all does wonders – just not in the short term ;) If you ever want to vent and write about it, shoot me over a draft and maybe we could use it one day? Sucky situation.
@Christa – Haha, I actually like American Airlines — it’s UNITED that’s pissing me off like no other ;) You’re right w/ Marriott customer service though – they seem to know how to handle things pretty efficiently. Just *answering the phone* as a human is a huge step away from others!
@Jason – Yeah, I WISH I flew Southwest more! It’s either never an option for me, or they cost way more than the others — though when you factor in baggage and stupid random fees, then yeah – prob cheaper in long run too. I def. want to check them out soon, it’s been a while.
@Peter – Oh man, GOOD CATCH for sure!! That’s super frustating indeed, I’m glad y’all were smooth enough to squash it before you got outta there. Though your financial skills don’t surprise me ;)
@Ben Edwards – Haha, I like the way you think, sir ;) Getting a blog post out of it makes ALL experiences a bit more tolerable! Esp as they get more and more ridiculous (*ahem* United). Thanks for sharing bro – hope to catch up soon.

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19 Kylie Ofiu October 23, 2011 at 11:44 pm

I flew United to and from the conference and will NEVER fly with them again. They were rude, awful and I know of many people on the flights I was on who also had numerous problems and will never fly them again.

They only allowed 1 hour to catch a connecting fight. I flew in from Sydney to LA, had to clear customs, pick up and recheck my bag and get to the other gate for my next flight within 1 hour of the plane landing. Completely impossible, then trying to get my connecting flight changed was a nightmare (although there were 15 of us who missed flights apparently). That was just the tip of the ice berg. Worst customer service ever.

When checking out of the Marriott they overcharged by a few hundred and then tried double charging my card. My bank was saying the payment had gone through they were saying it had not. It was quite stressful but they sorted it as quickly as they could, gave me free food and drink whilst I waited and helped me out heaps. I was able to call my bank in Australia from their phones for free to sort it out too. They were so apologetic. It was a system glitch or something, but they customer service was the best ever, so I would totally stay with them again.

And this post is spot on as to why we should be vigilant with our finances!

(Add to United and Marriott, my own bank tried to stuff me with fees upon my return from the conference, which I promptly got refunded, but will be changing banks. Stupid fees are everywhere!)

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20 J. Money October 24, 2011 at 1:19 pm

Wowww, that is horrible I’m sorry!! And obviously not surprised! ;) Crazy we both had experiences w/ both United AND Marriott! haha… but you hit the nail on the head – at the end of each issue it was the places w/ GOOD customer service that gets us to come back or not. Even though both places tried screwing us over, only one actually goes out of their way to try and resolve it. It’s not that hard of a concept. If your company CARES, people will come back. If not, they write dirty blog posts about you ;)

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21 Evan October 25, 2011 at 10:16 pm

I have had problems with Marriott and Amex in the past 3 weeks but both took care of everything really quick. AmericanExpress was the shocking one but they were awesome.

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22 J. Money October 26, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Hah! Really? What is it with this combo? :)

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23 Paula @ AffordAnything.org October 27, 2011 at 4:07 pm

That sucks. I would love to have something more wise or worldly to say, but …. that just freaking sucks.

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24 Kay Lynn October 29, 2011 at 10:41 pm

I’ve had great luck with getting disputed charges handled with American Express as well.

Sorry, you’re having to go through the mess with United. I hate their outsourced customer service line.

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25 J. Money October 31, 2011 at 7:12 pm

@Paula @ AffordAnything.org – Haha… you can save it for another day ;)
@Kay Lynn – For real! And I actually had to fly them AGAIN this weekend!! I was NOT impressed w/ myself for accidentally booking that one… we’ll see if another charge comes up on it. *shakes head*

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