Jumping through hoops


Since my mom was in town last weekend, I decided to try one of those guided bus tours of the city and the surrounding areas. To save time, I bought the tickets online and had everything ready for our Sunday morning jaunt. But when it came time to hop on the bus, it was nowhere to be found.

When I called the bus company, I learned that they had cancelled all the rides that day because of inclement weather. (Since when is snow a problem in Chicago?) I would have preferred an email to let me know, but I understand the cause is beyond their control. Here’s where it gets fishy: I couldn’t just use the ticket another day, or request a refund at that time. They told me to call back on Monday and talk to some guy whose name I forgot immediately. They said they couldn’t do anything for me until I called back at that time.

On Monday, it took no less than three tries to reach this all-powerful individual. He was polite and efficient and processed the refund promptly. So what’s my complaint? Instead of being able to request a refund when I was told they cancelled the service, I had to waste time making more phone calls and tracking down the right person. I’m sure this isn’t the first time the bus company has had a weather cancellation, but apparently they’re just too lazy to put a proper refund process in place.

Generalizing this a bit, if you can’t honor the promises you made to your customer, and the only option is to refund their money, at least have the decency to make it easy for them. Requiring an already irritated customer to call you multiple times to get their money back is ridiculous. Find a way to take care of the transaction on the first call, right after you determine that a refund is due, and don’t make it drag on for days.

Ultimately, every little hassle you create for the customer is going to reduce the chance of them ever coming back. But if you handle these interactions properly, e.g. taking care of a refund on the spot, you have a much greater chance of saving face and earning their future business.