Thursday, February 11, 2010

United didn't break my guitar, but they make me nervous

In the last minutes of last night/the first minutes of this morning I encountered bizarre American business practices that reminded me of bizarre British business practices.

Last year when travelling to Hawai'i I took a bump. Someone needed on the flight from Chicago to LA (which had already been delayed) and I volunteered to take a bump on the overbooked flight. Since United was so gracious for my humanitarian act and overall wonderfulness, they provided me with a hotel stay for the night (which sure beats the original plan of arriving in LAX at 1:00am - plunked with a four-hour time change), a first-class seat on a flight the next morning (didn't tell me first class, I was pleasantly surprised!), a meal voucher (which they didn't even tell me about), and a free flight anywhere within continental US. The flight had to be booked within one year (aka tomorrow). I, of course, chose to wait 363 days before booking a flight. Originally I was planning on going to New Mexico because no one from PEI EVER goes to NEW MEXICO (so silly is that Jennifer!) and I wanted to ride a llama (so WISE is that Jennifer).

Well, based on the fact I kept putting off booking my flight, I apparently was not overly confident in this decision. Instead I found other important things to do, like watch television, be pretty, chatter on msn, go to the gym, laundry, pick my nose, tromp through snow, etc. I realised last night that New Mexico was perhaps not the vacation spot for me. I'll see llamas another day (maybe on the weekend?.. one can only dream) and although Santa Fe and Albuquerque apparently have many miles of wonderful bike trails, so do many other cities.

Such as San Fransisco!

Research shows that I have fun in places whose name starts with "San".

Exhibit A: San Diego



There is no exhibit B. I think San Diego is the only San place I have been too. Except we stopped at a gas station in Sandwich, Massachusetts. But that's not official San. I suppose Santa Monica could count, for it's a feminine "San".

Oh! And San Juan. But I can't seem to find a decent photo I have of San Juan at the moment.

Anyway, so yes, San and Santa = good.


There is word of caution to this tail, and now I shall continue on the Scotland experience referenced way back up in the first paragraph.

Originally I couldn't figure out how to book using my voucher. Online there was no help, so finally I called the call centre which was borderline helpful, but did at least point me in the first direction. Since I had already arsed around with their funny commands and go-nowhere voice instructions I decided to complete the task another night: last night.

This time I knew what to do. I went through United's call centre and arranged to make a booking using their automated voice system. ("Please state your name and then spell it... F**k your last name is weird, Valued Customer. Just spell it. Please.") I eventually got put through to an agent who semi-finalised my booking. I say semi, because in order to complete the process I had to a) go to an airport with a United counter, or b) send my voucher to them via post.

So... what's the point of all the funny tracking numbers on my stub?

And the only thing I was told to send was the voucher. On the back I would write my last name, reference number (actually a series of letters, but I won't get too picky with the India call centre folk), and the date and number of my last flight.

*twiddles thumbs*

Why oh WHY do I feel there is so much possibility for things to go wrong? I said my voucher would never get there before my ticket expired and she said that was fine, as long as it's post marked by Feb 12.

I believe it is foolish that this transaction can not be completed online. Or perhaps I could fax in a copy of my voucher? Perhaps then follow-up by post?


the closest airport I could go to would be... hmm...

I have no idea. United *might* fly into New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, but that would be at least two hours plus Bridge fees away.

So, in theory, I am going to San Fransisco. I half expect to find out in three weeks that they won't accept my voucher, and that I am a bad person for thinking I could use it. Or, they never got my voucher. And they think I'm a bad person who probably kicks puppies.

The experience kind of reminded me of trying to open a bank account in Scotland. Or do anything banking related, really.

"We will send it to you in the mail."
"Oh, don't bother, I can sign this right now."
"We will send it to you in the mail then you will mail it back to us."
"Well, you send it, and I'll drop it back in."
"No. You will mail it."
"Riiiight. Sooo, email options?"

(scenario overexagerated for comedic purposes. But not too far from the truth.)

Or, take one of my temp agencies.
"Mail in your time sheets."
"Well, I walk by your agency on my way home, how about I drop it off?"
"No, you will mail it to the head office in Fancy Pants London."
"Well, the fax machine has been a valuable invention, perhaps I will fax it?"
"No, you will post it overnight to London."
"Of course. You with your tiny tiny tiny country yet 13-line long mailing addresses."

Example of UK mailing address:

Jen Mac
Bedroom no. 2
No, not that one, the other one
Right, that one!
123 Pretty Street
Flat 2
(Flat with blue door)
(Not red - BLUE)
Ding Dong Woods
Telpoohpooh CountyTownFace
(Found North of England)
Great Britain
United Kingdom
DD12 345

Example of Canadian address:
Jen Mac
RR 5
Littletown HU T5H 1B4

and DONE. In this vast empire of land. It actually baggles me how some people do receive their mail here, specifically those on rural routes which include many houses and where the same postal code is applied to 1,000 houses (Cornwall, much?)

I think it is snowing again. Quel surprise. Peut-etre, en mai, nous aurons un jour sans neige.


Kalena said...

I heart snow...and I hope that you made a photocopia of your voucher...two totally unrelated things - but all having to do with you :D

Jen said...

Indeed I did photocopy it! :)