It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you

This is the Online column, written for The Southland Times)

Did I miss the memo? You know, the one informing all customer service personnel that I’m public enemy No 1?

If it’s not wayward parcels with NZ Post or dodgy broadband connections with Telecom it’s holiday bookings sprouting wings and taking flight with Air New Zealand.

I’m going on holiday in October so, being the organised sheila that I am, I booked all the flights well ahead of time.

Well, it was more a case of being organised by necessity rather than by nature since the Gold Coast part of our holiday starts at Indy weekend.

After getting my flight back from the Gold Coast to Christchurch sorted, I went ahead and booked the other flights and accommodation around that.

You might think it’s all good. But you’d be wrong.

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from Air NZ telling me that there had been a change to the flight schedule. I followed the link included in the e-mail and found that our flight to Christchurch was now leaving the Gold Coast at 5.30pm — nearly eight and a half hours after the flight I’d already paid for.

Even worse, we would be taking off from Aussie right about the time we should be checking in for our flight from Christchurch to Invercargill. A flight booked and paid for at the same time as the changed flight, and with the same airline.

But wait, there’s more.

The delightfully inconvenient departure time meant, of course, that our arrival time would be even more inconvenient: 11.45pm.

The website link had two options for me to choose from: to accept the change or turn it down.

When I tried to click on the second option, I got an error message (cue Twilight Zone music). Do I smell a conspiracy?

My next move was to call the 0800 number included in the e-mail. The alleged customer service woman I spoke to more or less told me I’d just have to wear it, that there was nothing she or anyone else could do about the problem.

So there I was, stuck with a flight that would deposit me in Christchurch in the middle of the night, having missed my connecting flight, and I’d need to pay for a night’s accommodation in Christchurch.

Nice.

It was about then I started to wonder if I was the victim of a really nasty April Fool’s Day prank.

I asked Ms Alleged Customer Service how I could go about making a complaint. She gave me both an e-mail address and a phone number. My e-mail received an automated response saying they’d try to get back to me in 5 to 10 days.

I called the number (a toll call, at my expense, I might add). After being told that no, this isn’t the number to call to complain, that I’d need to deal with a customer service representative, I was about ready to give it all up for a box of Valium.

And then it happened. I was finally transferred to that most elusive of creatures: the Helpful Customer Service chicky-babe.

Wow, I’d heard rumours of their existence but thought they were simply a figment of someone’s overactive imagination, like dragons or unicorns.

We’ve now had our flight changed and it means we’ve got an extra stop but at least we won’t miss our flight home.

I’m still not completely happy because the only reason we booked with Air NZ was because they had a direct flight to Christchurch from Aussie. In the past, we’ve always used other airlines because Air NZ didn’t have that option.

Anyway, thanks Air NZ for showing me that it’s not just Telecom picking on me, that incompetence and insolent customer service are available everywhere.

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