Delta’s Promotion from Hell

I don't fly Delta much, but my husband does. He's actually accumulated a number of SkyMiles points with the airline. The other day, we decided to use the points to book a trip but realized we needed to combine our points to get the level of ticket we wanted. Delta makes it fairly easy to do this online and I was delighted to see that they were actually doubling the number of transferred points as a special promotion. Cool!

So I gleefully moved half the number of points I needed to reach the 65,000 points required and learned that I would still have to pay $140 in the process. Ouch, but okay. We're still talking about a trip to Hawaii.

This morning, I checked online. I hadn't received the double points at all, just the original number requested. I cheerfully e-mailed Delta to explain the oversight and was told that I'd have to wait four to six weeks to get the other 11,000 points. That was a drag, I explained, still cheerfully, because I needed to book the flight by tomorrow. By return e-mail, and there was clearly a human at the end of the line, I was told I'd have to write a letter to corporate. I was even given an address to which I could overnight my letter.

Well, all I really needed, I decided, was to speak to a person live who would probably really want to assist me. She or he would probably even chuckle that I'd had to endure this silly problem of waiting such a long time for these points to be transferred and fix it on the spot.

Not so much. When I called the Delta helpline the woman who answered abruptly told me I'd have to wait four to six weeks "just like everyone else." Her response was so curt and so immediate that I am pretty sure she had been hired just to answer questions on this promotion from hell. She told me that if I'd taken the time to read the small print, I wouldn't be in this position and that I was out of luck.

“Brenda R," the supervisor I spoke with next, did an even better job of handling me. “You asked to speak to me?” was her angry, jarring greeting. I was starting to feel faint.

We’ve all been in this situation; even though you sense that there is no resolution in sight, you still feel compelled to explain to the person on the other end of line the sheer lack of logic in what was transpiring, that I was going to have wait four to six weeks for my bonus points, simply on principle.

I gave it my best shot and then Brenda R. asked me to hold on because she realized she had to make a notation in my account.

My heart leaped with the hope that she’d decided to help me.

When Brenda R. got back on the line she asked me in a sharp tone what else I needed from her.

“What did you write in my account?” I asked.

“I don’t have to tell you that,” she snapped and she hung up on me.

In an ultra-desperate moment I sent another email to Delta from their website about this latest experience and received the following response:

“While we would like to offer special consideration in cases such as yours, we are unable to honor the many requests that we receive from others in similar situations. We follow a consistent policy to ensure that Delta is fair to everyone who travels with us. Accordingly, we must respectfully decline your request. We value your confidence and loyalty.”

That was from Leslie James, from Delta’s Online Customer Support Desk. Why did she have to add that line, “We value your confidence and loyalty”? That’s just nonsensical rhetoric— about as nonsensical as the double-points promotion. And why did she have to point out that there were others in similar situations? That acknowledgment made it all seem even worse.

As I said earlier, I don’t fly Delta much and I won’t go on about how that isn’t about to change anytime soon. I suppose that if there is a message from any of this, it’s that if suppliers, and travel agents for that matter, are going to try please their most loyal customers with special bonus promotions, they shouldn’t make the deal in question so opaque that it truly doesn’t have value to the customer. Additionally, when there is a sincere problem with such an offer, the company serving it up shouldn’t react with an “Aha! Gotcha!” response. It should instead strive to find a solution or at least a compromise.

I truly hated this experience because it mars the image of the travel industry, which is 99 percent filled with marvelous people. It’s that other one percent that just irks the heck out of me.