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A recent vacation to Las Vegas to celebrate my 75th birthday cost me big bucks. And I never stepped foot in a casino.

Let's start with the air fare. I booked the outgoing flight from Dulles (Virginia) airport via United. Hearing Spirit Airlines has cheap fares, I found a flight back at the time we needed at a great price. Bad bet. As the date of our trip approached I checked the status of our flights. To my horror, I realized Spirit does not fly to Dulles. We would be arriving in Baltimore (BWI). This posed a problem as our car would be in a different airport in a different state. I decided to cancel. The cost for my mistake? $600.00 This includes the price of two tickets plus a $92.00 “passenger usage charge” for booking the tickets on line. I could use $210 of the $600 towards another flight but only if I booked within a defined window of time. My husband and I have no travel plans requiring air fare. I was down $600 without a single spin of the roulette wheel.

My losing streak continued when I checked on the status of our tickets to see Cirque du Soleil . After a 30 minute wait , I connected with a ticket agent. I explained I had not received any ticket vouchers and we were to go to the performance the following week. “I see the problem,” explained the ticket agent. “You paid for tickets for last week's performance.” Stunned, I said “you mean I ordered two tickets for the wrong date?” “Oh no “she replied, “you ordered three tickets.” Three unused tickets at $200 each came to $600.

Before we even boarded the plane, I was $1200 in the hole.

I blame technology. Planning a trip now requires a level of cyber-comfort and internet knowledge I do not possess. Finding the appropriate web site, creating new passwords, figuring out concert dates, airplane schedules, seat selection—not my forte.

The Chicks (formerly Dixie Chicks) concert episode is clear proof. We arrived at the ticket counter at Planet Hollywood for the Saturday performance. I gave the woman my cell phone so she could find the ticket voucher. She quickly navigated to the right site and said “One ticket for tonight.”

“What?” I exclaimed. “I booked two seats for my husband and me.”

“No, she said, “you only reserved one seat.”

How in the world did I pay for 3 seats on the wrong date for Cirque du Soleil and only 1 seat for the right night for the Chicks concert.? Clearly, I am ill-suited for the cyber world of travel arrangements.

Fortunately, there was a vacant seat next to me still available for the Chicks. I told my husband I needed a beer. (That cost $16.00)

My trip to Las Vegas proved a bad gamble. I am going with a sure bet our next trip. I plan to let someone else make all the arrangements.

(published in Spirit of Jefferson Advocate, August 2023)


When Dante wrote the Inferno in 1321, he identified 9 circles of Hell. I have no doubt if Dante lived today he would add a 10th circle: customer service. So I will add it in his honor.

The entrance to the 10th rung of Hell features a telephone. Pick it up and call a company in search of customer service. I usually get a robot voice that asks: “Thank you for calling. Please select the reason for your call from the following menu.” I explain, “I want to talk to a live person.” “I’m sorry,” says the robot-voice, “I do not understand. Let me repeat the menu.” Usually it takes 3 or 4 tries (by this time I am screaming in fury) until the cyber voice gives up and transfers me to a live representative.

This next stop of the 10th circle of Hell begins with following message: “This call may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance and training proposes.” This message is being phoned in from circle 8 of Dante’s Hell: fraud. Who really believes recorded calls and responses are being used to improve service?

After listening to this warning, the next message begins: “All of our agents are busy serving other customers. Your call is important to us. Please stay on the line.”

This message is to test endurance. Is your problem bad enough to endure a 10 minute wait? A 20 minute wait? One time I endured a 30 minute wait because “our call volume is unusually high. Please excuse the delay.” When t customer rep finally answered, she had to endure my thoughtful, well-meaning evaluation of her company’s approach to customer service. (They won’t be using that phone call for training purposes.)

When I finally get a live person, I realize my trip is not over. The customer rep asks for proof of my problem. What is the order number? What is your pin? Was there a full moon when you placed the order? I am not very computer literate and when they tell me go to my computer graveyard to resurrect the paperwork, I know I am toast.

It is time Congress passed some meaningful legislation. We need a law that compels all companies to immediately provide live customer support if requested by a caller.

Until then, the warning Dante gave centuries ago remains valid for Circle 10 Customer Service: Abandon all hope ye who enter here.

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