Dear United Airlines, Part 3: A Slap in the Face

United Airlines

In part one of this saga, we learned how I was treated horribly by United Airlines when my father passed away.

In part two, we learned of the power of social media to at least make the company respond in some way, even if the response itself was canned and less than acceptable. Part two continued for a while, with a few more e-mail communications including information as to how to apply for a refund. I had to write a letter explaining the situation, as well as submit supporting documents including my father’s death certificate and an official document that showed time of death (since one of their arguments was that I hadn’t changed the ticket at least 24 hours before my flight). I wrote the letter. I got the documents. I sent it off to Texas. I didn’t have high expectations.

Yesterday morning I received an e-mail saying:

“We are pleased to inform you that your request for a refund has been approved and was processed today”

It also included instructions as to how to check on the status of the refund. No apologies. No human words. Just a form letter from a computer.

Still, I felt at least vindicated if not encouraged to fly with them again.

I couldn’t figure out their instructions until just about an hour ago. I finally made my way over to check on the processing and discovered the truth. My extra costs for the ticket (not including other things) because of their treatment was $205.06. The refund they gave me was $82.88. If we do the math, that’s 40% of my cost. I’m sure they will tell me there was a processing fee. Why should I pay a processing fee for their incredible disrespect of the humanity of their customers? I’m sure they will tell me that it’s policy and you only ever get a percentage back, but I’m sorry, that is still unacceptable.

UNACCEPTABLE!

Top that off with the fact that not one person, other than the agent I initially contacted who did his best within the restrictions of this evil empire and in the face of a sobbing human, not one person apologized in a genuine manner.

So, I’m on my soapbox for the second time today to say, 40% is not a refund. It is a slap in the  face and a reminder that you have the power because you have the money.

I have my own power. I have my words. I repeat, and will continue to repeat, that UNITED AIRLINES will be my last choice of travel forever.

We need to stand up to corporations. Corporations are not people, and real people deserve to be treated humanely

Sex and the Double Standard

Since yesterday was the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I read a lot of articles discussing how important reproductive rights are to the lives of women.  One that really struck me was an article written by Lizz Winstead at the Huffington Post called “Abortion is a Medical Procedure”. Winstead writes:

“Of course, those are the sluts like me: Unmarried women who are stigmatized because we choose to have enjoyable, non-procreative sex, a concept that is hideous and freakish and out of the mainstream. And to ice the slut cake, if our birth control fails, we may choose to have an abortion.

Actually, I am surprised they haven’t started spelling it, abwhoreshun.

Yes, women like me are called whores and worse, when, if an accident happens and we choose abortion, we don’t offer the proper amount of remorse and contrition.”

I quoted that particular section because it is perhaps the motivation behind this post. I’m not foolish enough to think that my words might convince anyone to believe in the right to choice if they believe otherwise. This is one of those arguments where nobody wins, and it can turn into an ugly battle of words that just leaves everyone with an awful taste in our mouths.  (On that note, please remember that I welcome comments, but reserve the right to block any comments that attack others or are disrespectful of my readers)

No, my discussion today goes back to an argument I’ve made in the past, words matter and words have power.  I learned that in a different matter this week, when United Airlines agreed to refund the fare difference after my somewhat public display of anger at the way I was treated, which resulted in many of you joining your voices with mine and several e-mails and letters. Words won that battle (but I still will try to fly other airlines as the money doesn’t really make up for how I was treated).

[Update: I am leaving this passage in and crossed out because I just found out they only gave me a refund of $82.88 on my $205.06 extra costs. NEVER FLY UNITED!]

In that small instance, words had (a miniscule amount of) power.

But they always do, which is the subject of this post. This morning, a few questions began to float around my head, based on all the articles and videos I watched yesterday.

  • Why is it that, if a teenage girl has sex, especially if she becomes pregnant, she is labeled as whore, slut, etc. while the male part of the equation is called . . . (drumroll) . . . the father of the child?
  • Why is that a young woman who has been raped or molested is labeled as asking for it, whore, slut, etc. while the male perpetrator (unless actually convicted) is called . . .(drumroll) . . . the accused, a star athlete who made a mistake, a misguided youth, and (if the young woman becomes pregnant) the father of the child?
  • Why is it that there have been hundreds of movies where the main premise is the guy intends on getting laid, and sometimes will even go so far as to buy a prostitute to help him lose his virginity, and they usually go after women who may be called whore, slut, prostitute, etc? There are some movies where the women set out to do the same, but somehow the men in those pictures (at least the one that the woman hooks up with) don’t come off as players in any way, or if they do it doesn’t remain a negative.
  • Why is it that women who speak up about the rights of women–the right to reproductive choice, equal pay, and equality under the constitution–are sometimes labelled whore, slut, bitch, hag, etc? Vocal men usually don’t get similar labels placed on them (except the most extreme ones like Rush Limbaugh, but even then the terms don’t seem quite as ugly).

I could go on and on with this list, but the point is that there are not really terms applied to males that are as derogatory as those applied to females. I mean, I suppose a male could be called a “man-whore” but that still implies that whoredom lies in the realm of women.

Let’s face reality folks. It takes two people to have sex! I’m not talking about self-pleasure and other things. I’m aware of those. But, it takes two people for a girl to gain a reputation. It takes two people for a woman to become pregnant. In the reality of sexual behavior, the male has to take the more active role. A woman can lie there, but a man has the appendage that does the work. So why then, is all the negative terminology about sexual behavior aimed at the woman?

The answer is simple, words have power. As long as we continue to allow these words their negative connotations nothing will change. As long as the men who want to to stay in power (I’m not saying all men, I mean the ones who use this language on a regular basis) continue to label women with these words, nothing will change. As long as women continue to call other women by these words, nothing will ever change.

I turn again to a quote from Lizz Winstead’s article:

And to all the people who claim we shouldn’t talk about abortion, or even say the word abortion because you claim it will be used against us by those aforementioned haters:

That is true only if we let them.
We must stop letting them control the language around this issue. They are trying to control everything else and I say no more.
I am taking back the word abortion.

Words have power, so how can we use that power to claim the rights of everyone to be happy, healthy, independent, sexual beings?

Let’s reclaim the words.

In Search of Fairy Tale Magic

This post was inspired by today’s Tiny Spark, written by Amber over at Tori’s blog. 

To Whom it May Concern:

I have been waiting a long time for an appearance from my Fairy Godmother, or for a man with a long beard to appear with my invitation to join a school of wizardry.  I’ve made hundreds, if not thousands, of wishes upon stars, and clapped until my hands hurt to prove my belief in fairies. I’ve looked for the pot of gold at the end of every rainbow, and I still open every new closet or wardrobe door with the hope that this time I could walk through to another world.  I’ve started building fairy houses on the back hill, hoping to at least hear the tinkle of laughter and music from an all night gathering.

A fairy house in a stump. Perfect neighborhood.

A fairy house in a stump. Perfect neighborhood.

I’ve believed in magic with all my might.

But still, you tease me and refuse to give me my hearts desire. Every time I ask for a little magical assist, or an answer to come in my dreams, you make me find alternative solutions instead.

Enough is enough. I hereby turn in my resignation and will no longer believe in the magic of others.

I plan to create my own magic instead.

Sincerely,

Lisa Kramer, Word-magic Weaver and Prince(ss) Charming

A fairy from my imagination.

A fairy from my imagination.

 

Catching Up, Cleaning Up, Starting Over

Standing at the Precipice

Have you ever felt like you were teetering on the peak of a mountain, and your next step will lead you to destinations unknown? You could step off and plummet toward the crags below. You could step off and defy gravity, being buffeted by winds that carry you into magical possibilities. You could step off onto an invisible path in the sky that leads in a meandering fashion to points well beyond your vision, even with the eagle-eye perspective of your high perch.

Or you could try to turn back and walk down from that peak. However, as you look behind you at the path you took to climb this far you see the dangers that lie that way. Your past journey involved a complex maze made up of false starts, dead-ends, obstacles, steep cliffs, dark caverns, some easy passages where the climb was pleasant, and many unexpected surprises.

You stand there, on that peak, and breathe deeply of air so fresh and full of oxygen that your head begins to spin, and you become unsure of where you are or where you are going. The only thing that is clear is that you cannot stay on that peak forever. Eventually you must take a step and enter the unknown.

I am on that peak. I know that it is time to change, to take a blind leap, and to move forward into something different.

Tying Up Loose Ends

Before I do this, however, I feel like I’ve been letting a lot of things dangle loosely over the past month. I need to catch up on myself, and find a stopping point to some of them so that I can take the step I need to take. That includes some less-than-pleasant tasks like writing a letter to make a final attempt to deal with the evil corporation. It also, however, includes acknowledging some past kindnesses that have been sent my way and got swept aside during the overwhelming emotions of the past few weeks.

The first kindness came from Stuart Nager, a wonderful person, talented writer, long-distance “kindred spirit” who, I must say is also part of the inspiration for the next step in my journey. Stuart has been going through some life challenges lately, and sharing his very personal journey in an honest and inspiring way through his blog called The Opening of Doors. Almost a month ago, Stuart nominated me for the Inspiring Blog Award, an award which I have received in the past but which means even more to me coming from this kind and inspirational man. While my head is in too many places at the moment to pass on the award appropriately, I wanted to acknowledge Stuart’s kind gift and officially off it to all of you who have inspired me with you kindness, your words, and your generosity in this slightly bizarre community that has played such an important role in my life over the past few years.

In the same vein, I have to thank the wonderful and talented Victoria Walters who tagged me in the Liebster Award last week. I honestly haven’t been reading enough lately to pass the award onto 11 blogs. Forgive me but life has just become too much for me to keep up. However, I will answer the 11 random questions Victoria asked because some of the answers are relevant to what comes next.

  • What made you want to be a writer? Simple, I love words and always have, whether written or spoken.
  • Where do you find the inspiration for your writing? From trying to be open to everything around me.
  • What are your goals for 2013?  This is a tough one, but so important. I want to write more, but more importantly submit more. I want to be kind to myself. I want to work toward being healthy and living each day with no regrets.
  • What’s your favourite quote? “Believe.”
  • Where in the world would you most like to visit? Where wouldn’t I like to visit? Right now Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Greece top my list.
  • What five things would you take to a desert island? A kindle (for the random 4G signals I’ll miraculously pick up), pens and paper, a pillow or hammock, chocolate.
  • What is your biggest strength and your biggest weakness? My biggest weakness is my inability to name my biggest strength.
  • If you could met one author, who would you choose? I can’t really decide, but I’ll say Victoria Walters. 😉
  • What’s your favourite film? I don’t have a favorite but love romantic comedies.
  • If you went into The Hunger Games, what would be your most useful skill? Thinking quickly under pressure . . . but ultimately I’d be doomed by my empathy and unwillingness to kill
  • Which fictional male would you most like to marry? I can’t think of one, but there are plenty I would like a hot and steamy romance with.

Stepping into the Unknown

Okay, so I tied up some loose ends . . . although perhaps not completely. Now its time to leap, so I am making an announcement. I may not be spending much time at Women Wielding Words for a while. This will still be the home of my random thoughts, 100 Word Challenges and occasional rants. However, I am determined to reinvent myself this year, and figure out how to became the person I truly want to be. I feel like Woman Wielding Words has helped me get to this point, but now I feel blocked and like I’m just weaving empty words. So, I’m starting a slightly different blog which I am calling Re-Envisioning Lisa. You are welcome to follow me over there, of course, but it will be different. I want to use that blog to help me find the path that I can’t see, which means it may be more “journal-like” or essay exploring the what-ifs and whys of my life as I take my first hesitant steps off of the precipice.

From there . . . who knows.

Clouds to walk on

Dear United Airlines Part 2: The Power of Social Media

 

 

Thanks to all the hits and responses to my post yesterday, I actually did hear from United Airlines. Don’t get your hopes up however, the response was less than satisfactory. For your reading pleasure, I will include the response and my answer to that response. I have removed names because I am not trying to get any individuals in trouble, but to ask a corporation to realize that there is a human factor in what they do.

 

 

 

Dear Mrs. Kramer:

Thank you for your reply. We send our condolences for your loss.

Your comments clearly convey how disappointed you were to learn of additional costs associated with changing your ticket.

I was glad to see that our reservation agent made an exception to our policies and waived the change fee for you due to your recent loss; however the additional fee that was assessed was applicable as your original fare had an advance purchase requirement.  The amount you paid was the difference in fare of your original ticket & the current fare level.  I regret the circumstances which required you to change your ticket on such short notice.  I accessed our past-date database to verify the inventory for the day you wished to travel. According to our records, the itinerary no longer met the advance-notice criteria for the original fare.

You state that your original return was changed and our records indicate that the change on your return travel was done when your husband called to change your ticket. I regret any confusion in regards to what happened with your return flight reservation.

Most excursion tickets are non-refundable. A service charge usually applies for changing the time or date of travel. Service charges help cover costs associated with processing ticket changes, adjusting passenger manifests, and filling empty seats.

Tickets are often reissued for a $150 service charge; however, depending on the available inventory when the ticket is reissued, an additional collection may also apply. Customers must pay the difference between the original fare and the new fare when there is reduced inventory or published fare increases.

Our published terms and conditions are designed to balance the needs of customers with the business needs of our company. We sell several types of tickets with varying levels of restrictions. Please visit our website for more information: www.united.com

Mrs. Kramer, we appreciate your business and look forward to welcoming you on board a future United Airlines flight.

With kindest regards,

XXX

Corporate Customer Care Manager

 

My response is as follows. Note that Nathan was on the phone with them about 20 minutes after my mother had been informed of my father’s passing. (which was when I heard the news):

 

 

 

Dear XXX

While I understand you have rules and regulations there is also such a thing as a bereavement fare, which (although still ridiculously high) should still have been considered in this situation. I also think it was completely inappropriate for you to cancel my return flight with my family, and then when I wanted to get back on that flight try to charge me another full fair. Yes, the agent who worked with me did the right thing, and I commend him for that. That doesn’t excuse the fact that your company put the bottom line ahead of the reality that life happens and that, just because someone shops for a less expensive fare shouldn’t mean that they get penalized in times such us this. I’m sorry that my father did not pass away in time for me to make your “advanced purchase requirements,” but that is, in my opinion a crass business tactic.

I’m sorry, but I do not accept this apology and will make every effort to never fly with United again. I have flown with you for a long time and I used to enjoy the flights, but now it is simply not worth it.  Perhaps your policies are in line with the standards of the industry, but to me they are evidence of how much more important money has become over the human factor. I am also aware of other airlines who will make exceptions and refuse to believe that you couldn’t have done the same.

Sincerely,

Lisa A. Kramer

 

Soapbox Warning

 

 

 

I realize that I may just be tilting at windmills here, but the powerful response on social media since yesterday has taught me something. We have allowed corporations to treat us like dirt for too long. We have allowed the voices of people who don’t have lots of money to get subsumed by the voices of those who do. If we want a better world, we need to stand up and say we aren’t going to tolerate being treated like this anymore. I know that United probably doesn’t care if I ever fly with them again. I know that travelling is probably going to be slightly more difficult and more expensive if I try to avoid United and all its affiliates. I also know that I can no longer support companies that do not take into account that human beings matter. I avoid the big stores like Wal-Mart etc. Now I choose to avoid a company that simply doesn’t care.

 

Honore-Daumier-Don-Quixote

Honore-Daumier-Don-Quixote (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Dear United Airlines

To Whom It May Concern at United Airlines,

My father passed away on December 19, 2012.

Why does this concern you? Because I was supposed to leave to visit my in-laws in Hawaii on December 20, 2012. When my husband called to change my flight, as I sat crying with my daughter, he was told that we would pay the flight change fee and be reimbursed. He WAS NOT told that my return flight would be cancelled as well. He WAS NOT told that I would have to pay for the difference in fares, to get back onto a flight that I had already booked.

When he called, we weren’t sure when the funeral would be so we were given a number and told to call back when we had more information.

When I called back, after my husband and my daughter had already made it onto the original flight, I learned of the cruelty of the way you operate. What gave you the right to cancel my return flight, and then ask me to pay an additional $1300-$1500 to change my itinerary? How dare you charge me for a flight I already paid for?

I don’t usually cry, scream and swear to people doing their jobs. This time I did. I lost my father and your policies didn’t have any respect that life happens. The poor man on the other end managed to find me a flight which would only cost me an additional $200+ but left and arrived at evil times, and wasn’t with my family. In my opinion, YOU OWE ME that money.

I have never understood how airlines get away with over booking flights. It’s not legal to sell the same seat to two different patrons at the theatre, and on the rare occasions when that happens, a new seat is always found. It’s not legal to sell the same car to two different people at the same time. How can you legally sell seats to many people at the same time? How can you legally try to have someone pay again for seats she already bought?

As I flew, I watched your advertisements about your new and improved plane. I also witnessed the most unpleasant, unsmiling flight attendants I’ve seen in a long time. I sat in your uncomfortable seats as your expensive food moved down the aisles. I paid the fees for luggage, only to have to wait for almost an hour upon arriving in Hawaii for my luggage to appear. On the last flight, as I returned home, my headphones didn’t work properly (the channel they play on wouldn’t come in although others would)  so I couldn’t watch the movies. I suppose I could have asked for help, but this was also the flight with the unpleasant, unsmiling, and quite bitchy flight attendants.

You grow bigger every day, and I realize that gives you power. You don’t care what my voice says. You don’t care about my fares, because I don’t pay for first class. You should.

Kindness matters. From this day forward, if I can avoid flying with you, I will, even with your innovations in aircraft. I will also tell everyone I know to choose another airline. I may not have the power of an airline, but I have the power of my words, and I have the power to choose.

I choose to fly with people who respect all of their passengers, not just the ones who can afford first class tickets.

Sincerely,

Lisa A. Kramer, A Very Dissatisfied Customer

United Airlines

 

 

 

Oh the Places You Will Go . . . If You Just Let Yourself

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
― Dr. SeussOh, the Places You’ll Go!

I’m watching (in a repeat airing) the Tournament of Roses parade on this January 1, 2013 and thinking about the year to come, and the theme resonated with me “Oh the Places You Will Go” from Dr. Seuss.

I started out 2012 on a plane to Vienna, heading ultimately to Slovakia, on a journey to find myself and find some purpose.

I ended 2013 sitting on a beach in Waikiki, tears pouring down my face as fireworks celebrated the first year without my Dad being on this earth.

DSCN1735

In between those two points, life happened. Not all of it good, not all of it bad, but all because of the simple fact that I am alive.

I’m not going to give a detailed account of the moments in between but rather try to sum up what I’ve learned over the past, rather challenging, year. I learned . . .

  • nothing ever goes as expected, but the unexpected can bring pleasant surprises.
  • nothing is ever perfect, but with hard work we can learn to embrace imperfection
  • never retrace your steps
  • you are never too old to dream, or to take chances because the unexpected can happen
  • nothing will happen if you don’t make it happen.
  • your past doesn’t have to dictate your present or your future

Tomorrow morning I will be on a plane, back to reality, back to the cold. I can’t say that this has been the most relaxing vacation in my life. Nor has it been the most joyous holiday season. However, I know that what happens next is up to me. and that I want to be able to look back on my life without regrets.

I want to learn from the wisdom of Dr. Seuss.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
― Dr. Seuss

Cover of "Oh, the Places You'll Go!"

Cover of Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

I may not know what the future brings. I may not have resolutions (as I don’t believe in them), but I have two feet, a brain, an imagination, a dream, and a future.

I wonder where those tools will take me.

May you all find peace and joy as your feet carry you forward to new, wonderful, unimagined places!

DSCN1746

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