Travel Tips

How To Get What You Want Without Really Trying?

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So one of my favorite non-travel blogs did a post today on “How To Get What You Want Without Really Trying” He lays forth 4 basic principles for accomplishing this. I quite agree, but of course my mind immediately started applying this to travel, for which I would tweak his points slightly.

Be Polite — To me this translates into Never Raise Your Voice. I’m astonished at the people who think it’s ok to yell, scream, or berate staff for changes to their travel plans, including folks who think prefacing it with “I know this isn’t your fault, but…” It’s fine to be worried, anxious, sad, or even teary eyed, just don’t take your frustrations out on the person trying to help you.

I can pretty much guarantee they did not personally cancel your flight or overbook the hotel just to spite you. Noone wakes up wanting to make dozens of people openly hostile to them. And if the person did personally impact your travel plans through some kind of incompetence, like not processing your ticket right or entering in your dates wrong, yelling at them isn’t going to change anything.

You might feel better, but you’ve either rattled them, which means things will only be more incompetent, or you’ve angered them, at which point you’re probably going to wind up in the worst seat on the plane or room in the hotel.

Be Pleasant — This is closely tied to the point above, but distinct enough that I’m going to replace the original point on being patient. I’ve never seen anyone get better treatment because they were mean or yelled. But I’ve personally experienced the benefits of not just being polite, but being downright pleasant to customer service agents.

Although let me make one thing clear — the days of walking up to the gate agent and asking for an upgrade to First class unrelated to your status are over. There’s well defined processes (and waitlists) in place. BUT all customer service people have a lot of leeway in how much they can help you. And the nicer you are, particularly in contrast to fellow travelers, the more likely they are to exercise that.

  • Several years ago the outbound AM flight for a 36 hr stay in Seattle was cancelled. My travel companion & I rushed to the lounge and got in line, right behind some truly aggressive people taking their frustrations out the folks manning the front desk. When it came our turn, I impulsively opened with “wow, as bad as my morning is, I bet it’s nothing compared to yours.” The woman’s demeanor immediately started to change and she was incredibly sympathetic for our plight, which looked at best like it would be different connecting flights, meeting up 12 hrs later, cutting the trip in half and sentencing us to solitude for most of it.

    She offered the option to take the evening flight out in First class together if we wanted to wait. (Incidentally, it was on this flight that I met Lucky on one of his mileage runs — the flight attendant had pointed us out as the only people in first flying on what appeared to be a paid upgrade and I’d spotted his bright yellow FlyerTalk luggage tag)

  • And when I was experiencing my Trip In Vain earlier this year, the people in line were quite angry and profane about their trip disruptions. I just walked up with a rueful smile and a heartfelt wish that they could help me. The agent would have processed my request regardless of how I had acted, but if I’d been hostile he might have been a little more rigid about what flights I could select and I’m guessing  I definitely wouldn’t have had an instant upgrade to First Class on the flight back home.

And pleasantness works even when there’s not problems. My second night at the Four Points Cumberland House in Knoxville, they made an extra effort to upgrade us to a Junior Suite largely, I think, because we’d approached the desk with a big smile and friendly attitude.

Help Solve the Problem –This is my take on being flexible. When it comes to travel, there’s often a million permutations. And while they might know more of the options, they’re trying to wade through all the obvious choices first. So if you have any additional information about your preferences or other things that could work for you, volunteer them!  Could you spend your last night at a different hotel near the airport if they’d give you a fantastic rate? Are you willing to overnight in one of the connecting cities if they can get you on specific flights? This rarely works, but even suggesting flights on other airlines that appear to have availability will sometimes improve your situation. “If there’s room on United flight XYZ, I could drive to Dulles.”

Be Firm — (I’ll rephrase it as Know Your Rights) Being polite, pleasant, and helpful doesn’t mean you roll over and accept an unacceptable situation. If the person you’re working with can’t solve your problem, you can quietly and nicely request (demand) to speak to a supervisor.  If they can’t accommodate you in the room you paid for and confirmed, then there should definitely be compensation. It may not happen immediately and it  might not be quite as you planned, but you should stick up for yourself until you can be made whole.

And the one last point which doesn’t neatly fit into any bullet points is having realistic wants. It’s something I had to learn professionally early on — what is the outcome you’re looking for. Do you want the situation to get resolved/improved or do you want to be right/have other punished. If you want the latter, you’re probably rarely going to get the outcome you want. If you’re mainly interested in improving things, the points above will go a long way.

What points would you add or dispute?

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Heels First is the travels and tribulations of two twenty-something frequent fliers jumping into the world of travel. Join Keri and Jeanne as they tackle mileage runs, elite status, and of course–the perfect travel accessories.

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Living for the little (and big things) that make life so fun, especially mistake deals and crazy last minute weekend mileage runs across the world. www.twitter.com/klatravel

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