The two biggest mistakes many travelers make when complaining

Travel is great when everything works, and sometimes even when everything isn’t so perfect. But there are also those days and experiences that go beyond the point of “grin and bear it.”

While some travelers complain effectively, many do not. Often they make one of two simple, but big, mistakes. And, neither works.

The first mistake, getting angry and yelling, which might include the infamous DYKWIA (Do you know who I am?) routine. If someone knows “who you are,” they’ve probably already done all they can, unless you happen to be a celebrity with, for example, a sports team or political side they don’t support. In which case knowing won’t help.

Plus, customer service agents for airlines and hotels get abuse on a pretty regular basis. Adding to it will not help, and may even cause them to dig in their heels further.

I actually had an airport agent get mad enough to call our office and tell me he would have upgraded a client with a seat issue had she not been such a witch. A hotel told me recently that they would have upgraded a client’s room to an ocean view in Hawaii, had the client in question not been so rude and “entitled” at check-in.

Personally, when I can feel myself losing it, I will try to make a point of saying something like, “I am not angry at you personally, and I apologize up front if I am taking it out on you.” When it’s an issue that affects a number of people, it also doesn’t hurt to acknowledge to the customer service person, “You probably are not having a good day right now; I’m sorry.”

The second mistake is even simpler — waiting until returning home to complain. Sometimes there’s no choice because the problem shows up afterwards, such as a belated credit card bill, a lost suitcase, etc. But, if it’s something that MIGHT be able to be fixed, many travelers either give up too easily or don’t complain at all until it’s too late.

The most common example is with accommodations. Travel agents all have stories about the clients who come home and say they didn’t get the view they were promised, or the room was really noisy, or they didn’t get the free breakfast, or whatever. It doesn’t matter how careful you are with a reservation, a single distracted desk clerk can undo months of advance planning. Believe me, stuff happens, people don’t check out as planned, hotels overbook, etc.

Sometimes when travel agents ask things like, “Did you ask about changing rooms?” The answer is, “no.” Either the traveler didn’t want to cause trouble or didn’t think there was anything they could have done.

When I have a client who calls from a hotel where they have a problem, a quick phone call can often solve the problem. Or, maybe a not-so-quick phone call. On the other hand, even if we can get compensation after the fact for a mistake, there’s no way to take back a bad experience. The same goes for a missed flight or an uncomfortable rental car.

Even when it’s after hours, some tour companies and travel agents have 24-hour services. Even those that don’t can work on fixing things while you’re still on the road.

As with any sort of travel, documenting the problem at the time can be a huge help later. Something in writing, an acknowledgment of a problem, even a name of someone you spoke with and when you spoke to them, makes it much easier to try to get compensation after the fact.

Admittedly, staying civil and speaking up promptly won’t guarantee solutions to all problems. However, they can solve more problems than one might think.