PROBLEM SOLVED / Christopher Elliott

Expedia workers
Photocourtesy of Expedia Group
Expedia problem leads to a missed flight

When Expedia fails to pay for Joanna Heath's return flight to Los Angeles, she must buy a new ticket. Now the online agency refuses to refund the new ticket. What gives?

Christopher Elliott
Christopher Elliott

Q: I recently booked a flight from Los Angeles to Philadelphia through Expedia for my family. A few weeks later, I contacted Expedia to make a change for my return flight. The agent made the booking and sent me confirmation and the attached travel documents.

When I tried to check in for my return flight -- the one I had changed -- I got a message “check in not available. Please contact agent.”

I contacted American Airlines. An agent told me that the flight was delayed and that the delay would cause us to miss the connecting flight. But when they went to give us an alternate flight, they discovered that we actually had no tickets. According to American Airlines, Expedia had never paid for the flight or completed the bookings. We now had no flights home at all. We were advised by American Airlines to call Expedia immediately. After a lengthy call, Expedia conceded that it made a mistake. There was now no alternate flight they could get us on for that day via American Airlines. A representative said there was a Delta flight, and that Expedia would pay for the tickets but we would need to book them directly through Delta on our credit card and submit that receipt via this email for expedited reimbursement.

We paid $1,489 for our tickets. Now Expedia is refusing to refund us. Can you help? — Joanna Heath

A: Expedia should have paid for your return flight. The online travel agency made a mistake, and it was aware of the mistake. So it should have found a way to get you and your family back home without incurring any additional expenses.

Here's the problem, as far as I can tell: Everything is automated. Maybe a little too automated. When you asked for a change, Expedia's systems worked to cancel your original booking and issue a new ticket. When something glitched, the system suggested an alternative that was impractical. When you asked for a refund, the system didn't quite understand what was going on.

Bottom line: Expedia thought it had done nothing wrong because, according to its highly automated systems, nothing had gone wrong. We've seen an uptick in cases like this because, during the pandemic, online travel agencies relied more on automated systems and artificial intelligence.

The only way to fix this is for a human to look at your case. But as far as I can tell, no Expedia representative took the time to carefully review your ticket issue. Again, I suspect that the system scanned your correspondence and automatically suggested a resolution.

I think a brief, polite email to someone higher up at Expedia might have helped. You can always find the names, numbers and email addresses of the Expedia customer service managers on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org. But you never know -- Expedia might have figured out a way to automate those responses, too. I hope not.

I contacted Expedia on your behalf. It reviewed your case and issued a refund, as promised.

Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer for Elliott Advocacy. Email him at chris@elliott.org or get help with any consumer problem by contacting him at http://www.elliott.org/help © 2021 Christopher Elliott.

Elliot started a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to handle help requests from readers. Use this link to the help form to get assistance. “I'm always here to help.”

Christopher Elliott's latest book is How To Be The World’s Smartest Traveler (National Geographic).

November 2021

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Photo: Paypal Inc
Help! I made a PayPal donation to someone I don't recognize

Why won't PayPal refund the mysterious $100 donation made from Jon Lau's account? It won't say — and it won't pay the money, either.

Christopher Elliott
Christopher Elliott

Q: Earlier this year, PayPal charged me $100 for a donation to PayPal to a person I did not recognize. I could not find out anything about the person through an online search.  I did not make the donation. I disputed the transaction immediately, but PayPal responded with a message that "we’ve determined there was no unauthorized use."

I sent an internal message to PayPal to protest its decision. Two months later, PayPal responded, saying that "the decision made at the conclusion of a buyer claim is final and can only be appealed if new information is presented which was not considered during the original investigation."

Jon Lau San Francisco

A:PayPal should be able to protect you against unauthorized charges to your account. Specifically, PayPal promises that you can "contact us if anything seems suspicious so we can help you protect yourself from fraudulent charges against your account."

Which is what you did. 

quote marks

You were dealing with lower-level employees (probably computer-generated responses) who were not really reading anything you were saying. It's unclear what "new information" you could have provided.”

So what went wrong? It's difficult to tell based on your correspondence with PayPal. The company rarely says anything specific when it comes to fraud. All I know is what you told me: You had a mysterious charge from someone you didn't know. You asked PayPal for help. And PayPal sided with the fraudster.

A few things are clear. First, you may have had a security issue — maybe a compromised password or some other security vulnerability. It looks as if someone authorized that transaction. According to PayPal, that someone was you. But of course, it wasn't you.

Another thing: You were dealing with lower-level employees (probably computer-generated responses) who were not really reading anything you were saying. It's unclear what "new information" you could have provided.

I think you should have contacted someone at a higher level at PayPal. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of the PayPal executives on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org. A brief, polite email to one of them might have led to a successful resolution.

I contacted PayPal about your $100 charge. A representative responded, "We looked into this one and positively resolved it for Mr. Lau. Our dedicated Customer Service team has reached out to him with education about his case." Your money has been returned.

Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer for Elliott Advocacy. Email him at chris@elliott.org or get help with any consumer problem by contacting him at http://www.elliott.org/help © 2021 Christopher Elliott.

Elliot started a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to handle help requests from readers. Use this link to the help form to get assistance. “I'm always here to help.”

September 27, 2021

Uber Rider
A glitch in Uber leads to an overcharge — can I get a refund?
Christopher Elliott
Christopher Elliott

Darrick Collins thinks he's going to pay $20 for a ride in Los Angeles. But Uber charges him $98 instead. What's going on? 

Q:Uber is charging me $98 for a ride in Los Angeles. But I only agreed to pay $20 for it. The system kept glitching when I was on the app. I denied all of the high offers and took the lowest. They also canceled two drivers who were under $20. Can you help me get a $78 refund, please?

Darrick Collins, Inglewood, Calif.

A: Uber's app should have charged you what it said it would — not a penny more. 
But you have to keep in mind what Uber is trying to get. It wants to extract the most money it can from each ride. When I enter a destination on my Uber app on St. Simons Island, Georgia, it offers several choices, including the less expensive UberX and the slightly roomier — and pricier — UberXL. But in California, Uber <a href="https://www.uber.com/blog/california/upcoming-changes-to-the-driver-app/">displays its rates differently</a>, which appears to be what happened to you. The system allowed drivers to set a higher rate, which most passengers rejected. Uber disabled the system that allowed drivers to set a higher fare multiplier.

quote marks

When you notified Uber, it should have quickly corrected the problem. It did not. You made numerous efforts to contact Uber, but it still didn't help.”

It appears that when you requested your ride, you had several cars that set a higher fare multiplier. You turned them down but somehow still got matched with one of the more expensive drivers. That's a glitch.

When you notified Uber, it should have quickly corrected the problem. It did not. You made numerous efforts to contact Uber, but it still didn't help. Fortunately, I list the names, numbers and email addresses of the Uber customer service contacts on my consumer advocacy site, Ellilott.org.

This is one of those rare problems that Uber seems to have fixed for its users before I contacted them. But it kind of forgot to take care of the problems it created for some of its users before the policy change. When you're dealing with hundreds of thousands of trips, as Uber does, it's easy to lose track of complaints like yours. But that's no excuse.

You could have reached out to Uber or initiated a credit card dispute. You kept a thorough paper trail, although you didn't have screenshots of your accepted rides. It's unrealistic to expect anyone to take a screenshot of a transaction that appears successful. But you almost have to do that nowadays. Otherwise, a company like Uber can overcharge you by $78.

Christopher Elliott, Chief Advocacy Officer Elliott Advocacy

Elliot started a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to handle help requests from readers. Use this link to the help form to get assistance. “I'm always here to help.”

August 12, 2021

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