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Have a Travel Complaint? Forget Customer Service—Tweet It

By SHANNON KELLY

Travel companies may have dedicated customer service lines and e-mail addresses, but increasingly it seems that posting a complaint to a social media outlet gets the fastest and most effective results.

A single call or e-mail is easy to ignore, but a post to Facebook or Twitter that could go viral has the potential to become a PR nightmare. If singer Dave Carroll had taken to YouTube with his “United Breaks Guitars” video (see above) in the first place, it likely wouldn’t have taken him a year to get an apology. (Just his 3 million video views in 10 days.)

A recent USA Today story recounts the experience of a traveller who complained about rotting food (from a previous customer) in his minibar and received a prompt response, a clean minibar, a free breakfast and a bottle of wine.

An Air Canada customer who was charged $731 for a replacement return ticket from New Jersey to Montreal after an airline agent mistakenly voided her original ticket had no luck getting a response from the airline via phone or e-mail, but when she posted her story on Facebook, Air Canada responded within minutes, refunded her and gave her a 25 per cent discount on her next flight.

Social media tactics may not always work. British travel complaints expert Darren Cronian says that while it’s a good idea to try airing your complaint via social media, “Do not be surprised if the company doesn’t respond—many organizations have signed up to Twitter because it is ‘cool’ and then forget to manage their account.”

But any company worth its 21st-century salt should be paying attention to social media by now.

Granted, the immediacy of Twitter and Facebook does invite a fair bit of whining from customers who are subjected to routine delays or other minor inconveniences. (Case in point, a May 9 tweet from @BradleyFriesen: “Seriously @aircanada? 30+ minutes and still without bags for AC 1162 in TO?!?”)

For serious customer complaints and injustices, however—and weeks-old Mexican food in one’s minibar definitely qualifies—it can’t hurt to do a bit of virtual laundry airing online.

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