When making reservations, it is important to pay attention to prepayment and cancellation policies. If you need to make last minute changes, you could find yourself stuck with large penalty fees. Fortunately for all of you, I have a few tips when dealing with customer service. My time in the hospitality industry has taught me a few tricks that can save you time and money. Here are a few suggestions to help you find ways around cancellation fees.
The first mistake people make when calling customer service is unleashing their frustrations on unsuspecting agents. The tone you set at the beginning of the phone call is a huge determining factor in the outcome of the call. Speaking from my own experience, I did the bare minimum for customers who started calls by screaming at me or blaming me for their troubles. It immediately put me on the defensive and attempt to end the call as soon as possible.
However, I was much more empathetic when a customer calmly explained their situation. I took the time to not only understand the problem, but also to find creative solutions. Often times, I would go the extra mile for these callers. Sometimes this meant finding loopholes to waive cancellation fees, seeking permission from a supervisor, or offering other forms of compensation of equal value. The life of a customer service representative is full of stress and undeserving anger, so remember that patience and kindness go a long way. It may be cliché, but you really do catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
Courtesy Holds without a Credit Card
Another little known tip when making reservations is the courtesy hold. Some hotels and airlines will allow you to hold a rate for 24 to 48 hours without a credit card. This gives you enough time to shop around or discuss it with your travel partners. Just remember that you will have to call back and confirm the reservation with a credit card or risk cancellation. If you are not quite ready to commit, be sure to ask if this option is available. This little known option can buy you extra time without a deposit.
Changing the Dates to Avoid Cancellation Fees
This last option falls into a gray area, so you need to be careful what you say on recorded calls. Most reservations allow cancellations within 24 hours of arrival. However, if you find yourself inside this cancellation period, there is a loophole. Instead of cancelling your reservation and paying the associated fees, simply change the dates. This puts you outside the cancellation period, allowing you to call back and cancel with no penalties.
Although you are not technically breaking any rules, it is frowned upon by many companies. Most customer service agents are aware of this tactic, but cannot offer it to you because calls are monitored. You should also be aware this does not apply to prepaid rates that require full prepayment.
When making reservations, you should always be aware of cancellation policies and required deposits. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you are paying unnecessary penalty fees. However, if you do find yourself within a cancellation period, you have options. Most times you can get what you want by politely asking for it. The most important thing is to be kind and courteous. People are more willing to give you what you want when you remain calm and rational.
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Jenny Smedra is an avid world traveler, ESL teacher, former archaeologist, and freelance writer. Choosing a life abroad had strengthened her commitment to finding ways to bring people together across language and cultural barriers. While most of her time is dedicated to either working with children, she also enjoys good friends, good food, and new adventures.