A few days ago, I was unable to update my credit card number in my United Airlines Mileage Plus account. An older number appeared on the screen when I booked my flight, but there was no obvious way to get into my account online to bring it up to date.
There followed a considerable search on my part to speak to a real live caring person to help me correct the error. It began like this:
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For reasons not apparent, United Airlines makes it challenging to reach the person to person step. The customer is initially diverted to irrelevant pages to see if anything presented there might possibly help them. Maybe they knew from experience that a human to human connection between two humans halfway across the world could be fraught with problems, even if it did save the company some money. I guess they save hiring more people by diverting as many customers as possible to an online solution.
After I finally connected with someone, I could not have dreamed up a more ridiculous and irritating interaction. It might have led a person less in control of their behavior than myself to violence.
I was connected to a man somewhere across the globe who promised to help me if I would just answer a few “security” questions.
I could feel myself resisting, but I’d gotten this far and I didn’t want to let go. I figured they’d want my mother’s maiden name and the name of my first beloved dog. No way.
Out of Nowhere
He: “What is your favorite pizza topping?
Me: “You’re kidding, right? ” I asked him, my mind boggled by the fact that this was an actual security question.
He: “No, Ma’am,” he matter of factly replied, finding no humor in my question. This man had a job to do and whether or not it made any sense, he was not to be moved from following his instructions.
Me: “That’s a ridiculous question,” I answered matter of factly as well, trying to match his even temperament but feeling my anger rise. I was sure I was stating the obvious. “I have no favorite pizza topping nor did I ever tell anyone at your organization what the answer to that question would be!” Besides, I NEVER answered your so-called security questions.
Me still in disbelief: “Are you just making up the questions?”
He: “I’m sorry , Ma’am. Would you like to try another one?”
Me: “It better not be as bullshit as your first question,” I responded tartly. “Is there some other more sensible way to do this transaction?”
“He: I’m sorry Ma’am. You must answer the questions. Maybe the next question would ask me the name of my hometown. I hung in there.
He: “WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE WAY TO TRAVEL?” he now wanted to know.
Me: “BY SPACESHIP? ” I queried. My anger had risen to a new high. My smart – ass self was my only defense.
Me: “Let me talk to your manager, please, I insisted, thinking this was the only solution and would quickly fix things.
He: “The manager must ask you the same questions,” he assured me.
Me: “THIS IS TOTAL BULL SHIT!!” I now shouted into the phone, any attempt at maintaining a semblance of politeness was now completely out of reach for me.
I’d reached my limit. I’d already spent about a half an hour on this little exercise. I had to terminate this exchange asap.
I slammed down the phone, not enjoying any satisfaction. I had failed.
I went back online to the UAL website. There, buried under a stash of irrelevant information, I finally found a link to change the digits required for updating my card.
How have things gotten to this low point? How about a customer achieving security from inanity?