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Consumer woes about lost luggage, lost contacts and lost savings – The Irish Times

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Cancellations, climbing prices, loyalty cards and customer service have all been occupying the minds of readers in recent days with the flow of complaints and queries remaining depressingly steady.

There has been a huge amount of negative stories coming out of Dublin Airport and, to be fair, many other airports all over the world as the leisure and business travel sector struggles to get up and running again after pandemic lockdowns. Delays at airports have seen flights missed and cancelled, throwing the travel plans of thousands of people into disarray. And then there have been the baggage stories.

Tales of lost luggage and delayed arrivals have seen airport service companies apologising for the manner in which people have been let down, people such as Tanya Simpraga.

“I am a Canadian traveller,” her email begins. “I planned a two-month adventure including hiking the Three Peaks in Scotland, Wales, and England, I am then hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc for two weeks. I will head on to meet a friend who lives in Cyprus, we will meet in Ibiza, Spain. I’ll then go to Andorra for more hiking, to England to explore with a friend from there, to Edinburgh to meet a friend for the Fringe Fest and other roamings. I’ll end up in Ireland to explore for just over two weeks then fly home back to Canada.”

It all sounds wonderful, if just a bit tiring.

“I flew Aer Lingus from Toronto to Dublin on to Glasgow. My luggage, that was carrying two months’ of hiking and living supplies, has gone missing. Lost or missing, I’ll never know but I’m sure I’ll never see it again,” she writes

“I contacted the airline, filled out all of their forms, contacted the CEO and customer relations. No one has gotten back to me to help me. No one has provided any information as to how I could reclaim my bag. I’ve called, emailed, had a friend in Canada try to find answers. Nothing and no response from the airline.”

She also sent us a copy of the mail she sent to Aer Lingus.

“Imagine you diligently planned and saved your hard-earned money to take your family, your significant other, or yourself on a trip of a lifetime. You plan so that everything goes smoothly when you get to your destination because you are investing not only your money but your well-earned vacation time away from work. Now, imagine you get to your destination fuelled with excitement and hope only to realise your luggage has gone missing. All of the things that will help you have a wonderful time, is gone. What would you do? How would you feel?

“Your airline is putting thousands of human beings in this position. Some people have to wait upwards to 50 days to get their luggage back, if they get it at all. Your airline is doing absolutely nothing to help. In fact, there is no communication coming from your airline to the people you have affected. Everyone is left wondering, stressing, creating anxiety when they should be smiling and laughing on their vacation time.”

We contacted Aer Lingus and received the following response: “Recruitment and resourcing issues among third-party suppliers are resulting in some of our customers experiencing a level of service below what they expect, including delayed baggage. Aer Lingus’ team on the ground is continuing to work closely with all the relevant handling agents to retrieve delayed or misdirected baggage as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“We apologise to Ms Simpraga for the continued delay in receiving her bags. Our baggage tracing team have reached out directly to advise we are working on locating the bag and will provide an update directly as soon as possible.”

Cancelling Sky

Susan Boyle made contact with Sky television at the end of October last year to cancel after decades with the company. She says she gave the required 30 days’ notice. As soon as the request was made, she received an automated response followed days later by a call from a Sky agent. The agent, she says, “demanded our password [and] gave us three tries”. Unfortunately, neither Susan or her husband could remember even having a password, never mind what it might be. She was promised a call back but none came.

“A standing order was taken in November 2021 and another in December 2021, so this should have well covered the notice period, so we would have considered this matter closed, we may even have overpaid,” she says.

The matter was not, however, closed, not by a long shot.

“We then started to get multiple calls from Resolvecall, if we answered it was only a machine demanding that we have a credit card ready! After a number of weeks of silence, the calls started again last week,” Susan continues. “I called them back and explained things to an agent. Yesterday they emailed saying that Sky do not take cancellations by email and we still owe €126. Do you think that they will continue to pursue us? I actually feel quite threatened by their attitude. Would it be easier to give in and pay yet another month?”

We hate the idea that anyone would feel threatened by any company – whether or not that was the intention of the company, and we don’t believe Sky would like that idea too. We also despair when we hear the rigmarole that can be associated with trying to cancel a subscription to a service when signing up for it can sometimes be done effortlessly.

We got in touch with Sky to see what could be done. In a statement it said: “The customer was provided with a number of options to verify their identity and account, but they were unable to do so. The customer was advised to check their account details and call back to process the cancellation. The customer advised they would call back, but no further correspondence was received. We have subsequently spoken to the customer and the matter has been resolved.”

It’s not unusual – Ticketmaster

It’s not unusual to be lost when getting refunds, as some fans of Tom Jones have discovered. He was due to play in Cork in June 2020 but didn’t because, well, you know why his show was cancelled along with every other major event scheduled for that most benighted of summers. We recently got a mail from a reader called Colette who said she was writing to us as “a last resort” in search of “some help and advice please for my friends who are in their 70s”.

These friends bought four tickets for the Tom Jones concert from a Ticketmaster booth in the Square Shopping Centre in Tallaght in Dublin. The kiosk subsequently shut down for good.

“As this has now gone, I tried phoning several numbers but they don’t seem to work,” Colette says. “I sent approximately six emails to different addresses for Ticketmaster and only received one reply, which said to get my friends to mark ‘void’ on each ticket. And they sent me on a link for them to complete forms.”

She says her friends’ only son works away a lot “but was home for a couple of weeks. I sent him on the link and told him to help them complete the form, which he did, and sent photos of tickets marked void. He sent on the link they had provided. However, after a few days they sent another automated email stating he needed to contact the ‘Sports section’ of Ticketmaster, which again contained a link which only brought him back to the original email stating they didn’t deal with it!”

Colette sent further emails but got no reply. “I then rang the Consumers’ Association and was advised to send two more emails and if no reply, my friends could take it to the Small Claims Court. I sent off the emails at different dates in April and got no reply to either. I then phoned the Small Claims Court.”

She says that this is “extremely frustrating and I feel so sorry for my friends who could do with the money. It is almost €300.”

Colette is right: that does sound extremely frustrating and needlessly so because it really should have been a bread-and-butter issue for Ticketmaster to deal with. We got in touch with the company and a spokesman said that because Ticketmaster outlets are closed, the company is refunding customers directly. “We ask people to fill in the form on [a] link, write void across the tickets and attach an image of the tickets. People are then paid by bank transfer and do not have to send us the tickets.”

He said the company would be contacting our reader to arrange a refund. We then heard back from Colette who said Ticketmaster had indeed made contact and promised that a refund “should be in my friends’ bank account in the next 30 days, hopefully that will happen!” We’re sure it will.

Testing loyalty at Tesco

John O’Brien got in touch after he noticed a change in Tesco recently. “Product discounts are only available to customers with loyalty cards,” his mail starts.

He points out: “All customers previously had the same shopping experience with an option to receive additional benefits with a loyalty card. Now customers without a loyalty card must pay higher prices,” he says. “Tesco has taken a step closer to insisting that customers provide their personal data. I find this development troubling.”

For the sake of full disclosure, Pricewatch has found itself caught out by the change in policy on more than one occasion in recent weeks when products that were routinely on special offer were suddenly only on special offer to Tesco Clubcard members. That was grand when we remembered to bring our card to the shops but somewhat irritating when we forgot, and given that we are able to do a huge volume of our day-to-day business using only our phones, we have frequently found ourselves in the shops without the wallet that contains our loyalty card.

While our reader was concerned about the data implications of the move, we were also concerned with the potential the change has to mislead unwitting shoppers such as Pricewatch. You see the labels on the shelves, presume the product is on special – particularly when it normally is – and then don’t notice at the till when you have to pay more.

Anyway, where were we? Oh yes, our reader.

We got in touch with Tesco and a spokeswoman sent us a detailed response. She said the company had introduced what are “Clubcard Prices” as a way of “giving our loyal customers great value and exclusive deals in our larger stores and online”, saying it would give “nearly one million households in Ireland” access to all manner of discounts while getting Clubcard points too.

“Every customer with the new Tesco.ie app or their physical Clubcard or fob can access these promotions. If customers do not have a Clubcard or they forget their card, they can download the app and register to use straight away,” she said.

That’s a lesson learned for Pricewatch. She went on to say that people “who don’t wish to use or hold a Clubcard [can] access value through Aldi Price Match, where they can shop hundreds of products that we’ve price-matched against Aldi”. She finished by saying that when it comes to the frequency and number of promotions, Tesco “is not stepping away from or phasing out promotions”.

PRICEWATCHING

We have been on the lookout for price increases and Linda Curran got in touch with one that irks her greatly. “My main issue is with own-brand butter,” her mail starts. “I regularly shop in Aldi, Lidl, Dunnes and SuperValu, and buy both Kerrygold, and own-brand butter for baking. Own-brand butter used to be €2.19 everywhere. Then it went to €2.39, then €2.59 and is now at €2.99, which is exorbitant. At the same time, Kerrygold increased from €3.75 to €3.95.

Ruth O’Mahony mailed us because she “wanted to highlight that Aldi Instant Noodles, which were 14 cent before they disappeared off the shelves for a number of months, recently reappeared on the shelf at my local store and are now 29 cent! I think it is disappointing and disgraceful, as these are the cheap types of food that people who are struggling the most depend on.”

An Aldi spokesman said that while the retailer would “always shield our customers from price increases as much as possible” sometimes it is just not possible. “Our private-label Make-in-Minutes Instant Noodles range was temporarily off our shelves due to a number of global supply chain issues which impacted the entire market” he said adding that Aldi “was the first supermarket in Ireland to re-introduce a private-label range in May” but “due to a significant global increase in the cost of its primary ingredient wheat, and a rise in the cost of shipping the product from China, the product is now available at €0.39.” While that is significantly higher than it once was, it is worth pointing out that is, the Aldi spokesman said “a 70 per cent discount on a comparable branded product”.



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