Cashing in on Your Miles – Without Losing Your Cool (Part Three)

a five star resort in bali With Asia Club miles about to expire, Michael Taylor has to act fast – use them or lose them. Cashing them in isn’t easy. In the end, he succeeds, resulting in a round trip ticket to Bali. This is the third in a four part series.

Service With a Frown in the Land of Smiles

When I finally get the chance to sort out my miles, I discover that I’ve forgotten to bring my membership number and secret code.

Not to worry. I can just log on, clicking the “forget your membership” option. My number and code are supposed to be emailed to me, but – despite trying both sites – they are not. Oh…

(For the record, I received several notifications in my inbox a week or so later.)

Up Close and Impersonal

I decide to visit the Cathay Pacific office in downtown Bangkok in person. I walk in. There is no line. I take a seat.

“Hi,” I say.

“I am a Marco Polo Club member. I live in Hong Kong, my miles are about to expire, and I would like to book a flight before they do.”

“Actually, you can do that on line,” is the response – without the slightest hint of a smile.

I fix a gaze on the agent and breathe in and out slowly while I decide how to respond. Does he really think that I would be sitting opposite him if I had been able to take care of this without his help?

“Actually, I know that I can do that on line,” I start. “But I tried doing that, and it didn’t work. That’s why I took the Skytrain from my hotel all the way over to your office. Because I need your help.”

The agent manages to get me my membership number and secret code. He suggests I return to my hotel and give it another go. I suggest that we sort this out right then and there – just in case. I’m assuming, of course, that he will be better at this than I am.

“I tried doing this before I left Hong Kong and was having problems,” I say. “That’s why I didn’t take care of this before leaving home.”

Same Same – Only Different

The agent logs on and has the exact same problems trying to input the data that I was having. The only difference is that he seems to be becoming impatient and frustrated much faster that I was. At some point he suggests I go back to my hotel to sort this out.

“I’m here and I have other things I want to do today,” I say. “I want to sort this out now. I’m not running the risk of returning to my hotel, not being able to do this, and having to make another trip to your office tomorrow. My miles will expire tomorrow, and I am going to be very upset if I lose them.”

At some point, we are able to find a flight that I can book for the desired 30,000 miles. It will be next October. Not to worry. I’m not picky about my dates.

This Transaction Cannot Be Processed

After the agent pushes the “next” button, there is a long waiting period. In the end, the transaction is canceled. A message saying something along the line of “this transaction cannot be completed because you hit the return button too many times” comes up. He has to start all over again.

About one hour later, my flight has been booked and my ticket has been printed.

I ask if there is a mileage chart that I can consult rather than having to type in each pair of cities as this gets a bit tedious.

“Actually, you can ask Asia Miles for that,” the agent says.

I fix another gaze on the agent and breathe in and out slowly while I decide how to respond. I decided not to.

And I think to myself, “Actually, next time maybe I should take my business elsewhere.”

Readers Respond

Writes Suellen Zima of Laguna Woods, California, author of Memoirs of a Middle-aged Hummingbird, and editor of Follow the Senior Hummingbird:

How totally annoying.  Glad you stuck to your guns.  Losing 30,000 miles certainly would have been a pity.  If that clerk decides to look for another job, tell him he’d be perfect in customer service for my Medicare programme.

Copyright: Michael Taylor


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