Thursday, December 08, 2011

Boo Celebration

Phone:  [Rrrrrrrrrrrring!]

Φ:  “Hello?”

CCL [recorded voice]:  “Hello!  We want to invite you to take part in a brief survey.  In consideration for your participation, you will be offered a chance to receive a free vacation package to the Bahamas!  Press 1 to continue to the survey.”

Φ:  [presses one]

[Pointless 4 question survey about Obama and taxes follows.]

CCL [recorded voice]:  “To thank you for participating in our survey, Celebration Cruise Line would like to offer you a 2-night cruise to the Bahamas.”

Doug:  Hello!  “This is Doug Brevich.  Are you excited about your free trip to the Bahamas?”

Φ:  “That depends on how free it is.”

Doug:  “Okay, the package is an overnight cruise from Palm Beach to the Bahamas.  You’ll spend the day in the Bahamas and then take an overnight trip back.  You and your partner will be billeted in an ‘interior state room’.  All food, entertainment, facilities, coffee and tea are included.  You’ll only be responsible for the port taxes of $59 per person and any other drink you might consume while aboard.”

Φ:  “When is the cruise?”

Doug:  “You can book the cruise anytime during the next 18 months, excluding major holidays, although we do as for two weeks notice.

Φ:  “When do I have to pay?”

Doug:  “If you accept this offer today, we will charge your credit card $118 for the two of you.”

Φ:  “$118.  That’s it.  That covers everything.”

Doug:  “Yes it does!”

Φ:  “Let me consult with my wife.”*

[Brief consultation]

Φ:  “Okay, we’ll take it.”

Doug:  “Great!  Let me get your information.”

[Information passed.]

Doug:  “Great!  Now let me review your options for travel to Palm Beach . . . .”

Φ:  “Thanks, but we’ll arrange our own travel.”

Doug:  “How will you get here?”

Φ:  “Probably fly into Florida, and drive in from another city.  Maybe we’ll drive.  I don’t know yet.”

Doug:  “I see you live in Flyover Country.  That’s a long way to drive!”

Φ:  [?]

Φ:  “Yes, but we have friends and family that live along the way.  It usually works out.”

Doug:  “Will you rent a car?”

Φ:  “Probably not.  We have family in Florida and will probably borrow a car from them.  But either way, we’ll figure it out on our own.”

Doug:  “Now we’d like to offer you our Extended Stay package for only an addition $599!”

Φ:  “No, thanks.  The cruise will be fine for today.”

Doug:  “Really?  You don’t want to have [lengthy description of the Extended Stay package].

Φ:  “I’m really not interested.  But if I change my mind later, can I sign up.”

Doug:  “Good question.  I’m not sure.  Let me transfer you to someone who might be able to help.”

[On hold for a while.]

Samantha:  “Hello!  I’m Samantha!  Are you excited about your cruise to the Bahamas.”

Φ:  “I’m working on it.”

Samantha:  “Great!  So, I understand you want to decline our Extended Stay package?”

Φ:  “Well, where I left off with Doug was, I wanted to know if I could add the extended stay package later.”

Samantha:  [Silence.]

Φ:  “Hello?”

Phone:  [Dial tone].

[Twenty minutes later.]

Phone:  [Rrrrrrrrrrrrring!]

Φ:  “Hello?”

Doug:  “Hello!  Did you get an answer to your question?”

Φ:  “No, we were disconnected.”

Doug:  “Yeah, that happens on our system sometimes.  I’m going to transfer you to our telephone receipt specialist who might be able to help you.  Stand by.”

[On hold for a while.]

Dominique:  “Hi, I’m Dominique!”

Φ:  [Oh, sh!t.]

Dominique:  “Are you excited about your cruise to the Bahamas?”

Φ:  “I’ll be excited when I actually book it.”

Dominique:  “So, I understand you want to decline our Extended Stay package?”

Φ:  “Well, where I left off was, can I add the package later on?

Dominique:  “You can, but then you would have to pay the full retail price of $2200.”

Φ:  “In that case, no.”

Dominique:  “Why?

Φ:  “Because I came prepared to buy a $118 2-night cruise, not a $599 extended stay anywhere.”

Dominique:  “But why would you want to come all this way and not stay longer?”

Φ:  “We will stay longer, but not in a hotel.  We have family in Florida.”

Dominique:  “Where do they live?”

Φ:  “Across the peninsula.”

Dominique:  “That’s not close!”

Φ:  “No, it’s not.  But it’s close enough to drive in the evening of our departure and drive out the morning of our return.  But, we will work these details on our own.”

Dominique:  “But I don’t understand why you would come all this way and not stay in Palm Beach!?!”

Φ:  [? ?]

Φ:  “I don’t have any ambition to stay in Palm Beach.  I have the ambition to take $118 2-night cruise.”

Dominique:  “But why would you do that!”

Φ:  “Because . . . look, Dominique, it’s for the reasons I’ve already given.  But none of that is relevant to our transaction today.”

Dominique:  “Well, why don’t we just forget the whole thing.”

Φ:  “So . . . basically, what you’re telling me after an hour or so of telephone conversations is that the whole thing was always a bait and switch.  The $118 offer was only a teaser to talk me into buying a $717 package.”

Dominique:  “No, it’s that you want to talk down to me or act like I’m not equal to you.”

Φ:  [! ? !]

Φ:  “Dominique, I’m not making any statements about you personally one way or the other.  What I am saying is that nothing about you selling me a $118 2-night cruise requires you to understand my motivations.”

Dominique:  “Well, maybe you don’t really want the cruise.”

Φ:  “Look, you people called me.  Are we going to do this or not?”

Dominique:  “Okay, fine!  I’m going to put you on hold for a moment.”

[On hold for a moment.**]

Dominique:  “Hello, this is Dominique.  This conversation is being recorded for quality control purposes.  We will proceed to completing your purchase of [description of cruise].  In addition to the $118 port taxes, you may be charged fuel and gratuity surcharges . . . .

Φ:  Hang on a second.  When I spoke to Doug Brevich, he assured me that the $118 covered everything.  He didn’t say anything about fuel and gratuity surcharges.

Dominique:  “Well, if you’ll let me finish, I’ll explain!”

Φ:  [sigh]  “Go ahead.”

Dominique:  “Celebration Cruise Lines will apply a $12 surcharge per person per day only if oil is selling for over $40 / barrel on the day of the cruise.”

Φ:  “Okay, what about the gratuity?”

Dominique:  “What about it?”

Φ:  “Well, when does it apply?  When I order something like room service?”

Dominique:  “It’s whenever you tip someone.”

Φ:  [Thinking for a moment]  You know, Dominique.  I’m getting a bad feeling about this.  And considering that oil is presently trading well above $100 per barrel, this isn’t shaping up to be the deal I thought it was.

Dominique:  “Goodbye then.”  [Click]

* This is an abbreviated version of the conversation to this point.  In reality, it took 20 minutes to cover all my questions.

** In fact, I was put on hold at least twice, once without any warning.


Anonymous said...

I thought you knew better. When someone calls you to sell you something, the answer is always "no".

Aside from the run-around you got, there is always the possibility that there was never any cruise going to happen and that this was just a vacation for your credit card. It would return to you with stories about Nigerian Butt ssecks and no lube.

Anonymous said...

Thank your for an interesting report.

I have sometimes wondered about these free/cheap cruise/vacation offers but never had the energy to follow up. It sounds like I suspected: an upsell ordeal.

Dr. Φ said...

Prof Hale: After reading your cruise report, that's what it would have felt like if I did take the cruise. But the possibility occurred to me, and I monitored my card for a few days for signs of illicit activity.

DU: Yeah, their money was clearly in the upsell, but what bothers me is that $118 was only going to be about half the charges by the time the extra fees were added. That's just dishonest.

Anonymous said...

The manadatory gratuities on my cruise amounted to a few hundred dollars.

Dr. Φ said...

Sweet baby jeebus! So, we're up to several multiples of the $118. It's hard to believe this isn't actionable fraud.

Anonymous said...

This made my night.

Anonymous said...

By the way, I usually do telephone surveys if they sounds like they're for a cause that's at all decent. Partly for fun, partly out of a sense of civic duty - and partly because once they sent me money, although really anything in the $10 per hour range is probably not a valuable use of my time.

Dr. Φ said...

Some surveys sound like they're really trying to collect information. "Advocacy surveys", on the other hand, seem like an effort to generate a talking point for somebody. This survey was of the second kind and seemed likely to play to Republican themes. Its association with a Celebration scam is troubling. I'm sure there is some crafty mind game going on here, I'm just not sure what it is.

Anonymous said...

I think the surveys allow them claim the fundraising letter was really outreach/research. This allows the fundraising versus activities ratios seem better.

For political "surveys," I sometimes reply (sans money, of course) with answers they may not want regarding wars and immigration.

Anonymous said...

They normally don't read your answers. They only read the information on your check so they can enter it in their data base of "easy marks to visit again".

I use a sharpie to write on the form in large latters, "Not one dime until you stop running the same old establishment Republicans."

Anonymous said...

Phi, are you on any do not call lists? If so, a survey like this allows them to bypass DNC lists. That's why I think this thing is so commonly done.

Dr. Φ said...

I'm on every do not call list I know how to get on. I think this is the missing piece of the puzzle.