What to do when a company ignores you — and us

Turkish Airlines ignores its customers. It also ignores our advocates.

It ignores people like Wallace Rowe, who wanted to reschedule a flight from Athens back to Boston because of the ongoing security concerns. And it pretends that we don’t exist — a fantasy many companies would probably love to entertain.

But the Turkish problem raises an important question for all of us: What exactly do you do when a company — any company — turns a deaf ear to your complaint?

First, let’s try to answer Rowe’s question.

“My wife and I and our in-laws are scheduled to fly via Turkish Airlines to Istanbul and then on to Athens In late June,” he explains. “We were going to do the same route coming back but stop in Istanbul for a few days, two weeks later. Obviously the current situation has raised some safety concerns.”

Rowe has asked Turkish Airlines to change the tickets, which cost him $3,800.

A case like this is pretty easy to fix. To reticket, you would be charged a change fee plus any fare difference, and you can call the airline or travel agent who should be happy to help.

But Turkey has been a hotbed of terrorist activity since the whole Syria civil war thing happened (hey, I’m a consumer advocate, not a political commentator) so they’re unlikely to be swayed by a fresh State Department warning.

If Turkish throws the book in Rowe’s face, it wouldn’t surprise me. But that’s just one case. We have a whole folder of Turkish Airlines cases, some more than a year old, where perfectly valid complaints appear to have gone into a black hole. Efforts by our advocacy team to help disappeared into the same void.

What to do?

  • You can appeal to an executive. That’s why we publish the Turkish Air executive contacts. But our team suspects the executives don’t check their email. Perhaps they prefer phones in Turkey?
  • You can take your case to social media. But that assumes the company cares about social media. Some don’t. I suspect Turkish falls into that category.
  • You can ask our team for help. We will always do our best to get through to the right person. We have our ways. But our ways don’t always work. Case in point: Turkish.

The trick to getting through to Turkish, as it turned out, was getting our hands on the right contact. A few days ago, I heard from reader Kathleen Quinn, who was trying to secure a refund and reported she had successfully reached Turkish Air.

How? She’d tried a general email, [email protected], and called the “800” number.

“I always got the runaround,” she says. “It is apparent they are not interested in returning the money.”

Finally, she filled in a form. And that worked.

So, as bizarre as it may sound, our advocates will now be sending requests for help through the form, too. It’s also a reminder that companies can be quirky. Some insist on using phones. Other companies like faxes or emails. And some — like Turkish — insist on a form.

It’s a problem unique to the 21st century, with its myriad ways of communicating. You can’t force a company to respond by email if it doesn’t want to; the best you can do is find the door and then keep knocking until someone answers.

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