A Poke in the Eye from Priceline. (2010)

Never book a ticket through Priceline, if you just might have to change the return. I booked a ticket for my daughter to go to South Africa for a summer internship.  It cost a breathtaking amount of money, mainly because aforesaid internship just happened to coincide with the World Cup. She was, however, delighted. The film she was supposed to working on was called “Dark Tide” and starred Halle Berry and some sharks. I surmised  that it probably had a very small wardrobe budget, consisting mostly of shots of Halle Berry in a swimsuit, Halle Berry underwater or Halle Berry leaping athletically from boat to boat over a sea positively heaving with an equal measure of hungry predators and swarthy boat captains - the usual riveting Hollywood stuff.  Anyway, filming was delayed by a couple of weeks and I had to try and change the return leg of the ticket. So I called South African Airways, who were startlingly efficient and advised me that I need to find a W class fare if I were to avoid paying an exorbitant fare difference.  In a matter of seconds they had searched every flight for a two week period and  efficiently and politely informed with that I was out of luck - there was nothing and I should check back daily in case of cancellations.  They also advised me that unfortunately I would need to rebook the flight  through Priceline, as they had issued the ticket. Total call time: 3 minutes Thanking them for their efficient advice,  I call Priceline. First I have to listen to a couple of minutes of irrelevant automated drivel and then enter the reservation number and phone number (for identification purposes).  Like many companies nowadays, they make speaking to a carbon based life form the very last option at the deepest level of their impossibly complex menu.  After a while I was put through to a “customer service” life-form - lets call him Moron A - who reads from his badly written script, rather slowly, as if slightly mentally challenged and with an unidentifiable foreign accent.  He is constantly apologizing or thanking me.  “Thank you for calling Priceline, I will be happy to serve you.  I am so sorry to keep you waiting, please be waiting on hold on one moment”, apparently unaware that the only thing keeping me waiting was his need to apologize for keeping me waiting.  When he wasn’t doing this, he was either stating the obvious, asking staggeringly stupid questions or repeating what I had just told him, as if savoring every juicy nugget of information imparted as he rolled it around his vacuous brain.  I very rapidly found I felt like reaching down the phone and strangling the man, if nothing else but to put an end to his miserable, pathetic existence. I immediately tell him I want to change a return flight.  After a further round of thanks for calling Priceline and apologies for keeping me waiting, he asks if I have  tried to search for a new return flight on the web site.  I reply yes, indeed I tried to effect the change online, but Priceline does not allow you do anything so convenient and sensible - a fact he was apparently unaware of.  Then in a cunningly conceived maneuver designed to make you kick the nearest animal or table leg, he suddenly announces that he  must transfer me to a "flight Specialist" who can  change my ticket.  “But what about you?” I ask, astonished “I thought that’s what we have been discussing these last 5 minutes?” “oh I am very sorry for the inconvenience Mr Weston Smith, Customer Service is here to ascertain your needs but for bookings and reservations it is necessary for me to transfer you to  ....”  “Pleeeeeaaase, just DO IT then” I implore him, realizing that this is some entirely new definition of the phrase  “Customer Service” that I was not previously aware of. Patrick, the Flight Specialist Moron, who had all the charisma of a dead Bat, then asked me all the same questions, reading from yet another script, ineptly written by a cave dwelling hermit from the hills of the Hindu Kush.  It was immediately clear the first conversation was a complete waste of everyones time. I briefly imagined Moron A proudly recording on his time sheet  that he had succeeded in wasting 10 minutes of a customers time and achieved an irritation factor of 8, for which he would doubtless receive a bonus. The Flight Specialist Moron looks on one of the many possible dates and starts reeling off the times of the flights.  I interrupt to say I don't care about the time, just what seats are available and the price difference.  so he gives me the price of two flights on that day - both $2,800 for one way ON TOP of the vast amount I had already paid.  Appalled,  I ask if he can look on other days.  Well, he says deliberately, he can look up one more flight.  Just one more, I ask with astonishment?  Yes,  he says (apologizing again), they are only allowed to look at three flights per customer (and it takes them an age for each one), then it’s all over and you have to call back and start the whole mind-buggering process all over again.  I ask to speak to a supervisor, so I am put in hold for about 4 minutes, then the Flight Specialist Moron comes back and says the Supervising Moron tells him that he will  only say the same thing to me, so he wont speak to me at all. Incredible. Then the flight specialist moron again suggests, apparently with the misconceived notion this information will be helpful,  that I should go to a computer and search the Priceline website - I explain again that even though I am sitting in front of a perfectly good computer this is not possible, although I sincerely wished it was because then I wouldn't have to be speaking to him ... and that even IF it was and I found an entirely new flight, how would I then effect the  change of dates on the existing ticket without speaking to a whole herd of similarly vapid morons? Finally he suggested I call the airline, so I explained that was the very first thing I did, in the fervent hope that I would not have to have the logic center of my brain so completely mangled, but unfortunately SAA said that as the ticket was issued by morons, it had to be changed by morons. Total call time: 35 minutes. Watch out for morons when you book with Priceline.