Consumerist Reader's Story Featured On NBC Nightly News

One of our readers appeared on NBC Nightly News the other night after his story was featured on The Consumerist. Bob Loncaric paid extra to fly direct on United and when he checked his reservation, he found it had been mysteriously changed to one with stopovers. He called customer service, but was barely able to understand the outsourced call center employee’s version of English, except for the list of cities he didn’t want to stay in spouting out of the guy’s mouth….

Bob’s struggle to get things right were interrupted by periodic bursts of inexplicable cheering and clapping in the call center background. Bob gave up and called executive customer service, only to be told his call was going to be disconnected for “being sarcastic.” Finally, after his post appeared on our site and he sent in an Executive Email Carpet Bomb, United called him to set him up with a direct flight and gave him two $100 vouchers. You can watch the NBC Nightly news version here. Here are the two posts with his complete story.

United Changes Direct Flight To One With Stopovers, Doesn’t Tell Customers, Customer Service Reps Cheer And Clap In Background
Executive Email Carpet Bomb, Consumerist Post, Prompt United To Solve Reader’s Complaint

Bob is happy his story made it this far. “The only thing better than feeling vindicated is feeling totally vindicated,” he writes.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Tzepish says:

    In before “this guy scammed United out of $200”

  2. phospholipid says:

    this guy scammed United out of $200.

  3. HykCraft says:

    This guy scammed United out of some money.

  4. snoop-blog says:

    @RottNDude: lol.

  5. Geekybiker says:

    Airlines seem to feel that you pay just to be transported from one place to another. Actual time of departure, stop overs and actual travel time don’t matter.

    Same thing happened to me. Booked a flight and they changed my routing to a much worse one.

  6. HykCraft says:

    @RottNDude: Mmmmm.. bitchin’!

  7. Erskine says:

    Rock on, fat man, rock on…

  8. LionelEHutz says:

    Another reason to not fly United Airlines.

  9. econobiker says:

    Did he have it recorded? That would be sweet to listen to “Mike or Bob or Henry” in India talk to him…

  10. CharlieFogg says:

    For writing purposes, I believe a “direct” flight means it can stop but you don’t get off, whereas a “nonstop” flight means just that, no stops.

  11. Crymson_77 says:

    As much as people complain about AA, at least they get you from point A to point B with a minimal need of vaseline…unlike United…

  12. alroker says:

    good for you, team consumerist — i hope NBC looks at your site more often and is smart enough to make this a co-branded regular segment on their nightly news (y’know, that news program people watch, not that godawful fluff they call Dateline –i can live without another hard-hitting story about abducted trailer park babies).

  13. youbastid says:

    @RottNDude: He has a name. His name is Robert Paulson.

    His name is Robert Paulson. His name is Robert Paulson. His name is Robert Paulson.

  14. @Geekybiker: “Airlines seem to feel that you pay just to be transported from one place to another.”

    Uh, if you look at the terms of carriage, that’s exactly all you are paying for. And that’s one of the problems with the industry.

  15. m4ximusprim3 says:

    *claps and cheers in background*

  16. Sherryness says:

    I’m happy this guy stood up for himself. My sister gets scammed like this at least once per year. She’ll pay more for a more desirable flight (like a shorter layover when changing planes, to make her travel time shorter) – and then they’ll change it on her to something really undesirable. For instance, she’ll pay more in order to get a flight going from Seattle to Des Moines with a quick layover in Denver. Then they’ll change it on her and give her a multi-hour layover in Chicago instead after she buys the tickets. I think that is big time bait-and-switch and should be illegal.

  17. Buran says:

    @Aussie-Evil: And that has exactly how much relation to his problem? (which I don’t totally agree with; businesses can and do change their services all the time, BUT, if they had a direct still available I see his point).

    But for heavens sakes we have GOT to stop using peoples’ looks as an excuse to bash them. Is my eye color going to be used as an excuse next?

  18. evslin says:


    /nods in understanding

    His name is Robert Paulson.

  19. AcidReign says:

        Good for Rob! United had it coming. We booked a 10:00 AM United Express flight from Birmingham to Chicago/O’Hare, back in 2004. The flight was less than half full, so they strung us out a half hour at a time, with an “equipment failure” story. We ended up getting combined with the 4:30 PM flight, and didn’t get to Chicago till after dark. I could have driven up I-65 faster. United screwed us because their morning flight didn’t sell enough tickets.

        Next time, I’m either driving, or flying Southwest into Midway. I can ride the El, even in that neighborhood…

  20. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    Another reason not to fly, period.

  21. Ben Popken says:

    @RottNDude: Not everyone can be as svelte as you. Please refrain from ad hominem attacks on the OP.

  22. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @econobiker: You are having trouble with your reservation? OK. Is your reservation plugged in? Have you tried hitting Control-Alt-Delete?
    Thank you have a nice day.

  23. the El is safe from midway, just dont get off before the loop.

  24. TechnoDestructo says:
  25. jdmba says:

    India? I have had great luck with “bob” – ask for him!

  26. riverstyxxx says:

    Yea, in our country you only get results by making a big stink. They didn’t do it because they wanted to, don’t be fooled.

    In other countries, they don’t do dick and you’re liable to get deported or thrown into a camp. So don’t feel bad.

  27. sventurata says:

    @Buran: I agree, but… people have no problem bashing others on perceived nationality based on accents around here…

  28. shoegazer says:

    @Buran: No, but heaven help you if you’re a Chinese, lead-paintin’ toy manufacturer.

    @Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler: As a native of one of the major countries where A LOT of outsourcing happens (not India), I find the “Can’t understand their damned accent” complaint to be more than a little racist. Especially since, having consulted with one of the call centers for Vonage, the accent and grammar of most of their operators is FAR better than what passes for English with most Americans.

  29. GrandizerGo says:

    I had a flight booked and paid for last December 2006, I got an email confirming all the info.
    2 days later I got an email canceling my flight package and a message to call customer service.
    I did, and was told that it wasn’t canceled! I read the email to them and was told that it was an “automatic email” The new “blame it on the computer” for the decade…
    Got off the phone with them and decided what the hell, let me check online with the confirmation # they sent originally. canceled! Call customer service, no further information is available at this time.
    I called them back and was told that it wasn’t canceled. I asked them to check it on the website like I did. Oops! Yeah, hmm, let me research this…
    To make a long story, that I could make MUCH longer, short, it turns out that the customer service computer being used is updated after emails have gone out canceling flights to the consumers! By as much as 24-48 hours!
    My reservation was canceled because the connecting flight was leaving 10 minutes EARLIER, and hence there was a change to the package.
    They gave me a 100 rebate and I got to Vegas a full half hour earlier than was expecting!
    Good times!

  30. Mr. Gunn says:

    shoegazer: But it IS hard to understand them, and even harder to make yourself understood. We don’t have to tiptoe around the issue, because we didn’t enslave their ancestors. The way things are going, they grandchildren will end up enslaving us.

    Outsourced tech support generally sucks. The service they provide may suck due to a lack of training and not due to a language barrier, but the language barrier just compounds the irritation.

  31. dantsea says:

    @shoegazer: Though I understand your sentiments here, I disagree that it’s racism so much as a matter of comfort. Outside most major American cities — and I do mean literally outside, as in the near suburbs — most people are accustomed to service workers speaking the same pattern/accent of English as they do. They really don’t have an ear for any accent, however slight it might sound to us.