Not content to just outsource their customer service, United is shutting down its phone center in India in April, instead relying wholly on written complaints. They claim they’ll be able to better respond to written complaints, but we know it’s just as easy to paste irrelevant advice and insincere apologies as it is to speak them.


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  1. B says:

    Like Postal mail? They should only accept complaints via carrier pigeon. That would cut down on the numbers tremendously.

    • MooseOfReason says:

      @B: No, I think people would be happy to save 42 cents – and climbing – per letter. Are there any pigeon companies to invest in?

  2. humphrmi says:

    Just one note from the linked article:

    Phone reservations agents in Chicago and Honolulu will be cross-trained to respond to written customer feedback, too.

    It goes on to say that this move will save 165 jobs in those call centers.

    So basically they’re eliminating an offshore call center in order to save US jobs.

    • TechnoDestructo says:


      Well, with the economy how it is, they shouldn’t have a hard time either cutting wages, not giving raises, or hiring on new people at lower pay; all in the United States.

  3. TheRedSeven says:

    Woohoo! First time my tip gets used!

    Also, I think this policy sucks. I have the dubious pleasure of flying United this weekend, and I’m already upset about the $15 checked bag fee.

    The fact that the small outlet I had to express my displeasure has been replaced with, well, nothing simply takes the cake. I will be sure to write a letter!

    • idip says:

      @TheRedSeven: I flew United last summer round trip, it was a total of 2 United flights I was on to get home.

      Both flights were SEVERELY delayed by like 6 hours each! AND both flights were nearly cancelled! In fact, on one of those flights they told me it WAS cancelled and I had to go to customer service to rebook.

      As I’m walking to customer service I see another gate that has my flight information on the board and I ask them if the flight is canceled and they say no, it’s leaving from this gate in a few hours. I told them they might want to get their act together because over 100 people were waiting at the other gate pissed off because they were told their flight was canceled.

      Needless to say I was not happy that my United experience had a 100% fail rate. I didn’t bother wasting my time with writing a complaint because I don’t need a 25$ voucher to be used within 1 year between january and august but not on weekends or fridays and not between 5am and 3pm.

      So I did the only thing I could do, I stopped flying with them. In the past 6 months I’ve flown Southwest 6x’s. They are much much more organized! I’ve never had a delayed flight with them, and the flight attendants are always very polite and accommodating (unlike United’s who told me, “You don’t look over 21” to which I responded, “Here’s my ID,” which was met with, “No, that’s not necessary, I trust you.” ….. um….WTF?! OBVIOUSLY YOU DON’T TRUST ME IF YOU JUST QUESTION MY AGE.

      So… no more United for me. They could go under, there are better companies out there who have better customer service and way cheaper prices.

  4. metsarethe... says:

    This is an pretty impressive cut, even for what seems like the low standards for an airline

  5. Plates says:

    Yes, I’d like to send this letter to the Prussian Consulate in Siam by aeromail. Am I too late for the 4:30 autogyro?

    • Hank Scorpio says:

      Uh, I better look in the manual. –

      This book must be out of date: I don’t see “Prussia”, “Siam”, or “autogyro”.

  6. EllenRose says:

    I suspect the average worker drone in Mumbai can WRITE better English than (s)he SPEAKS. This might lead to a slight improvement in comprehension, but a significant delay in them getting back to us.

    • larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

      @EllenRose: Based on my experience working for an outsourcing company with “headquarters” in the US, but essentially all operations in India … no. The written communications I get are just not that great. A minor example – where an American would say “do what is necessary to accomplish this task”, they would say “please do the needful thing.” That’s minor, but it shows how they use the language differently.

      • Erwos says:

        @larrymac: Agreed. EllenRose clearly has no experience in working with outsourced ops if she thinks that’s the case.

        “Please do the needful” is something I’ve personally had to beat out of my Indian analysts. However, to be fair, it’s an extremely common thing to say/write in Indian Standard English.

  7. magic8ball says:

    Let me guess, they’re going to bury the email link somewhere obscure on their website so people will think their only option is snail mail.

    • VanceCodrus says:

      @magic8ball: Oh come now…it would take all of 30 seconds for someone to post the email link here…

      My guess is this will just mean more EECBs for United. I avoid them anyway, but good luck to those who must.

  8. anonymousryan says:

    If they honestly took the time to read the complaint and offer relevant advice I’d really have no problem. But I see thousands upon thousands of “your checked bag fee sucks” complaints.

    Then again, the only use in complaining about the checked bag fee or numerous other policies is for people to complain overwhelmingly which works just as well with written complaints as it does on the phone lines and takes much less time.

  9. bohemian says:

    How long before all companies just quit having phone lines for customers at all?

  10. Nate425 says:

    Well, at least they can say their complaints dropped by huge numbers, so the customers MUST be happy, right?

  11. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    I know this is off topic, but has anyone else noticed that these new “snippet stories” screw up the web layout very badly?

    The next & previous buttons are hidden at the top of the page, and now it looks like the search bar is out of whack too.

    • insaneo says:

      @Oranges w/ Cheese:

      Yes, and I’m not even sure how you’re supposed to click on the story, the only way I see is to click the “comments” button since there isn’t a title to click.

      And “The Consumerist” image at the top isn’t a link any more.

      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        @insaneo: Looks like the title image thing was a fluke across all pages this morning – but still, the prev / next buttons float around wrong.

  12. starrion says:

    “This Email box is full.”

    Plus the letter delivery is directed to an industrial shredder.

    Problems? None that I’ve heard.

  13. sixseeds says:

    I’m ambivalent about United. On one hand, the last time I flew them the delays were weather-related (I was traveling between Chicago and NYC during that snowy bit of December), the gate agents actually enforced the boarding group order, and flight attendants did more carry-on/overhead bin enforcement than I’ve seen lately on other airlines.

    On the other hand, we couldn’t take off immediately after the aircraft was de-iced because the guy behind me was missing half a seat belt.

  14. Bye says:

    Excellent. I expect to get the same resolution and satisfaction as I have received in the past when calling United to complain about the service I was provided.

    Maybe instead of wasting a Forever stamp, I’ll just thoughtfully write out my complaint and then burn it in a ritual.

  15. P_Smith says:

    If people can’t complain or get resolution by phone, they’re not going to try and get it by writing. United employees at airports will be the ones bearing the brunt of customer ire from now on.

    I’m fortunate enough to live in a large city so when problems do occur with any airline I can go into their office in person. Dropping a broken suitcase on their desk with cell phone pictures (and properly filled complaint forms) of the damage they caused at the airport kind of gets their attention, especially when they’ve been ignoring my claim by phone.

  16. Chairman-Meow says:

    I think what you have just witnessed is the last dying gasps of a once great company.

    Has anyone noticed lately that all of these supposedly super-smart MBA types running corporate today all seem to have EPIC FAIL written in 72pt on their collective foreheads ?

  17. coren says:

    Easier to do a written response or easier to have your/their letter lost in the mail?

  18. kepler11 says:


    unfortunately, it’s true. Complaints are much better handled when the person has composed him/herself to think about it and put it coherently down on paper — so that a company’s reply is also organized and thought out.

    Complaining on the phone is just too often scatterbrained, unfocused, and the person handling it will not properly be able to consider what to do in real time.

    This is not such a bad thing I think.


  19. katworthy says:

    Just when I thought my boycott of United might be a tad strict, United steps in to remind me why I boycotted them in the first place.

    Thank you United