Compassion vs. Commerce

A friend recently had a run of bad luck that required her to cancel a much-anticipated vacation. Her father died two weeks before they were to leave. Aside from the grief, she had to deal with much of the estate and legal matters. That alone would have made it difficult to go on vacation but to make matters worse, her husband had to have emergency gallbladder surgery a week later.

They called the hotel and the airline to ask if they could postpone the trip and move the reservations out a few months. They weren’t looking for a refund, only to have their deposit and airfare moved to new dates. In both cases they were told no. They would either have to travel on the assigned dates or for


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13 Responses to Compassion vs. Commerce

  1. Jodi says:

    This reminds me of a story in a local paper recently. A soldier was on leave, and got married. He and his new bride wanted to stay ONE night in a hotel in our area. No one would let him-it’s high season, and there’s a 2 night minimum. Come on, he’s defending our country, and they couldn’t bend the rules for one night?? He didn’t want it for free either! Finally, one nice B&B gave him a discounted rate, and treated them like royalty. If I have to recommend a place to stay for someone, which place do you think I’m going to mention?

  2. Alexandria says:

    Yeah, but if they give just a little leeway, people take full advantage. So I have to say I completely understand the policy. Suddenly everyone has some excuse and the industry doesn’t make any money (or on the flip side then we ALL pay more for the many people who do take advantage).

    Since we have kids we often buy travel insurance for large trips now. I am not sure I would have seen the point before kids, but they have a knack of getting REALLY sick the day before vacation. Travel insurance is great advice for large/expensive trips. & being a little extra pushy in bad circumstances, sometimes works to get a refund. So, good tips.

  3. wealthman says:

    There is really no reason for the company to make the exception because they know that people shop price. Business are not in it to be nice, but to make money. if they can be nice and make money at the same time, they will, but if it’s a choice of making moeny or being nice, they will rightly go for making money. Nothing wrong with that.

  4. Shannon says:

    I think that offering proof should bring some compassion. My husband used to work collections and eventually lost the compassion he used to have for some of the tough situations because people would lie to him all the time. (In one case, a man said he had to care for his seriously ill mother, and my husband later learned that said mother had died several years earlier.)

    For those with true emergencies, however, companies would benefit financially by bending the rules a bit and showing compassion — for the very reason Jodi just pointed out. No one wants to patronize companies that have treated their friends badly.

  5. Marissa says:

    In the case of airlines, I know policy states that you can change your travel dates on a restricted ticket if you were sick (or had to be operated) on the date you were supposed to travel. At least there was a few years ago.

  6. Liz says:

    On the one hand, it would be nice if there was more compassion in the world. Goodness knows, losing a loved one is tough. I’ve been there on far too many occasions. And yes, company representatives can be very callous.

    However, I don’t expect companies to go, “Oh, I’m so sorry about your loss! Take our money!” And the fact is, once you buy something, it is their money, not yours.

    Sure, sometimes things can be resold and so the company isn’t completely out, but that doesn’t mean that companies should always refund our money. In the U.S. we’ve been spoiled by good (and even great) return policies enough that we expect them — or even think that we are entitled to them. As a society, we’ve chosen low cost over good service too many times, even if it’s often out of personal necessity.

    So, buy travel insurance, or better yet, only buy tickets from companies that still have a heart — if you can find them.

  7. Jay Gatsby says:

    There is a legal concept called “expectation damages” that underlies a merchant’s refusal to reschedule. For example, I sign a contract to buy a car. I later change my mind and decide not to buy the car, in breach of the contract I signed. The dealer is able to resell the car (possibly for more than I would have paid). Most people would say the dealer suffered no damages. Yet the dealer did, in that assuming it had stock on hand, it would have sold two cars instead of one. Accordingly, the dealer would be entitled to sue me for the profit it lost when I did not buy a car.

    The same analysis applies to vacations. Tickets for hotels are essentially short-term leasehold interests for a specific time frame. If I attempt to move my reservation from one date to another, then I’m costing the hotel a sale. This is why hotels have 72 hour deadlines to change or cancel reservations. They know that they will be unable to rent your room past a certain date.

    The bottom line is that a hotel is in business to make money, and must protect itself against risks that are not its own (or of its own making).

  8. s cox says:

    The cheapest flights and hotel rooms these days are sold on nonchangeble tickets. You can pay extra to have tickets and reservations that are flexible.
    Your friend bought non changeable, nonrefundable tickets and then wanted to change them. The reason why she wanted to do that are really irrelevant. People die, people get sick, that’s life, but that does not change a nonchangeable ticket to a flexible one.
    I work in a box office and every single time we sell a ticket we are told to say “This is a final sale, there are no refunds or exchanges”. Those are the terms and conditions of the sale, and if they are unacceptable, you should not make the purchase.

  9. consumer_q says:

    “Unfortunately, it seems that the world of commerce today has little room for compassion.”

    I think Jodi’s example illustrates why going for the cheapest is not always the best “deal”. A B&B is no beholden to strict company policy like a Hilton or Mariott. As for personal examplesm my credit union has waved VISA late fees on two occasions now when I was on a trip and the cheque was forgotten. I have returned new goods beyond the 30-day policy at various small retailers without penalty. Even with large corps, such as airlines, thre is flexibility so long as you pay full price. It is when you get a “deal” that the perks are often lost. Good service is worth sacrificing any small monetary benefit to me in many ways.

  10. baselle says:

    Its yet another reason why if you can shop locally or get your services locally, that loyalty can be quite frugal. There’s really no such thing as a local airline, but if you establish a relationship with your seller – be a regular – you have a little extra flexiblity.

    For example, I often eat at a particular restaurant often enough that when I lost my wallet … that’s okay, next time. Next time I paid.

    Remember in the Millionaire Next Door, more than likely said millionaire ran a business, and established a personal relationship with other business owners. The roofer knew the exterminator knew the car salesman knew the insurance guy. They established links, gave each other business, knew each other’s character and often would give each other that leeway.

    Things happen – everyone knows that. But if you are one consumer with money blinking in and out, its hard to pick out the unfortunate from the fraud.

  11. I think the biggest problem is how big the companies are. Their hands are probably tied by management that may not exist in the same state.

    I worked in retail, and there is a paper trail for everything. Sometimes computers leave you locked in. Everything is accountable to some entity you don’t even know.

    I’d be willing to bet the people you spoke with wanted to provide a refund, but didn’t have the power to do it.

    It’s all part of the curse of big business. You get lower prices, but there is always a cost.

  12. Sanj says:

    Jay Gatsby has it correct. I run a small business, locally owned and I have to hold people to their deposits. I only have the resources to provide service to one customer at a time (and I prefer that personal 100& attention, don’t you?), if someone calls and books me for a given date – I gurantee that I WILL show up and that I won’t cancel. Now if someone else calls me and asks for the same date, I will (and have) politley decline and ask them to select a date where I have time available – but in some cases – I lose the business because I cannot meet the customers demands. Now if you call and cancel that date, and I have already turned down one (sometimes multiple) other customers – you are costing me money. If keep your deposit or fees is that not fair? Your deposit is your guarantee that you will be participating. My reputation is my guarantee that I will be participating. If you don’t show, I can’t ‘GO PUBLIC’ and name and shame the client can I?

    It’s not just big faceless corporations out there – the ones who really suffer are the small businesses where one lost sale can mean no income for that week…

    If you are worried about things happening outside of your control – then insurance is the best thing you can do for yourself and the merchant – insurance companies make big money to assume that risk.

    I can’t afford to.

  13. Gail says:

    I certainly understand both sides of the issue as we run a small on-line business. If I’m notified immediately about a problem, I’m compassionate. If 3-4 weeks have taken place and the person hasn’t fulfilled their commitment (to pay) and then starts with the, I have a blood clot, I had to go to the ER, etc. I loose my compassion real fast. Current medical problems don’t compensate for not having taken care of a financial commitment 3 weeks previously. I have had customers send letters with pictures attached of their ER namebands, and letter itself would have taken a minimum of 2 hours to compose–but it all boils down to I can’t pay you because I don’t have time because I had to go to the ER and then write you this long letter telling you why I don’t have a free minute to go to Paypal and pay you what I owe you.

    I’m chronically ill. I understand and am full of compassion, but too many people are out there trying to take advantage of businesses and so I can understand the fact that most businesses can’t be ‘compassionate’. Unfortunately more signs of how our society is degrading.

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