Dollop 76 – What a Booking Disaster!

Download the audio version of today’s Dollop here

Yesterday was meant to be fairly relaxed. We didn’t have a gig, and so we planned to have a nice leisurely day in Melbourne, seeing some sights and being tourists, which we don’t get much chance to do as we’re performing so much whenever we go abroad. I didn’t write any of the Dollop in the car on the way to Melbourne, for the reasons mentioned in yesterday’s Dollop: I’d only just finished the last one and didn’t have the energy or inspiration to start writing another one straight away. But we should be in Melbourne by 11am, and once we’d had some food and experienced some of the city, I’d probably have something to write about, and also possess the energy to be able to do it. But when we got to Melbourne airport, things took an unexpected course.

We needed to take a particular shuttle bus service to the car hire place, to pick up our car. However, the information about what service we needed and where we needed to go was in Michael’s email inbox. He’d thought that the email had saved onto his phone so that he could view it offline, but it hadn’t. Never mind, we’d could just connect to the airport’s free WIFI and access the details from Michael’s inbox. However, the WIFI network appeared to be down, and was telling us that there was currently no connection available to the Internet, and to please try again soon, which we did, repeatedly for about an hour. Eventually, Michael managed to get online and access the email.

We found the information we needed and then walked around the airport trying to locate where our specific shuttle bus picks up from. After half an hour of walking around, we still hadn’t found it. Michael went off to try and find someone who worked in the airport to ask them where we needed to go, while Sean and I stood with the trolley loaded with instruments, bags and suitcases.

As soon as Michael rounded the corner, Sean saw the shuttle bus we wanted across the road. Fantastic. Except Michael had gone, and we couldn’t get a hold of him because none of us were able to make phone calls in Australia. I tried to connect to the WIFI again, whilst Sean ran across the road to talk to the driver, and see if we could stall him a bit while I tried to get in contact with Michael, or at least find out how long we’d have to wait for the next bus. A minute later, Sean came running back over the road and said that the driver couldn’t wait for another minute while we tried to get in touch with Michael, as there were others on the bus who needed to be dropped off, but the good news was that the buses were every five minutes. But the bad news was that the WIFI was playing up again, and we were unable to contact Michael to tell him to come back.

An hour passed, and with it went twelve buses, which we were unable to get on because we were still waiting for Michael. No sooner had bus twelve pulled away, Michael rounded the corner. The reason for his delay had been because there had been more dramatic developments.

He had been stood in a queue for about fifteen minutes, waiting to speak to someone about where to get the shuttle bus from, when his phone vibrated, announcing an email. The email was from the car hire company, and was headed, “confirmation of your cancellation.” The message said that they had received and processed our cancellation, and that our money would be refunded, minus the admin fee for dealing with our booking. But we hadn’t cancelled the booking.

Michael needed to talk to the car hire company, but none of us had anyway of making phone calls.

He tried making a call with Skype, but the Internet was very patchy and the first few attempts failed. Eventually, he got through to someone and explained the situation. The man at the car hire company informed him that the cancellation had occurred as part of an automated process carried out by their computer system. This was because they didn’t actually have any cars available. Apparently the reason the booking went through fine yesterday was because the company outsource their online booking to a third-party IT company who had allowed the booking to occur, not realising that they were fully booked. Apparently this happened because this is also an automated computer process. It was only when someone from the car hire company got into the office that they realised what had happened. Rather than sending an email explaining the issue, they simply sent a generic cancillation email, which is an automated email that is sent whenever a cancillation is processed.

So as a result we were now stuck in an airport, with no means of getting to where we needed to go. Michael tried remonstrating with the person on the phone, but the man said he could only apologise, but on the plus side, he said that he would reimburse us the admin fees – how very kind, that’ll console us while we’re aimlessly wondering the streets of Melbourne trying to get to our hotel, an hour’s drive away.

Michael was just about to hang up, defeated, when the man announced that he’d just heard that there actually was a car available, which he hadn’t realised before because it hadn’t yet been registered back onto the computer system. Brilliant, so it should be straight forward from here. Well, not quite. When the cancellation is processed, the purchaser’s details are gone. This meant that Michael had to go through loads of information on the phone, re-providing his insurance details and so on. Eventually it was all sorted, and Michael returned to us.

The three of us then stood waiting for the next shuttle bus. Five minutes later it arrived, but when we tried to get on it, we were told that there wasn’t enough room with our instruments and luggage, and that we’d have to wait for the next one. The same thing happened for the next three buses. It was only when we were aboutt to be turned down for a fourth time that I suddenly realised that Michael could go on the bus by himself, pick up the hire car and drive back to pick us up. It was such an obvious solution, but the three of us were so drained, hungry and stressed that we hadn’t thought of it before.

Fifty minutes later, Michael was back at the airport in the hire car to pick us up, except there was another snag. The hire company, although managing to locate a car, had apparently got no satnavs left. We were in a major city, with no clue of where to go and no Internet in order to get a map. We drove through the city, following signs, but this got us hopelessly lost. After an hour of driving, we had no idea where we were. We were so hungry that we had to stop and get something to eat. Fortunately, as well as providing sustenance, the cafe also supplied us with WIFI, which meant we were able to get a map and see where the heck we were and where to go. Consulting the map provided us with two bits of knowledge: firstly, that we’d been all of two minutes away at one point in the journey, but unfortunately the second thing we discovered was that we were now forty minutes away.

Eventually, we found the hotel, and breathed a sigh of relief. But that sigh was premature, for the saga hadn’t ended yet. When we tried to check into the hotel, they didn’t have our names on record. The booking hadn’t been done through us, but by the people organising our tour. We assumed that the rooms had been booked in our names, which had been the case for the last two hotels on this tour. But they couldn’t find those names on the computer. We then tried a few more names, giving the names of various people working for the tour company, just in case the booking had been made in their names.

“I’m afraid we don’t have anything on our computer for Cooney, Eagle or Hughes sir.”

“Er, try Hawthorn.”

“No sir, nothing for Hawthorn.”

“Try Crawford.”

“No, I’m sorry sir, nothing.”

“Er, er, try Simpson.”

It must have seemed like an elaborate scam, just going into a hotel and trying to guess the name of someone who might have made a booking, in a bid to have a free night in a hotel, pretending to be the person who’s name you’d managed to hijack.

“ah yes, here we go again, the old “we’re in a folk band and the rooms were booked by our tour company” routine. We’ve seen it all before. I’m surprised they haven’t said Smith yet. I mean surely if you’re going to pull off this scam and try and find a name of someone who has booked to stay, Smith has got to be your first and most obvious choice, the idiots. And they’re not fooling anyone with those mock English accents. Terrible acting.”

None of the names we tried worked. We’d have to get in touch with someone at the tour company and see what was going on. In order to do that we would need WIFI, so we asked the man at the check-in desk if we could access WIFI, but he said that we had to be checked in before they could give us the WIFI details. At this point, Michael, who had already been the recipient of a booking problem that day, snapped at the receptionist that this was ridiculous. Surely they could make an exception, baring in mind that we were trying to check in, but were unable to, and needed WIFI in order to do so. We couldn’t check in without the WIFI, and yet we were being told that we couldn’t have the WIFI because we hadn’t checked in.

Apparently the reason he couldn’t give us WIFI access wasn’t because he was being churlish and sticking rigidly to company policy, but because the system was all automated, and the WIFI could only be accessed as a guest by entering the name that we’d booked with, which obviously we didn’t know. So we had to use the reception computer to sign into Michael’s emails and get the information we needed.

There then followed about an hour’s worth of phone calls. We couldn’t speak to the main person responsible for organising the tour because he was currently on a plane, and other people were unsure of what the situation was. Eventually the issue was resolved, and two hours after arriving at the hotel we were granted access to our rooms.

It was now 6pm. We’d set off at 630 in the morning, and had assumed we should be at the hotel for about 11am. Seven hours after the estimated time of arrival, we were finally in our rooms.

We were all really hungry and needed a drink or two after the riggers of the day. The other two had an hour’s rest, and I typed up that day’s Dollop. I didn’t have time to write, record and upload it in that time, that would have to wait until tomorrow, still today in Britain. By the time we got back from our evening out in Melbourne, we were all really tired. I might have had the staying power to record and release the Dollop before heading to bed, but the other two were clearly tired, and I didn’t think it would be very fair to force them to listen to me rambling about my nostrils, which was the exciting subject covered in yesterday’s Dollop. So I went to bed. What happened the next day will be told to you, should you choose to find out, in tomorrow’s Dollop, but it is a story that clearly demonstrates just how ridiculous this crazy 366 consecutive daily blogs project has got. But I’ll divulge tomorrow.

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