The “Corporate” Response to Traumatic Illness

Just say the word “Corporation” these days and, let’s keep it real, many people react with suspicion and negativity.

Imagine my own predicament: sitting in St. Paul’s Hospital a few days after being admitted through the Emergency department, awaiting open heart surgery and realizing I would NOT be returning to Florida within a few days to take my booked trans-Atlantic cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Southampton.

My fully-paid, no-longer-even partially refundable, cruise fare; my fully-paid, non-refundable London hotel booking; and, my fully paid, non-refundable air fare from London to Vancouver!

Ugh! Enough to make someone sick!!!

But sitting in the cardiac ward for days with only my cell phone for amusement (I would NOT shell out $15 a day for TV) … I had lots of time between tests and needles and more tests while awaiting for The Big Cut … to cancel all my reservations and TRY to mitigate my losses.

And with a single-occupancy balcony cabin, hotel room and business class airfare to YVR … the potential loss could be thousands. (I did buy an annual Trip Cancellation Policy …but AFTER purchasing these trips, so I wasn’t sure if they would be covered.)

I needn’t have worried.

First, there was Celebrity Cruises … my favorite cruise line before, and even more now.

Upon hearing of my health predicament from my travel agent at Vacations to Go … and after receipt of a fax from St Paul’s that I had indeed been admitted to the cardiac unit … Celebrity agreed to cancel my too-late-to-cancel booking AND provide me a future CREDIT for 75% of the value of my cruise … good for a year!

Only days before the ship sailed! Even though I was then at the “100% non-refundable” booking status. Marvelous! Amazing!

And that was not all: I had also booked my Business Class airfare home on British Airways through Celebrity’s Choice Air program: they also refunded my non-refundable discounted airfare, less the small commission for the travel agency.

As for my London hotel … The Thistle Hotel’s Kingsley Holborn … they also came through … refunding my entire non-refundable pre-paid hotel charges after the booking agency I used, , pursued my request up several levels to gain authorization to cancel without penalty … in light of the circumstances.

And it’s not as if I am a “regular” at the Kingsley: actually have never stayed there …hotel was chosen because a friend sailing on the same cruise recommended it. Will definitely now have to try it next trip!

The one snag: getting all this done took a lot of calls, answering many questions and speaking to several levels of corporate management at the various companies.

No problem, I thought. After all I have UNLIMITED Canada calling under my Koodo monthly phone plan.

Until I received my April phone bill: instead of the usual $61 phone/usage monthly bill … my statement totalled $299!!

Turned out my seldom-used phone had only 500 minutes included monthly … I had gone WAY over…sitting in St. Paul’s for 28 days … totally unaware of the limit … never having EVER come close before.

Koodo’s customer service agent offered a $20 reduction, but after hearing where I was and why I was there suggested ONLY a supervisor could provide any greater relief. I wasn’t expecting much, having often heard people complain about wireless phone companies…

Five minutes later, a Koodo supervisor came on the line, fully briefed by the Customer Service rep … and told me, in view of my circumstances, he would be WIPING OUT ENTIRE EXCESS MINUTES charges! The ENTIRE extra charge … more than $200!

And he, like ALL the other “CORPORATE” officials I dealt with wished me a speedy recovery.

Have to admit, the POSITIVE, CUSTOMER-FRIENDLY response to my situation from some pretty large usually faceless “CORPORATIONS” surprised even me.

Next time I hear some anti-corporate bigots maligning nasty capitalist profit-seeking corporations, I’ll think about how ALL these CORPORATIONS reacted to my situation humanely and compassionately …when they very rightly could have just taken their non-refundable revenues and added them to their own bottom lines.

Still recovering from my health crisis, but getting better ever day … and although it will be months before I can travel again, I’m already looking forward to plans for next fall … partially paid literally by the SILVER lining refunded my by several clearly responsive, quality travel corporations.

Harv Oberfeld

(Next … back to politics, where our “leaders” are often not nearly so pleasant and easy to complement! 🙂

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15 Responses to The “Corporate” Response to Traumatic Illness

  1. e.a.f. says:

    It is wonderful all those corporations came through. I big thank you to all of them.

    Now what I do wonder is, what if you hadn’t been Harvey O? We may be “hearing” from others to see if this is the regular treatment or the Harvey effect.

    It is not that you personally might do anything, however, not too many people would want to cross a blogger such as yourself, and a few others. You don’t have to do anything but describe an unsatisfactory situation, and it would have wide spread coverage, because of the many people who read you and the others.

    So again I’m truly happy that all of it worked out for you. It certainly reduced the stress.

    Enjoy the week. the weather looks like its going to be good. Please take care of yourself.

    (Response: Believe me, being Harvey O drew absolutely NO reaction from any of these companies … and not even my ego would lead me to believe that any of those people working in offices for companies so far away and with millions of customers world wide read my BC blog…LOL!! Vacations to Go is in Houston, Celebrity is in Florida; were in Montreal; Koodo was in Montreal; and both British Airways and Thistle Hotels are in London. The ONLY potential acknowledgement of any kind might have been my past passenger status with Celebrity … but I think for all of them, it was just a matter of acknowledging the special circumstance and companies (through supervising personnel) showing their own human side when they could. h.o.)

  2. Gene The Bean says:

    Excellent news and I agree that it was an appropriate outcome under the circumstances.

    Please though, dont go down the rabbit hole of thinking “corporations” are ‘there’ for us and that they actually ‘care’ – they dont. What you experienced was a couple of individuals making common sense business decisions hoping to get the outcome that happened. You were made whole and they have gained a customer for life. Good deal all around. Exactly the way it should be ….. but it always isnt that way and every reader of your blog could give you a dozen examples right off the top of their head from personal experience.

    I in no way mean to tarnish your abilities to persuade but this was a PR decision plain and simple. Your few thousand dollars is nothing to them when compared with todays “instant” sharing of experiences (both good and bad) and reviews on sites like trip advisor or on other public forums. They made the right decision and should be applauded. I hope they continue to do the same for others. It is a sound practice. Customers are expensive to acquire and things like this are just one way to do it.

    I know people in the hospitality business and they are freaked out about getting bad reviews. It can cripple a small business. Public viewership of negative reviews is 5X the positive ones.

    I would like it to be different, but it isnt. Thinking that corporations really ‘care’ about you is the same as thinking Stephen Harper, Christy Clark or Donald Trump really ‘cares’ about you.

    Sorry to be Debbie Downer but just trying to Keep It Real.

    Take care Harvey.

    (Response: Interesting reaction:”this was a PR decision plain and simple”. Several huge world-wide companies, with customers in the millions and revenues in the billions, reaching similar decisions independently dealing with ONE forlorn customer. “PR decision plain and simple”?? Yes, let’s keep it real. There’s YOUR anti-corporate bias and the prejudice. Bet you wouldn’t say that … just a PR decision …if the generosity to relieve debt or costs had come from unions, activist groups or left wing political groups or leaders …who you somehow omitted in YOUR list of the uncaring? h.o)

  3. Toby says:

    My wife was injured in a foreign country such that we had to cut our trip short. We had travel insurance. You already guessed; the insurance company found a reason not to pay and the travel agent that sold us the policy refused to get involved. However, Air Canada did find seats for us on the next flight home.

    It really depends upon the company.

  4. Gary T says:

    Now that’s what you call winning the lottery Harvey. I believe that you got your refunds because when you called them, you did not act like you were entitled, and immediately threaten them with negative exposure online if they did not refund you. Unfortunately, that threat is the first thing out of a lot of peoples mouths , even before they have a discussion ( ? ) with the C/S department. You can catch a lot of flies with honey before you have to resort to threats IMHO. Getting your health back, and then these refunds adds up to a bonus year for you.

    (Response: Absolutely right. I’ve never been one to treat service reps nastily … only to ask if anything is possible? Of curse in this case, didn’t even have to play anything up: just listed everything that had happened, where I was … and several could hear in my weak voice, this was a situation that maybe deserved extra consideration. But what surprised me is how made SEVERAL requests to the UK hotel chain to let me off the hook… whn earlier messages went unanswered. And then there was Koodo … and they’re amazing customer service supervisor in Montreal. h.o.)

  5. Gene The Bean says:

    No secret that I am an anti-Corporatist.

    Good PR is good PR no matter what sector it comes from.

    Like I said, not dissing you for ‘getting it done’ but thinking corporations are caring is Trumponian – at best.

  6. Art Smith says:

    Hi Harvey, sorry to hear of your health problems and happy to hear you are on the road to recovery.
    I think your positive interaction with the companies you were dealing with happens more than people might think. I can only imagine your conversations with the companies involved and their representatives, but I would bet that you were unfailingly polite and mindful of the limitations of some of those lower on the food chain being able to make some of these fairly large refunds. I have myself, found most companies I have had dealings with, quite willing to try and help if you have a problem with their products or services. But don’t start yelling and demanding and trying to browbeat them into giving you what you demand, they are people after all and if you get their backs up, why should they help you. Be reasonable.
    Of course there are exceptions, and if you find you are dealing with a company that is intransigent in its attitude and refuses to be fair, simply vote with your wallet and deal with some other entity and maybe let others know how you are treated.

    (Response: True, I was polite …didn’t DEMAND anything … realized I legally had not a leg to stand on and was actually hoping for maybe credits at best. And I think we sometimes forget, SOME companies do allow their supervisors leeway in special circumstances. Of course, over the years, have also encountered other kinds of companies … like Air Canada: just try making changes there …let alone cancel!! Ugh! h.o)

  7. BMCQ says:

    Well Harvey I am very very happy for you that (according to some here) Count Dracula, The Werewolfe, and their Evil Blood Sucking Corporations allowed their Minions to refund and return your Hard Earned Money you invested in Travel and Deposits for your Cruise, Accommodations, Airfare and the rest!!

    Good for them and Good for You!

    There are many things that played into this, your polite respectful attitude, your condition, their attitude, their sense of awareness, and the fact that those you dealt with either had authority, access to the authority and a sense of Fair Play.

    I always tell people to put themselves in the position at hand and then treat those people in need of assistance just the same as you would hope to be treated, sort of like “The Golden rule” one might say.

    If one comes across as Demanding, Arrogant, Entitled, or anything similar they might not have received the same treatment that you did. It does not take to much to show respect and an appreciation for anyone attempting to provide a service.

    I travel a lot, a lot more than I would like and was in about 15 Countries last year. Unfortunately many of those places are not my favourite place to visit but that is what is required.

    Out of all of my travel last year and so far this year I have really had only two slightly annoying experiences and they were quickly rectified. One with FRA Customs and Immigration, and one with a Gate Mis Up in ZRH.

    Hotels, Airlines, Restaurants, Taxi, and the rest were all pleasurable experiences, if you know what I mean.

    I do not Cruise, the last time I Cruised was through the Lounges of the Body Shop, and The Fraser Arms and Ritz Hotels so I cannot pass comment on Booking and Cancelling Cruises.

    I mostly do my own Booking and Reservations and due to circumstances I do need to make changes and I find the Call Centres more than helpful. I am a Member of a Major Hotel Chain so that assists and I travel with the same Airlines frequently and that also helps.

    I do most of my flying out of Seattle so I only fly Air Canada a few times a year.

    I do remember however that one trip my travelling Companion referred to their “Hospitality Service” as “Hostility Service”!!

    Having said that my Wife was a Flight Attendant and she could tell you Stories that would turn Your Stomach and turn anyone against MOST Travelers!!

    Your Patience and Respectful Attitude had a lot to do with your success Harvey, you obviously treated the Call Centre Folks much better than you did Politicians when you were working!!

    That may have resulted in a different outcome!

  8. Diverdarren says:

    Harvey, I’d say your experience with the “corporation” shows that capitalism and the power of competition can lead to good business.

    You’re a loyal customer and the cruise line knows and respects that. The cruise industry has fierce competition. I’m sure that Celebrity (Royal Caribbean) has a loyalty program and you and others like you who are multiple repeat customers are exactly the customer they want to keep. And that’s a good thing, the power of competition.

    Piss off a good customer and maybe you’ll consider NCL or Holland America for your next vacation. I’d bet that the companies would even match your status on Celebrity to their reward program if it meant poaching a customer.

    That’s capitalism.

    What would it be like if we brought that corporate mentality to the socialist government monopolies here in BC? ICBC, BC Ferries, Coastal Healthcare to name a few. If these “companies” (wrong term as they’re just government agencies) had to fight for their business life, would we see better service to the customer or worse?

    The profit motive model generally will produce a better product for the consumer. There’s examples where the private sector corporation has failed the customer, there’s no doubt about that. But, contrast that to out BC government Crown Corporation model where failing the public is the norm not the exception.

    (Response: As I mentioned in my earlier comment, perhaps my Celebrity cruise status helped out there … but I am NOT a real regular at any of the other travel sites/airlines. At Koodo I have been a client for a couple of years …not exactly long term. Let’s keep it real…sometimes people are just NICE …even if thy work for CORPORATIONS …which some people just hate. h.o.)

  9. Mike Cleaver says:

    One of the things I learned early on in my Radio and Television news career was to cultivate contacts in any organization which which you deal, whether it be personal or professional. I also learned that you find out through the PR person who is the “go to person” you need to contact if you have a problem and then go directly to them and don’t be shy about using your media creds if the PR person hasn’t already advised the higher up of who you are and what you do. I personally drove to Ottawa from Toronto with an immigration problem that cropped up two days before the family coming to Canada was to board their plane and a health issue was discovered. They would allow two people to board the plane but not the third, an eleven year old child. I got in to see the Immigration Minister and the problem was solved with a phone call. Same thing when my current partner did not receive his student visa in time to start University here because of a screw up at the Embassy in his home country. A call to the High Commissioner in that country had the visa hand delivered to him that night. All problems are usually easily solved if you talk to the proper person and state your case clearly, concisely and politely.

    (Response: I would rather lose an attempt to resolve an issue with a company than approach their “p.r.” contact and ask for help. Yech! In fact, unlike some of my co-workers at BCTV who relished freebies, including ski passes and show tickets from advertisers (disgraceful!) I always rejected them and at one time helped develop a pretty strict anti-freebie policy at BCTV … but I understand that was largely forgotten/abandoned during their various corporate transformations. ho.)

  10. ThirstyDeer says:

    I appreciate you putting the time in to say such positive experiences by businesses as we tend to only heard when they don’t follow through with our expectations, and rarely say words when they surpass them. Hope you are feeling 100%.

  11. 13 says:

    This story and its happy ending both physical and financial makes me think that you are an honest level headed individual. Your karma is good and good things happen to good people.
    A great picture of what is right in business as opposed to the usual negativity.
    I have to agree with BMCQ and Diver Darren.

  12. John's Aghast says:

    Very interesting biography BMW. I too, travel frequently, when I’m not otherwise engaged – 7 countries so far this year, but I’ll not bore you with the details.
    And kudos to H.O., for his ‘journey’, not the most desirable, but an experience nonetheless. And his ‘corporate journey’, most rewarding.

  13. 13 says:

    It seems that this post has garnered limited attention. I guess the topic doesnt fit the narrative that the corporate bashing crowd likes to see over and over again.
    I have found the last two topics refreshing in their take on both health care and big business.
    My travel is pretty limited. One country, and the only reason for leaving Canada is to buy gas, and purchase an American flag.

  14. BMCQ says:


    I am Aghast!

    Great point, I agree that many of the regulars on this Blog are not too thrilled that Corporations are actually getting credit for assisting a customer recover his/her Deposits, actual Paid Travel Fees, and the rest. Kind of sad is it not?

    Then I guess they are ALL more than thrilled to be paying more in Property Tax, Wealth/School Tax, Road Pricing, Gas Tax, Rents, Income Tax, Public Sector Employees Wages, Benefits, Pensions increases at ALL Three Levels, thanks to Municipal Mayors, Horgan/Weaver, PM Justin and his Liberal Minions.

    Just wait until PM Justin hits his first $ 3o Billion Dollar Yearly Deficit and he then decides to implement a “Death Duty” Estate Tax of 5% then many here will really be able to celebrate.

    Wow, all of a sudden When compared to Elite Leftist Progressive Politicians the Vampires that ARE Corporations do not look quite so bad!

    I am very well aware that the Corps do not always do the right thing but when they assist/refund ANY Customer his/her Hard Earned Money when that Customer experiences an unavoidable change in travel plans that Corporation deserves credit.

    Some people just do not have any sense of fair play, they are obviously bound by a Straight Jacket of Ideology, a very sad thing indeed. How could we actually expect them to give an “Add-a-Boy” to any Corp no matter what thoughtful kind deed it did?

    Next time you are Fueling Up across the Border do not forget to pick up your MAGA Hat!

  15. Sorry to hear just now of your illness Harvey but very glad to hear you are on the mend…and that several companies did the right thing in the circumstances!

    (Response: Thanks, Bill. Passed the BIGGEST milestone in recovery …started driving again …not long trips, but amazing the feeling of independence that comes with that. 🙂 h.o)

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