An Experiment in Punishment

An Experiment in Punishment

When a company does you wrong, do they deserve some form of punishment, or you, some form of retribution? Well, an apology at least?; we’re not expecting jail time. But a company recently ‘done me wrong.’ Now, I realize that this is probably one of the most privileged problems I have ever had to deal with, but, I essentially lost more than $500 (CAD) in one day because of an Icelandic bus company.

So, here’s the story.

I went to Iceland for a work conference last week; on the future of technology and education, the evolution of A.I., and possible dystopian outcomes. Interesting stuff! But I decided to stay an extra day after the conference because… Iceland. So the extra day was to be on my dime. When I arrived five days earlier, I got into the city, Reykjavik, by signing onto a round trip deal with a bus company at the airport, since the airport was roughly 45 minutes from the city. The bus would take you directly to your hotel, and then pick you up and take you back to the airport at the end of your trip; but, you must contact and schedule the pick-up a day in advance.

Seems fair enough. And, it was fairly expensive on its own: I spent roughly 4,000 Icelandic Krona (ISK), or, more than $50.00 CAD for the round-trip with the company, Reykjavik Excursions, and specifically their FLyBus (airport transport) network. Getting into the city was more or less fine, and Iceland was quite amazing, but, it was a fair bit colder than Toronto, and I was still in denial about Toronto weather, being June and everything. So, I wore a jacket, but didn’t even bring a toque (I likely should have, however).

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It was a beautiful country.

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And Reykjavik was a wonderful little city.

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With very clear street signs.

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And the sun, literally, never set.

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12:30 a.m.

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3:30 a.m.

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4:15 a.m.

But, as I said, it was also very expensive. This beer cost 1.100 Krona (ISK), or, converted to Canadian dollars: $14.56!

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But I still loved being there.

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I am very happy. You can tell by the muted expression of emotion through facial cues and social norms.

As I am sure you can tell, I was also utilizing social media for much of the journey. In particular, posting on Instagram and Facebook.

So I learned a lot, slept a little, made some friends, had some fun, explored a bit, and had a great experience with Iceland and its people.

But, as requested, the day before I was to leave, I ensured that the FlyBus return trip to the airport was booked. So at 9 a.m. the day before I left, I asked a hotel employee if he could book the trip for noon the following day, which he promptly did (the two employees at this ‘hotel’ – really, a little apartment complex, Rey Apartments – were great and always helpful).

Noon the next day seemed reasonable. My flight was to take off at 3:20 p.m. the following day. A noon pick up would have me at the airport roughly between 12:45 and 1 p.m., giving me over two hours to safely get to my plane.

But… it was 12:40 p.m., and the bus had yet to show, and I was a little more than tired and hungover. The hotel employee called the bus company for me, and ultimately found out that they simply ‘forgot’, or did not take note when he made the appointment the previous day. So he got me booked on the following bus, which would pick me up between 1 and 1:30 p.m. It showed up around 1:20, and I didn’t get to the airport for roughly an hour. It was packed. And by the time I got to the check-in, the employee told me that I had missed the check-in time, and that he was sorry, but all I could do was to book another flight. WoW Air, which provides cheap flights between Europe, Iceland and Canada (and vice versa), doesn’t have much in the way of compensation.

There wasn’t another flight to Toronto until the next day, at the same time. That put me back $425.00 (CAD), or 31,183.40 ISK. But because the flight was the next day, I had to find a place to sleep. So I looked up what was close to the airport. The cheapest place I could find was a hostel-like complex of 121 rooms, Base Hotel, housed in a former NATO base used by the US Navy and Air Force.

This put me back another $55 (CAN) or 4,035.50 ISK. Unfortunately, because I had to purchase another plane ticket, my credit card went over the limit and I had to struggle  to even pay for my hotel room. But I sorted the situation out, with a little help from my family 5,600 km away in Vancouver, Canada. I spent the night in anticipation of my flight the following day, and relaxed with what the hotel claims is “Iceland’s cheapest beer,” which, as far as my own experience went, was accurate.

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And so the next day, I got to the airport five hours early, before the airline even had its check-in open. I was determined to not let any time constraints get in the way of me flying back to Toronto. I was already losing a work day due to the travel, and would have to make up that time throughout the rest of the week. But I got on the plane, and all seemed well. But then I looked at the seat in front of me…

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“Fast, frequent & on schedule!”?

Interesting interpretations of time and space.

However, “no rush”, I believe.

Still, I was nervous, seeing that in front of me; it was not a good omen for the chances of the plane reaching its destination with me on it. It made me question whether or not I was actually on the right plane, was it going to the right city, was I actually going to make it, or… do I even exist?

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But… I made it, and in fact, we landed in Toronto about 40 minutes ahead of schedule. I got home, and now I was angry with how much it cost me for that one extra day, due to the actions of a bus company that failed to live up to the promises of its paid services.

The day it happened, I was too tired and frustrated and angry to deal with human beings. And I thought to myself, now that I am learning and utilizing social media so much, and notably on this trip, why not attempt to use it to make a complaint. If I went up and complained one-on-one, perhaps they would reimburse me for my roundtrip ticket with their company, but that was less than 10% of the financial cost of their mistake.

I’ve been reading about how companies with strong and relevant social media presences deal with crises and customer complaints online. The first rule is to never delete a post or complaint (unless it violates certain posting rules, is bigoted, racist, etc). But successful companies will address the complaint, and quickly. They will do so publicly, and also  privately contact the customer seeking to alleviate and address the problem however they can. The hope would be to try to turn around a customer, and transform a potential PR issue into an advertising opportunity.

So I posted a negative review on their Facebook page:

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I also Tweeted to them (and provided a bit.ly link to my Facebook post, since Twitter doesn’t allow for a lengthy explanation):

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Two days later, have I heard anything?

Not. A. Peep.

Well, except from other customers who interacted with me and posted similar stories of their own.

And to be honest, it was a far more expensive ordeal for others than it was for me!

But one thing is clear, Reykjavik Excursions has a poor management strategy for social media. So, I can either accept that they will not address my complaint via social media, let alone apologize, try to contact them directly by phone or email, or, I can try to convince you people who read this to help me make them pay attention to their social media presence, or, at least try to!

Think of it as an experiment in social media… punishment? Retribution? Justice? Choose your term, it’s an experiment in social media power, or at least, an early attempt at exercising some prowess with it. A challenge, perhaps!

Consider engaging with my Facebook post on their page, or Tweet to them here. Because of Facebook’s algorithm, posts that are more engaging, with comments, likes, shares and other reactions, will be more likely to be seen by others, and then engaged further.

So, consider helping me with this experiment, and let’s see if it yields any results!

Thank you so much in advance!

And solidarity, fellow social media students.