Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Relatively Easy Housecall

Before driving home, I answered a message from the Embassy Suites at the airport. The previous evening, a Canadair stewardess had phoned, confined to bed with a backache. Many foreign airlines call me to see sick crew members; I bill their central office. American air crew with their American insurance are out of luck. Billing an American insurance carrier – and for a housecall! – guarantees torment and aggravation, and I’ve long since given it up. Billing a foreign airline is no simple matter (“my manager says send your bill to the main office” never works), but once we’ve agreed on a formal arrangement, matters work smoothly. Sadly, I have no arrangement with Canadair. I explained this to the flight attendant, and she agreed to consult her supervisor. When I answered my message, I was delighted to hear her explain that Canadair had faxed an approval for my visit and its credit card number. Her backache had improved, and all she needed was a doctor’s note approving travel home as a passenger. I expected an easy visit.

After a short consultation and the note, I presented myself to the front desk where I discovered my optimism was premature. The number on the Canadair fax belonged to an American Express card. American Express charges more, so many credit card services, including mine, don’t cover them. I explained this to the desk clerk who summoned her manager who apologized, phoned Canadair, and learned that the airline did not have a Visa or Master card, a situation I’ve never encountered. No problem, the manager assured me. The hotel would mail me a check and bill Canadair. This seemed a bad idea because hotels don’t normally do that, and long experience has taught that expecting a hotel to do something it doesn’t normally do leads to frustration. But my rule is to never hassle a hotel, so I smiled and agreed. An hour later, the manager phoned to say that, rather than mail a check, the hotel would pay cash on my next visit. Naturally, I agreed.

Two days later, picking up my wife at the airport, I stopped by the Embassy Suites. I wouldn’t be writing this if matters went smoothly, but the desk clerks looked mystified when I explained my purpose. They phoned the manager who was tied up in an important meeting. I waited half an hour, but when my wife called. I departed after leaving a polite message on his cell phone. He was off duty when I returned the next day, and the desk clerks remained puzzled. There is no great lesson here, and I’ll eventually collect, although I suspect I’ll have to phone Canadair a few times, fax a few forms to Canada, and wait a few months.

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