Worst customer service award of 2012 so far? Thomas Cook

I hate poor customer service – it’s one of those things which drives me completely mad.

This personal story, which is currently unfolding, smacks of everything that’s wrong about companies taking customers for granted.

And it reminds me of a little saying I’ve often shared with SMEs  - treat all customers well, you never know if one could be a journalist….oh dear!

Last year, we had a fantastic family holiday booked through Thomas Cook – with the invaluable help of an agent in a shop. This year we visited the same agent, who was lovely, but couldn’t match the prices quoted online at www.thomascook.com.

So we started booking through the website. At some point though we needed to call in as we couldn’t add baggage to our flights without making a telephone call. This is where the problems began – we called the number on the Thomas Cook website and spoke to a call centre operative.

She then proceeded with our booking and all went well until we got to the confirmation of credit card payment when she suddenly, without explanation, transferred us to someone different.

This person then wanted all of our details again.

Panicked we questioned this man – but he insisted that no booking had been made. What about our credit card payment? It hadn’t gone through.

We asked to speak to a supervisor. Eventually we got through to someone who said we couldn’t speak to the original woman as she was ‘in a meeting’ and we needed to go through the process again. We were then told we couldn’t have that package as the airline couldn’t confirm the flights. Deflated we cancelled. That had taken over an hour.

We then got several telephone calls – our credit card would show two payments requested and not taken. We could have the booking as the airline had confirmed but the price had gone up – by £6. Did we want to go ahead? With some reservations we agreed. We were promised a confirmation e-mail that evening.

Today (Monday) guess what? No confirmation e-mail. We called the same Thomas Cook number and spoke to someone who told us they hadn’t dealt with us at all. It wasn’t them. Panic is really setting in now.

No, new woman said,  we had spoken to Expedia – put through by the Thomas Cook switchboard. At no point until this time had the name Expedia been mentioned at all. Our booking reference number (which thankfully I had taken) wasn’t recognised by Thomas Cook.

So they  couldn’t help me in any way to deal with my queries. WHAT THE HELL? If I buy a PC from a high street retailer, they don’t make the PC, but they are responsible and so, in my book, is Thomas Cook.

Tonight we have spent more than two hours on hold trying to get the correct booking numbers, confirmation e-mails, weblinks to Easyjet to try to make sure that our holiday is going to happen.

Booking a family holiday should be a positive experience, leaving you looking forward to the time away. Now we are deeply worried that the whole thing will be a disaster with missing paperwork and bookings. 

And what about transparency? Where on Thomas Cook’s website does it say – ‘we may pass you, without warning, on to another company and, if anything goes wrong, refuse to help you out’. Or ‘We might say sorry a lot but in the end it’s down to you to fight your way through it’. This is what’s happening to us. A second evening wasted trying to sort out something which should be easy.


When is Thomas Cook not Thomas Cook?

If I behaved like that with my clients I know where I would soon be – without work.

So first tip of the year, if you are thinking of Don’t Just Book It, Thomas Cook it – swap that catchphrase in your head to this one Thomas Cook Dot Com – Don’t Bother Dot Com…..

About Fiona

Fiona Scott is an award winning TV producer and Journalist. It has been said what she doesn't know about PR isn't worth knowing. You can read more about Fiona on her page http://www.mumsinmedia.co.uk/fiona-scott/ . Subscribe to the Mums in Media newsletter to stay in touch.


  1. Graham Carter says:

    Is this the same Thomas Cook that recently reported a £398m loss – and, if so, do you think this might have a connection with their attitude toward customer service?

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