It was bound to happen. My kids went off to college and I turned into an old lady overnight. I’ve taken to eating dinner at 5:30 and going to bed by 9. (In my defense, thanks to the return of standard time, the sun sets around 4pm, so 9 feels like midnight). But the clearest sign that I’m turning into a senior citizen is that I’m going on a cruise. Yes, like the kind with AARP discounts.
For the record, it was not my idea. One of my old college roommates talked me into it. And it feels just like it did in college all those years ago – her talking me into doing something I’m not sure I want to do.
Why don’t I want to go on a cruise? Fires, engine failures, norovirus! All those people and their germs! Being treated like a bovine getting loaded onto a cattle car! Hundreds of elderly people with their high-waisted pants and blue hair pushing each other out of the way to get to the buffet!
Granted, cruise lines have been targeting a younger demographic, marketing cruise vacations as cool and edgy. We’ve all seen the commercials with Iggy Pop wailing about a lust for life. Minor detail that Iggy is as old as the hills.
And my interactions with Princess suggested that they still assume their customers are elderly retirees.
Case in point: I was trying to do something really simple, namely arrange for my friend Stacey and I to eat dinner together at night. But in order for us to dine together on board, Stacey and I each had to contact Princess to make a request. She called Princess and got a “secret code” which I would then have to give in order to complete the request. Secret Code? Is this some kind of Mission Impossible movie?
So I went to the Princess website, figuring I’d do it through their online helpdesk. Which is when I discovered that there was no online help desk. Hmmm, and no email address either. I must be missing something. So I did what anyone would do in 2015 – I tweeted them.
After a slow response time (The next day? Do they not understand how Twitter works?), I was informed that there was no email address for customer service. And no online help desk. I’d have to call. You mean dial a phone? Like we did back in 1993? I wasn’t sure my new iPhone had calling capability. Is there an app for that?
Good lord, Princess, get with the program. Even the cable company has online help, and if ANYONE wants to pretend it’s the early 90s, it’s the cable company. It was almost as if Princess assumed all its customers were 70-year-olds with landlines. Oh…wait….
Fortunately, I found an icon on my iPhone that allowed me to make a call (it’s the one that looks like an old-fashioned handset, in case you’re wondering) and I dialed the number for Princess. After navigating the generic phone menu – “press 2, press 1, please hold” – I got the classic refrain. “All representatives are busy. Due to unexpected call volume, we expect your wait time to be at least several minutes.” So I did what any spoiled Internet addict does when placed on hold. I hung up.
But I knew I’d have to try again, or else I’d be dining with some couple named Cecil and Naomi celebrating their golden anniversary. So I called back and got the same message: “unexpected call volume.” Again and again. EVERY time I called. Day after day, there was “unexpected call volume.” So here’s my question: if the call volume is high every day, can it really be classified as “unexpected?” To borrow from another princess, The Princess Bride, I do not think that word means what you think it means.
But if I wanted to get in touch with customer service at Princess, sacrifices would have to be made. I’d have to suffer on hold. So I cleared my schedule, made sure my phone was fully charged, poured a cup of coffee, dialed the number and settled in. I got the usual “unexpected call volume” spiel and waited. And waited.
I called at 1:30 in the afternoon. By 1:45, I’d finished my coffee and was wishing I’d stockpiled some snacks.
“Please continue to hold.”
I started to wonder if anyone had ever died of boredom while on hold with Princess, or would I be the first?
“Due to unexpected call volume, all representatives are busy.”
Gee, you know what might cut down the call volume, Princess? An online help desk.
I finally got someone around 1:50. I explained why I was calling – the dinner request and the secret code and please just let me dine with my friend because I DO NOT want to sit with anyone who thinks it’s normal to stay on hold for 20 minutes to TALK to someone.
The very perky woman on the other end of the line said she wasn’t sure how to process the request. She’d have to check with someone.
So she put me on hold.
To her credit, she came back shortly to say that it was all set. Of course, by that point I’d spent a half hour on the phone for something that would have taken seconds to do online. But hey, Princess, who wants to save that kind of time, right? Us retirees have nothing better to do.