When teaching Intro Psych an important topic covered in the chapter on Thinking is deductive reasoning. This form of reasoning involves taking general premises and coming to specific conclusions. A good way to demonstrate how deductive reasoning works is to use syllogisms which are logical arguments that use deductive reasoning to come to a conclusion based on propositions assumed to be true. Here’s one I like to start with:
Proposition 1: All professors are awesome.
Proposition 2: Will is a professor.
I ask the class to say in unison the conclusion that can be drawn. I ask them to shout it out loud. And then I ask them to repeat it. And again. And again. And as they chant “Will is Awesome!” I’m popping and locking. The chants become louder and more organic and suddenly I’m garnering millions of views on Snapchat – “Yo, check out my awesome prof!”
Trust me, we’ll get to Expedia in a minute.
We all use deductive reasoning on an informal level. It is often very intuitive. Suppose you’re a carny (a respectable one, not those filthy scam artists who run the impossible-to-climb rope ladders) and you’re running a roller coaster and you know that riders must be at least five feet tall to be allowed to ride. Now suppose Paul and Alice show up to the ride. Alice is taller than Paul. If Paul stands by the measuring stick and demonstrates to you that he’s tall enough to ride, Alice doesn’t have to go stand by the measuring stick for you to figure out whether she’s tall enough to ride. It’s not like you would say, “Well I’m stumped. Alice, go stand by the measuring stick. God only knows whether you’re tall enough.” No, you wouldn’t do that. Because you’re not an idiot. You use deduction. It’s not complicated.
Let’s try one more.
Proposition 1: Lukin is the only 14-year-old dappled miniature dachshund in Halifax.
Proposition 2: Will lives in Halifax with a 14-year-old dappled miniature dachshund.
It’s pretty clear that Will’s dog is Lukin. Right? Yeah, you get it because you’re not an unreasonable asshat. You can use deductive reasoning.
Okay, now to the point of this post. A couple weeks ago I booked a return flight through Expedia (technically Expedia For TD which is my Visa card rewards program). The flight was booked on Tuesday and on Wednesday the cost of the flight went down. Expedia has a best price guarantee where if you find a lower price for your flight within 24 hours of your purchase you can send in a screenshot of the lower price for the same flight and Expedia will reimburse the price difference. I sent in a price match guarantee form with a screenshot of the lower price and 4 days later they sent an email rejecting it with the only reason that my screenshot didn’t show the flight numbers.
My first thought was, “Oh shit, that was silly of me. Of course they’d need the flight numbers to know that I was making a claim for the same flight. What an incredible dumb-dumb I am.” And then I went to look at the screenshot that I sent in to verify that the pertinent information was indeed not provided. And this is what I had sent in:
Let’s just look at the first flight. The screenshot indicates the date (April 6, 2017), the airline (Westjet), the departure time (7:45 AM), the airports (YHZ-YYC), and the fact that it’s a non-stop flight.
Alright, let’s look on the Expedia website to see how many flights match those criteria:
Hmmm, what do you know? It appears that there is only one flight matching those criteria – flight WestJet 229.
Time for a syllogism!
Proposition 1: The only non-stop flight on Thursday, April 6, 2017 from Halifax (YHZ) to Calgary (YYC) leaving at 7:45 AM is WestJet 229.
Proposition 2: Will has a ticket for a non-stop flight on Thursday, April 6, 2017 from Halifax (YHZ) to Calgary (YYC) leaving at 7:45 AM.
The ONLY conclusion that can be made here is that Will has a ticket for WestJet 229. There is no other possible conclusion. The premises are true. Therefore, the conclusion is correct.
So the flight number was not in the screenshot but I provided the flight number indirectly. I figured this could be cleared up easily so I gave Expedia a call. What followed was a torturous hour long phone conversation with multiple people at Expedia whose only reply to my explanation was that I didn’t follow the terms and conditions so I would not be getting the price match. I asked to speak to supervisors and supervisors of supervisors and each one simply said that I didn’t qualify for the price match because of the missing flight number. I tried repeatedly to explain the reasoning and they either ignored the explanation or outright denied the logic. My breaking point was when I asked “Monica” to at least acknowledge that there is only one non-stop flight on Thursday, April 6, 2017 from Halifax (YHZ) to Calgary (YYC) leaving at 7:45 AM and that flight is WestJet 229. She refused to do so. They were basically gaslighting me at that point. I couldn’t take it anymore so I hung up.
I subsequently posted my concerns on the Expedia page on Facebook and it was deleted. I tweeted at Expedia and they told me to reply to the email from Expedia rejecting my claim. I reposted my concerns on their Facebook page and they sent me a message saying it was being handled via Twitter. I replied to the email rejecting my claim. Several days later I received a reply:
Please note that it has been mentioned on our website that your screen shot “Must be “Apples to Apples” Comparison.
The Best Price Guarantee is available only for exact itinerary matches, for example, specific carrier or provider (including class of service), hotel (including room type), cabin category, rental car company and vehicle class, applicable refund policy, and the exact same dates and times of travel or service as booked through ExpediaForTD. For any stand-alone product booking (for example, a hotel room), the comparison must be to the same product purchased stand-alone through another website (i.e., not part of a hotel + air travel package). Except as noted below, the Best Price Guarantee applies only to the cost of booked travel, as presented in the ExpediaForTD search results, without including any taxes and fees.
That form email is nonsense and basically ignores all of the arguments I made in my email. The itineraries are exact matches. As I’ve explained over and over the flight number can be easily deduced based on the information provided in my screenshot. I took my concerns back to Twitter and the following DM conversation took place with “AS” at Expedia. It’s almost too absurd to believe.
The most frustrating part of this experience is that through all of these interactions nobody at Expedia will acknowledge that the flight number can be deduced from the information in the screenshot I provided. They just flat out refuse to do it. They cannot possibly be that dumb, can they?
I understand the purpose of Terms and Conditions. Companies need to put these conditions in place to prevent unscrupulous customers from taking advantage of them. If Expedia didn’t require a screenshot with the flight info, they would have to rely on the customer’s word that they found a lower price and obviously that would leave them open to exploitation. So, by all means, they should strictly enforce their rules in cases where someone is trying to pull a fast one. But what about individual cases in which it is determined that there is no underhandedness involved and it can be easily verified that the screenshot submitted is for the same flight?
Unless Expedia thinks I’m up to something here. But I mean, what scam could I be pulling here? What elaborate ruse have I concocted in which I’ve provided a screenshot containing all the information necessary to deduce a specific flight number to dishonestly claim that a lower-priced flight exists? What Ocean’s Eleven-type heist have I dreamed up to grift $60 from the Expedia coffers?
How is it that Expedia’s customer service cannot use discretion to overrule the claim denial with a reasonable assessment of the situation? In my job, I have terms and conditions as well and I use discretion when interpreting whether those conditions have been met. For example, it is written in my course outlines that if you miss an exam and don’t notify me in advance and provide supporting documentation for your absence, you receive a zero on the exam. So if a student were to miss the exam and several days AFTER tells me that she was attacked by a rabid honey badger on her way to the exam but was able to provide a note signed by the doctor who treated her for honey badger-related injuries as well as a fellow student’s YouTube video posted before the exam of her being attacked that morning by a honey badger, I would absolutely make an exception. Because although she didn’t exactly follow the terms and conditions from my outline by not notifying me before the exam, she provided irrefutable proof that she was not physically able to make the exam. When she approached me with her evidence, I didn’t do this:
I let her retake the test. Because I’m reasonable.
Expedia, on the other hand, seems to be a lot like the honey badger. And we all know the honey badger doesn’t give a shit.
Here’s a customer service lesson. Stop making overly strict interpretations of the rules. It pisses us off. Treat us like human beings. Use discretion. Use reason.
Now at this point, I realize I’m not going to be getting the $60. I’m sure the Expedia shareholders are ecstatic about this amazing fiscal coup. But I’ve taken away a lot from this experience. And I look forward to sharing my negative Expedia experience with as many people as possible. I might only be one person and I might not be all that powerful but I’m going to do my best to let as many people as possible know how Expedia treats its customers. For the approximately 100 Intro Psych students I teach each year, I will use this experience as an example (hypothetical, of course) of how deductive reasoning works. Note that I would never instruct students to use or stay away from specific companies. It’s my job to teach them critical thinking skills so that they can make their own decisions. So I’ll do just that.
Maybe this would be a good exam question:
Using deductive reasoning, which conclusion can be drawn from the two propositions provided?
Proposition 1: I only do business with companies that are reasonable when dealing with customers.
Proposition 2: Expedia has a history of being unreasonable when dealing with customers.