A few months ago, a frequent-traveler named “Matthew Henderson” from New York City signed up at Delta.com, accidentally providing my Gmail email address instead of their own (which is likely some minor variant of mine.) Since then, I’ve been the lucky recipient of nearly weekly email notifications regarding Matthew’s ticket purchases, travel plans and seat upgrades. Next week, in fact, Matthew is traveling to Cancun—lucky guy!How could this have happened?
If you’ve created an account at pretty much any online service within, say, the last five years, you’ve surely seen a message like this after signing up:
Confirm your email account. Please check for an email from us, containing a link you need to click to confirm that you’re the owner of this email account. Once confirmed, you can begin to use our service.
Well, Delta have not implemented any such confirmation process. They’ll gladly accept any email address you provide, and will take for granted that it is, in fact, your own. And what’s worse, they provide no way for someone like myself to resolve the problem.
Unlike 99.9% of all businesses on the planet, Delta notification emails do not contain “unsubscribe” links. Nor do they contain, “Not Matthew?” links.
They do state that email preferences can be managed by logging in to one’s Delta account. Seeing that, I thought, “Ah ha. I’ll just reset the account password (since I own the email account where the reset will be sent), login, and just delete the whole account!” But that doesn’t work either, because the lost-password recovery workflow requires answering security questions that only Matthew Henderson could know.
So I’m stuck.
Last weekend, I tried calling Delta and waited 48 minutes on hold for an operator, before giving up. Then today, I tried again, and finally managed to get through to someone after 22 minutes on hold.
Speaking with this person, who appeared to be an offshore call center worker, it took another half hour to get him to even understand the nature of the problem. Since I also happened to have a Delta account myself, which their phone system recognized from the telephone number I called from, it proved nearly impossible to get past, “But kind sir, the email address on your account is not from Gmail! But sir, your name is Matt Henderson!”.
Finally, after about an hour, I convinced him that (a) a person can own more than one email account and (b) that there can be more than one “Matt Hendersons” in the world. Understanding the problem at last, he promised to try calling the other Matthew Henderson and sort this out.
I emphasized that the bigger problem is their technical systems, and encouraged him to pass on the message that this needs to be fixed. I’m not holding my breath.
On the Feb 20th, I was contacted in Twitter by someone at Delta, asking me to follow them so we could have a DM conversation. In that conversation, they asked for the SkyMiles number of the person using my email address. Shortly thereafter, they claimed to have fixed the problem, and promised I would not receive more emails. (Notice in this conversation, they also mention a 30 day turn-around time on support email!):
Well, this morning, February 24th, after having been promised that the problem was fixed and that I’d receive no more emails, I got another “It’s time to check in!” email from Delta—for the same guy using my email address:
A few days ago, I got a second email from “Brittany” at Delta Support, seven days after her last one. She needed to know whether [email protected] is the same as [email protected]—which it is.
I haven’t heard back from her, but today more mail arrived:
…along with a survey…
I forwarded this to Brittany, including the following message:
If you’d like a deeper understanding of the problem, please provide me with your personal email address. I’ll go signup with it at Delta.com. The website won’t validate that I’m the owner of the address. I’ll then login and specify that I want to receive every email and newsletter that Delta generates — all of which will go to you.
You can then try to figure out how to get it to stop. You won’t be able to do a password reset to get into the account, because before sending a new password to your email address, it will ask some security questions that only I know.
Then you can start calling Delta, and waiting on the phone for hours to speak to some guy in a call center in India, who will promise to get it fixed and then doesn’t. You can then reach out to artificially friendly people in Delta, who will tell you they are “really concerned about your problem”, promise to get it fixed — and then don’t. And finally, you can go through Delta’s online support forms, and will get an email about, oh, once per week or two — and they also won’t be able to fix the problem.
Meanwhile, more interaction with the folks in Twitter, who remain “terribly sorry about all this”, but continue to be unable to help:
And in the department of adding insult to injury—Since I visited the Delta.com website to create an online support ticket, an advertising cookie was naturally set in my browser, to ensure I see this on EVERY WEBSITE I VISIT NOWADAYS.
Just got another email from Brittany, apologizing for the long delay, and explaining that nobody else at Delta had access to her case emails during her “days off”. That doesn’t make any sense. She wrote me on Feb 17, Feb 24 and now March 2. Anyway, she proceeded to ask me to clarify which of the two email addresses I own: [email protected] or [email protected] I can’t believe it; I already answered that question on Feb 24.
Then, she thanks me for my business and wishes my future flights enjoyable. That also makes no sense. Nowhere in this whole saga have I suggested that I am a Delta customer!
And in the meantime, another email arrived:
On March 5, this exchanged happened on Twitter, where the Delta representative, for the second time, indicates that the the problem has been fixed:
But then today, March 7, this just arrived by email, in response to the long email correspondence I’d been having with “Brittany”.
Unbelievable—What the hell is going on at Delta!
Me, I would have spent much less than 48 + 22 minutes sorting this out by writing a “throw this shit away” filter in gmail. Yes, your way had some chance of getting the other Matt Henderson connected with his Delta account but from where I sit, that’s NMFP.
Probably, your way gets you better karma.
One of the hedge funds we use has been a big investor in Delta this last year. Shares up from $ 14 to $ 35 in 12 months.
Clearly the management is cutting costs and training and system support to boost profits.