Third time’s a charm

Gary Leff, knower of all things frequent flyer, swears that his most important tip is this: Hang Up, Call Back (HUCB). When a customer service agent doesn’t give you the answer you want–or even the answer you know to be true–politely say goodbye, dial again and hope for better results in the next call. Gary suggests trying at least three times before giving up.

Truth be told, this tip always seemed a little unbelievable to me. Customer service agents were all on the same page (literally: the manual), I thought. But I had occasion to put the tip to use this weekend. And now I’m a believer.

I faced a simple task: Cancel one night on a three-night reservation at a Hilton.

Call #1: The agent looked a moment at my reservation, muttered, “Hmmm,” (never a good sign) and told me she’d need to speak to a supervisor. We were then cut off. Coincidence or bad luck? I think not.

Call #2: The agent told me Hilton could not alter the reservation because it was made through a convention housing service. She provided me the housing service’s 800 number. So helpful! Not. The recording informed me I had just won a cruise (if I would stay on the line). Clearly the wrong number. Which is when I remembered Gary’s advice.

Call #3: After the agent told me the same story about the housing service and gave me the 800#, which I knew to be the bogus cruise prize phone number, I protested. I politely explained why I believed Hilton was actually the party that should change the reservation. She put me on hold to talk to her supervisor and eventually came back to tell me the reservation had been changed. Eureka. Lesson learned: Thank you, Gary!


  1. This in no way reflects “hang up and call back”. While I appreciate Gary’s work, this post seems like an advertisement for him than anything else.

    • @Avi – While I may very well have misinterpreted the concept, my misinterpretation allowed me to get past a roadblock, so that was a positive result. In any case, I would be very happy to hear why this does not reflect HUCB. And no ad meant for Gary. His work stands on its own.

  2. Whenever you need to modify a “complex” reservation, I always have better luck contacting the property directly rather than dealing with central reservations.

    • Excellent advice: Thanks. They’re crafty, aren’t they: The initial phone message thanks you for calling the property, so you start the call feeling very local. Not for long.

      • Right. And then sometimes a front desk agent will answer the phone straight away, but the moment you mention reservations, he transfers you to the corporate call center. I always try to stress that I need to speak to the in-house reservations department.

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