My cousin is going to be doing a study abroad program to China for the next six months, during her summer and fall term. The fall term is going to be through CIEE. While she expressed interest in doing her summer program through them, as well, she found early on that CIEE's summer programs did not suit her purposes, so she's going through another company. This is where the bad service begins.
The CIEE representative my cousin has been talking to--I'll call her L for now--has been nothing but difficult from the get-go. She said in the beginning that my cousin's visa for the fall program would arrive 40 days prior to the start of the program, when my cousin will be in China for her summer program. As a result, my cousin is in a tight situation, and has been trying very hard to make accommodations so she doesn't get thrown out of the country when her summer visa expires. For this reason, she needs the help of L. Thus far, L has:
- Taken two weeks to answer visa-related questions via email.
- Refused phone conferences, telling my cousin to "reread the email".
- Copy-pasted information from the Chinese Consulate website that my cousin had already looked up, and was thoroughly unhelpful in answering the questions she actually HAD.
- Has questioned nearly everything my cousin has said she wanted to do--for instance, when my cousin requested her visa be delivered rush for an extra fee, L behaved as if this was completely silly and stupid.
- Has been extremely patronizing every step of the way.
Today, the shit hit the fan in a big way: L sent out a mass email saying that acceptance letters/visas will be arriving tomorrow via express mail. Tomorrow. As in, way before the 40 days prior that my cousin was quoted by L. Keep in mind that my cousin got this information from L herself, and has dropped several hundred dollars making accommodations for that reason. ETA: So, while it is convenient that the visa arrived early, my cousin has spent quite a lot of time and money trying to make arrangements to get another visa for the time before the fall-program visa was supposed to show up, according to L. So, essentially, the irritation/confusion comes in the fact that she has wasted several hundred dollars and quite a lot of time because L gave her contradictory information.
After that, my cousin emailed L to ask for clarification on the matter. After all, hadn't L given her information that this new letter directly contradicted? L, in response, sent back a three letter note: "Reread the email."
It was at this point that my cousin veered a bit into customers_suck territory, writing an angry email in response. I don't entirely agree with how she phrased herself, even in anger, but what's done is done. What shocked me--and prompted me to write this post--was L's answer. She essentially said that it was not her company's business to help my cousin get her visa, and defended her non-response because everything my cousin needed to know "was included in it" (it wasn't). A later email from my cousin's professor excused it as well, pointing out that because many students don't read their emails, L's response was perfectly valid.
At this point, I and my entire family are furious and want to find some sort of recourse. However, I am not entirely sure how to do so, of it such is justified. Thus, I need an outside perspective on the situation.
What do you guys think?
ETA: The bad service in question isn't how long it would take for the visa to arrive--my cousin has actively been making preparations to make the situation run smoothly. The bad service, as I see it, is that the representative made herself very difficult to contact and was nothing less than smarmy in her interactions with my cousin. When she did answer, she was either completely unhelpful, or gave contradictory information. The last straw for me was that she spent significantly more time defending herself than actually being helpful/doing her job.