A Lesson in Customer Satisfaction

A few weeks ago, I was sifting through an email account that has become an e-graveyard of good intentions  full of notifications from graduate schools I have yet to apply to, wine deals I never participate in, and social causes that are too numerous for me to properly keep straight. I delete anything from a name I don’t recognize, but on this particular day, my eye stopped on a message from GoAbroad.com, a company which is somehow affiliated with the one I utilized for my teaching excursion to Myanmar last year.

I opened it, and found a request for me to submit a review of my experience.

I gladly obliged them, and this is what I sent: 

I had an astounding experience teaching abroad, and the GeoVisions staff was attentive to my needs, and quite praising of my level of professionalism. However, once arriving in Thailand I was placed into the hands of Michael Volpe, head of their “regional partner program,” XploreAsia (sic).

This branch of the journey was a disaster on all fronts, and all following comments are a review of XploreAsia’s actions: again, not GeoVisions, but a partner company who is fully aware of their actions and deplorable level of professionalism and accountability.

They overbook themselves–they take up to 100 potential teachers at once, with a staff of only a handful, many of whom are just kids themselves.
They tell 18 and 19 year olds that they can be hired without experience or a degree, but then have them agree to touting falsified documents that state they do have a degree.
Micheal is a domineering bully, who would rather scream into the face of an 18 year old halfway around the world trying to do a bit of good than to have a rational conversation about why he displays such vast incompetence.

On top of their fees, you have to pay for your accommodations on top of paying them for their time (which, I’m still not entirely sure what I was paying for…)
They do not have a job lined up for you (in Thailand) until you actually arrive, and they tell you they are obligated to only provide one job opportunity for you–if you don’t like it, tough.

The people of Myanmar/Burma are poor and lovely, and there is a taut economic divide just ripe for vultures (abroad and within) to take advantage of. XploreAsia is one of those companies.

Local teachers are paid abhorrent wages, and expected to work 6 days a week. In places where you are the only foreign teacher, there is no support group to counter this kind of normalized behavior. You feel dirty for making significantly more than they do, and come to not discuss money at all, creating a severe divide between you and your peers.

What they (XA)are doing is encouraging the status quo of modern-day indentured servitude, while double dipping. They take a cut from both the prospective teacher (again, for what services I can’t quite say, as I paid for all my meals, accommodation, and transportation), as well as from the school, which pays them to find a foreign teacher so as to look more respectable as an establishment.

It is an amazing country, but there is no way you want to become part of the corrupt nature of their emersion. Find a different way to get there, and help the country to become an educated democracy. Don’t work with companies that take advantage of people wanting to do good  in the world.


A couple of days later, I received this reply:


Thank you for your review on GoAbroad.com for the Paid Teacher In Myanmar program from GeoVisions. We appreciate each review completed on our site from both current and past program participants and their parents or guardians.

Your review is on hold and cannot be approved at the moment as it would harm GeoVisions’ total rating. If you like, I can go ahead and share your review with GeoVisions so they can act on it and make the program better for future participants. Feel free to let me know if that would be fine with you.

Thank you again for making a review, we appreciate your time.

Best regards,
Reviews Manager

GoAbroad — The Resource for Meaningful Travel
(name withheld to protect the costumer-service representative)
I then responded thusly: 

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my review. I understand why it is on hold, from a business perspective, but I don’t understand how a genuinely negative experience is a reason to abstain from including it on the website.
When companies aren’t transparent about their practices, and they withhold pertinent information that would allow future patrons to make informed decisions regarding how or where they spend their money, they are lying to those people by exclusion specifically for their own benefit.
Maintaining a sparkling public view by manipulating the information available to the public (i.e. only including the points that paint them positively) is fascist, and is not an appropriate use of their feedback.
Any organization which participates in this kind of behavior should be called out on it, and this counts doubly so for those that tug at the heartstrings of people who want to do good in the world.
I don’t particularly care if you share my review with GeoVisions at this time; as I said in the review, I had many opportunities where I pointed out the discomfort and outright wrongness of the negative experience I (along with many other teachers who had gone through GeoVisions and GreenHeart Travel to get there) had, and my experiences were met with dismissive tones of “I’ll handle it” or “I’ll talk to him.” Situations were not resolved, and the company in question was left to continue their abhorrent business practices.
Clearly, they (GeoVisions) are at least aware of my experiences, and if this is the way they handle business, by refusing to include negative experiences by instead dismissing them as isolated instances whose publication is bad for business, then I can’t imagine them to be a terribly ethical business practitioner.
The only power we have as individuals is the power to share our individual experiences; the only power we have as a group is when we are given an opportunity to study, compare, and learn from the full spectrum of individual experiences. When negativity is censored because it is inconvenient for a company, it is intentional manipulation of the outcome in their favor. History is written by the victors, and it looks like the same goes for the corporate world; clearly successful businesses are built on lies instead of attention to their actual practices.
None of this is directed at you; I understand that you are only doing your job. And that’s all it takes within a broken system, is compartmentalized, overworked people just doing what their told to maintain the status quo and prevent change or progress.
Thank you for your reply, and I appreciate your time. Have a nice day.

To which I received this reply: 

Hello Kaitlyn,

Thank you very much and your honesty is greatly appreciated. I’ll check on further and will send you an update once your review gets live. I am sorry to hear about your experience in Myanmar but I’m glad you still had a great experience teaching abroad.
This is where the email communication ceases; what would I say to that? To my knowledge my review is still absent from their website, something that disappoints me even though I do understand why.
Companies which sell goods are held to a standard, and able to be reviewed, and I don’t understand how a company can blatantly say that they won’t publish any review which is negative.
It’s just another means of controlling the information available to us, and I for one am not impressed.