Problem Solver: Superstorm Sandy fallout continues for marathoner

For Jennifer Cole, running 26.2 miles in the nation's capital wasn't the toughest part of the Marine Corps Marathon.

Getting home was.

The race was run Sunday, Oct. 28 — one day before Hurricane Sandy became a superstorm and unleashed a torrent of destruction on the East Coast.

Cole, who lives in Plainfield, knew her odds of flying back to Chicago on Oct. 29 were slim.

Shortly after finishing the marathon, she logged on to American Airlines' website and saw her Monday morning flight had been canceled.

"We decided we didn't want to get stuck in Washington for several more days and rented a car Sunday evening to drive back to Chicago," she said.

So Cole, her husband, and her 9-year-old daughter began the long trek home.

It wasn't a particularly pleasant drive.

"I don't recommend that after running a marathon," Cole said. "It was pretty painful."

But it was worth it. The family arrived back in Plainfield by midday Oct. 29, effectively outrunning the storm.

She called American Airlines that afternoon and asked for a refund for the canceled flight.

"The woman on the phone was very gracious and said it would be no problem to get a refund," Cole said. "She gave me our ticket numbers so I could track the refund and said we would be refunded $148.55 for each of our three tickets."

The $445.65 would come in handy, in part to pay for the one-way car rental, gas, and a hotel room along the way.

On Nov. 9, she received an email from American saying one of the three checks for $148.55 had been cut and sent to an address in Dallas.

"I responded right away that that wasn't our address," Cole said. "We live in Plainfield and have never lived in Texas."

Because she had purchased the airline tickets through Priceline, Cole thought maybe American had sent the refunds there.

She called Priceline, where a customer service agent told her the company has no office at that address in Texas.

On Nov. 14, American emailed her again. It said the check hadn't been returned, and the airline would have to wait to see if the check gets cashed. If it didn't, American would stop payment and reissue the check.

By late November, Cole still hadn't seen her refund from American, so she called yet again. After making no progress with a customer service agent, she was instructed to call the company's refund department. She had endless difficulties getting through.

After she hung up, she emailed What's Your Problem?

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