I found several round-trip flights from RDU to PDX on TripAdvisor, mostly provided through Orbitz or Cheaptickets. I selected the most appropriate one for my timetable, which took me to the Orbitz site.
I filled out the required customer details (name, address, etc) and proceeded to seat selection for each leg of the trip. Notably, there were multiple seats still open on each flight.
On the payment page, I entered my American Express card and billing address/contact information. After submitting, the page showed an error message indicating Orbitz was unable to charge my credit card and I should re-enter my payment info or contact my financial institution.
Assuming I mis-typed either the CCV or some piece of the contact information (middle initial vs. middle name, for example), I tried again. Three times.
Each error indicated that Orbitz was unable to charge me, so I called American Express. They discovered I now have 4 pending charges for the flight Orbitz claimed it was "unable to charge". Amex said I should contact Orbitz to zap these charges, pronto.
I called the Orbitz customer support number and sat in the hold *** for approximately 10 minutes. When an agent finally answered, they said I should just pick a different flight, that one must not be available anymore. The pending charges would be removed once I got a flight. I asked when the charges would be removed if I didn't book another flight with Orbitz -- the answer was "in a few" (I believe she quantified it to 5-7) days.
Of course, the same flight is still available according to multiple search engines (including Orbitz), so I just don't buy that it was an unavailable flight causing my problems.
The rest of the conversation roughly went thus:
Me: Can you pull up my records to cancel these transactions now?
Agent#63: No, I don't have that information.
Me: Wait, what? You have ~ $3000 worth of pending transactions against my card but can't pull up anything other than confirmed trips with a record locator?
Agent#63: Sorry, I cannot do that. Just book a different flight with us.
Me: I don't have unlimited ability to put thousands of dollars of pending transactions on my card you know.
Agent#63: Those charges will go away in a few days.
Me: Can you transfer me to someone that can handle my billing problems?
Agent#63: Sorry, I cannot transfer you. You can call back.
Me: What? You want me to call back and just talk to someone else?
Agent#63: Yes, sir.
Me: I don't think I'll be using Orbitz anymore.
Agent#63: Sorry to hear that, you can call back.
Me: Ok, what's your agent number, by the way?
[more dead air]
Me: That's it, just 63?
Me: Ok, I'll call back later.
At this point, I just want to have these pending charges reversed so my Amex available account balance gets back to normal; I'll use my corporate travel rep to book me a flight. Get your $%^# together, Orbitz.
Monetary Loss: $2954.