Hotels.com – Price Matching Fiasco and Buyer Beware

We’re taking a normal break from our normal technology publishing to issue a buyer beware.

I am what you call an easy going customer. Treat me well, and I sing high praises about any company. I not only return my business to a company, but bring in additional business as often as I can through referral or actual transactions by myself.

Treat me rotten, and I’m going to raise an eyebrow. Treat me like hell, and I need to warn other potential customers about a “BUYER BEWARE”.

Background:
Hotels.com is a division of Expedia, Inc., which solely provides hotels and reservations to customers to numerous destinations around the globe.

This team has always used Hotels.com after being referred by several of our affiliates. We found their prices to be extremely reasonable, and their price matching policy attractive. Especially in today’s economy, saving every penny possible is a necessity. I personally have used Hotels.com as well as other services, including Travelocity. Our trip to DEFCON and Blackhat last year was arranged with the help of Hotels.com.

However what left a bitter taste in my mouth this past week was how they’ve completely mismanaged this personal reservation.

Before I continue, let me give you a copy/paste of what Hotels.com’s price matching policy is as that is the subject we are discussing:

The hotels.com Price Match Guarantee protects your pocket book and takes the worry out of booking a hotel room. After you book with hotels.com, if you find a lower publicly available rate online for the same dates, hotel, and room category, we will match the price and refund you the difference.

And unlike some of our competitors, we will match the price right up to the time of the property’s cancellation deadline, whether that is three days after you made the booking or three months. So stop worrying and start booking.

I think that is pretty much clear cut as it can get. Find a lower price, tell them, and they will match it.

 

The Fiasco. The Disaster:

My fiasco began when a family member needed a stay in Las Vegas for a few days last week Sunday (May 22). After spending a few hours researching availability, discussing what the needs are, we settled on the location of where the hotel must be and the duration of the stay. Like any good shopper, price comparison was a must and I began to look around different places for the best pricing.

After thirty minutes of research, the pricing for this hotel on Sunday evening came out to be $148.00 daily average at Hotels.com and $118.00 daily average at Travelocity.com. The rate was acceptable considering the last minute booking status for a family member and it is the Memorial Day weekend travel period. Since Urban Online Entertainment had a wonderful experience Hotels.com, I decided to use them personally after placing a call to the Hotels.com sales department verifying I could price match against Travelocity before booking.

The agent I worked with (I believe her name was either Elizabeth or Kimberly) said they could immediately price match and that they would have to bill me the full amount initially for it. But otherwise after than initial billing, she would then just have to issue an email on my behalf to her supervisor and that the difference would be refunded immediately.). After informing the sales representative of my discovery over at Travelocity, she quickly checked the price, as well as verifying the room type and confirmed it was indeed the same. She then sought supervisor approval once, and then clarification of the rate afterwards. After she came back, she laid it out that Hotels.com will not only be honoring the Travelocity price, but beating it as well. Asking on what I needed to do, she simply put that I just needed to make a reservation with Travelocity and that she will take care of the price matching immediately.

Seeing how it would be a streamlined process, I went ahead and made the reservation with Hotels.com. I was promised a finalized rate of $265.00, including taxes, with a refund of $67.47 being sent back to my credit card.

 

Fast forward to Tuesday Evening, Wednesday Early Morning, I began to grow concern as I did not see any refund in my credit card. After discussing it with the Hotels.com, I was given a reassurance that my refund request was being processed despite there being no documentation. Reluctantly (and likely my mistake that I did not press the matter), I accepted it and moved on.
Fast forward to Sunday Morning, one week after I’ve placed my reservation, it’s been nothing but trouble. I’ve spoken from Hotels.com in the last hour and a half: Robert and his supervisor Chris from customer care, Anna in the sales department, Nicki from customer care, and another Anna from customer care.

I’ve spent a total of eighty five (85) minutes on this issue trying to get it resolved. At first it simply was about getting my money back. Now it’s a moral and ethical issue at Hotels.com. I am shocked at how much run around I’m getting over a mere $67.47.

From my thirty five minute conversation with Robert and his supervisor Chris, they accused me of waiting too long to file my request for a price match guarantee despite my point that the price matching was done at the time of initial reservation. From there, all Chris could offer, which I personally by the way believe may be a limitation of policies at Hotels.com, only a voucher of $40.00 (forty dollars), redeemable towards a future booking at Hotels.com. I’m personally shocked. Should it have been the fair value of $67.47, I see no reason why I should take it. However, after what felt like a “bait and switch” tactic by the sales team, I did not feel comfortable taking a voucher. Furthermore, I found it extremely disrespectful and insulting that they would only offer $40.00 instead of the full $67.47. In essence, they would be short changing me $27.47. I saw no reason why honestly I should take such a compensation when I was promised that rate. Furthermore, he then accused me that I could not be price match was being done AFTER the cancellation deadline and that since the reservation is now in use, there was nothing that could be done.

EXCUSE ME? But I did do the price match ahead of the cancellation deadline. In fact, I did it at the time of booking. How much more time does one need? Exactly also whose fault is it that we’re using the reservation too now? My family member wants to goto Las Vegas. I see no reason to cancel a trip over Hotels.com’s incompetence.

I voiced my sentiment firmly, citing that it was disappointing and insulting that it was that low. It should at least be what I was promised. However, according to Chris, that’s the best he can do. Whether it is or not I am not sure. I am however sure that when I challenged him on whether that was fair or not, and that would he accept it, he remained silent. Silent for at least 15 seconds, if not longer.

I don’t blame him. It isn’t a fair deal. Losing $27.47 is something no one would want to stomach, especially in these economic hard times.

 

After parting ways with Chris, I took it upon myself to find that agent who helped me with my reservation. Chris apparently had “no” information on who booked my reservation. No agent identification number whatsoever. I found that somewhat strange as most if not all sales representatives make commission for each order they book. I found it curious that they did not have a record in the database that said who helped me.

In an effort to locate this information, I called the sales department again to see if they had the information. After consulting Anna, she apologized and said she doesn’t have access to that information and that I would need to talk to customer service. Voicing my concerns that this would not work, and her firmly pressing that she could not do anything about it from her end as she’s mainly sales, I reluctantly agreed to be transfered back to Customer Service. I ended up with an agent named Nicki (and I apologize if I misspelled his name. I caught it really quickly and didn’t write it down completely)

I asked to verify whether I ended up at the same call center I called earlier to earlier by asking for the current supervisor’s name. For some mysterious reason, the call dropped. OYE!?

Frustrated, I call Expedia.com’s customer service in hopes they could help me. I ended up with Yvonne over at Expedia, and she was wonderful. Delightful to work with and she went out of her way to try to argue for me, but was forced to transfer the call back to Hotels.com after the agent there demanded the call be released to her.

 

Reluctantly, she let the call go to me, but told me to call back if I needed more help. Yvonne transfered me back to the hands of Hotels.com, where I ended up with a representative named Anna. After pulling up my reservation, she started echoing the same comments as Chris did based off the notes she found associated with my transaction. Frustrated, I asked her flat out for the agent’s ID number who helped me placed that reservation. Her response: “She is unable to provide an agent’s ID number.” Now I realize some companies do treat their agent’s ID number as confidential information, and that policies do prohibit them from giving out badge ID numbers, I asked straight out that she does not have to provide me with the agent’s ID number, but simply answer Yes or No to this question: “Does she have the agent’s ID number on my reservation?” Her answer: “She is not able to answer whether she does or does not have that agent’s ID number.” I restated my request, making sure Anna understood my intentions that I do not want that number, but rather I wanted to know whether the number existed. She restated her position, stating that “She is not able to answer whether she does or does not have that information.”

That was frustrating. Anna can not answer a simple yes/no question on whether she does or does not have an agent’s ID number?

I’m sorry, but I fail to see how that could violate any policy, as Anna puts it. Frustrated, I let Anna know that I would be writing an entry (which you’ve now read), and that I will be publishing it. She became immediately defensive, saying she was insulted, and I had no right. She continued arguing with me for several minutes in which I politely told her “Have a nice day, and hung up.”

 

Takeaway:

First of all, I doubt I will be using Hotels.com anytime soon. If anything, I will be likely increasing my business with Travelocity.

I most definitely do not feel cared for, and I do not feel “welcomed” by Hotels.com. If anything, I found this to be a bait and switch marketing trick. A scam. A sham. Deceitful. Despicable.

Until an outcome is reached, our team has pretty much decided to cease doing business with Hotels.com. If they were willing to pull this on our team members, we saw no reason why to give them additional business for such immoral and unethical business practices.

Come Tuesday, I will be having a long talk with their corporate offices. Oh, for future references, if anyone else ran into a similar situation I did with shoddy customer service, and if anyone is looking for Hotels.com’s Corporate Number, here it is. It took some digging.

Hotels.com’s Corporate Number: 469-335-1000

 

In any case, I’ll post updates when and if they do come around.

 

Update: Resolution! Please see this post for an update.

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