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Kick the Garden Statue to the CurbPosted Thursday, August 20, 2009, at 3:42 PM
On a recent hotel booking, I learned some things the hard way. However, I would like to impart my knowledge to possibly save any of the readers out there a similar experience.
This summer I had to make reservations for a two night stay with several rooms for several parties involved. I started almost two months in advance to try and book rooms. I went to the local websites for hotel/motels in. I then went to several of the actual hotel websites to try and book rooms. No rooms available. I even called the hotels directly to make certain there were no room at the inn, as it were. This will be explained later.
Finally, found rooms on one of the more widely advertised travel sites. I booked them. However, they didn't just use my credit card to hold the reservation - oh no I was charged instantly for the booking several weeks away.
Irritating but had little or no choice at the time.Travel time came and went. However, I received copies of what the rooms cost - taxes, fees, included. Lo and behold, there was a three figure difference in the price of the actual rooms versus what I had been guaranteed was the lowest price available.
Hmm... so I decided to contact the on-line travel site. I did the email thing since I had never, ever talked to a real, breathing, speaking human being to place the reservation. I received an email that said - sorry but I had to actually call if I had a question on prices.
Okay - seriously. Rang the number - after a five minute wait - I spoke to Hannah, who had a very distinct Indian accent. After explaining, she said she was only authorized to offer a $25 voucher for a future booking. Unacceptable - transfer me to a supervisor please. Supervisor # 2 came on - said his name but for the life of me, I couldn't spell it, again, Indian accent. Same song and dance. Again- unacceptable I said - I needed his supervisor please. Again, five minute wait, with lousy elevator music, this time Victor (again Indian accent) said he could not authorize any more than a $25 voucher. Well, I had had it with this and asked - rather bluntly - where he was talking to me from. India was the reply. I replied - okay - I needed transferred to someone in the United States. He told me it would be a seven minute wait - I said go for it. By this time - please and thank you had gone out the window.
I then talked to a lady who was supposedly in Texas. Hmmm...Anywhoo - all she could do was a voucher for $100 off another two night stay booked through their service. No ma'am I said, I want a refund of the portion that I was so grossly overcharged for. She went into an explanation that this was a standard fee and what was I supposed to expect since they needed to make money too. I said I understood making money but gouging and overpricing for a service run by a computer was ridiculous. I further lamented that prices must be way different in her state than mine. She told me that all she could offer was the voucher. She then asked me how I came to learn of the price difference. I said I had a receipt. She said I needed to understand that the hotel chains sell the booking sites blocks of rooms and the rate on the receipt was their contracted rate and I should never have seen that. SERIOUSLY!!! That came out of her mouth!!! She would not let me talk to anyone else. All I got was an email address if I wanted to make a further complaint. That was the end of my 38 minute, intercontinental phone conversation - of which I was on hold for 28 minutes.
I called my card company and within five minutes was able to have the excessive amount taken off the charge. I didn't dispute the room rentals, I disputed the price gouging.
What I learned is that I will not use the travel service advertised by garden statues. I will not reserve rooms if my card is charged when I book. I WILL ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS ASK FOR A RECEIPT at the location upon arrival and leaving - even when booking on-line. I will always ask when contacting a customer service center is where the call center is located. Think it is fair - if I am doing business in the United States, that I can talk to someone in the United States.
Yeah I know - I learned this one the hard way - but if this helps someone avoid this situation, then if will have been worth it.
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