WEATHER » There's No Business, In Bad Business

My son and I have planned to go to Ventura this weekend for the "Seaside Highland Games" to celebrate our Scottish heritage. We are excited and were planning to make it a special weekend. Yesterday I attempted to book a hotel in Ventura with and they placed me 30 miles from Ventura in...of all places... Thousand Oaks! After 7 phone calls to there (so called) "Customer Service" and " 2 calls to "Executive Offices" (yeah right...BIG scam-o-rama...what executives? Piffle and nonsense!)... I decided to go higher up... with...still... no results. Just "canned" aggressive and rude responses with no action.

Clearly is a company based on wearing dis-satisfied clients down by training it's "Outsourced" Customer Service Phone "Handlers" to offer NO service at all...just lip service...with absolutely no possibility to have any human contact with anyone in any kind of power ! Just these little 12 year-old-brain-washed-dweebs systematically trained to offer NO solution!

I spent a lot of time on the internet today and found over 20 sites with the same or similar complaint with Folks who travel..FOR A LIVING. That would, in my mind, be Pricelines "niche" market.

Here is how it goes: You go to the site and they have hotels listed with prices. As an added incentive Priceline also offers an option to BLIND BID on a Hotel room in your chosen area. Where they promise you will save up to 60% off. . This is what my ad read: Name Your Own Price® Save up to 60% off Hotels in Ventura! • Save up to 60% off other leading online sites • You choose the price, area and star level • Get your answer in seconds ***Guaranteed Customer Satisfaction

And then...they sent me an email: You are now booked into the Marriot Courtyard in THOUSAND OAKS! Thousand Oaks? Really? Is that Ventura? isn't...the Courtyard by Marriot is almost 35 miles from the Ventura Seaside Venue!

I left VM's and Emails with Brett Keller the head of marketing at the Connecticut Priceline Corporate Offices,Tim Gordon VP of Marketing and a Mr Boyd head of Hotels for To no avail.

"Oliver" from the "Executive Offices" called and kept repeating the same exact "scripted" words: "I am sorry but the Hotel IS within your area and the transaction is non-changeable and non-refundable." He repeated these same exact words 5 times and offered no alternative,no thought and no actual communication to help with the issue.

When I explained that I had chosen Ventura on their site...that I am in Santa Barbara traveling to Ventura to write a travel piece for publication...I kept getting the same rude response. I explained again and again to EVERY single outsourced-divot-head phone center "handler" that Thousand Oaks would put me 35 miles BEYOND the venue and I might as well stay home and commute from Santa Barbara. And out came the SAME EXACT CANNED RESPONSE: "I am sorry but the Hotel is within your area and the transaction is non-changeable and non-refundable." The same exact words from all 7 people I spoke to. Gee ...I don't you think there is a script? Can't anyone speak for themselves in this business. A script...really?

In between this aggravating yet stunningly-educational-and-enlightening phone calls to, I made a call to the Marriot Courtyard in Thousand Oaks. I spoke to a young woman in reservations named "Beth". I explained my issue to Beth and she explained that the Marriot has a contract with to sell "blocks" of rooms and that they "have NO responsibility to customers who make reservations through" Adding .." you should have booked through Marriot." Yep...can you say.."salt-the-wound."

At this point I began to feel like the Courtyard By Marriot folks were punishing me for booking with I was dumbfounded when Beth said...and I quote.."we do not care what you isn't about Marriot it is Priceline's problem." Hmmm? Really?

I don't know about you guys,but I have worked in service industries and think the motto always went something like this: "The customer is always right" "Make it work" "The best advertisement is word of mouth" "We are here to serve you" "You deserve a flawless and impeccable experience with us...that is our job"

I have to say that the accounts manager at The Santa Barbara Credit Union was a great help. Finally a nice person who assured me..."If they DO try and put through he charges, we will handle the dispute process...that is what we are here are the customer...and you are who is important to us!" Well alleluia..and amen brother...a real live human being! And he added that since I taped two of the VM messages and have two emails saying the exact same words, he thinks I am on solid ground for a "charge back."

But ...can I just say that I tried very hard to avoid this all going down so badly. I asked each person if they could simply "help and put me in a hotel in the area I requested." I kept reminding them that I have spent many thousands of $$$ with their company over the years. I tried to use common sense and a calm manner.

All I got was rude,defensive and insulting responses from both and the Courtyard By Marriot reservation "specialist."

So someone tell me when it became "good business" to provide "bad service" When did rude-arrogant-outsourced-so-called-customer-service become the rule. What ever happened to human contact and communication? What ever happened to "be out guest" and "let us serve you well"..."how can we help you?".

I began working in restaurants when I was 11,shucking oysters and bussing tables in a seafood restaurant in Sarasota, Fla. I worked in restaurants as a waiter,bartender,bus-boy,sou chef and hostess from age 11 to all actors. I LIKED serving folks well. My mantra was always "if it is at all within my power..I WILL make it happen." And this philosophy....served me well. "Do unto others...." Even when women ran me raged by asking for lemons and then straws and then water...all separately...and then did not tip... I "made it work" because I believe in karma.

But today I feel I lost hope in "human kind" in the supposed service industry. And while it will not be the end of the world for, I have faith that if enough of "me" (the people who have had the same, luminously-horrid-experience with they will dump them too. Come on folks we just have to stand for something. We have to be better...behave better. Web-based scammers cannot be left to rule the world! If not only for ourselves then for our children and our legacy, Manners-matter...period! The golden rule still stands. "Treat others as you yourself would like to be unto others..."

I will let you know if I win my dispute. I read in many web complaints about that it is almost impossible to reach speak to a human...well here ya go. Priceline Corporate Office/Headquarters 800 Connecticut Avenue Norwalk, CT 06854 (203)299-8000

Call Corporate and then go the "list of extensions by last name" on the chooser. Type in the last name Keller or Gordon and leave your message. As the title of the movie I am watching says... "Somethings Gotta Give!"

Thanks for sharing any experiences,thoughts or ideas on the subject of booking-on-travel-sites. Thank you!

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