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Priceline.com: 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 Priceline.com 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 Priceline.com 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 Priceline.com. 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? No..it 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 Priceline.com. To no avail.

"Oliver" from the Priceline.com "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 Priceline.com 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 know...do 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 Priceline.com, 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 Priceline.com to sell "blocks" of rooms and that they "have NO responsibility to Priceline.com customers who make reservations through Priceline.com." 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 Priceline.com. I was dumbfounded when Beth said...and I quote.."we do not care what you write...it 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 for...you 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 Priceline.com 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 30...like 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 Priceline.com, I have faith that if enough of "me" (the people who have had the same, luminously-horrid-experience with Priceline.com)...that they will dump them too. Come on folks we just have to stand for something. We have to be better...do 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 treated....do unto others..."

I will let you know if I win my dispute. I read in many web complaints about Priceline.com that it is almost impossible to reach them...to 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!

soberspitbath@gmail.com

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Outstanding article. This goes on all the time. My sister went through this with Verizon recently when she tried to get land line service reestablished. "Unfortunately it says here that you...)

I remember my nightmare with trying to get my health insurance card activated. Back and forth between operators in a right-hand-doesn't-know-what-the-left-hand-is-doing nightmare. On and on it goes: "for quality assurance purposes, this call may be monitered" and "our menu has changed" and then being put on hold, the call being dropped, and the difficulty of trying to get the person/persons responsible and in charge.

The game today is that the people on top want to make sure they can hide from those who pay their salaries by throwing up a gauntlet of phone trees, voice mail, and operators who end up taking the abuse while the Fat Cats count their $$$.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
October 21, 2010 at 6:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Very interesting article. Once again you get what you pay for.

I am a 20 year plus veteran travel agent. Everyone is so obsessed with getting the BEST deal that they do themselves a disservice. The other thing the public doesn't understand is value for dollar. More often than not I can beat or at least meet the internet price and I WILL EXPLAIN all the rules to you before you spend a dime. We, your local travels agents are not trying to "rip you off". The only way we can stay in business is by repeat clientele and word of mouth. The internet has put a huge dent in our livelihood. Often we have contracts with tour operators/cruise lines/airlines that will benefit YOU the customer with extra amenities. Yes we do charge a small service fee but you are paying for our expertise and you have someone to call when things don't go as planned. I would like to see Priceline or Expedia answer your call when you are stuck in Dallas and the airport is closed due to thunderstorms.
EXAMPLE: Customers call wanting a trip to Honolulu 8 nights, nice property on or near the beach. I can find them a good deal at a nice hotel across the street from the beach with a reputable tour operator cost 2080.00 They can find a package on the internet same flights same hotel for 2040.00 So why should she book with me? My package includes rt airport transfers and a partial ocean view room. Internet package no transfers and a city view room. So what is the better deal?

spnsb2008 (anonymous profile)
October 28, 2010 at 9:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

@spnsb2008
Who knew?
I was always under the impression that travel agents are really just for the wealthy,who travel a lot.
Maybe I just have not met the right one.
So how does someone meet the right one?
And to date Priceline has NOT returned one call or email.
Courtyard by Marriot DID however comp me a weekend and told me they knew of my plight but are hard pressed to STAY with Priceline despite the issues with service.
Thanks for the info...I will look you up in future!

emenzies (Elizabeth Menzies)
November 1, 2010 at 8:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I spoke with a hotelier in Boston the other day and they don't like dealing with Priceline or Expedia. You know when they say if you find a better deal Expedia will send you a check for the difference? Well it comes right out of the pocket of the hotel it doesn't come from Expedia, maybe Hilton or Hyatt can afford to do this but an independent or boutique can not.

spnsb2008 (anonymous profile)
November 1, 2010 at 11:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The VERY nice manager at the Courtyard By Marriot said they are "hard pressed" because they don't book weekend reservations,so "corporate" demands the "by-out" to cover the loss.
But she also added. MOST of the Priceline guests are NOT pleased with way-way-way-out location that is called "Ventura".
Her take was..." we don't LIKE Priceline...but they buy a block of rooms in slot we cannot fill on our own...so we are in a corner about how they "deal" those rooms" and Priceline customer service.
At least the Marriot folks take responsibility and comped us a weekend...albeit...in Thousand Oaks.
I just don't know how Thousand Oaks is Ventura?
On any map.
The Santa Barbara Credit Union is working on the dispute.
And Priceline is NOT backing down.
Really "Priceless" experience with Priceline.
And I WILL go with travel agent from now on.
Any suggestions?

emenzies (Elizabeth Menzies)
November 3, 2010 at 10:39 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I have been a regular Priceline bidder for a number of years.
When you bid on Priceline for a hotel in Ventura, CA, you are given four area options: Camarillo, Pt Hueneme-Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, or Ventura. These different areas are clearly shown on a map. When you bid for one of these areas, you will get any potential hotel at the star level or above that you've selected in that area. If you choose more than one area, you will potentially get any potential hotel at the star level or above within all areas you've chosen.
If you do not choose Thousand Oaks, you cannot get a hotel in that area. In my experience, Priceline has been surprisingly good at fixing problems of their own creation. Assigning you to a hotel in an area which you did not check during Step 1 of their process would be an example of their mistake, not yours. However, the responses you've gotten from them suggest that you might indeed have checked that area--or perhaps all areas--within Ventura County.
I have saved a small fortune using Priceline to get some good hotels in various cities. I suggest using the services of betterbidding.com to aid you in making your bids.

erthcrclr (anonymous profile)
November 3, 2010 at 11:30 a.m. (Suggest removal)

But Thousand Oaks is in Ventura County.

I looked once at Priceline and never found a definition of how far and wide an equivalent "area" would be for the blind price discount. It is like air flight tickets that will get a traveler to a destination but with 3 transfers and a 12-hour flight duration to go to Omaha.

David_Pritchett (David Pritchett)
November 14, 2010 at 10:23 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Still. Ventura city and Ventura county are not the same. Like Santa Barbara the city and SB County.
Priceline is the WORST at Customer Service.
They take your moeny and then they just don't care.
But hey The Courtyard by Marriot came through,kudos.
Although I don't know what you would do in Thousand Oaks for a weekend?

filmhead (anonymous profile)
November 15, 2010 at 1:11 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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