Here is a true story about the internet travel company Expedia, an American company that owns online travel brands like Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Trivago, Venere.com, Travelocity, Orbitz, and HomeAway.
Let week, your correspondent booked an apartment in Auckland for a trip from Singapore.
Expedia confirmed everything by email and that was the last we heard before arriving in Auckland. The airport WiFi did not open up because of “congestion”, and, because we arrived early, 2 hours before checkin, we decided to take the Airport Shuttle which offered free WiFi. The bus lurched from side to side and logging in to the WiFi was hard because the system required a long user registration. But we were not successful because their application said we do not have any WiFi connection!!!
The people who wrote that software must be in a mental hospital, but more drama was to come a few minutes later…
The Airport Shuttle stopped right outside the address on the Expedia website, and we called the owner by phone because there was no reception desk. He told us that the apartment was overbooked 5 times by Expedia and he had no alternative – so he cancelled our reservation without compensation and blamed Expedia, who, he told us had informed all visitors by email.
We then tried to call Expedia but they only had a Singaporean number in the original confirmation email. So we went to the hotel next door, who kindly provided us with free WiFi. There were no new emails from Expedia. The hotel then found us a free 800 telephone number for Expedia. We made our first call starting at 13.00h.
Their automatic answering machine required 4 different numbers to be entered each time we called, before reaching their call centre somewhere in the Philippines or the US.
The first person asked us about the problem, and we explained our frustration at having no room after a 15 hour overnight flight. He then said that rooms are hard to find because of a rock concert that evening in Auckland. We said we do not care about rock concerts – we just wanted a hotel room or apartment as agreed.
He then past us on to their Relocation Department. This new person required us to confirm that we are who we are and he repeated the same story the rooms are difficult to secure. Again we repeated our demands for a room or an apartment of the same or better quality.
After another 15 minutes of waiting he came back with three suggestions, all of which were clearly really poor quality and cheap rooms. He then said he would get back to us but the line went dead.
After 15 minutes of waiting, nobody called us back, even though they had our number and email address. That first discussion had taken a total of 45 minutes and we were tired and angry.
This whole show was then repeated two more times with the same results. You can imagine how we felt.
Then after that third time, after 3.5 hours, they actually called us back with a room near to where we wanted to stay. They agreed to pay the full cost and gave us a €70 coupon for the next booking!
The lesson here is that these big companies are awful. They behave irresponsibly and can easily leave you stranded in strange cities without any real way of receiving proper compensation.
We will never use their service again (except for the next booking) even though they claim in their advertising to be the best in the world.