Gained, and Lost Me As A Customer

We knew we didn’t want to drive the entire 11 hours home from Kentucky to Minnesota in one day, so we were looking for somewhere to spend the night at about the 7 hour mark. The wife of another couple that had also traveled from Minnesota found a place in the desired city and price range using Looking at the computer screen, I was impressed with the website as it listed the hotels for the city requested as well as the surrounding area. Users are also able to sort the list many different ways. Our friend called and booked their room at a Holiday Inn Express, then gave Vonnie the number.

This marked the start of a phone call adventure that would start that evening, and continue through the plains of Illinois the next day.

Phone call #1:

Vonnie asked questions gathering information about the hotel, as well as inquired about getting a better rate. $124 was the best they could do, so she booked it. It did seem a little weird to Vonnie that he didn’t understand her question about Holiday Inn Priority Club Points.

Phone call #2: Holiday Inn

After pondering the first phone call for about an hour, Vonnie was concerned that she had given our debit card number to a scammer. Calling the Holiday Inn directly, they confirmed our reservation for the next evening. Just for fun, Vonnie asked what the best rate they could give us. Using a corporate rate through my employer, they quoted us a rate of $99, but they couldn’t reduce the rate of our current reservation since it was booked through a third party.

My wife’s new top priority in life was to get the lower rate.

Phone call #3:

Vonnie wanted to cancel our existing reservation, and rebook it through the hotel directly at the lower rate. The representative stated that they could cancel the reservation, but the hotel had already charged our account, and while would cancel without any fee, the hotel charges a cancellation fee of one night’s stay. Sounds strangely like having a “no cancellation” policy for customers only staying one night. After pressing the issue, the gentleman on the phone said they could try to cancel the reservation, but could only do it with the approval of the hotel. The representative called the hotel, got the approval, but indicated it would take up to a week for the money to be refunded back to our card. Vonnie didn’t feel confident that this switch could be pulled off without hitting a snag, so we decided to just keep the current reservation, even though it was at a higher rate.

Side information:

  • The hotel said they would gladly cancel the reservation, but wouldn’t allow it.
  • said they would cancel the reservation, but needed the hotel to sign off on it.
  • said the hotel had already charged our account, but my online banking statement says that it was actually that charged me.
  • Somebody is not telling the truth

My guess is that this sat wrong in my wife’s stomach all night. While on the road the next day, she picked up her phone and went to work.

Phone call #4: Holiday Inn

She attempted to again confirm our reservation, but instead found that it had been cancelled at the instruction of even though she explicitly told the representative not to. Had she not called, we would have arrived at the hotel with no reservation, but would have been charged for it, as the confirmation number was still a valid reservation through

Traveling north through Illinois on Interstate 39, I saw a storm brewing on the horizon. But it didn’t compare to the storm swirling in my wife’s eyes at that moment. Look out,

Phone call #5:

The gentleman that fielded Vonnie’s phone call was lucky he was good at his job, because it could have gotten ugly. I envisioned lightening shooting out of my wife’s eyes sitting next to me in the van as we rolled through the countryside. I pictured her poking her fingers in the air at a virtual person as she went through the whole sequence of events, painful by painful detail, demanding that they “make it right.” But what I heard was one side of a very diplomatic conversation which ended with our reservation being cancelled with, the receiving of a cancellation number, and a promise of an email to verify.

Phone call #6: Holiday Inn

Room booked at $99, saving $25.

Vonnie and I agree that we will never book a room through again. Not because they didn’t offer the best rate – no single method of reserving a hotel room will get you the best rate every time. We will not use them again due to their failure to explain their policies up front, their inconsistent explanations, and their failure to follow through correctly with simple tasks.

I never did get that cancellation confirmation email. If my money doesn’t get refunded, this adventure may not yet be over.


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17 Responses to “ Gained, and Lost Me As A Customer”

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  1. Sunniegirl says:

    Be careful with My experience, booked a room in Barcelona for 3 nights in May. 1st on line booking attempt didn’t complete so re-booked. Result? 2 rooms booked, only one confirmation e-mail received….. Made mistake of not checking my credit card bill carefully and didn’t discover until much later had taken two payments of £450.00 out. They would not refund the second payment despite several days of calls and e-mails. I am disputing with my credit card company. AVOID

  2. I’ve only booked with once, but I have had problems with other hotel sites that I won’t use again. Booking a hotel room should be easy and they should bend over backwards to make sure you are happy. There’s too many other sites out there to waste your time with a company that could care less about your experience.

    • Travis says:

      I agree! I do like the searching ability, and the information given, so next time I may just use the website to locate a hotel….and then call directly.

  3. Your experience with is another example how financial conflict is created when your expectations are not met.

    You expected their policies to be clear- they weren’t.

    You expected the cancellation process to be easy- it wasn’t.

    You expected a fast refund of your money- it *might* be.

    Great story. Thanks for sharing.

    • Travis says:

      You’re right, Dave – and in my opinion, my expectations were not out of line with what a customer should expect from a service provider.

      The good news is that the refund has been issued. So, at least that worked out.

  4. It’s amazing how just living life will give you plenty to blog about eh? Way to stay on top of the situation and not get surprised after the end of a hard drive.

    • Travis says:

      Life experiences is definitely my preference for blog material, Brent. I can’t take an ounce of credit for any of this, though….this is all my lovely wife. She’s awesome, and I’m lucky to have her as my partner in this thing we call life. 🙂

  5. Brad Chaffee says:

    Great story Travis and I hope it turns out as you expect it to without any snags in the refunding you your money. I tried using once and just didn’t feel I was getting as good a rate as I do “usually” with priceline. With priceline we often get upgraded to 3 star hotels while enabling us to keep the things we had listed as important must-haves for a 2 1/2 star room. (free breakfast, wi-fi, & two queen beds)

    We booked 5 of our 6 nights with priceline and one with orbitz. With Orbitz we ended up paying almost $150 because when we got to the hotel the one that was booked didn’t have what we needed — TWO BEDS. On the fly we had to pay for what was available at another hotel but it cost us much more and we had to cancel our orbitz reservation since the hotel couldn’t meet our needs. We also noticed that even though you can pick what you must have in the hotel the hotels don’t always honor that or they at least try to get by with giving you less. We ended up getting our two beds but Holiday Inn Express BOTH TIMES tried to say they didn’t have 2 beds available. I told them they better make two rooms available because that is what I booked and expected to receive. I think it’s a circus shell game and both parties try to blame the other for what “can’t be done”. Customer service just isn’t what it used to be.

    Still I love priceline and have only been disappointed a couple times when we couldn’t find a room for under $100. Usually though it had to do with location. For 5 of our 6 rooms we paid approximately $60-$80 after taxes and fees. The one room that cost us almost $150 was super nice though and the grand breakfast we got plus the view from our room kind of made up for it. LOL

    • Hi Brad! I’ve never used priceline…….but given your experiences next time we need a hotel room I’m going to give it a try!

      • Brad Chaffee says:

        It can be a bit annoying at times if you try for too low of a price but we always use the pick your own price option because we always get a lower price than the ones they offer up. The part that annoys me is that when your price gets declined they make you change something (location, hotel type (1-5 STARS), or dates) in order to try again. BUT like I said we usually ALWAYS find a room and for less than $100. My wife and I will switch back and forth with our names in order to get a second chance at the same location, same stars, and same dates we want. That might not make much sense to you now but when you try it for the first time you’ll know exactly what I mean. 😀

        When you do try it feel free to give me a call and I’ll walk you through the process. 🙂

  6. We’ve used Priceline many times and have gotten used to their system. In their fine print, it says that they guarantee a room for 2 people, but they can’t guarantee what kind of bed arrangement. So it might be 2 queens, one king, one queen, or even one double (very rare). You can’t specify which you prefer and you have to take what you are offered at the hotel. I suppose you could try to get 2 queens after arriving, but they are not obligated to honor your request.

    The hotels we’ve stayed at via Priceline have been generally not top notch. Often they are older hotels with dated decor or in an out-of-the way location. About half the time there is no free breakfast, but there is always wifi. Important to us, they’ve been clean and comfortable. We end up spending about $65-90 for what they call a 2 1/2 star hotel. Whenever they offered an “upgrade” during the bidding process, it was usually worth it.

    A friend prefers Hotwire because she can see the names of the hotel before buying. They are tied in with Expedia and probably (because they have the option to also check there).

    All of these online discount hotel sites are pretty sticky about any cancellations. What you went through Trav, is typical. A penalty of the first night’s charge is pretty standard, but if you let them know there has been a problem, even one not of their doing, they sometimes will relent. But it’s done without letting you know, as you found out. It’s a pain sometimes, but you have to decide if it it’s worth it to you.

    We travel a lot, so we’ve decided to put up with the occasional problem. We are not looking for luxury accommodations in most cases. A few times when we did, Priceline worked. We got a very nice room in mid-town Atlanta for about $105 a year ago and stayed several nights on a mini-vacation. It was luxurious enough for us, though no free breakfast.

    Good luck in your travels & be glad you have Vonnie!

    • Yeah, I guess if/when we decide to use another discount website again that we just have to ask the right questions, but sure of what we’re looking for, do the shopping around ahead of time and know what the policies are.

      You’re absolutely right, Maggie, I’m very thankful to have Vonnie….she’s awesome at that sort of thing. 🙂

  7. spiffi says:

    I booked with once, about 10 years ago. The hotel itself was fine – and we got a reasonable price – but I used my mom’s email address so she would get the confirmation email – and she was inundated with spam email forever after. Up until that single transaction, she hadn’t had any spam email (remember this is 10 years ago ).

    • Yikes, spiffi, I haven’t noticed an uptick in spam email yet, but I hope that doesn’t happen to me! Thanks for sharing your experience!

      • Brad Chaffee says:

        Yeah most companies are like that now. KMart, Toys R Us, Sears, and even Priceline. Usually you can opt our at the time of purchase though by unchecking a box or two. And at least now a days it’s much easier to unsubscribe than it used to be. Haha!

        As soon as I get an unwanted email I unsubscribe immediately. I hate spam too. Lol

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