The Summer is Upon Us. Renters Beware. To begin with, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am writing this editorial as a promise to a certain manager for a national travel company that boasts customer service. I am also writing as a service to anyone who is thinking about making the most of an opportunity to enjoy some family time together in what they are thinking is an affordable way to "get away" as the corporate agencies so portray.
With the coming Memorial Day holiday approaching, I as many of you reading this thought of different ways to entertain the family while making the most of what is available. Together, my wife and I came up with the idea of renting a nice car and taking a short outing to North Carolina's Outer Banks. My goal was simple, to watch my kids while my wife and I watched the sun rising over the Atlantic. So to work we went. Trip planned, motel reservations made and securing the car.
Easy enough: My wife is used to making needed motel reservations from my old days of racing on tour. Me: Not so much and the reservation of the car of course fell to me. So I immediately jumped online and soon was "chatting" with a salesman for a national travel website. Let's call them "Warm Cable".com.
The customer service I thought at the time was excellent. He helped me through the rental agreement and before I knew it, the rental agreement had been clicked and the money was deducted from my account. No problem; that is until we found out at work that contrary to what we were told earlier, the company would be down longer so in an effort to take advantage of the longer length of time, I attempted to extend my car rental reservations.
This is where things get a bit ugly. After several attempts to get through to "WarmCable", I finally got through to a customer service representative and found out that the traditional definition of customer service meant something entirely different from her. I am not sure which was more offensive. Her belittling attitude or her matter of fact stance that there was nothing she could do, I would need to contact the car rental agency themselves. This went back and forth between "WarmCable" and Hertz until finally; my wife was more worried about my blood pressure than the car or vacation.
After a 35 minute wait, I was finally connected to a manager at "WarmCable". Apparently having read the notes about my attempts to extend the rental agreement, he calmly explained that the rental contract did not allow them or the rental company to make any changes to the contract. Then of course came the inevitable "Didn't you read the terms of the agreement?" This, in case you do not know, is the little box that you have to check in order to complete the agreement when you do anything online.
Generally beside it is a comment to "Click Here to Read the Terms of the Agreement". OK: So I didn't. After all, I was online with a helpful chap who was guiding me through the agreement. At this point, a slight chuckle came from the other end as I was informed that the agreement clearly states that the agreement cannot be cancelled or changed at all and by clicking, you are agreeing to this. What kind of idiot would agree to something like this? ME! And anyone else who feels that they are doing something special for their family.
So take it from me. Read the terms and understand them before you get railroaded yourself. Make sure you know what you are clicking and have everything planned out and in stone before spending the money you have allotted for your vacation. As for me, against my wife's better judgment I wrote the fee for the initial agreement off as an investment. Like I told ** after being laughed at by him, I considered the money lost and am making it my purpose to make sure that as many people as possible are aware of what they are doing and who what kind of businesses they are dealing with before agreeing to do business with them.
If one person reads this and takes the time to look at the information and is educated and makes the right decision, then it was money well spent. So don't let me down. Think before you rent anything.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA -- Email ** to let him know of your displeasure with Hotwire. He is the president of the company but some woman who is so rude answers his emails. She called me today to make me aware despite my efforts to resolve the dump they want to put me up in Charleston, SC that is supposed to be in the "historic downtown" only to be on the outskirts under a bridge 10-15 minutes away. I immediately called them to cancel and was willing to pay regular price to give my wife a luxurious hotel she deserves.
Hotwire made it look as though you could get these same hotels at a greatly reduced price only to put you on the outskirts of their so called green zone. They make you aware of over the phone that you are choosing a hotel anywhere in that area only after you have found out they have given you a hotel miles from where you thought it would be. Oh, but they put 20 or so bullet points in their "green-zone" to make you think that's the area where your hotel is located. We want one that charges by the night, not hour.
Seriously, I tried to explain and told them I wanted to pay more to get the hotel I wanted because I felt duped by their so called "hot deal". You would think emailing their CEO would bring a nice resolution and hey, I am wiling to pay $200 a night to get what I want, not the 68$ hot deal in "Cracktown" in Charleston. Send all you emails to Clem to let him know how bad is company is. I have never dealt with such horrible customer service who is unwilling and unsympathetic and are only trying to fill up the hotels they make a special deal with where they are making close to 40-50% commission.
They have absolutely hands down worst customer service/experience in the world. I feel as though they are holding me hostage so I went on the Federal Trade Commission's website and filed a grievance through them. We'll see what happens but you would think my request was simple enough and that they would be willing to accommodate and satisfy a client, especially when I notified them immediately about this hotel and that I know it and refuse to stay in such a place. Their corporate contacts were horrific as well so that is why we need to send Clem as many emails as possible.
Oh, I was referred to by the corporate contact today as the one that sent all the emails and that she filters them. You can also get his voice mail as well by calling corporate headquarters at 415-343-8400 and using the directory and simply putting in the numbers that represent his last name" Bason" and hit the pound sign and you go right into his inbox and leave a message. At least we all as consumers can contact them to let them know they have a miserable company and are miserable people
I have used Hotwire many times in the past and had no problems. But the problem I am currently experiencing will make me NEVER use them again. My wife and I booked a hotel at a great rate. She used her Hotwire account and credit card to pay for it and when we got to the hotel it turned out to be very nice and normally cost twice what we paid for the rooms.
All was good until the day we checked out and received a bill for all 4 days at the regular hotel rate. When we went to the front desk to ask why they were charging us again after we had already paid via Hotwire, they told us that Hotwire had contacted them and told them that our account was used fraudulently and refused to pay the hotel. Nobody from Hotwire tried to call us, email us or make any contact at all with us to explain why they decided to cancel our account (or to even check if it was actually us using the account).
My wife called her credit card company and they said nothing had been reported to them and they had not reported a problem to Hotwire about the account and that it was working fine. We then called Hotwire and were told that we had to contact someone from a special department because nobody at the regular help line could help us at all. The problem with that was that this was a Sunday and their "fraud" office was only open during regular work hours during the week. We were left paying a hotel bill that was hundreds of dollars more than we thought we had agreed to pay.
On Monday my wife called the special number we were given but it just went to a generic voice mail box that does not even sound as if it has even been set up to take messages. She left a message and a phone number. And waited. No call, no e-mail.
So she tried back and got the same generic voice mail box. No matter what time of day you call you get the generic voice mail box. And nobody returns the call or e-mails back. So she tried calling the regular help line again and after about 20 minutes of explaining what the issue is she is again told to call that number. When she explains that nobody picks up and ask if they can transfer her to an actual person in that department they just transfer her to that same pointless generic voice mail box.
It has been several days now and nobody has returned any calls or sent us an e-mail or letter or anything to explain why they left us stranded at an expensive hotel without any support and refused to pay the bill as agreed to in the contract we had with Hotwire. The only good news is Hotwire did refund the original charge on the credit card they took when we made the reservation. But we still ended up stranded and had to spend hundreds more than we thought we would for our hotel. We would have NEVER booked at that hotel if we knew we had to pay the full rate.
Since this horrible experience I have searched the Internet for Hotline stories and found that our experience is not all that uncommon. Many other people have been stranded by Hotwire after they got to their destination and found that Hotwire refused to pay their hotel or car rental company (or Hotwire does not send the required reservation information to the hotel or rental car agency so they have no room or car waiting for you).
So, since Hotwire will not make good on what it promises to its customers and will randomly just leave customers stranded having to pay hundreds more than what was originally quoted to them, I am telling everyone I know to run away and avoid Hotwire like it is a plague.
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA -- Hotwire designated hotel class ratings are unreliable. Hotwire hotel specialist ignored information that "three star" hotel placed guest in one star accommodation. The Hotwire customer is one bad roll of the dice away from a bad value deal, particularly when the hotel booking is for multiple nights. Since Hotwire quotes only the price, general location and a designated star rating of an unnamed hotel, the customer is especially reliant on Hotwire 1) that the hotel class rating is accurate, and 2) that the paid-in-advance Hotwire guest will not be placed in a sub par accommodation by the hotel.
My wife and I did not expect to get the nicest room when we booked a three star hotel through Hotwire, but we did expect to get a room and treatment commensurate with the star rating that Hotwire said we'd get. This did not happen when the hotel we booked turned out to be the Executive Inn and Suites in Oakland from June 10-13. While our expectations were met at three other Hotwire booked hotel stays, this was the only hotel that relegated us to second class hotel "citizen" status on account of our Hotwire booking.
Although I emailed the hotel in advance of our stay requesting a room away from the traffic noise or one in the newer building if available (I had read the online reviews), the manager declined unless we paid extra; and so I know that better rooms were unoccupied. He then gave me a card for a special web promo offering a better deal (treatment?) my next stay if I booked directly instead of through Hotwire. We were not advised of the superior amenities and fitness room in the new section of the hotel either at check-in or by info provided in the room.
The accommodation and amenities we received did not measure up to the three star rating that Hotwire claims is based on "family style rooms" and "on-site dining". None of the hotel website photos depict the older hotel building room in which we were placed. Our dark and dingy room, too small for even a closet, overlooked (in order) Embarcadero Drive, I-880 and a busy rail line. The steady drumbeat of vehicle and train traffic noise made it nearly impossible to sleep past 6:30am.
Our so called family room was so bad that it would have most likely gone unoccupied in the absence of a Hotwire paid-in-advance guest. The continental breakfast selections were not comparable to the hot food and fresh fruit choices that are now common in many budget hotels like Comfort Inns. While the coffee and juice selections were good, the lone hot food dish was the self serve waffles, which were not as good as those at a Comfort Inn in San Diego where we stayed. The pastries tasted no better than 1-2 day old packaged pastries from Safeway. The silverware was plastic and the coffee cups styrofoam. There was no fresh cut-up fruit.
On our return home, the Hotwire hotel specialist refused to even look at my fax indicating that this so called three star hotel was overrated. He said "We just gave this hotel its annual rating of three stars on June 12th." When I pointed out that the 12th was the last night I stayed there, and I didn't even email my information until the 24th, he made no offer to reconsider. While apparently reading from a script, he just kept repeating "Hotwire is confident that the hotel star rating for this hotel accurately reflects the quality of accommodation and amenities provided."
Hotwire does not back up its own star rating description guide claim that it determines its star ratings by "customer feedback" and that it "adjusts its ratings accordingly." Moreover Hotwire's claim that it "researches and acts on customer rating concerns" is contrary to my experience. Perhaps this is because the Hotwire star ratings guide promises to compensate hotel guests who have stayed at a Hotwire booked hotel within 60 days of a downgrade.
I was not even looking for compensation when I contacted the Hotwire hotel specialist, just a reason to believe that if I ever booked a hotel through Hotwire again that I could rely upon the star rating promised to reasonably reflect the quality of accommodation received. This did not happen. So book through Hotwire at your own risk.
Real life example of their low price claims: Hi, I have stayed at a hotel reserved via Hotwire, reservation #: xxxxxxxx. For this reservation I was charged 264.74. When I was checking out from the hotel, I was given a receipt for 192.62. There's about 70 difference. I kindly would like to request from you:
I have faxed to you both receipts along with a letter using fax # ** on April 15th. I also spoke to a customer support person on April 15th and she told me that to avoid confusion Hotwire asks hotels not to reveal the actual rate to the customers and that she apologizes for this incident but told me that Hotwire wouldn't be able to reimburse me the difference. This made me to believe that 70 was in fact the amount which Hotwire charged me for the Internet booking service. That seemed pretty high charge. That seemed pretty high charge and is spite to your pledge
found on: http://www.hotwire.com/customer-care/index.jsp.
Savings off the lowest retail hotel rate we've found in the last 24-48 hours for the same neighborhood, star rating, and stay dates. I'm not asking for "Double the difference", only for the difference. Please let me know ASAP what would be your decision in regards to this matter. Thank you.
The hotel receipt shows the total and final cost of staying there. So your claim that taxes are not included into that
bill is baseless and false. It appears that the ~$70 difference between yours and the hotel's bill, all constitutes your booking cost. It seems to be a bit excessive comparing to the industry median.
Second, your advertised "Double the Difference" rule states, that if I would find a comparable hotel in the same area and the same dates, for lower price, you'd double the difference. In fact, I found the same hotel for the same dates for lower price. I appears to me that you have decided not to honor your own "Double the difference" pledge. If you would like to add anything to your previous statements, please do so. Otherwise, thank you for explaining your business practices to me.
We booked two rooms for 4 adults and 4 children. Not sure how Hotwire can get rooms where smoking was allowed. We could not enter into rooms, so tried booking rooms in other hotels. After requesting so many times and waiting for 30 minutes got one non-smoking room. All 8 people had to sleep in one room. Some on bed and some on floor.
LUXEMBOURG, EUROPE -- I had booked a car with Hertz to be picked up at Luxembourg airport (Europe) the rental price for the Hot Wire booking was $300 the charge at the airport from Hertz was $500. When I returned and complained to HotWire I was told they only check the rental company's web site and do not actually contract for a charge, so I had a $200 surprise with no acceptance of responsibility from HotWire.
Stay away from Hotwire, they are going to ruin your trip and steal your money. Their star rating system is at least one star too high. The savings you think you're getting are in actuality only about $5. No matter the circumstances they will not refund or change your reservation. Their customer service is in the Philippines and they will just read off a pre-written statement.
CALIFORNIA -- Consumer alert: never ever use Hotwire because of its business fraud and cheating practice. As soon as you get charged in this booking site, your money is gone. Yes, gone, as same as service you paid. Hope you are not stupid enough as me to use their service, once enough.