"Travelocity Top Secret Hotels" Disaster
I'll try to make this as brief and informative as possible. I am a longtime Travelocity customer (as long as I can remember/as long as they have been in business). I have always been pleased with their efforts to create useful tools for me to find affordable flights/hotels. As a result they have been an ongoing staple both in my personal, and my extended family/friends, travel planning. I very much liked Travelocity before this latest debaucle. After my experience I am no longer going to use Travelocity or their partner services as they have clearly demostrated (there is zero drama in this statement) they are not in fact committed to: 1. Hassle-Free Travel Deals, 2. Looking out for you before and during your trip. Everything about your booking will be right, or they'll work with their partners to make it right.
Here's what happened... I typically use Hotwire (and other similar services) to book hotels as they typically are cheaper than other services out their. Certainly you can't pick the exact hotel but Hotwire and others provide tools for you so that where and what you end up with isn't shocking or surprising. An example on Hotwire is that they give you a map that outlines which area of a city they will find you a hotel in (and of course they let you know the star rating, etc... etc...). These services save me a great amount of time, and especially money. Kudos.
Recently I had to book my typical monthly trip to Denver, CO. for business. When the other services I typically use were not turning up any impressive deals I did a little searching and discovered Travelocity's "Top Secret Hotels". Without understanding the technical differences between this service and the others I have used it appeared to work very similarly to the others (Hotwire, etc...). Pick a destination, select an area, sort by price/star rating, book the one you like and then you find out the exact hotel and you are off to the races. I was impressed by the number of specific options they had listed in the filtering section of the website for "areas" in Denver. Trust point +1. Previously my experiences with Travelocity were smooth and affordable. Trust point +2.
Okay, so I find the list of hotels in "Downtown Denver", sort by rating and found one that was within my budget. Great (more plus points for Travelocity). One thing that stuck out in the back of my mind was that Travelocity did not provide any specifics about the area of Denver that THEY consider to be "Downtown Denver" but with other sites like Hotwire they use the term "Greater Downtown Denver" and that has always been acceptable in terms of distance. (Here's one to look at if your curious: http://net/. educause. edu/section_params/conf/E04/images/map. pdf - roughly a mile or so around downtown). The concern though was quickly dismissed because of my trust points and because I had never had any issues with Travelocity. I did read before I purchased the hotel though that "Top Secret Hotels" reservations were non-rufundable/non-changeable. I was OK with this and booked the hotel (figuring if something was awry that was there fault, bad location/wrong city/whatever that they would fix it regardless).
Hotel booked, great. I found out right away the name and location of the hotel they had booked me with. It was turned out to be HOLIDAY INN SELECT DENVER-CHERRY CREEK (455 South Colorado Boulevard, Denver, CO 80246). Now for anyone that knows the city of Denver that hotel is not in an area considered to be downtown... that doesn't even fit into Hotwire's "Greater Downtown Denver" map. It's nearly 4.5 miles away from the city center! At this point I jumped on the phone to figure out what my options were. I scoured the site one more time to find absolutely zero information that let's you know how they come up with these boundaries/what to expect in terms of variations in proximity. Surely I should have not used the service knowing ahead of time this might be an issue but like I mentioned I trusted Travelocity and there services and assumed they would work it out because obviously that hotel was nowhere near "Downtown Denver". Also, to be clear why this distinction is important, when you stay in downtown you have a free shuttle that transports you up and down the downtown area called the "Free Mall Ride". Tons of business folks downtown rely on this to not have to drive to work (among other options like biking, rail and buses). So this is a business trip and I can't charge them for transportation costs unnecessarily (not to mention the inconvenience) so... back to the phone call.
This part I will shorten up for time sake. The first support person I talked to said they could do nothing for me. This took somewhere around 15-20 mins. (I will not exaggerate ANY of the times here so you get the real feel for how bad this was) I asked to speak to someone above them if they could help me. I was transferred to their supervisor. Their response was the same and took more like 20-25 mins. going back and forth asking questions and trying to figure out how to change this. (this was an eight day reservation that cost nearly 800/850 USD so it was worth it) Finally I asked to talk with someone above them as well that might have more ability to change things/help me out. All the while being extremely patient and courteous to increase the chances that someone would actually help me out. Finally after holding for 10 mins. or so I was able to speak to the "Manager". This guy was super nice and apologetic... he really seemed to want ot help. Great, thank goodness. After nearly an hour, that's right 1 hour, of calling the hotel, talking to support techs among other things he had offered me a 250 USD travel voucher and had promised me that he had talked with the hotel and arranged a free shuttle to downtown Denver for the length of my stay. I felt very relieved as it seemed from the outset this was not going to go well for me. Just as a precaution I called the hotel to confirm the transportation arrangements. They said they had a shuttle but that it only went within a 3 mile radius of the hotel. Crap. I called the number back that the "Manager" had left me and got a low level support person that indicated I would have to go back through the process of low level support person, supervisor and then the Manager... if they could find the same one. I hung up the phone and started to realize that he had provided that option to get me off the phone basically. He previously mentioned the name of the person at the hotel he had spoken with so I called back the hotel and asked to speak with her (on the hunch that he was being dis-honest). When she answered the phone I asked if she had spoken with him and she acknowledged that she had. I asked if the Manager had confirmed with her a free shuttle and she said yes but she mentioned that instead of helping to negotiate a way for me to get into a hotel closer to downtown he had focused on how to keep me there but find transportation. She made it clear to me that the shuttle doesn't go downtown and that he knew this. Wow.
The travel voucher did not cover cab rides to downtown (but got close... it's roughly 36 USD per day to get back and forth from the hotel to downtown - 36 x 8 days = 288 - I wasn't going to take the bus) so I temporarily gave up and said to myself that I would pay the extra 33 USD to not have to call support again.
A few days past and I got to my hotel. Good hotel, decent people... I was fine. On a hunch I pulled up my computer and searched around for other people having similar issues with Travelocity's "Top Secret Hotels" program. (the support people I spoke with earlier had indicated that my issue was isolated and rarely happened) Turns out this happens to a lot of folks that use their service... shocking. Now I was very upset. I made up my mind that they were not going to make my business trip a pain in the butt and called them back to have them put me into a downtown hotel at any expense.
Needless to say after 4 more hours total over the next 3 days I got nowhere. (but I was very determined) Spoke with someone in U.S. support that said they would run something called a "Footprint Search" which basically would check and verify that I had selected "Downtown Denver". If that in fact was the case they would refund the un-used portion of my trip and transfer me to a downtown hotel. Perfect. I had to wait 24-48 hours for this to happen though. After that period had passed (all the while everyone agreeing that this hotel was not in "Downtown Denver") they said they needed more time and said 48-72 more hours as they were having "technical issues" running the "Footprint Search". Now I understood that what was most likely happening is that they were pushing it off so that I would use up my stay and there would not be anything else to do. Which ended up being the case. I am now 4 weeks (literally) and I still get a call every 3 days from them to let me know they are still looking into it and they will call back in 72 hours.
The cab rides totaled a little over 200 USD so that was good news. But I still had the hassle of cabbing it and spent nearly 7 hours total in phone calls over a period of a week and a half. You tell me if they were providing: 1. Hassle-Free Travel Deals, 2. Looking out for you before and during your trip. Everything about your booking will be right, or they'll work with their partners to make it right. I highly recommend you not use this service "Top Secret Hotels" and out of principle not to use Travelocity's services period. They clearly are not concerned with you having a great experience, not to mention being fare to their customers. I hope someone is helped by this review.