Company Response on 09/26/2011:
My name is Rujinun Supawiriyakorn (Rosie), I work at HotelTravel.com as Customer Service Agent. Yesterday, I was asked by my superior to follow up your posting on this website and to urgently investigate what happened. Yesterday, I spent most of the day meeting with our Finance department, my supervisor and his manager, and other colleagues, located in different office buildings on the HotelTravel.com campus, to help me understand the history of what happened with your credit card. Thankfully, I am now able to get back to you with a detailed feedback. Your post shows your patience with us has passed its limit, but please bear with me while I am trying my best to better explain the issue.
A - FEEDBACK ON YOUR CREDIT CARD ISSUE
A.1 – 48 Days
I agree with you that 48 days to get the amount available again on your credit card is not acceptable. In fact, such a banking process usually can take up to 7 working days to complete. I know that if I were in your shoes, I would most likely feel the same frustrations, and seriously question the authenticity of the service provider. This is further acerbated by your numerous correspondence with us, and the obvious lack of a satisfactory resolve. Therefore, on behalf of HotelTravel.com and the whole team, I would like to apologise for the unacceptable situation you are finding yourself in.
A.2 – Event Timeline
Wed, 3rd August 2011:
- 4:16:08 AM (GMT+7), you submitted your booking request via our website;
o Your credit card was pre-authorized by our payment system at 4:15:23 AM (GMT+7) for 123.20 Euros;
o Your booking was On Request, which means that we needed to manually contact the hotel to confirm availability for the period you asked for;
o This means that one of our Customer Service Agent needed to confirm availability with the hotel first, before confirming with you, the client;
- 5:19AM (GMT+7), our customer service agent Jureeta sent you an email explaining that the hotel you chose is guaranteeing a response on availability with 24 hours. In case you did not want to wait up 24 hours to secure your accommodation, she also proposed a list of alternative hotels, which we knew at that time were available immediately;
- 6:34PM (GMT+7), approximately 12 hours later, our customer service agent Wassana sent you an email informing you that the room you requested was not available. We also took the opportunity to offer you again a choice of alternative and instantly available hotels; and waited for your response.
Sat, 6th August 2001:
- 3:35 AM (GMT +7), I received your first email about your credit card issue;
o I then immediately replied to you explaining that I was going to void the transaction straight away, and that it should take up to 7 working days for your issuing bank to make the funds available again on your card;
o I sent a ‘void request’ instruction to your bank via our gateway payment system and transaction bank;
- 13:41:39 (GMT +7), Pornthip our credit co-ordinator sent you an email, confirming that an instruction to nullify the transaction had been sent to your issuing bank via our own gateway and banking system provider;
Tue, 30th August 2011:
- 4:15 AM (GMT +7), my colleague Yusri (our complaints manager) received an email from you, in which you expressed your concerns about the issue not being resolved;
- 11:21 AM (GMT +7), Pornthip emailed you with apologies for the inconvenience in solving the issue, and that he was going to investigate the matter immediately;
Mon, 19th September 2011:
- 3:39 PM (GMT +7), our credit department received your last email and your complete dissatisfaction in still not having the funds made available to you on your card;
Wed, 21st September 2011:
- I was asked to investigate your response by my superior;
A.3 – Credit Card Pre-Authorisation
On Aug 3rd 2011, when you made your booking request with us, your credit card was processed for pre-authorisation only, but it was never charged. In fact, the 123.20 EUROS never left your account, and we never received 1 cent of it. As you are reading this, I suspect you are asking yourself “how could this be since I still cannot use the 123.20 EUROS to make another purchase?”
Again, if I had been in your position, I would also have asked the same question. But please allow me to explain why the 123.20 EUROS seem to have ‘left’ your account, where in fact they were never debited from your card.
It is because of the card pre-authorisation process and the way it handles such transactions. Credit card pre-authorisation is the practice within the banking industry of authorising electronic transactions done with a debit card or credit card and holding this balance as unavailable [to the card holder] either until the merchant clears the transaction, or the hold "falls off." You can read more on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authorization_hold, or on this page http://www.3rdpartyprocessors.com/creditcardpreauthorization.shtml.
So, when you made your booking request on Aug 3rd 2011, our reservation system triggered the pre-authorisation of your card, based on the booking parameters, which I have explained below in point A.4. If you have read the two articles I referred you to above, you should now understand why the 123.20 EUROS was not available for spending on your card. The amount is simply blocked by your bank via the pre-authorisation process, which makes the amount temporarily unavailable/invisible to you, the card holder.
The process of making the funds available again is explained in point A.5 below.
A.4 – Pre-Authorisation Trigger
For all our bookings, our reservation system charges customers’ credit cards for the full amount, only once bookings are confirmed to clients. However, there is an exception to this system rule. When a booking request shows an arrival date falling close to the day when the booking is made, our system will automatically flags such a booking as urgent.
With such urgent bookings, our objective is always to expedite and confirm reservations as quickly as possible in order to secure the room, and satisfy our clients with what we believe are urgent needs. In doing so, our reservation system triggers an automated pre-authorisation of the client’s card to ensure that the funds are available, but in no way debits the client’s credit card.
This is what happened with your booking. Your arrival date was close to Aug 3rd 2011, when you made the booking. Our system flagged your request as urgent, and automatically initiated the pre-authorisation of your card.
A.5 – Making Funds Available Again
On Aug 6th 2011, when you contacted us about your card being charged while no booking had been made, our accounting department sent on the same day, a ‘void transaction request’ to your bank via our own banking gateway. Such a ‘void transaction request’ is a standard banking message designed to nullify a pre-authorisation request; thus, an instruction to the card holder’s bank to release the fund back, and make it available again. This process should normally be immediate. However in our experience can take up to 7 working day depending on the policies of the client’s issuing bank.
As we immediately sent the void request and the credit has not been made available to you yet, it appears that there has been a rare banking error, which in our experience is normally an issuing bank error. We hope you can investigate this if so wish further with them.
The problem with such void transaction requests is that, as a merchant, we have absolutely no visibility as to whether the client’s issuing bank has received and acted upon such instructions. We only become aware of issues, when clients contact us again, just like you did. Then we investigate and chase again.
In your case, we do not understand why the ‘void transaction request’ did not materialise. Despite the many follow-ups we had with our bank, we still do not know what went wrong, which is exceptional.
Of course, rest assure that all of the above is documented, and I would be happy to share with you all the correspondence we had with our bank in trying to get this matter resolved since Aug 6th 2011.
In its repeated effort to thoroughly investigate this matter, our accounting department took further action by requesting our bank to send a fax to your issuing bank, requesting confirmation that the void request had been done. I can also make this fax available to you, if you wish to also make enquiries with your issuing bank directly from your end. Please do let me know directly if this is the case, I certainly would appreciate it.
At this juncture and in response to your statements questioning the legitimacy of HotelTravel.com, our company’s head of public relations, asked me to insert the following section (B) in my reply to you:
B - HOTELTRAVEL.COM LEGITIMACY
B.1 – HotelTravel.com Is a Genuine Business
Since 1999, HotelTravel.com has been operating as a legal business, as authorised by the several governments-issued trade and business licenses it owns. We are incorporated in 14 countries; we employ hundreds of staff from 32 nationalities who speak 20 different languages. We have successfully served millions of customers in 8 languages, 24/7, worldwide. Finally, we have thousands of contracts with hotels and suppliers, which allow us to offer our customers extremely competitive hotel rates, at some 120,000 hotels around the world, year round, nonstop. Would it be correct to assume that on Aug 3rd 2011, you made your reservation request with us because you found a very attractive rate on our site?
Therefore, we trust you will agree with us, that both the longevity and the success of HotelTravel.com is evidence that our company is a genuine and legal business. If it had been the type of business you described, do you sincerely believe that HotelTravel.com would have survived the last 11 years? We all know it would not have.
B.2 – HotelTravel.com and Its Customer Care
If you take the time to search for other complaints about HotelTravel.com, we know that you will not find many. In fact, compared to the huge amount of complaints some of our competitors get, we believe it means that for the last 11 years, our company has actually been doing a great job. The reason why this is made possible is because HotelTravel.com is a medium size private company. We are not a faceless publically listed fully automated online travel agency. Our independence and size allows us to put a real focus on our customer care instead of being solely driven by stock exchange quarterly results.
Customer care is core to our corporate culture. It is embedded in our brand statement – Real People | Real Service | Real Choice – unequivocally promoting our customers to be centre stage of all our operations. It is the keystone around how all my colleagues and I, anticipate customer needs, deliver quality service and offer a freedom of choice to its clients. It is rooted in our daily work.
This is why you will not see that many complaints about us compared to others. This is also why, we took the time to investigate your case, get all the facts straight, draft this comprehensive note, and personally reply to you. The whole team felt very disappointed by your posting, because it is not at all reflective of who we are, how we do business and how we care about our customers. I hope you will be receptive to this.
B.3 – HotelTravel.com is an active member of several highly reputable worldwide travel industry associations. We pay membership fees, we have membership IDs, we are invited to speak at their conferences and seminars, and the management of our company includes some of the most respected executives in our industry. When you have a minute, please have a search about our company and you will see hundreds of charity event sponsorships, and speaking event presentations by our executives and there teams.
Some of the travel industry associations we belong to are (you can read many more on our site at: http://www.hoteltravel.com/network/aboutus.asp):
- IATA: International Air Transport Association (membership ID: #96-6 2679 5)
- PATA: Pacific Asia Travel Association (membership ID: #2123)
- JATA: Japan Association of Travel Agents (membership ID: #42776)
- HEDNA: Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association (membership ID: #9630-0)
- ASTA: American Society of Travel Agents (membership ID: #900148470)
- TAT: Tourism Authority of Thailand (membership ID: #34/00278)
Again, we trust that you will be able to acknowledge that, if indeed HotelTravel.com was a rogue business, it would be literally impossible for it to maintain such a reputable international exposure.
B.4 – Finally, HotelTravel.com is a “VeriSign Secured” and “Trustwave” certified approved business, which allows us to use the most advanced online encryption technology available today. This means that HotelTravel.com offers and guarantees all its customers, the safest and most secure transactional environment current technology permits today, while ensuring the highest level of customers’ data protection when purchasing hotel products online with us. If you go on our home page (http://www.hoteltravel.com/) and scroll right down to the bottom of that page, you will see their respective logos, which you must have already seen on other merchants’ websites. If you then click on either of those two logos, a browser window should open and display our official certificates.
The fact that we own such certificates is significant. It is key to know that they can only be awarded to businesses that can prove their authenticity and legality. There is no other way. Therefore, the very fact that we are allowed to publically display them, is a guarantee that HotelTravel.com is a legitimate business.
C – FINAL WORDS
What happened with your card is a rare occurrence. I trust you can see that it was not our doing, and it certainly had nothing to do with HotelTravel.com not being a honest business. It can only be explained as a banking transaction glitch. And despite our tenuous and constant efforts to resolve the matter as quickly as possible, we also had no control over its progress and outcome. We will take this incident, learn from this experience, and continue to grow as a customer oriented business that puts you first.
Again, all of this is documented and I will be glad to share it with you. You are welcome to write to me directly at the following email address:
rujinun.s AT hoteltravel DOT com
(Please replace the ‘AT’ and the ‘DOT’ by their respective obvious characters. This is avoid my email address being picked-up and spammed by crawlers)
Finally, I do understand your anger and frustration. Yet, I also trust I managed to satisfactorily explain the reasons why this situation occurred. I also fully realise that despite not being a mistake made by HotelTravel.com, the experience you had with us was far from being a positive one. Therefore, in an attempt to mend the bridges, my superior agreed to my proposal to offer you a ‘little something’, and try to make up for all the aggravation you went through. Since my offer is private and confidential, please do write to me at the email address I gave you above, and I will be able to confirm it all in writing.
Apologies for such a lengthy reply, but I felt you deserved a full and comprehensive explanation on what happened.
I sincerely look forward to hearing from you.
Rujinun Supawiriyakorn (Rosie)
Customer Service Agent