Priceline.com - Lack of Star Consistency
Warning: Express Deals vs. Bid
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA -- I want to preface this review to say that I really like Priceline and I think you can get some excellent deals. I will relate a recent experience where the posting did not reflect what I paid for and I am very disappointed at their lack of response.
I do not work in the hotel or travel industry so I studied the website and their offerings and in good faith chose a 2.5 star hotel. The 2.5 star hotel examples listed are: Holiday Inn Express, Marriott Springfield, etc. The 2.0 star hotels include Comfort Inn, Ramada Inn, etc.
I was awarded the Comfort Inn Maingate in Orlando. According to the rating system, Comfort Inn is a 2.0 star hotel. Here is where my story with the Customer Care/Relations Service begins.....
I called Priceline immediately after receiving confirmation of my hotel stay. I spoke with Lettie who apologized and told me she can't do anything to what I bought because I purchased it with the knowledge that the reservation can't be changed or amended in any way. I agree, I did purchase with that knowledge, but my purchase was not what I purchased. I bought a 2.5 star and not a 2.0 star hotel. Twenty minutes later, I asked for a supervisor, she transferred me after a long wait. Kyle came on and apologized and said he would look into it. He called back 15 min. later and apologized but said according to their rating system, this particular Comfort Inn fell within the 2.5 rating description. I was aware of the amenities offered, but the problem lies with it being stated as a 2.0 instead of a 2.5 hotel. He then explained that Travelocity and others rated this Comfort Inn as a 3 star hotel. I was not purchasing from the others, I was purchased from Priceline and I was looking at Priceline's star rating. He then offered me a cash bonus which I later found to be $50 for a future hotel bid - but there is a catch, the voucher must be used by April 30 and only $10 will be applied per night up to $50. This is not useful for me because I will not be traveling in the next 4 months.
I was not satisfied with Kyle's explanation and resolved to call him again the next day. He gave me an 800 number and did not give me his direct line when asked. I call the number he provided, Alexandra answered and asked about the nature of the call before she can connect me. I waited 30 min. (thank goodness there is now a speaker feature on the phones)before a customer care rep, (didn't catch name) answered the phone. I asked for Kyle and he said Kyle cannot be requested. I explained the situation and got the same response. He repeated everything that was on written on the notes from the day before. Whether the information on the website was right or wrong, I was stuck with what I paid for. I was not happy but they would not budge. The representative will expedite my request. I will be using the hotel in less than 2 weeks, so I will update if I hear from Priceline.
What did I learn from this experience?
1. If you plan to use Priceline, choose a higher star rating than what you see posted - this way you won't be as disappointed.
2. Don't bother calling. Just eat what you got. I wasted close to 2 hours on the phone. The staff has a script and will repeat over and over again what you already know.
3. Priceline reps are very well trained. They will apologize and say they understand but......... They will not bend even if the customer is right. They will turn the conversation around to make you see it their way even when the website posting is clearly on your side in black and white.
4. I used to recommend Priceline when I need a hotel, but this experience has prompted me to try their competitors. If they acknowledged that their website was not clear and that they will upgrade and that I would have to pay the difference, I would be happy. But, unfortunately, Priceline left a less than desirable impression with me when trying to resolve a problem.
5. The cash bonus for another booking was a nice touch, but the probability of it being used is probably small, so they don't have much to lose. If they want to make the consumer feel good - they should either pony up a $50 cash bonus in the form of a check or allow the customer to upgrade to the next level (spend more $$) if the customer was in the right. Don't make the customer feel duped.
6. The 2nd representative I spoke with said he will "expedite" my request. Let's see what Priceline will do next. I asked them to upgrade to 3 stars.
6. Finally, I have a feeling a 3 star or higher rating may not charge a "fee" to help make up the difference they would have made on the hotel room rate. The margin of gain is smaller for the lower priced hotels than for the larger chains.
The rating I provided for Priceline for this one customer service experience is 1 star. In the past, I would have given it 5 stars (above the 4 star best rating).