Priceline.com Complaint - Bait and switch
I used Priceline.com to look for a hotel room in the Lake George, NY area for 2 nights (Oct 10-Oct 12). I decided to start my bid at $40 for a 2.5* and above. Priceline found no room for that amount so it asked me to change either the area or the hotel category. I first selected a larger area (Lake George and Schenectady). No rooms found. I then increased the bid and was forced to make other changes (you can't increase the bid without lowering the hotel rating). I ended up bidding $55 for 1* and above, though my intention was to book a 2.5* hotel. Priceline confirmed that my bid was accepted by Studio Motel of Lake George for $55 a night. This is when I started to have a problem.
I decided to use Priceline to look for a better deal. Prior to using the website I had the choice to go to 2* hotels for less than $50 (see roomsaver.com for coupons) but I did not want to book a 2* hotel. So, when I went to Priceline, I looked for HOTELS, not lodging! A motel is not a hotel!
I called Customer Service but they are useless. The only thing they will say is "we apologize for the inconvenience" (like charging you for something you never wanted is only an inconvenience...) and "there's nothing we can do". By the way, if you call the 1-800 number, there's a recording saying "you can say up to 50% or more". That could be either 1% or 99%, right? So the 50% has no business being there. Anyway, I tried to explain that I wasn't trying to book a ghost room but to find a room in my price range and I was expecting to be given the option to choose. Since they skipped this step, I ended up with something other than what I wanted. I was looking for a hotel room and was given a motel room. The motel website lists that room for $59 (walk-in) and Priceline.com saved me only $4. That would not have made me happy even if I wanted that room, which was not the case!!! considering that I had better options in terms of quality and price. Bottom line: I made the mistake of trusting the website and now I'm screwed. I will try to dispute the charge with my CC company because Priceline booked me what they wanted, without asking me if I want it or not. I don't believe that this is legal. It's like walking into a grocery store with the intention to buy Swiss cheese and leave it with cottage cheese instead because that's what the store decided to sell you. No returns, no refunds, nothing. Or like booking a flight ticket and get a hot air balloon ride instead.
This is what's wrong with the website:
- you are forced to lower your expectations so they can book you whatever nobody else wants. You can't just change the bid; you have to go also for lower rated hotels. This way, they get you where they want
- they don't offer hotels but lodging, although the website doesn't say that (they say "hotels, hotel rooms"). You go for a hotel and offer a motel room instead (or a mattress under a bridge...)
- they don't give you any options and you can make no decision in this process. What if they choose a pet friendly hotel for you and you're allergic to pets? What if you have special needs (handicap access etc.)? I've learned that you have to provide them with supporting information (disclosing your medical history to them; in other words, having your privacy invaded)
- there's no negotiation because you don't know what you're negotiating on. Unlike eBay (where you know beforehand what you're bidding on), Priceline asks you to bid on something that is waaaaay too general
- you have no input other than the credit card information.
I would have no problem with somebody else telling me where to stay if I'm a 5 years old and as long as they pay for my room. But in my case, I really don't like other people to make decisions for me, using my money.
I know the website says you can't cancel a reservation but the purpose of bidding is to find something in your price range, not to make a reservation at the same time! If I was given the option to choose between 10 hotels, for instance, I would have chose one while accepting the fact that soon as the choice was made, I can't go back. Unfortunately, it didn't happen this way...
Anyway, it looks like I'm not the only one scammed by priceline. This is saddening. How come they got away with this for so many years? How come they're still allowed to use these unfair business practices? If this was North Korea, I would have said there's nothing one can do about it? But in U. S.?
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