“A week ago, I had the opportunity to go to Chicago to teach a class. As I normally do, I booked the trip through Expedia.com. I took one of their package deals – hotel, car, airfare. Since I had never been to Chicago before, I simply selected the first hotel that came up on their rankings for the suburb in which I was staying.
I arrived in Chicago, rented my car, and drove to the hotel, arriving about 1am. The clerk at the front desk informed me that the machine to make keys for the rooms was broken, but that he could let me into the room and I could get a key in the morning. This raised some suspicions, but it was 1am, I was tired, and had to work the next day, so I said fine…”
The next morning, the day clerk – who I later learned was the manager – said that the machine was still broken, and that I would be able to get a key that night.
As it happened, some family members happened to be visiting Chicago at the same time, so after work I went into town and hung out with them. Because of this, it was pretty late that night before I returned to my hotel. The clerk (the same one from the night before) said that now, not only could I not get a key, but in fact the entire floor on which I was staying was now locked, and he had no way to give me access to my room. He offered instead to let me sleep in a different room, which would of course give me a bed, but not access to my pajamas or toothbrush or anything of the kind.
Initially, because I was tired and because I was really just shocked that this could happen, I agreed. However, after getting to the second room, I started to think about it and got angry. Not knowing what exactly I could do, I contacted the local police. Fairly quickly, an officer arrived. He said that there was nothing criminal, so there wasn’t really anything he could do, but he did leave a stern message for the manager, hoping that a call from the police might convince him to come down to the hotel and let me in. That was to no avail, but the officer did tell me that they respond to 2-3 complaints about this hotel every week, and that it’s always folks like me who booked the hotel through Expedia, Hotwire, or a similar service. Honestly, he said, he couldn’t understand how those services could list hotels of this quality.
I then called Expedia, figuring that since I was technically their customer, not the hotel’s, that they might be willing to help. After playing the “let me speak to your supervisor” game, I was put on with a gentleman who initially said that he could only refund the cost of the last night (I was supposed to stay three nights, and this was 5am on the second night, but it was obvious that I would not be staying the third.) After some more arguing, he agreed to refund the entire cost of the hotel.
The third night went well, as I transferred to the Hyatt by the airport.
Fast forward a week and half. I checked my back account, and discovered that Expedia had not refunded anything, so I called them back. It was, believe it or not, like starting over. The woman I spoke with could clearly see the record of my calls from the week before (she quoted from it a few times), but continued to act as though this was all new to Expedia, and insisted that the best they could do would be to refund me the cost of the one night I did not stay in the hotel, and that they could only do that if the hotel confirmed that I did, in fact, check out early. They called the hotel, who said that I did not check out early. However, the hotel apparently said that they would actually have to confirm with the manager, who of course was not there. I then insisted on talking to a supervisor at Expedia, but was informed that it would be at least an hour and that they would call me back.
The one and only point in this entire experience where Expedia has done what they said they would is when they did, in fact, call back, a little over an hour later. At first, I was talking to the same woman, but fairly quickly insisted on actually talking to the supervisor. After a lot of calm talking and a lot of yelling and a whole lot of being put on hold, I was told that the only thing that Expedia was willing to offer me was a $100 refund and a $100 credit for future travel on their site. Now, I need to point out here that what I was asking for – a complete refund of the cost of the hotel – was only $166, and that Expedia has previously agreed to give me the refund in that amount. So after more yelling and more being on hold, I was told that Expedia was going to stick to that offer.
It’s also worth pointing out that since I changed jobs over a year ago, I have been traveling once or twice a month, and always booked through Expedia. I have already done 8 trips through them this year, and have never once called to complain about anything. When I tried to point out that not only was I up until now a loyal customer, but that I was also a frequent customer, the response I got – and I only wish I was kidding – was that my complaint was not very important to them. I made one final appeal, telling them that if I accepted this offer, then I would book one final trip on Expedia to use the $100 voucher, and I would make sure that the total cost of the trip was as close to $100 as possible, and that Expedia would forever loose me as a customer. It would essentially cost them $66 to keep me around. They repeated that they were unwilling to do this.
So that’s what customers are worth to Expedia. If you have a legitimate complaint about the quality of a hotel that they list – and a complaint backed up by the local police, no less – you will be told that your complaint just isn’t important to them. They will throw you a bone to shut you up, but nothing more. By the way, I have attempted to post a review of this hotel on their site three times over the last week, explaining the exact quality of this place, and they have three times refused to post the review, so if you go to the site and search for the Mt. Prospect Hotel in Mt. Prospect, Illinois, you will see that Expedia gives it two stars, but that there are no customer reviews. Given what the police said, I suspect that there have in fact been many customer reviews of this place, but there are none that Expedia is willing to post.
My opinion about customer service is this. Companies are run by human beings, and thus will make mistakes. That’s not really a problem. But good companies, companies that are worth spending our money with, are those that when customers come to them with problems, they are willing to make it right. Expedia believes that customer complaints are unimportant.
What can we say, Expedia?
• Recognize that being expect to pay for a room you’re locked out of with all your stuff inside is pretty bad.
• Don’t do business with a hotel that police say gets complaints 2-3 times a week from your customers.
• You can’t promise a customer something, and then take it away, if you expect him to stick around.