Dylan traveled to China a few months ago. His consumer complaint doesn’t directly involve any company in that country, though: his issue is with the company that was supposed to provide him with a place to stay in Beijing, Hotels.com. Miscommunication ensued when Hotels.com first had the wrong address for the hotel, then failed to actually reserve a room for Dylan. When he called the company for help, he learned that while they help customers book rooms in foreign countries, they don’t necessarily have anyone on staff who speaks the language of those countries to smooth over issues.
Dylan received a refund for his hotel reservation, as one would expect. The company also promised a $100 rebate, which later became a Hotels.com voucher… but still hasn’t showed up yet.
At the beginning of April, I went to visit a friend in China. While I stayed with him for the majority of the trip, I had to book a hotel in Beijing for two nights. I went through hotels.com. I first ran into a problem when the address that they listed was incorrect, and the taxi driver who spoke no English could not find it. After wandering around for a while, I found it. I walk into the hotel with my printed confirmation page and the conversation went like this:
Me: Hi! Do you speak English?
Chinese Receptionist: Very Little.
Me: That’s OK, because I’ve already booked a room for two nights.
CR: I’m sorry, we have no rooms.
Me: Are you sure? Because I’ve paid for two nights. (Try to show her confirmation page)
CR: There are no rooms available. You’ll have to go somewhere else.
Well, crap. I look on the page to find the hotels.com customer service number, only to see AN AMERICAN NUMBER! If you’re stranded in a foreign country, how are you expected to contact them? (STRIKE 1) After a bit more back and forth with the desk person, I leave the hotel, freaking out about finding a place to stay. Thankfully, Chinese people are incredibly helpful, and a young guy helped me find a pretty nice hotel for a comparable price. When I get settled in, I log into Skype and call the American 1-800 number. I talk to a lady and explain that I need to cancel my reservation because the hotel rejected me. She puts me on hold so she can “call the hotel to confirm this information”. That’s fine, as I’m just relieved to be in a room. After a few minutes, she comes back to tell me that no one in the hotel speaks English, and apparently hotels.com has no one at their disposal that speaks Mandarin Chinese! Again, if you are stranded in a foreign country where English isn’t the main language, how is hotels.com supposed to help you if you run into any problems? (Strike 2) Because of the language barrier, she promises to immediately refund my money. That is exactly what I wanted, so I’m happy. If the transaction ended here, I would never use hotels.com to book a foreign hotel, but I’d be happy about the refund. Then she says because of the problems I’ve faced, she’s going to send me a $100 rebate check. Great! I was not expecting this at all, and I wasn’t being rude or complaining, so this is really above and beyond what customer service should be. I’m told the check should take 4-6 weeks to get to me.
Fast forward 4 weeks, and nothing from them has arrived. Instead of calling customer service, I write the “request/suggestion” section of their website. I get a confirmation e-mail saying they received my question, and then nothing else. That was the beginning of May, and apparently my question is still floating out there somewhere, waiting to be answered.
After 6 weeks of waiting, I decide to call customer service. After a pretty short wait time, I talk to a nice guy who tells me the check should have arrived by now, and he’ll look into it. He says if I don’t get anything in the mail in a week, I should call back.
1 week passes, and nothing, so I call back. This time I get a curt lady who tells me that no, it is not in fact a rebate check, but a $100 voucher for use on hotels.com. That is a big change, but like I said before I wasn’t expecting this, so I’ll take it. She also asks me multiple times whether or not I’ve actually received the voucher and I just mistakenly didn’t notice it. Nope, I say. Still waiting for something. She says she’ll escalate this to the next level, and if I don’t get anything in a week to call back.
1 week later, repeat, and the same exact outcome. 1 week after that (today, week 9 after my trip) I’ve been on hold off and on for 4(!) hours. The only time I’ve talked to someone, they told me the system was down and that I should call back in an hour or so. I just want what was promised to me by a company that was completely in the wrong. And after this, I’ll never use hotels.com again.