Priceline Books Me In 3.5 Star Roach Motel, And There’s No Refunds

The problem with Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” feature is that you don’t get to name your own hotel. That’s the point, of course. When Chris used it to book a 3.5 star hotel for his vacation, though, he looked up reviews for the place and saw that other customers’ experiences ranged from “no heat” to “dog poop in the closet” to “bedbugs.” That was not promising. So he tried to cancel, only to learn that Priceline has a strict policy against that. No matter how terrible the hotel you end up with might be.

I wanted to write you about a recent experience with Priceline. My girlfriend and I decided to take a fairly impromptu trip to Cincinnati to go to the zoo and see some friends, so we thought staying over one night would be a good idea. Booking a hotel through Priceline was easy, but it went way downhill from there. Priceline booked me in the [redacted] Hotel, which looks nice on their own website. But once you get away from there and start looking at reviews on other sites, you quickly realize how bad of a decision this was. The most common complaint was bed bugs, and this appears to have been going on for years and there are even complaints about this as recent as January, 2013. Beyond that, a lot of complaints also revolve around poor maintenance, non-working heat (It was 25 outside this weekend), poorly cleaned rooms, dog crap in the closet, random stains, splatter marks on the walls from bed bugs that have been killed and unfriendly staff. I decided to look further thinking this was maybe just one site, but complaints were common on TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google, Bed Bug Registry, Orbitz, Expedia, even Priceline’s own site. There are plenty of user submitted photos to back up the complaints.

After reading all of this, I decided to contact Priceline and see if they would allow me to cancel the reservation. I initially spoke with [M] around 2pm on Friday who seemed very sympathetic when I said bed bugs, so he escalated me to [B] in Customer Relations. [B] then put me on hold for a few moments while she contacted the hotel. She came back to say that the manager was away from his desk and I would receive a call back when the manager contacts them. After a few hours, I had not heard back so I decided to call again. This time, I initially spoke with [R] who transferred me to [C]. [C] again put me on hold to contact the hotel and indicated she spoke with the first person who answered, the front desk clerk. The clerk indicated that they have no infestation of bed bugs and [C] immediately went in to her no refunds spiel. Even after I pointed out numerous complaints on multiple sites, she stood firm with her ‘no refunds’ comments. I would have been willing to try to find another hotel via Priceline, but that was not an option. I closed the call indicating that we will not be staying there and I’ll take it up with my credit card company and filed a chargeback Saturday morning.

We still went to Cincinnati, but I decided to try Hotwire instead. I was particularly fond of their search feature that lets you choose hotels based on % of recommended by other users. We ended up staying at a Crowne Plaza on the north side of Cincy and had a very pleasant experience.

I used to use Priceline on occasion as I don’t travel a whole lot, but I will not be using their service again.