Hotels.com Succeeds Where Priceline Fails

Jim traveled to Miami to pick up a car he was importing from abroad. He booked stays at several hotels through Priceline and Hotels.com for the drive home, but when customs wouldn’t clear his car on schedule, Jim needed to change his plans. Priceline didn’t help, but Hotels.com did.

Ginger from customer care took my call. I explained my situation and let her know that I was aware that these cancellations were last minute, but asked if there was any way to cancel or get a voucher or possibly reschedule. Right away she told me that booking for the Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel had a no cancellation policy, but offered to see what she could do. *Bonus* Before putting me on hold she let me know that it may take a long time, but reassured me that if I hung on she would be back. She was back about 5 minutes and told me that she was able to cancel the Sheraton and give me a full refund. She put me on hold again to look into the booking for today. A few minutes later she came back to let me know that she was able to cancel and refund that booking as well.

Jim’s full story, after the jump…

(Photo: CanadaPenguin)


Background:

My fianc

and I were importing a car into the US through the port of Miami. We had planned to pick the car up in Miami and drive it to Connecticut, stopping along the way for over night stays in Jacksonville, Fayetteville and Baltimore. We used Priceline to book our room at the Clarion Hotel Airport Conference Center in Jacksonville and Hotels.com to book our rooms at the Days Inn Fayetteville and the Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel.

Unfortunately, US Customs was not on the same time frame as everybody else. The car arrived in Miami on Monday and was expected to be released by Wednesday or Thursday (a timeline we used to plan our trip). It wasn’t until we flew into Miami on Thursday that we were informed that customs put the car on hold for inspection Wednesday and decided not to do any inspections on Thursday. This obviously threw our whole trip out of whack.

The Story:
I called the Clarion Hotel Airport Conference Center in Jacksonville on Thursday (the day of check-in) to cancel – realizing full well that canceling on the day of check-in was a sure fire way to rack up extra charges. The woman at the front desk informed me that since it was booked trough an online travel site I would have to cancel through them (Priceline) directly. She also stressed that though the online sites are often cheaper, they are infamous for their poor service and cancellation policies and further urged me to call the hotels directly for future bookings.

So, I rang Priceline’s customer support number (which by the way is near impossible to find on line). After explaining my dilemma I was told read to from a script that it is against company policy to offer a refund for same day cancellations. I very nicely pleaded my case again and asked if there was any protection for circumstances clearly out of the customer’s control. Again, reading from a script, she restated that same day cancellations are against policy. She also added that she could transfer me to her manager who would tell me the same thing. I was put on hold and subsequently disconnected 5 minutes later. I gave up at that point.

I knew I should have called Hotels.com right away to cancel, but I was exhausted after a day of dealing with customs, the freight company and Priceline, so I slept on it.

This morning I called Hotels.com (on their easy to find 800 number) to cancel my bookings, again with full expectations of being hit with anti-customer cancellation policies and charges. Ginger from customer care took my call. I explained my situation and let her know that I was aware that these cancellations were last minute, but asked if there was any way to cancel or get a voucher or possibly reschedule. Right away she told me that booking for the Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel had a no cancellation policy, but offered to see what she could do. *Bonus* Before putting me on hold she let me know that it may take a long time, but reassured me that if I hung on she would be back. She was back about 5 minutes and told me that she was able to cancel the Sheraton and give me a full refund. She put me on hold again to look into the booking for today. A few minutes later she came back to let me know that she was able to cancel and refund that booking as well.

Wow both reservations were cancelled and refunded! I didn’t have to plead my case to endless reps and managers, I didn’t have to beg for forgiveness or detail my incompetence. The call was no more than 15 minutes and I only dealt with one person (who was not the slightest bit rude). My expectations were blown away with Hotels.com. Ginger earned Hotels.com a loyal customer today. If only she worked at Customs we probably would not even be in this situation.

— CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER