Tango Diva : Travel Stories for Women, by Women

June 22nd, 2005
Diva Says: Discount Domain Sites Can Be Harmful to Your Bank Balance

 

by Victoria Shepherd

You might want to think twice before booking your fabulous vacation through a less-than-fabulous discount web site. It might cost you more than you expected.

A friend of mine recently made a reservation on a French discounted hotel website. She was getting a real bargain! But unfortunately, within just six hours of making her reservation for three months down the line, she and her husband received news that meant they would have to cancel the reservation made earlier that day. No problem, right? Wrong! When my friend’s credit card statement was pushed through her mailbox later that month, there was a charge of $217, payable to the online reservation company. And this wasn’t a cancellation fee. According to the company’s Terms and Conditions, this was a processing fee to cover the cost of some poor bugger, who probably gets paid no more than $10/hour, tapping the details into the computer.

Now my friend was aware that by checking the “I Agree” box at the time of the reservation, she was entering into a contract. But when, within just 6 hours of saying “I do” she had to say “I can’t,” she presumed she would not be held to the agreement.

Needless to say, because of the poor understanding and customer service of the travel company, my friend has absolutely no desire to visit the 4 star hotel (and highly recommended by Michelin Guide) because the bad seed has been planted.

When I contacted the hotel, in the hope I would be able to shed some light on the matter, I was advised by the Director that they had tried, unsuccessfully as of writing, to have the name of their establishment removed from the website because of an accounting error that had occurred previously and was the fault of (you got it) the discount site.

So be warned. There are companies out there who don’t care if there’s been a death in the family or a medical emergency. Who aren’t actually in the business of travel to be hospitable and provide superior customer service, which will in turn provide them with repeat customers. They’re in it to make money, whether they slurry the name of fine hotels in the process or not.

Always remember to check the Terms and Conditions of any travel company you’re thinking of doing business with. And if you do manage to find yourself an amazing, once in a lifetime deal, and you’re not planning on departing the next day or later that week, think long and hard about the possible penalties. In this thing called life, events happen and we have to roll with the punches and change direction frequently. Can you afford to take the chance?

What bothers this writer more than anything is the fact that it’s usually the people who don’t have money to spare who are taking advantage of these so-called “offers.” But it could end up costing a lot more than you bargained for.

Out of the hundreds of companies out there, there don’t seem to be that many who have lowered themselves to this level, but some companies I would suggest avoiding are:

Hotelsupermarket.com (www.hotelsupermarket.com) Hotelshop.com (www.hotelshop.com) France Hotel Reservations.com (www.europehotelreservation.com)

When I approached the Customer Service Department for France Hotel Reservations.com, I received a heart-warming response from “James,” who didn’t appear to have a last name, saying “So, if your friend found out something unconvenient for her in these “Terms & Conditions,” why did she checked the “I agree” box?” Apart from his delightful grasp of the English language, James’s customer service skills obviously leave a lot to be desired. And since he sent me his literary masterpiece, I have requested his last name but have so far heard nothing.

I will continue investigating this fraudulent matter in the pursuit of fairness. This way of doing business is not big and it’s certainly not clever!

Traveler Beware.

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