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    MOLFT: Episode 1 (Priceline sucks)

    I'm usually an easy customer. It doesn't take much to please me. Just treat me fair and show me respect. Work with me if you've made a mistake. Just basic, simple stuff.

    Do this and I'm yours forever. Because I'm loyal, too. I'll return over and over again to your business and I'll sing your praises to everyone I know. is a company that fits this bill. If I can find it on Amazon, I'm buying it there, even though they include sales tax now in New York and their prices are rarely the best available. In years and years of buying stuff on Amazon, they have rarely done me wrong, and when they have, they quickly made it right.

    But if you do something stupid, even if it's something little, and treat me like you don't care about having me as a customer, then it's bad news. As Bruce Banner often warned potential transgressors, 'Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." No matter how much I may like your product or service, if you cross me and don't make amends, I will never spend another dollar with you again.

    A couple of years ago, I started using a JetBlue AmEx credit card almost exclusively, spending thousands and thousands of dollars on it so that I could earn free tickets on an airline I absolutely loved (the new planes, the leg room, the fair pricing, the friendly employees, the TVs - just awesome).

    Then I found out that their much-advertised promise that your miles will never expire as long as you use the credit card wasn't quite accurate - the miles may technically not expire, but once you fly or spend enough so that those miles turn into a free ticket award, that ticket does expire. It's a joke of a system, and while I should have read the fine print more closely, I thought the company was being deliberately misleading. And I didn't realize this until it was too late and a couple tickets expired.

    When I continued to get canned negative responses to my elaborate, detailed requests to have an expired free ticket reinstated, I told JetBlue I was tearing up the card and using the airline only out of necessity or convenience. It wasn't an easy decision, but as a customer, sending your dollars elsewhere is the only recourse you really have. Dell (a classic story of corporate arrogance and ineptitude) and AT&T Wireless are two other companies to which I have vowed not to send any more of my money.

    (I may relax the AT&T ban since their offense of atrocious customer service was many years ago, and I can at least rationalize to myself that it's a new company now that they've merged with Cingular - but mostly I just really want an Iphone. I hear AT&T's service still sucks, however, and I really like my current provider T-Mobile, a company that knows how to treat its customers)

    Unfortunately, Priceline has become the first My One Least Favorite Thing of the week award recipient, and may soon become the next blacklisted company on my shopping shit list.

    Until yesterday, I've always loved using Priceline, so when I wanted to find a reasonably priced four-star or better hotel on the Las Vegas Strip for a trip I'm planning there this Labor Day, it was one of the first sites I checked out. Unfortunately, my 'Name Your Own Price' bid was accepted by a hotel - the Westin Casuarina - which markets itself as an 'off-strip' venue. Granted its only a block and a half off the strip - but these are Vegas blocks we're talking about here, and in any case, it's more a matter of principle.

    Now Priceline says that the area I checked was 'Strip Vicinity' and that the Casuarina is located within that region. But as I told them in my letter, I'm no cartographer; how am I supposed to know which hotels are within the poorly defined shaded circles on the map - the site gives you no way of checking in advance, a sorely lacking feature. All I know is when I clink on a box saying I want a 'Strip' hotel I should get a Strip hotel.

    Priceline has a policy where they cannot cancel or change a reservation made using their 'Name Your Own Price' system. I understand that policy as a general rule, given that the whole reason hotels agree to offer their rooms to users at much lower rates is because they believe they are dealing with brand-indifferent consumers. But there are times when exceptions must be made, or at the very least something should be offered as a way to compensate an aggrieved consumer, perhaps a significant discount on a future purchase.

    Again, maybe I should have been a more diligent researcher. But I wasn't trying to game the system, and the bottom line is I didn't get what I expected or wanted. Why can't the company make a relatively small gesture to keep me happy and a returning customer?

    What truly pissed me off the most about the experience was the hour-long call to the customer service hotline, where two different agents did nothing more than repeat the line - over and over again, like it was some sort of holy mantra - 'I'm sorry. Our contract with the hotels does not allow us to refund or cancel your reservation.'

    I stayed as calm as I could, begged them to go off script for a second, to just really listen to me for a moment, and at least pretend to understand where I'm coming from. But they were no better than robots.

    Afterward, I sent an email to management, which I think was pretty clever (attached below). Alas, I don't expect a response, at least not one of the non-canned variety.

    And if I don't get one, it's goodbye Mr. Shatner and Priceline, and hello Hotwire. My business may not mean much to them and they may not give a damn, but it will sure make me feel better.

    Kinda like this blog post.

    Microsoft Office document icon priceline.doc27 KB


    I don't know, guy. Looks like like you're 500 feet or so from Flamingo and Bellagio; that's pretty central. It's a nice, polite letter but I don't really see that you're getting ripped off. That's a pretty good price.

    Call Grand Canyon Airlines at 1-800-528-2413, and book one of their chopper flights through the canyon; they'll pick you up at the hotel. It costs a bit but will put your concerns about hotel accommodations into perspective.

    Hi Acanuck,

    I understand and appreciate your frustration but the Westin is an easy walk to the Strip although slightly longer than 500 ft. (you're right about Vegas blocks)
    I lived in Vegas for 10 years and the Westin is where the old Maxim use to be, right across from Bally's. (less than a minute walk on the E.Flamingo side) If you're not familair with Vegas that doesn't mean anything so you will have to trust me when I say, it's an easy walk. (and I'm not big on walking)

    As a former local I abhor the Strip and tried to stay away at all cost so I happen to think you're in a great location (you can catch the monorail from Bally's to maneuver up and down the Strip if you want to save steps)

    Good luck have fun and break the bank, I don't think you'll be disappointed once you actually see the location.




    oops, that comment was for Deadman...sorry



    Thanks M for the reassurance. You're probably right. If I had called Priceline and they had told me, something oh my, i totally see why you think you were misled, and we should definitely work on telling people which hotels they may end up getting when they select an area, I probably would have been fine.

    You're welcome Deadman and you're right again, sometimes an apology (be it your fault or not) with a reasonable explanation is all it takes. I use to work for a whole sale reservation comapny in Vegas and personally enjoyed the challenge of making people happy spending thier money with us, especsially when they didn't get exactly what they wanted and or expected.Cool

    Sadly, the art of customer service seems to have been lost but if it's any consolation, it's possible the people you spoke with were not in Vegas and didn't have  clue where the hotel was. That means it would have been difficult to reassure you about the location. Sometimes people have difficulty aknowledging they don't know something or they are wrong. How we managed to raise a nation of insecure people is beyond me but hey, I'm old, what do I know....LOL


    Again, have fun!



    i'm terrified of heights and get easily nauseous. nothing sounds more dreadful than that flight. but i guess you were trying to make a larger point, eh? kinda like watching Americans riot when the Lakers win the championship, and Iranians riot when they're denied basic fundamental rights.

    trust me, i do keep things in perspective, I don't lose sleep over it, I just disapprove of corporate inflexibility and want companies to know in almost every purchase I have a choice as to where to shop.

    I think I'm being reasonable - I dont think anyone would consider the Westin a Strip hotel. And again, mainly I just got upset at the customer service - unfairly, of course, since they likely don't have the power to do anything else, but I wish they could at least pretend to care.

    The Lakers won a championship?

    I was recently burned by Priceline by their refusal to cancel or change a car rental reservation.  I am sufficiently annoyed to start a class action lawsuit against Priceline.  Would you like to participate (no cost to you) as a plaintiff?

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