Saturday, August 8, 2009

Buyer Beware

I want to take a moment, gentle readers, to talk about travel in this time of unemployment and recession. And about those people who are only out to make a buck off of you, no matter what.

Recently, a friend of mine made a purchase from Hotwire for a hotel room. She knew she wouldn't know the name of the hotel. No problem. She didn't care about that. She picked her area. She picked her rate. She hit OK. And when she got her hotel confirmation, it wasn't even near the area she had picked. She knew no refunds, but she called them up, thinking there had been a mistake, thinking that they would be helpful - because she had put in a certain area and been told the hotel was in that area and, when it clearly wasn't, wouldn't they want to help her?

The answer, probably not to anyone's surprise, was a resounding "no". They didn't care about the fact that the hotel was in a bad part of town. They didn't care that they had grossly misrepresented the area. They just cared that they had her money and they weren't going to give it back - or let her put it towards anything else.

Before the comments come about how they clearly state that they give no refunds, I know. And she knew. Her problem was not that she couldn't get her money back - it's that now she's stuck staying miles away from the area she thought she was staying in, in a less than desirable part of town. She's now forced into spending money that she wasn't planning on spending on cabs because there's not the public transportation in the area where the hotel actually is (but there is in the area she thought she was getting).

It's probably too late to do anything to help my friend out - unless her credit card company comes through for her - she's stuck staying in a place where she feels not only cheated, but unsafe. And for what? So Hotwire can make a couple hundred bucks? I hope, when you are looking to save a bit on your travel expenses that you will recall this posting and make sure to use any service other than Hotwire (and their sister company They seem to have forgotten not only the policies of good customer service and truth in advertising, but in basic human decency.

In these days, when even those who are employed need to count their pennies, I just want to remind all of you out there to beware of deals that look too good to be true, to pay close attention to the fine print and, as always, "caveat emptor".


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Briana,
    PLEASE tell your friend to email Consumerist her story. Actually, hell, I'll forward them the link/story on your blog. While it may not change the situation currently, most companies do not like negative things about them on Consumerist (and hopefully your friend can get a refund or at least an APOLOGY).

    [I don't represent Consumerist whatsoever. I just think they're a great, informative website and that situations like these can possibly be improved by some responsible publicity.]

  3. Sorry to hear about this... the increased cost and unsafe area will definitely make the trip less enjoyable. Something to note is that just because a company's policy states "no refunds" does not make it a binding policy, and it actually may not be legal (especially if they misrepresent what they're selling).

    Filing a complaint with her credit card company is probably the fastest way for her to get the money refunded. She should definitely do this, and I'm sure it's not the first time that Hotwire's had a complaint...

    She can also file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (I've had success with them and a "no refunds" policy in the past), but this can take longer.

    Consumerist is great (and I think they'd love this one), but they have so many stories that they do & may not pick up on this one in time.

    Best of luck!

  4. I'm sorry this happened to your friend. My dad died in January and I made reservations for hotel and airfare through Hotwire. I don't drive and didn't know the Dayton, OH area well. I made an educated guess, which I found out the next day was the worst choice I could have picked. The hotel I chose was ompletely in the wrong direction. I called Hotwire and (it wasn't easy) but they were very gracious and made another reservation without charging me extra. I was amazed at how nice they were because I knew when I called there were no refunds. AGain, I'm sorry your friend had the opposite experience and I hope all turns out well.

  5. Thanks, everyone, for your comments and your advice. My friend has been working hard to figure out what to do - the main concern is that the neighborhood the hotel she booked in 2.5 miles away from the neighborhood that Hotwire indicated. And it's not the nicest, to be polite, neighborhood.

    She has a letter of complaint with her bank, filed one with Hotwire and has also sent all the correspondence to the Better Business Bureau. It looks like Hotwire, as they are a major corporation (and, I mean, it's only a recession - fuck the little guy) will win this hand and she will have to stay in this hotel.

    It's a bummer, but she has written to tell me that she really appreciates everyone's support.