Based on some horrific experiences with them recently, I actually have a list:
- Their prices are actually HIGHER in many cases for a hotel room you can book directly. 9 times out of 10, if I've done a search on Expedia and found that they charge at least a couple of dollars more to book through them (all things in).
- We showed up at a hotel the other night that had no record of our reservation. We understand that mistakes happen. This hotel receives their reservations via fax machine (yep, old skool), so perhaps there was a paper jam that day? Either way, I just wanted options as the hotel was fully booked. I got on the phone with Expedia, who refused to take any responsibility for the mishap. "But ma'am," I said, "I booked at Expedia.com, giving you my credit card and trusting this to be taken care of, yet you say you can't rectify it now? You can't put us in a similar hotel?" Nope. In fact, she indicated that it would take a couple of weeks to refund the money I paid for this hotel room and I would have to pay for whichever replacement hotel room I could find."
- So, being quite upset, I asked to speak to a manager. After being on hold for well over an hour (it was after midnight at this point), I got fed up and found a hotel that cost me 3x the rate of the other hotel. Not only did a manager never manifest, but they don't have a 'system' for calling me back the next day. Apparently, managers at Expedia don't call customers. :|
- Understandably, I was quite put off by this experience, so I went into my itineraries to 'unbook' a hotel and car reservation set in the future. Turns out that they have no tolerance for such things and charged me $34.99 to cancel a booking over 2 weeks into the future. $34.99?!
- I logged back into my account this evening to see that the booking for the hotel that never was is still there, so nothing has been done to begin my refund (obviously, this is why it takes several weeks, right?), so I am now on hold (again), this time for 65 minutes already. I was warned, though, that they are experiencing quite high call volume. No shit. I would assume that if this sort of thing happens often. Oh, wait...it does. (There is an entire site dedicated to awful Expedia stories)
So, the experience continues. I'm weary and now broke and it makes me very angry to think that this company cares so little about its customers but is still in business. How does this happen? And how can we change one or the other variable?
Well, personally, I usually make it a rule to book directly. For some reason, I clicked on the 'expedia' option in kayak.com the last couple of times (or was it pre-clicked? I can't recall). I thought, "What they hey" and booked. I may have been a little lazy that day. But in general, I've found that booking directly with an airline, hotel and/or car rental gets me a better deal than going through a third party site and having experienced multiple issues with third party sites (although they have never extorted money for a cancellation in due time before and have refunded my money promptly for their errors) has kept me from being lazy.
I remember when my mother went to a travel agent to get everything booked. These individuals made very little money, like $15/booking (the agency got kickbacks, though) and provided top notch service. Sites like Expedia came along and pretty much put them all out of business. Now, certainly, in the beginning, it made us our own travel agents and provided awesome deals, but somehow, somewhere along the line, these virtual agents forgot that they are not in the business of booking travel, but they are in the business of easing our minds. That was my mom's travel agent: mind easer.
Well, I've finally learnt my lesson. No more third party sites for me, no matter what 'package deals' they offer. Thankfully, I have Tripit to pull it all together for me (and they are not in the itinerary business, but the business of easing my mind as well), which makes booking on multiple sites a breeze.