So far I’m not a big fan of Priceline.
And after being on my most recent travels, I’m not sure I like Viator either.
I’ve worked with many travel professionals over the years. And while convenient, Priceline and Viator are making life a little more difficult for travel professionals to earn a living while not always providing the same level of service.
Case in point, I just got back from a multi-city, multi -transportation, multi-excursion trip. I was in Venice Florence, Rome, Mykonos, Santorini, Kusadasi, Montecatini, Stresa and Crete. Within 2 weeks I traveled by plane, train, automobile, bus boat and ship. Everything worked perfectly. My connecting flight through international terminals was seamless, my excursions were perfectly timed, my bus rides and high speed train rides were all well coordinated and I owe that all to very dedicated travel professionals.
So when I come home and venturedl off to go see my granddaughter in Texas. I felt confident that the plans that I had made via Priceline, and followed up with the properties and the car rental after making the original reservations, would go equally as smoothly. Not so much.
I flew Southwest Airlines, which has been having some issues lately but had never let me down in the past. My plane was an hour and a half late getting into Baltimore, but the flight was fine and we got into Houston by 1:30 a.m. We headed to the baggage carousel, and watched and waited as most of the plane collected their baggage. We stood there. Waiting for another 10 minutes until finally our bags came out on a different carousel. Okay, we have our bags and we’re in Houston so time to find my son.
The pickup area at Hobby airport was very busy, so my son had parked his car and after finding one another we headed off towards my hotel. The hotel I’d booked through Priceline. The hotel I had called to let them know that my flight was coming in after midnight and that I would be arriving late. The hotel that told me that would be fine and that they’d make a note in my folio.
When I arrived, hubby and I got out our goods and went into the foyer where we made a huge mistake. We said bye to our son with the thought that of course our room would be waiting for us. When we walked in there was a young couple with two small children who were pacing the foyer peering behind the registration counter where everything was ominously dark. They told us that the registration desk was closed and the woman had just left telling them that all rooms were booked and that their reservations that they had made through Priceline as well, had been canceled. Now I don’t know if this young couple had called the Wyndham Gardens, Houston, to let them know they were going to be late, but I felt I was safe because I had done so.
We waited for 30 minutes and no employee showed up anywhere. Even if they didn’t have any rooms, how can a hotel leave its front doors open and the lobby accessible without a key card and just have their front desk personnel up and disappear? So I called the property and the phone rang and rang and rang and rang and no one ever answered. Next I called Wyndham itself, where I got the main registration personnel. I explained that I was sitting in the lobby and that I had called the hotel and that I was stranded. The reservation offices had seen my reservation and they told me that it had been canceled as a no-show. Considering I had taken steps specifically to avoid this situation, I was frustrated.
The Wyndham reservation desk looked around and found a property within walking distance. Called and made sure that there was a room available for us and set up a reservation. We gathered our belongings, walked across parking lots and fields and got to the super 8 motel. There the gentleman checked me in, charged the wrong person’s card and then charged mine and gave me my keys to my room at 4:30 a.m. I had to pay an entire night’s fee for what will end up being a seven hour rental.
Currently, my husband is waiting at the airport to pick up our rental car, whose reservation expires at 10:00 a.m., and he’s been there for over an hour. We had to pay for this rental car starting yesterday at 10:00 a.m., but the car agency is closed at night so we couldn’t get our car until this morning.
One thing I will say, I did call Priceline and explain about the hotel, and thankfully my non-refundable hotel was refunded to me. The car reservation was still valid so I’m confident we’ll get the car, and then spend our morning moving to another hotel facility where I made reservations for the remainder of my trip directly with the hotel.
This is not how I wanted to spend one of my few days with my brand new granddaughter that I haven’t met yet.
Oh and why am I not happy with Viator? Because at multiple turns while I was on my grand adventure last week, I heard tales from travelers about the tours and cars and transfers they had reserved through Viator which had either not shown up or were subpar. And just like Priceline, Viator is essentially a clearinghouse of providers. I’m not saying that Priceline and Viator are not providing a service of sorts, but they don’t really follow up or follow through with the people they partner with. So you never quite know whether you ‘ve gotten a provider that is a professional, or someone who doesn’t really care if they leave you stranded in the middle of the night. That’s my ultimate issue with these clearing house travel providers. A travel professional cares, and will go to great lengths, to make sure you, their customer, are well taken care of. Because that’s the industry they’re in; hospitality. Not a clearinghouse for booking.