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Complaining To PriceLine About Added Resort Fees.

AwayWeGo

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[triennial - points]
PriceLine's web site says that at the hotels, a credit card is required for any additional hotel specific service fees or incidental charges or fees that may be charged by the hotel to the customer at checkout. The charges may be mandatory (e.g., resort fees) or optional (parking, phone calls or minibar charges) and are not included in the customer's offer price.

That feeble disclosure about the resort fees prompted me today to send off the following complaint to PriceLine via their web site, with hard copy via USPS as back-up.


This message is for the PriceLine Complaint Department.

Some hotels & resorts are now adding what they call a daily Resort Fee to the amount they charge for accommodations. PriceLine discloses that, sort of, but without indicating ahead of time whether a particular Name Your Own Price reservation request does or does not involve added Resort Fees & if so the amount of the fee. Plus, even with that weak & incomplete disclosure, there is no way for the customer to check anywhere to find out on his or her own whether a particular Name Your Own Price reservation will or will not involve Resort Fees.

That completely undermines the Name Your Own Price concept. Except for the possibility of unknown Resort Fees, PriceLine does a good job of disclosing the price + tax & fees before the customer pulls the trigger on a Name Your Own Price bid. Without specific advance disclosure of Resort Fees, PriceLine now puts customers in crapshoot mode.

You may say the amount is small -- only $5-$10 or so per day -- but (a) that misses the point & (b) the opportunity to get great reservations at known Name Your Own Price rates is the main appeal of PriceLine. Mess with that (via unknown Resort Fees) & you're chopping away what draws customers like us to PriceLine in the 1st place.

It's not so much the actual Resort Fee that causes major irritation as it is the uncertainty over whether the fee will or will not be charged. If I know ahead of time, I can adjust my Name Your Own Price amount accordingly. Since I don't know (because PriceLine doesn't say), than I can't really Name My Own Price -- all I can do is Partly Name My Own Price.

I don't like it that way, & I would expect PriceLine to tell participating hotels & resorts that it's their obligation to fold their "Resort Fee" into the amount they will or will not accept when PriceLine customers submit Name Your Own Price bids for accommodations. That's not much to ask of the participating hotels & resorts, & doing so would bring back consistency & eliminate uncertainty in PriceLine's famous Name Your Own Price concept, which has been weakened by the current method of dealing with Resort Fees.

BTW -- a similar gripe applies to PriceLine & HotWire & other web sites' advertised hotel & resort prices, when the advertised prices do not include an undisclosed fee that the travelers may be stuck with at check-out (or check-in, mox mix). If there's going to be an added fee, just do the straightforward thing & add it in & show it as part of the advertised price. It's a matter of Full Disclosure & treating customers with respect.

Saying there "may" be an added Resort Fee is no more than partial disclosure at best, is incomplete information for sure, & is unworthy of business dealings by high-quality business operations.

Give customers a break. Disclose all the costs before we commit, not just most costs with a question-mark hanging over possible Resort Fees.

When I show up at a hotel or resort with a PriceLine reservation in hand, that's supposed to be all I pay. When Resort Fees are involved, show those ahead of time, right there on the screen that shows the daily bid amount times the number of days, plus tax, plus PriceLine fees. Just add 1 more line showing the resort fee times the number of days & add that into the total so that I know the complete specific cost of my PriceLine bid before I go past the point of no return. Then if my bid is accepted, collect from me all that's due for the reservation -- Resort Fee & all -- & add that to what you pay the hotel, the same as you do with the rest of the money the hotel gets for that reservation. When I pay for my hotel stay via PriceLine, that's supposed to be everything that I pay -- all fees, all taxes, everything. I don't want to pay PriceLine & then pay more at the hotel. Show all the costs ahead of time, charge all those costs when the PriceLine bid is accepted, & keep it simple for the customer. That's not much to ask, & it will go a long way toward restoring my satisfaction in logging into PriceLine to bid for travel.


If PriceLine responds, I will report back via TUG-BBS.

Alan Cole, McLean (Fairfax County), Virginia, USA.​
 

ampaholic

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I have never used Priceline - but I have used both Hotwire and RCI Points Partners for hotels in recent years and with both what I paid online was all I was required to pay.

One Red Lion hotel we got with Hotwire did take an imprint with the CC but nothing was charged.

Maybe what Alan is experiencing is a "Priceline" trick?
 

T_R_Oglodyte

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I have never used Priceline - but I have used both Hotwire and RCI Points Partners for hotels in recent years and with both what I paid online was all I was required to pay.

One Red Lion hotel we got with Hotwire did take an imprint with the CC but nothing was charged.

Maybe what Alan is experiencing is a "Priceline" trick?
No - it's a trick that is done by the hotels in their pricing. Many hotels in certain locales add a mandatory "resort fee" to the rate they quote. Ostensibly it is to cover the cost of certain facilities that are made available when the resort is part of some type of planned development. There is no way to waive the charges, even if you don't use any of the facilities. But by breaking it out separately they make their room rates appear more reasonable.

When those hotels participate with Priceline or Hotwire, the rates they give to PL and HW are their rate without the added fees.

I've been sucked in by these charges on HW, PL, and when booking directly with the resort.
 

AwayWeGo

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Not Just PriceLine (Unfortunately).

Maybe what Alan is experiencing is a "Priceline" trick?
HotWire does it too.

-- Alan Cole, McLean (Fairfax County), Virginia, USA.​
 

Talent312

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Theoretically, both direct pay and voucher guests are hit with these "resort" fees the same, whether booked thru PL, HW or the hotel-chain's website, and thus neutral in its application. Except that, on the hotel-chain's or any other booking website, the reservation page contains a clear and unambiguous statement of the specific amount of the fee.

It wouldn't take much IT for them to find and list any one hotel's "resort" fee.
IMHO, the failure of any booking service to list the exact fee is both lazy and disingenuous.
 

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Same thing with car rentals. But the local fees/mandatory insurance are not always disclosed when booking.
 

rickandcindy23

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The Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando charged $12 per day for parking, $9.95 per day for internet. We booked through Hotwire and were shocked at the fees. We stayed two nights, so our cheap rate was more than we thought we were getting. Very discouraging for us in using Hotwire. We used the internet the full 24 hours and didn't sign in again after the first 24.
 

T_R_Oglodyte

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Same thing with car rentals. But the local fees/mandatory insurance are not always disclosed when booking.
I have never had to pay any mandatory added fees or insurance for car rentals when using either Prceline "Name your own price" or Hotwire. In my experience those are always included in the fixed price.

The only absolutely mandatory fee I have ever been tagged on a supposed fixed price from PL or HW is the "resort" fee mentioned above.
 

AwayWeGo

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That Was Quick -- Kiss-Off Received In Record Time.

PriceLine "Customer Service," if you can call it that, has replied to my complaint about not disclosing resort fees before committing to a Buy It Now hotel offer on PriceLine -- they only say there "may" be such fees.

The complaint says those fees should not only be disclosed before the customer commits, but that they should be rolled into the total charged by PriceLine so that when people show up with a paid PriceLine reservation, no further charges are added by the hotel or resort.

Here's the "Customer Service" response, received this evening:


Thank you for taking the time to send us an e-mail. We understand that you are concerned about the additional resort fees that the hotels charge and you would not like to pay it.

Your confirmed hotel may charge your card certain mandatory hotel specific service fees. For example, resort fees (which typically apply to resort type destinations and, if applicable, may range from $10 to $40 per day), energy surcharges, newspaper delivery fees, in-room safe fees, tourism fees, or housekeeping fees and/or certain optional incidental fees, for example, parking charges, minibar charges, phone calls, room service and movie rentals, etc. These charges, if applicable, will be payable by you to the hotel directly at check-out. This information is provided to you on the contract page prior to purchase.

For specific information on additional hotel fees, we ask that you contact the hotel directly as they will be applying these charges.

We thank you for the opportunity to assist you and hope you find this information helpful.

Sincerely,

Customer Service Specialist


The information is not specially helpful, in that it adds nothing to the lame disclosure already shown on the pre-bid PriceLine screen.

PriceLine does not identify Name Your Own Price hotels & resorts until the customer's winning bid has been accepted. The issue complained about is not knowing & not being able to find out whether there will or will not be a resort fee added before going past the point of no return on a Name Your Own Price offer -- that & having to pay the resort fee, when there is 1, to the hotel or resort. (By me, that should be collected by PriceLine along with the rest of the money involved in a winning Name Your Own Price offer.)

Maybe if there is a crescendo of complaints, PriceLine will reconsider the wisdom of sticking customers with this situation instead of requiring participating hotels & resorts to roll their resort fees, if any, into their fully disclosed rates. I am not holding out much hope that (a) there will be a flood of complaints or (b) that PriceLine will reconsider.

-- Alan Cole, McLean (Fairfax County), Virginia, USA.​
 

amycurl

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In my experience, if you want some kind of systemic change in a large corporation, contacting customer service mean just spinning your wheels. Even their response had a "keyword" mentally--"Oh, he mentioned 'resort fees!' Send him 'resort fee' response A!"--that assumed a different issue (that you didn't want to pay it) rather than what you complained about (which is that you didn't *know* what the amount you were expected to pay was.)

Go on their corporate website and send detailed information about what your issue is to either the 1) VP of Marketing/PR and/or 2)Investor Relations. Be sure to mention that you're publicly posting about this issue in multiple online forums. Provide the link.

I think it's especially problematic for the response to say, "we suggest you contact the hotel directly," if you don't KNOW the hotel until you've pulled the trigger--thereby making it *impossible* for you to confirm the final, actually cost.

It also wouldn't hurt to say that if they don't take this seriously, you'll be happy to contact your AG office, because it's basically a form a fraud, IMHO.
 

AwayWeGo

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[triennial - points]
Keeping Those Wheels A-Spinning.

In my experience, if you want some kind of systemic change in a large corporation, contacting customer service mean just spinning your wheels. Even their response had a "keyword" mentally--"Oh, he mentioned 'resort fees!' Send him 'resort fee' response A!"--that assumed a different issue (that you didn't want to pay it) rather than what you complained about (which is that you didn't *know* what the amount you were expected to pay was.)

Go on their corporate website and send detailed information about what your issue is to either the 1) VP of Marketing/PR and/or 2)Investor Relations. Be sure to mention that you're publicly posting about this issue in multiple online forums. Provide the link.

I think it's especially problematic for the response to say, "we suggest you contact the hotel directly," if you don't KNOW the hotel until you've pulled the trigger--thereby making it *impossible* for you to confirm the final, actually cost.

It also wouldn't hurt to say that if they don't take this seriously, you'll be happy to contact your AG office, because it's basically a form a fraud, IMHO.
I'm sure you're right in all respects. The question is whether I care enough to make it a campaign. Chances are that I don't have the stamina for it.

However that may be, I gave the wheels another spin by replying to the response from "Customer Service," to wit . . .


Dear Customer Service:

Thank you for your prompt response.

Unfortunately the information you gave is not specially helpful because it adds nothing to the incomplete disclosure that's already shown on the pre-bid PriceLine screen.

PriceLine does not identify Name Your Own Price hotels & resorts until the customer's winning bid has been accepted. That makes it impossible to know whether the hotel does or does not charge a mandatory added fee until it is too late to take that into consideration before committing to a Name Your Own Price bid. Knowing in advance that the hotel "may" add a mandatory fee is unsatisfactory. Customers need to know, in advance, specifically whether there will or will not be an added mandatory fee.

Optional hotel & resort fees (room service, telephone, etc.) are not a problem.

Added mandatory fees ARE a problem because they are not specifically disclosed until after it is too late to refuse them.

Ideally, PriceLine will no longer allow participating hotels to add those fees separately -- i.e., PriceLine will require hotels to fold mandatory fees (but not optional fees) into the prices the hotels will accept.

An acceptable but less than ideal solution is also available. When mandatory hotel & resort fees are involved, PriceLine could solve the non-disclosure problem by adding 1 more step to the Name Your Own Price process.

When a customer's Name Your Own Price offer is accepted, but there is an undisclosed mandatory fee also, PriceLine can add 1 more screen saying, Congratulations -- Your Bid Has Been Accepted -- Note that this hotel charges a mandatory daily fee of $______ -- Click Here to accept the reservation & pay the mandatory fee directly to the hotel at check-out -- Click Here to if you do NOT want to accept this reservation.

The main complaint is not knowing & not being able to find out whether there will or will not be a resort fee added before going past the point of no return on a Name Your Own Price offer. One way or another, PriceLine needs to fix this problem.

Sincerely,

Alan Cole, McLean VA


Meanwhile, I'm waiting to see whether I also get anything from PriceLine Command Central in response to the hard copy of my earlier complaint that I sent via USPS. If so, & if that's also a kiss-off, I may fire back a follow-up along the lines of the material above that I E-Mailed back to (pardon the expression) "Customer Service." If I do, I will take your suggestion about calling attention to the appropriate internet links.

Onward & upward.

-- Alan Cole, McLean (Fairfax County), Virginia, USA.​
 

amycurl

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Great response. We found we got satisfaction pretty quickly when we moved "upward," if for no other reason than that person was able to fully grasp the impact of the problem and had the power to fully act to correct the issue. But I agree about making the time vs. benefit ROI calculation.
 

Talent312

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A complaint to the Federal Trade Commission might not hurt, either.
I dunno if they'd want to tangle with PL, but you have an interstate beef.
 

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How about posting this on their facebook page. ;)
 

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Great response. We found we got satisfaction pretty quickly when we moved "upward," if for no other reason than that person was able to fully grasp the impact of the problem and had the power to fully act to correct the issue. But I agree about making the time vs. benefit ROI calculation.
Never accept a "no" for someone who lacks the power to give you a "yes". - An old consumer advocate saw.
 

Sandi Bo

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My only experience with priceline was excellent. We were in the Boston area and picked up a super cheap hotel close to a relative we were visiting. We got two rooms with two double beds each. There were 7 or 8 of us, no extra charge, free breakfast for everyone. They even gave us connecting rooms. The customer service was excellent. We did have to pay for parking (but expected that in Boston).

Fast forward, I highly recommended priceline to a friend who was travelling to Chicago. She rented a room with two double beds for 3 people. The fees tacked on were absolutely ridiculous. There was an extra person fee and parking, both very high. She ended up complaining to priceline and they cancelled the transaction and reimbursed her.

I was embarrassed that I got her into that situation. I haven't used priceline since, the hidden fees are too ambiguous for me.
 

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I think the simplest fix (which Alan also suggests) is for hotels not to accept a bid if the bid isn't enough to cover their lowest rate plus whatever resort fee there may be. For example if a hotel is going to charge a $25 "resort fee" and the min they would take for the room absent any fee is $100 then they should accept no bid lower than $125. In this instance everyone wins; customer gets a room at a rate they were happy to pay while the hotel gets a happy customer who may return. In the current situation, the customer is upset with Priceline and the hotel for what is seen as a bait-and-switch situation, and since the customer is upset they may never use PL again or stay at said hotel (and might also post on a site like this letting 1,000's of others know how bad both are).

Seems silly for hotels and PL to take this risk over $25.
 

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The other option is if you are not happy with the resort fees, call for a refund after purchase.
 

donnaval

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I got hit with a "mandatory" fee on a car rental for the toll booth gizmo - which I did not want, and did not need at all during my rental. It added $15 to the cost. That's not a huge amount of money but it was aggravating. I haven't used Priceline since then, not saying I won't ever again, but it soured me on the service.
 

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Priceline is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.

I'm fine with that when it comes to chocolates. When it comes to hotels, not so much.

You have a valid complaint when it comes to the add-on fees, Alan, but I'm not sure Priceline values your business enough to make the additional disclosures you are seeking. If they lose enough clients over the lack of disclosure of these fees, they may make some changes...but I doubt that pressure from a few TUGGERS will be enough. Priceline's business model is not built on customer service. It is built on cheap, cheap, cheap.

If you want customer service, full disclosure, and any control over your hotel stays, you're definitely better off booking on each hotel chain's own website. I think the control and service are worth it, even if you can't get luxury hotels for Motel 6 and Super 8 prices.

Steve
 

AwayWeGo

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Revving Up The Motor When The Snow Tires Are Already Spinning.

Great response. We found we got satisfaction pretty quickly when we moved "upward," if for no other reason than that person was able to fully grasp the impact of the problem and had the power to fully act to correct the issue. But I agree about making the time vs. benefit ROI calculation.
Before escalating my gripe to corporate headquarters, I sent PriceLine 1 more response to my earlier reply to their initial response.

The 2nd come-back from "customer service" says . . .


Thank you for taking the time to send us an e-mail. We understand that you are unhappy, as you believe that the customers are not getting advised about the mandatory fees at the time of submitting the request.

Before you submitted the request, we asked you to review and initial a contract page where the total taxes and fees charged by priceline were shown. This page allows to review all the information that customer enters at the time of submitting the request. In addition, it clearly stated the conditions regarding the products and services reserved through us. Please note that all reservations are non-changeable.

We thank you for the opportunity to assist you and hope you find this information helpful.

Sincerely,

Customer Service Specialist


The Devil made me send back the following reply . . .

Dear Customer Service,

Thank you for responding -- although PriceLine's policy about mandatory fee disclosure is still not satisfactory.

All PriceLine discloses on that page the customer is asked to sign & initial is a indication that the hotel MAY charge a mandatory resort fee. PriceLine gives no indication of whether there WILL or will NOT actually be a mandatory fee, & because hotel identity remains hidden till after a Name Your Own Price offer is accepted, there is no way for the customer to call & find out before committing to a signed & initialed PriceLine offer.

Unsatisfactory -- and unnecessary.

In contrast with PriceLine's unhelpful semi-disclosure, HotWire Dot Com at least informs customers, before they commit, when a hotel or resort DOES charge a resort fee, & HotWire tells customers the approximate amount.

We have used PriceLine's Name Your Own Price feature for travel accommodations for several years, mostly with success & satisfaction. Continuing with PriceLine is now in question because of PriceLine's needless & counterproductive murkiness over those mandatory resort fee disclosures.

HotWire has shown it doesn't have to be that way. PriceLine's practice of doing it that way anyhow is customer-unfriendly. Not only that, incomplete disclosure of mandatory fees, in advance, undermines the Name Your Own Price concept, which is unique to PriceLine & which is the feature that -- until recently -- kept us coming back.

Alan Cole, McLean VA


Even though I am just an old retired guy with nothing much to do, I don't feature letting this back & forth with "customer service" keep going much longer. About all it's good for is setting a foundation for anything that I might later decide to put on paper & send to the PriceLine suits up in Connecticut.

So it goes.

-- Alan Cole, McLean (Fairfax County), Virginia, USA.​
 

T_R_Oglodyte

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Keep at it Alan, but also keep in mind that Priceline's overall strategy involves de-emphasizing, if not ultimately eliminating, the "Name Your Own Price" feature. Essentially the current leadership is trying to make Priceline into an on-line travel agency, like Expedia.

It's a strategy I don't get - what makes them think they can out-Expedia Expedia?
 

AwayWeGo

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What Will They Do With Head Negotiator Wm. Shatner When They Become Another Expedia?

Keep at it Alan, but also keep in mind that Priceline's overall strategy involves de-emphasizing, if not ultimately eliminating, the "Name Your Own Price" feature. Essentially the current leadership is trying to make Priceline into an on-line travel agency, like Expedia.

It's a strategy I don't get - what makes them think they can out-Expedia Expedia?
For sure -- & why would they weaken the 1 feature that makes them unique in a crowded & competitive field ?

By me, the deal with PriceLine is that I snag accommodations of known quality for my price, plus known taxes & fees, so that when I show up & check in, that's all I pay for my accommodations (more for phone calls, minibar, room service, etc., but only if I actually use those). Hiding mandatory added resort fees undermines all that.

PriceLine is chipping away at my brand loyalty.

I feel myself starting to move more toward HotWire & away from PriceLine.

-- Alan Cole, McLean (Fairfax County), Virginia, USA.​
 

amycurl

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I'm a HotWire girl myself. ;)

Yes, definitely spinning your wheels with "Customer Service." Depending on how much you care, moving upward seems to be the only way to go.

I also think it's weird that they want to compete on a wider field by letting go of their one competitive advantage.

Some companies, boy, I don't know.... :p
 
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