Help! The Hotel I Booked Online Became a Homeless Shelter and No One Told Me.

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“A stressful experience when we thought we would have to sleep on a bench in Central Park,” said Erica, from the United States.

And María, from Argentina, made it seem like the number was probably greater than seven. “The people in charge, who I believe were government employees, told us that travelers frequently appeared looking for the hotel,” she wrote in Spanish.

It is hard to tell how to divide the blame between the service representative you spoke to — according to you, at a call center in a faraway country — or the system that trained her. According to Mr. Herran Muro, the company’s record of the call shows that you declined their offer to find alternative reservations. An email I got from the Booking media relations team stated this even more clearly: “Our team supported the guest with relocation options, which were ultimately declined by the guest who opted to wait at the airport for an early flight,” it read.

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When I wrote back to say you had not in fact received any relocation options, they changed their tune and offered you an apology, noting the situation “was not handled correctly and did not meet our high standards of customer service experiences.”

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At the very least, Mr. Herran Muro told me, you should have been passed along to a “second-line” representative who might have then elevated it to a supervisor.

Let’s take a step back to look at how other travelers might reduce the risk of the experience you had. It turns out you slipped through a particularly treacherous version of the biggest crack in 21st century travel: our reliance on online travel agencies, or O.T.A.s, like Booking.com and TripAdvisor and Expedia. Many travelers fail to realize these are mammoth middlemen who often have only superficial knowledge of the services they’re selling and inadequate systems to intervene if something goes wrong.

Booking.com, of course, disagrees. A spokeswoman for the company said in a statement that “in the overwhelming majority of cases, everything does work seamlessly. In the very rare instance that something doesn’t go as expected, our aim is always to ultimately do whatever we can to make it right.”



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