Travel Troubleshooter

Travel Troubleshooter: Priceline booking goes awry

Q: I’m a frequent Priceline user and love its services. But I had a technical issue with the Priceline website bidding that resulted in the booking of a room at an inferior star level and in a section of town I did not select.

I recently bid on a room in the Fulton-Gwinnett area of Georgia. As soon as the order went through, I saw that it was not what I had selected on the bidding page. I contacted Priceline to correct the error and asked it to reverse the charges so that I could book the right room.

I thought this was a reasonable request, since the website made the error, not me. Priceline has given me the runaround. The company has not refunded all of my money. What can I do?

John Lancer, Warner Robins, Ga.

A: Priceline should have booked a room in the neighborhood you specified and at the star rating you requested.

You used Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” service, which allows you to bid on a hotel in a particular area and with a specified set of amenities. All purchases are completely nonrefundable.

You allege that you bid on a hotel in one part of the Fulton-Gwinnett area, but that Priceline moved you to a different area when you rebid. You also say Priceline changed the star rating.

Unfortunately, Priceline’s system gets a little tricky when your first bid isn’t accepted. From personal experience, I can tell you that the system comes back to you and asks you to change some of the parameters when you rebid. I’ve also spoken to customers who claim that the system automatically will change the specifications, and that you have to review the details of your next bid carefully. Otherwise, you might bid on a hotel room you don’t want.

You tried going through the right process to get this fixed. You immediately asked Priceline to address this in a phone call. You wrote to the company. You called the Better Business Bureau. Nothing worked.

I contacted Priceline on your behalf, and it subsequently issued you a full refund.

Next time, be sure to look before you book.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the author of “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler.” email him at celliott@ngs.org.

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