Planning a vacation can be a fun and trying experience. Being that most people only have one or two weeks of vacation time to plan around, it is important to get the right package to meet your time and travel needs. In a perfect world, money would be no object for such trips but often times finding the right price supersedes all else, which is a big reason why online travel sites have grown in popularity and accessibility. In my experience, most travel sites have not steered me wrong. I have managed to save money on trips to Europe, San Francisco and Las Vegas flying on reputable airlines and staying in high class hotels. Unfortunately Priceline has not afforded me the same positive results in terms of vacation package booking. Following are ten reasons why you should use an alternate online travel agency when planning a trip.
1 – No Refunds or Changes. Regardless of the circumstances whether they are cancelled flights or dirty hotels, Priceline will not authorize a refund or travel change to you.
2 – Customer Service. Perhaps this should be renamed Customer Disservice. On a recent vacation to the Bahamas, my initial flight was postponed a day. Though I was aware of the no refund policy, I wanted to speak with a representative over the phone. My attempts were in vain. Calls were either disconnected or placed on hold for hours.
3 – Online Difficulties. When I finally got in touch with a live human being, I was asked for my itinerary number so they could look up the reservation. Even though the number was correct, they could not see it because the trip was in progress. It was incredibly perplexing to think that a web based company did not have full access to my account.
4 – Hidden Fees. Priceline fees and surcharges can be higher than those charged by travel agents and airlines. This is especially true of hotels. I was billed $50 a day for electricity at the Nassau Palm Resort in the Bahamas even though the lights went out several times and my room card regularly malfunctioned. When I disputed the charges with my credit card company, their hands were tied since the fees were mainly controlled by Priceline.
5 – Shaky BBB History. In 2000, Priceline was kicked out of the Connecticut Better Business Bureau after the agency was overwhelmed with complaints. Priceline claims to have made improvements and the BBB has reinstated Priceline but the alarming precedent has been set.
6 – False Advertising. Looking through my past itinerary, the Nassau Palm Resort was listed as a three star hotel. Checking today the rating has been properly downgraded to two. While the correction will be helpful to future travelers, the former rating cost most me hundreds of dollars.
7 – Credit Card Security. The main hook to Priceline has been the Name Your Own Price feature. Basically, the customer puts in a bid for a flight, hotel or vacation including credit card information. I was amazed researching this on complaints.com the number of times the credit card was charges without the consumer issuing final approval.
8 – Free Market Choice. Priceline does not have a monopoly on online travel. There are many sites to choose from. Hotwire is similar to Priceline in that to get the best price on hotels you are only given a rating to go by. Upon booking, you are emailed the confirmation with the hotel name. I have used Hotwire many times. Their ratings are always accurate. I have nothing but praise for Hotwire.
9 – Internal Distractions. With a growing emphasis on expanding in the loan and mortgage arena, your travel needs may fall through the cyber cracks.
10 – Captain Kirk. Priceline’s main celebrity spokesperson is William Shatner. I mean, come on!