No. of Recommendations: 22
OK, let's take an analytical look at this:

FOOL ON THE HILL
An Investment Opinion


For starters, I see nothing here about an "investment opinion." The entire article is at best a customer service issue.


Why I'm Never Using priceline Again
By Yi-Hsin Chang (TMF Puck)
March 13, 2000

[...]
It all started a couple weeks back, when I bid for two roundtrip tickets to London for my hubby and me using priceline.com. I bid $150 a ticket and filled out some promotional application form from Discover Card that would add an additional $35 ($70 total) in "sponsor dollars" to my bid. Why not, right? I can always cancel the card. It was the largest bonus of the promotional offers and seemed the most painless.


First of all, style point here: The Discover Card promotion is mentioned here but never mentioned again in this story. What is its relevance? Why include it here? It neither supports nor contrasts the main point of this article--problems with priceline.com.

Following the parameters set by priceline, I selected the departure and return dates, and I agreed to fly out of New York from one of three airports -- JFK, LaGuardia, or Newark, New Jersey. The kicker was I also agreed to depart "any time, midnight to midnight, on [my] date of travel, and [I] agree[d] to make at least one connection each way." I figured we wouldn't actually have to make a connection on the trip. It's New York to London -- where could one logically stop? I mean, you can't stop in the middle of the Atlantic, right?

OK, so here, the author notes in her own words that she agreed to:
(1) Fly from JFK, LaGuardia, or Newark.
(2) Fly any time of day.
(3) Make a connection.

The rhetorical question asking "...where could one logically stop? I mean, you can't stop in the middle of the Atlantic, right?" shows a lot of naivety. Apparently, she learned a lesson: Airlines route passengers through hubs. This is NOT Priceline's doing, nor is it their fault. Personally, I may not have expected Germany, but Amsterdam or Paris would have been highly probable. The writer, in using priceline, chose to use all carriers out there. In doing so, she is submitting herself to travelling by their rules--in this case, through a hub system.

I submitted my request along with my credit card information and waited to hear back from priceline. I got an e-mail message within an hour, as promised, that told me that my bid was unsuccessful but that I could resubmit and increase my chances by changing my bid.

[...]
Surprisingly, it specifically said there was no need to change the dollar amount of my bid. I fiddled with the dates and resubmitted my request.

[...]
Still, no luck. Finally, on my fourth or fifth attempt, I upped my bid to $165 a ticket from $150, even though priceline said I didn't need to. Voila! This time the bid went through. I was pretty proud of myself, getting tickets to London for $165.


Actually, I commend Priceline for such a message. I would conjecture that the first reaction for many people would be to immediately raise the price. Since price is not the only reason a flight may be rejected, Priceline is actually helping by pointing out that other things may be changed to get a flight. Just because changing price is ultimately what helped YOU doesn't mean that Priceline is being deceitful or providing poor service, since many others may get an acceptable flight by accepting more restrictions.

My sense of accomplishment was quickly deflated when I glanced at my itinerary and bill online. The fare was indeed $165 each, which came to $330. But the taxes and fees came to $212! That's 64% of the ticket price! I expected some taxes, but not an amount that would nearly double my bidding price. Adding in the required $12.50 for priceline to FedEx me the tickets, my total came to $554.50.

Again, naivety shows through. Look at an ad in the newspaper, and you will see prices quoted sans tax. You don't see new cars quoted with tax. You don't see groceries quoted with tax.

But even worse than being naive is being negligent. If you had bothered to read the priceline.com airline FAQ, you would have seen the following question: "Are taxes included in my price?" Priceline clearly explains that they are not, and in fact, specifically state that taxes on travel to the UK could be as much as $115 per ticket! (Here is the link: http://www.priceline.com/PricelineASPCustomerService/new_customerservice/airline_tickets/Making_offer/taxes.htm)

It took me less than a minute to find this information. Apparently, the writer didn't bother to do her research. Very unFoolish. Priceline was not deceptive. The writer did not bother to learn just what it was she was bidding on. Don't blame Priceline because you are not willing to do your own research.

What's more, we were departing from Newark, New Jersey, and would have to make one connection.

Again, let me point out in your own words that you agreed to depart from Newark and agreed to make a connection. If you weren't willing to do it, you shouldn't have accepted the conditions. This is nothing but petty whining. You made a deal, now you want out. Tough.

Our itinerary had us going to London via Dusseldorf. Yes, the one in Germany. We were to stop in Frankfurt on our way back. The tickets were for Lufthansa, the German-based airline, but it still seemed ridiculous to have to fly past London, stop in Germany, and then get on another plane to fly back to London.

Again, airlines use hubs. If you don't know that, now you do. You agreed to let priceline pick an airline for you, they did, and they were based in Germany; hence, the connection through Germany. Once again, you agreed to it, so don't complain now that you got it.

Needless to say, I was less than pleased about my priceline experience. Not only was I peeved that we would have to leave from Newark, the least convenient of the three major airports in the New York metropolitan area, I was disappointed that several hours would be added to our travel time by having to fly through Germany.

You asked for a ticket and specifically stated that these parameters were acceptable to you. You got a ticket. This has nothing to do with poor service by Priceline. Put fault where it truly lies: on your own shoulders.

I called priceline's 1-800 number to complain about the exorbitant taxes and fees, that the website did not fully disclose the extent of the taxes. Plus, I argued, the taxes should be included in the bidding price. Airlines and travel agents quote fares inclusive of taxes. I made a bid based on what I was willing to pay in total, not before taxes.

The information was there. It is negligent to say that the website did not disclose the taxes and fees, because they did. (See link above.) If the taxes and fees were exorbitant, it is because various goverments have placed the taxes on the airlines. If you want to blame someone, blame the governments, not the airlines and not Priceline. If you cannot bother to read the information, it isn't Priceline's fault.

I spent 42 minutes on the phone -- much of it on hold -- and talked to two "customer care" representatives, one supposedly more senior than the other.
A snide tone here, certainly, with the use of the word 'supposedly.' Apparently, the writer felt otherwise but gives no evidence of her reasoning. As far as the length of call goes, yes, I agree Priceline should work on that. But this is an issue with every call center with every company, and hardly unique to Priceline.

The upshot was they offered to cancel my itinerary, refund my money, and credit $50 to my account so that I could resubmit my bid. Not willing to risk not being able to book flights to London, I declined the offer, feeling very unhappy.

So, you didn't do your research, got a product which was exactly what you asked for (whether you meant it or not), and they were generous enough to offer a refund? Sounds like excellent customer service to me.

I was given an e-mail address for someone in charge of the complaints department, whom I e-mailed but from whom I never got a response.
I will agree that this is not acceptable. However, you don't mention how long you waited, nor how long you were told to expect. Further, this is another issue hardly unique to Priceline.

A couple days later I called priceline again, figuring I'd go ahead and cancel the itinerary. This time I was informed that there would be a $75 cancellation charge per ticket -- that's $150, nearly half the price of the fares.

Again, in the Priceline rules. Further, the cancellation fee would have been the airline's fee, not Priceline's. They were simply informing you of it. Again, you agreed to be bound by the rules of the airline with your bid.

I told the reps that I had spoken with two people earlier who had said they could cancel the tickets with no mention of a cancellation fee. I was told there was no record of that conversation.

It sounds like you made your first call immediately after your flight got booked. Priceline probably has some leeway to reverse flights made "in error" or in a similar circumstance. But, by refusing the refund then, you withdrew your ability to claim a refund later. Your window of opportunity closed. This would be another airline rule, not a Priceline rule.

As far as why no record was kept of the previous call, that I cannot explain. But one more time, hardly unique to Priceline. (Though they do need to work on it.)

Then the guy had the gall to say to me: "Do you have another concern? If not, this call is concluded."

"Are you trying to hang up on me?" I asked.

"No, but do you have any other concerns?"


With the snippy tone in this article, I can imagine how much his patience was tried. (Ever worked in a call center? Many of those people have the patience of Job.) So, he told you the rules, you said you didn't like them, and he was unwilling to bend the rules for you. This was the end of the issue for him. He couldn't help you any further. What did you expect him to do? Listen to you complain about how unfair it is that you have to follow the rules you agreed to? I can hardly blame him for wanting to move on and try to help the next person.

I cannot fully express my disgust at priceline. I am still appalled by the low level of customer service, and the company's policy of not including taxes and fees in the binding bidding process is deceptive.

It is NOT deceptive. It was spelled out loud and clear. You didn't listen. On the other hand, claiming that Priceline is deceptive is libel. Mull that one over for a bit.

Since sharing my experience with several friends and classmates, I have heard some terrible priceline experiences. The worst was a woman who got out to the airport only to be told that her flight was canceled and that she would not be put on another flight since she had a priceline ticket, which is non-exchangeable and non-refundable.

Another person who didn't read the FAQ at priceline. Tough. And are you saying it is Priceline's fault the flight was cancelled?

As a consumer, you have to make many compromises in order to use priceline's services. What you are saving in dollars -- if you're saving at all -- you are paying for in time and convenience. This is no economic ideal, but a process that makes travel downright unpleasant and cumbersome.

Some people do not have financial means to consider other options. Like anything, there is a tradeoff. Did you expect that Priceline was a primrose path? Some people would rather pay in time and convenience, because they don't have the luxury of paying more in money. Just because you have the choice doesn't mean the company is bad for offering an alternative.

Don't get me wrong, I'm having a blast here in London -- I wouldn't give priceline the satisfaction of ruining my vacation. But I'll never use priceline again.

Overall, here is my impression. The writer submitted a request with a list of acceptable restrictions. She got a ticket with some of those restrictions, and was upset because she was hoping she wouldn't have to really live up to her word. She didn't bother to research what she was purchasing before putting her money on the line. (So unFoolish...sort of like buying a stock and saying "What do you mean there is a commission here?") The information she wanted was provided to her. She chose not to read it and slanders Priceline, calling them "deceptive" because she didn't do her own due diligence. She turned down an offer to refund the deal, and is later upset she can't reverse her refusal.

I am highly disturbed that this sort of material was ever allowed to surface as an opinion of TMF. As bad as it is that this childish vitriol was written, it is even worse that this ever made it past editorial review. If I were a lawyer for Priceline, I would be considering a suit against the Fool for this libel.

Good luck. Glad you at least gained some real world education.

WonderPup

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