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For fulfillment fanatics interested in traveling deliriously, living deliberately, and working virtually.

Priceline Isn't Perfect

NVR Guys

Our time in Hawaii is done, and – after a stopover in Seattle – we're on our way to Prague. We're halfway through our mindful mileage run and, similarly, about halfway to earning our airline "status" for next year. Things are going well, very well, and we're having a blast. Mostly.{C} By now you probably know that we were on a mission when we were in Washington D.C. a couple of weeks ago. What you don't know is that we had a hotel stay from hell and are in a bit of a fight with our often-glorified-here Priceline peeps. See, things aren't always perfect in NVR-land. So, pour a drink, sit back and read about what happens when the NVR Guys hit a bump in the road and when your "name you own price" hotel experience on Priceline goes down the toilet. Here's the scoop.

The problem

As it turned out, our Pricelined D.C. hotel was just a few blocks from a metro station. Score! As we got within about 2 (long) blocks of our hotel, we began to hear a huge uproar – drums beating, people screaming, etc. Wouldn't you know... the epicenter of the ruckus turned out to be our hotel. What?!

As we learned the full details of later, The hotel's employees were striking due to conflicts with a change in ownership and management. Well, that's sort of an understatement, but I'll get to that later. For now, you need to know that, after standing across the street plotting, we decided to head in to see what the hell was going on. Our first clue regarding the sour series of events that would follow, should have been that no one at the hotel acted like anything was happening. Of course, it's in their best interest to remain in business-as-usual mode, but talk about the elephant in the living room. We checked in, got up to our room and immediately gave each other the WTF look.

The dilemma

So there we were in a room directly above the cacophony outside. We sat there with all sorts of conflicting emotions. For starters, we're really sensitive to labor issues, so we were pissed because we had prepaid (required with "name you own price") with no ability for a refund. We were irritated that we're not trust fund kids who can say "screw it" and head to a different hotel; we were in no position to forgo several hundred dollars in hotels costs. More than anything, though, we knew that we were in D.C. to exercise our passion for advocating for the voiceless, and we didn't want to be self-indulgently consumed by our – in the big scheme of things – trivial reality. So, what did we decide to do (as we raised our voices to hear each other over the circus outside)? We bolted out the door to drink and deliberate.

Over a few drinks – and the most memorable karaoke ever – we decided to stay put and firmly focused on why we were in D.C. in the first place. That sounded great until, after a late night and just a few hours of sleep back at the hotel, we were awoken by the drums and the screaming. Shortly after, we learned that, due to the labor shortage, the restaurant was closed; the hotel was, essentially, in survival mode, and we were paying the price.

The complaint

Gratefully, we were positively distracted by our whirlwind of activities. After a couple of days, though, things were still a mess. The chaos continued, and employees stayed resolute in their determination to act like nothing big was going on. This made us feel insane, particularly when they reluctantly allowed us to change rooms in an effort to get away from the noise. As far as we were concerned, the hotel was failing miserably and Priceline had broken their implied contract with us. At the pinnacle of frustration, I gave them a call and, after negotiating a hellacious phone tree, argued the following:

  • Because this hotel had changed ownership since we "blind" purchased it, it is not necessarily of the same category we bid for.
  • There is no restaurant, which Priceline guarantees a hotel will have.
  • We are not in a safe environment. Actually, we're in the middle of a small-scale riot - made evident each time we enter/leave the hotel.

Surprisingly, Priceline was somewhat sympathetic. However, they were not really helpful. They only agreed to call the hotel to ask for a refund of unused nights. After that, they say we would be on our own with no help in providing other accommodations. I hung up to "think about it" and we decided that was simply wasn't acceptable. We did not get what we purchased, and Priceline is responsible for it.

We decided to focus on our advocacy work and deal with the still-escalating mess more completely later. We did move to a different hotel at the tail end of our visit.

The resolution

When we got to Hawaii, I sent off a quick e-mail to Priceline, re-explaining the situation and hoping for some further understanding on there part. I was expecting the worst.

Within three days, we received a response saying that they had researched the problem and would offer an immediate 25% refund. That's a good sign, given that we consider this to be only the beginning of the process. We'll see what happens next. We're still in travel-like-crazy mode, so we need to plot our approach for pursuing this further. We find that companies can tend to gear things so that it's easy to "not bother" with problems. Difficult phone trees and unhelpful people don't deter us. We'll keep you posted on how this unfolds.

For now, the point is this: travel is not perfect and neither is Priceline. Heck, it's stories like ours that keep people from using Priceline in the first place. I can't say that I blame them; there is a heightened degree of risk.

As is the case with everything in life, we can't control what happens - we can only control our response. Deeeeep breath.

OK - onward and upward. The next time you hear from us we'll be coming to you from destination #3 - Prague!

How do you handle it when your travel plans don't go as hoped?