5 Strikes for Priceline.com

I am a big fan of Priceline.com for booking hotel rooms and rental cars at discounted prices.  (I can’t use it for flights – with Priceline you can only book flights originating in the US and my flights normally depart from Canada).  I love the concept.  I love the service.  You should try it:

no one deals like we do!

But recently I tried to talk to Priceline customer service / support and got the very clear impression that Priceline does not want to talk to its customers and is not terribly interested in actually solving customer problems.  When it works, it’s great.  When it doesn’t work, caveat emptor.

I was trying to book a rental car for my wife to pick up at the Toronto airport.  So I tried “Name Your Own Price” and entered YYZ as my airport (that’s the big international airport in Toronto).

After I submitted my search, the Priceline web site showed that I had selected “Lester B Pearson Intl, ON Canada (YYZ)” as my pick-up/drop-off location but in the list of locations to choose from, it only showed “Hamilton, ON Canada (YHM)”, which is a much smaller airport outside of the greater Toronto area.

 priceline-yyz

“That’s strange,” thought I.

Strike #1:  Before I continued, I tried to call customer support to find out what was going on.  For the life of me I could not find a way to actually get a human being on the phone.

So I tried submitting an email to customer support.  They web site said they tried to respond within 3 hours.  I don’t think they quite made it but it was close.  The first response was, well, not helpful:

Thank you for taking the time to send us an e-mail. We understand that you would like to know why you the radio button shows different airport while submitting the rental car request for Lester B Pearson Intl.

 

We apologize if you are having difficulty using our website. We work hard to make our service convenient and accessible for all customers; however, technology is not uniform across all Web browsers (i.e. Netscape, AOL, Internet Explorer, etc.) and operating systems (i.e. Windows 95, Macintosh). Technical difficulties can occur.

 

There may also be a temporary slowing of the request process due to scheduled maintenance. You might want to try waiting a half hour and try your request again.

 

If you continue to experience technical difficulties while using the website, we suggest that you try to access our site from an alternate computer, either at home, at work, or at a local library. At this time we are not able to accept hotel or car rental requests over the telephone.

OK, a form letter, I get it.  I’ll try again later (even though I tried several times over several hours).  Heck, I’ll even try a different browser.  Same result every time.

So I sent another email, this time with the above screen shot to show the problem:

Thank you for taking the time to send us an e-mail. We understand that you have problem while booking rental cars at Toronto and would like us to see the attached image showing the problem.

 

We apologize, but we are unable to open any attachments we receive. If you can send us the information again in a plain text email format, we will be happy to assist you.

Strike #2:  They just asked me to send an image attachment in plain text email format…

OK, now I’m starting to feel like this is a fruitless endeavour but I’m in too deep to just stop now.  So I send another email stating what to do to see the problem occur on the web site (“Name Your Own Price” for YYZ, etc.).  The sad response:

Based on the information provided in your e-mail, we were unable to determine the nature of your request. In order for us to better assist you, please provide a more detailed description of your travel dates, pick-up, drop-off location and time,also the page where you are facing problem and any other information you feel may be relevant.

Strike #3:  They aren’t even trying to reproduce the problem.  There were instructions in my previous email.

So I send in some very specific instructions:

Go to http://tickets.priceline.com/rentalcars/

 

Click on the Name Your Own Price option.

 

Enter YYZ as your Pick Up / Drop Off location.

 

Pick whatever dates and car you want.

 

Click Bid Now.

 

The subsequent screen will say “You’ve selected Toronto – Lester B Pearson Intl, ON Canada (YYZ) as your pick-up/drop-off location”, but the list of radio buttons will only have “Hamilton (canada), ON Canada (YHM)” as an option.

Surely they cannot screw that up.  The reply:

Thank you for taking the time to send us an e-mail. We understand that you are unable to name your own price for the Toronto – Lester B Pearson Intl., ON, Canada.

 

At this time, the Name Your Own Price option is not available for your desired location. We suggest that you try the next closest major city.


If we recognize the city, our system returns the closest city that we serve.

Strike #4:  So it seems reasonable to someone at Priceline that they don’t serve the major international airport in a city of 5 million people that is known worldwide?

Surely I should have given up, but by this point I had decided I was going to blog the outcome.  So I sent in one more email to let them know that I’ve booked rental cars with Priceline.com at this airport before (in May 2008 to be specific).  I also pointed out that Toronto is the biggest city in Canada since I’m quite sure I was conversing with someone far, far away from Canada.  🙂

Guess what they wrote back?

Thank you for taking the time to send us an e-mail. We understand that you were unable to Name Your Own Price for rental car at Toronto.

 

At this time, the Name Your Own Price option is not available for your desired location. We suggest that you try the next closest major city.


If we recognize the city, our system returns the closest city that we serve.

Strike #5:  They resent the message I had emailed them to refute.

I am sure that Priceline gets flooded with asinine questions and comments.  But when a customer is pointing out a genuinely oddball situation with data on the site, it seems reckless to brush it off like this.  When your business relies on people being able to book flights, hotels, and rental cars, you sure as heck want to make sure people can find flights, hotels, and rental cars with your system.

In my opinion, this should have been escalated when I told them a) that I had booked cars at Pearson International Airport before and b) that Toronto is ten times bigger than Hamilton.

I’m sure I will continue to use Priceline.com.  I am a sucker for discounts.  🙂  Hopefully someone from Priceline will come across this post and look into the situation.

  23 comments for “5 Strikes for Priceline.com

  1. July 29, 2008 at 1:10 am

    I’ve found that the best way to deal with problems like this is to go directly to the people who care. If the support team doesn’t have your problem fixed within two emails, it’s normally because they don’t care.

    I had a similar problem with the Mozilla store a few weeks ago when I had to deal with the company Mozilla outsourced to.

    The people who do care? The people managing the brand image.

    In your case you might want to send an email pointing to this post to: Brian Ek (brian.ek@priceline.com) whose involved in their PR. It’s our responsibility to help companies with genuinely good products to improve their service.

    You could also drop a note to Connors Communications – they used to handle Priceline’s PR though I’ve lost touch and can’t recall if they’re still a client. Blog Outreach was one of Connie’s strengths.

  2. August 11, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Well, Brian Ek at Priceline wrote me back and cleared things up:

    “I have shared your experience with our customer service and rental car teams. Currently, we do not have Name Your Own Price rental car inventory available for pickup at the Toronto airport. We do expect inventories to open up in the near future. However, your request should not have automatically defaulted to the other airport. We are working to correct that situation. And we are working with our customer service teams so that an issue such as yours will be addressed directly and correctly.”

    A reasonable response if you ask me. The problem was CURRENT inventory, not that the Name Your Own Price option isn’t available at that airport. That makes more sense. Hopefully we’ll see that messaging reflected in the error message in the future.

    @Andrew: Thanks for the contact.

    Thanks, Brian, for replying to me. Cheers!

  3. Julie Richardson
    August 14, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    I have the phone number to get someone from PRICELINE on the telephone. It’s 877 850 9658. They will change or cancel paid reservations, generally with a penalty. Secondly, I understand from Budget Rent-a-Car that if you do not use the Rental, Priceline WILL refund to non-used reservation after the dates of service.

    • Rui
      November 17, 2015 at 2:27 pm

      After dialling this number, I still only get a recorded voice. I have entered my itinerary number and phone number in order to find my request. The first time I called the ‘voice’ found it, and I tried to press zero to get through to someone, but no luck. I called again & the voice could no longer find it..
      Is there something I should be dialling in order to get through? Please help.

  4. Alan Wong
    August 21, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    Funny thing, I went through EXACTLY the same ordeal. I went to Investor Relations or something though. There’s a link to “send a comment to management”. I had a couple of back and forths and it came to no resolution, so I decided to give up. But the canned response was pretty ridiculous — at one point I typed in “I guess no one bothers to READ my questions” and all that came back was the canned response. 🙂

    If you’re still looking for a car though, inventories are back!

  5. Kay Abell
    August 26, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    I recently purchased 3 airline tickets through Priceline and received a FREE car with the deal. We were delayed in flights and never picked the car up due to having elderly diabetic father with us. It was more important to get him food than delay in airport anymore. I called Hertz and Priceline after arriving at family members home explaining delays…etc and that we were at funeral and would not need the car. We were told NO PROBLEM! “You do not have to take the car!”
    I received my credit card and Priceline had charged an additional $154.80 to my card for the car…
    After many attempts to locate #’s & calls to machines, I found the number here (thanks) they were not at all willing to make any changes. They tell you it is free…it is but if you don’t get it …..watch out! Even if they tell you it is ok…….DON’T BELEIVE THEM! HONESTLEY: It is not really free! So you really get no deals!
    After speaking with Hertz I realize that it is Priceline that charges…….good extra money if this happens alot! No wonder they can give cheaper tickets…..
    On the expense of some of the unfortunate !!!!

  6. karen D
    January 3, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    Thanks for the your website and post…I had a horrible time with airfare today and Julie’s phone number in the comments section was the only number to a live person I could get hold of to find out what was going on. After un- returned responses to 3 emails, I also emailed the VP of customer service and will wait to see how she responds on Monday.

  7. Pennie
    April 1, 2009 at 10:01 am

    THANKS for the phone #, Julie! I was able to get a REAL LIVE PERSON on this phone this morning. My husband booked a car thru Priceline & when he arrived at the National counter to pick up the car, they didn’t have the Priceline reservation. National wouldn’t honor it (bad National!), even after my husband got a Priceline rep on the phone who verified the reservation. So my husband had to pay the walk up rate for the car. We are now attempting to get our money back, and may have finally made some progress after getting a customer care rep on the phone, who AGREED w/ me they owe us the $$ – yea!! We’ll see how it goes, but I’ll sure be calling that # again if they don’t get it straightened out soon.

  8. matt
    March 16, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    877 850 9658, this number works

  9. April 21, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    I have been trying to join priceline as I have a Motel in Eureka Springs Ar., but it seems they don’t need any more business as I have not heard from them in a week and have sent several emails, filled out their questioniere 2 times, they said that someone would get back to me wiht-in 12 hours, NOTHING yet
    It is too bad that they at least would not contact a prospective client.

  10. Robin
    September 18, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    Thank you for that phone number! I actually got a human being!!!!

  11. Jeff Clark
    September 22, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    Booked flight through Priceline for my US Marine son to come home on leave, US Airways. Son’s leave got cancelled and US Airways refuses to refund money even though I purchased flight insurance for the very possibility of orders changing. Credit for 1 year is the best they will do. I am furious!!

  12. Ina
    March 4, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    Thanks for sharing and the phone number!!!

  13. Randy
    October 17, 2013 at 1:21 am

    I have made two purchases via Priceline in the last two months (motel & rental car) and both times the price I got at the desk of each business was less than the “negotiator” got for me via computer.
    Priceline will not refund the difference my card was charged.
    I won’t use them again.

  14. March 13, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    This is a rip-off and because of a mistake on the reservation, there are 700.00+ fees to pay as well as another rental fee. This site is the worst inhuman service around and I will never use a third party again…. the hidden fees are astronomical…..

  15. angela
    December 4, 2014 at 10:44 am

    I can relate- I have been trying to reach a live human for Priceline for some time- I will try to reach a person with the latest number that matt wrote in his reply but if I cannot reach a person with this number it is more than obvious that Priceline does not care about having business or helping its customers and I urge fellow travelers to check out other travel sites that I have dealt with and can assure people reading this post that they can call one number and reach a person who cares to get customers help and maintain their business- Priceline needs to get caring about their customers or shutdown to leave room for a company that cares to have business- I know if I don’t have resolution soon I will never waste my time with Priceline again and will go to travel sites who care and can get me on my way with my travel plans and I urge others to do the same

  16. Mary Beth Juarez
    March 13, 2015 at 12:43 am

    I will not ever use priceline again. My daughter and I double booked a hotel and I cancelled one of them. I didn’t realize it was priceline and you had to pay a cancellation fee. Apparently my daughter didn’t either because I told her I was going to cancel one of the reservations I tried calling 10 different numbers and got the same message…..enter your trip number…..your phone number…..if you need anything else press 1………they charged me $279.00 to cancel on the same day that I booked it! I would rather pay more to call a hotel and book a reservation than to go through this ridiculous stuff! I feel cheated…..

  17. Gina
    April 8, 2015 at 10:20 am

    I will never Ever use priceline ever again. They charge you for not using your reservation and do not refund your money. This company is not right and no one should use them orbitz is better to use or call the companies directly to get discount at least you’ll get a refund for not using it.

  18. ALLY
    August 18, 2015 at 8:33 am

    can they possibly make it any more blatantly obvious that there are no actual humans working there?!! I work at a HOTEL and cant’ even get through to someone!

  19. October 13, 2015 at 5:56 pm

    We also have had a terrible experience with Priceline customer service yesterday I applied for a four star hotel in Berlin Germany and two seconds later after naming my own price came up with the three star and so I immediately called to get some resolution to why I have been given this hotel. I was told that it was really a four-star even though I told them that on their own site it was listed as a superior three-star. It was also rated a three star on the Google site for hotels. After being told it would be a short moment to hold I waited 28 minutes on the phone and no one ever came back. I called again and spoke to a second representative and she was very nice as far as staying on the line with me for another 30 minutes watch you try to get A resolution for wise it would be listed as a four star but even on the site it was stated that it was a three star superior. After 30 minutes she came back on and we would be getting an email of what the resolution could be the options. Today at 2 o’clock if you’re not hearing from them for 24 hours I call back and talk to you have a third representative who repeated the same things how sorry they were there checking into it and where did I find it is a three-star they just kept quizzing me rather than going to their own website to check it out . After almost an hour and a half total frustration I asked to speak to her supervisor who came on and said the contract says it is nonrefundable and no cancellations therefore we can’t do anything. When I asked if we could speak to the next level of authority she said that was not an option at this when I asked if we could speak to the next level of authority she said that was not an option.

    I feel helpless is to getting any resolution to this so we just wanted to put a statement out for everyone to avoid Priceline. I wish we had never tried it either

  20. nikolaum
    March 15, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    1.My name yuor own price was accepted for a LV NV hotel, 3 /2016; great deal; what I want to know if this great deal includes th e notorious resort fee; the hotel DEAL is lovely… but will it be double… and so forth? I called 800… got all the negative responses, see above

    2. I am thrilled with the express deal for MOtels; so far 100% satisfaction;

    but #1 lv very bad feelings, Mister Negotiator!

  21. Maria
    May 11, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    I don’t have an itinerary number going crazy can’t talk to anyone just ask questions??

  22. R B
    January 8, 2017 at 10:47 am

    The number works. I successfully reached an attendant after about 5 minutes of waiting and they were able to rectify my issue.

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