Saturday, June 18, 2011

Beware of Priceline's unethical business practices

Eish, the last few weeks have been an ongoing travel nightmare. I'm glad it's over for a while. 2 days ago I had to quickly book a hotel for a night in Toronto (while on the train on my way back from another journey). Like so many people I went to check out Hotwire and Priceline prices. For better or worse Priceline seemed (sic!) to offer a better deal on this occasion. That is, until I saw my booking. Let's leave for a moment their 20% taxes and charges. A very serious transgression is their underhanded selling of add-on products one does not want. Most of these sites when you think you've finally sorted out your booking prevent you from simply paying by forcing you to go through one or two pages of travel related goods and services that you usually neither need nor want to look at. That in its own right is bad enough but you can discount it as bad marketing efforts (as they annoy customers).

Princeline, however, has gone to unethical length here. They sneak default add-on purchases into your booking. So, when you finally see your confirmed booking (that they cleverly prohibit you from changing in any respect), you will see that they sneaked a travel insurance into your booking. It is a booking that you never pro-actively made and that almost certainly you did not want. They know that, of course, so among their other offers (where you have to click in order to book/buy), on the insurance occasion you have to un-click. It's easy to miss (they literally bank on this), and cleverly you only see the charge when your complete booking has been made and can't be changed.

The danger, in terms of permitting Priceline to get away with this is, of course that nothing would in the future prevent them from selling you other crap (unless you unclick purchases you have not even made!), After all, why not sell you a sex worker for the night (oops, you forgot to unclick, well tough...), or a bunch of roses delivered to your hotel room, toothpaste and the list truly is infinite.

So, my advice to anyone reading this is to stop doing business with Priceline until they revert to a policy where you proactively choose what you want to purchase as opposed to underhanded selling tactics designed to confuse you into purchasing stuff you never needed and certainly did not want to purchase. At this point in time this once reputable company operates like a bunch of crooks.

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