Deals

Travelocity’s PR Blunder

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As you might have heard, Travelocity is not honoring the $200 off flight & hotel package for anyone other than the actual attendees. Many people have spoken out in frustration about that decision, and many have spoken out against those folks as wanting to take special offers away from the blind and deaf.

So of course Jeanne & I have to add our two cents. Like the United 4 mile award flight mistake, we don’t think we had a “right” to the $200 Travelocity deal. But as previous customers of Travelocity (and even if we weren’t) and as a member of the NFB (in Jeanne’s case), we did have reasonable expectations of customer service and forth rightness.

  • Reneging after the fact — While the offer was targeted to NFB members, Travelocity’s lengthy T&C (terms and conditions) never specified that it was only open to attendees of the conference. In fact, Travelocity even retweeted the offer, which to me indicates they wanted it circulated pretty widely, later deleting it (as if that makes it better).
    @Travelocity tweet about NFB2012
    That makes their most recent communication pretty disengenous:Travelocity email about cancelling NFB deal
  • Slow reaction — So they made a mistake. The deal hit its max number of redemptions and expired within 24 hours of making it on the travel forums, sometime early on Sunday, July 30. Travelocity waited until Friday, Aug 3 to notify people that their reservations didn’t qualify and were being cancelled.
  • Poor communication — The original cancellation emails indicated that everyone was going to be fined for a large portion or all of their airline ticket price. Panic ensued until Travelocity tweeted late in the day that people would get a full refund (but what if they deleted that tweet, does that negate their committment?). Calls to customer service center by folks scrambling to get their itineraries reinstated even at full price were unsuccessful and clearly none of the poor service agents had received instructions on how to handle the problem.Most hilarious of all is that I received an email asking about my customer service experience. I clicked through only to realize it’s for people who called their customer service center, which I did not. When a friend who did contacted them about her problem, she got an equally general and mis-targted response.
  • Lack of follow through — and now 4-5 days after the reservations was cancelled, noone has a refund yet!

As someone with marketing experience, and experience handling the backend side of promos and coupon codes, Travelocity’s handling of the situation is professionally unacceptable. If what they did is acceptable than it opens the door for any merchant can change their mind after the fact. Amazon offers free Prime membership to mothers, siblings/friends of mothers, students, caretakers and more. Heaven forbid they adopt Travelocity’s model which means they can cancel my shipments at any-time post purchase if they determine the membership they allowed me to sign up for doesn’t fit whatever terms & conditions they decide at that moment.

I fault Travelocity for not thinking through all the necessary restrictions on use ahead of time, for making conference attendance clear in their terms & conditions, for having slow reaction times and terrible terrible customer service, and most of all for punishing and panicking their customers for their own oversight.

We don’t care if you can get twice the Ultimate Rewards points through them as you can through Orbitz or Expedia, we won’t be using them to purchase future travel.

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Heels First is the travels and tribulations of two twenty-something frequent fliers jumping into the world of travel. Join Keri and Jeanne as they tackle mileage runs, elite status, and of course–the perfect travel accessories.

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3 Comments

  1. Phil

    August 9, 2012 at 7:10 am

    Another DOT complaint on this one for me. Not because I think I am entitled to the fare (though actually I think legally they don’t have a leg to stand on) but because as you say they handled it so badly and that is the only real recourse we have

  2. Jeanne

    August 9, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    What gets at me is, people didn’t know this was a “mistake fare”. It was a coupon code being passed around, and I remember a similar trick with one of the sites for Bahamas vacations not too long ago. You could do $150 off on a bahamas flight and book any hotel and it worked out fine.

    Most people using this coupon code did NOT know where it was from. There’s never been a reason to research beforehand, and there’s really been no precedent for a coupon code not working in this way before. So a lot of people are put out who had no idea they would be put out. How would they know to see this as a “mistake fare”?

  3. Cailey

    August 10, 2012 at 10:42 am

    Great article. I agree as well, I realise i’m not deserving of the code as i’m not am NFB member but it was not my intention to misuse the code. Had the t&c been clear I never would have booked, but the system allowed me to and now I am the one at fault? I don’t think so. However, Travelocity’s handling of this is the reason I want my trip reinstated. i’ve received about 1/3 of my money back which is unacceptable in my opinion.

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