It’s the kind of story that both upsets the industry, but helps reinforce just how damn important travel agents are, when travellers get screwed by an OTA.
In the latest instalment of this narrative, is a US family who lost their money and their booking through Expedia when their hotel bumped them due to overbooked rooms.
According to Travel Market Report, Holly Parsons booked herself and her family on a three-night stay in a condominium at the WorldMark Seventh Mountain Resort in Bend, Oregon.
Parsons booked four months in advance, with the stay costing US$874 – so about $1150 in Aussie currency.
A few weeks prior to their stay, Parsons told ABC News in Seattle that she received an email informing her of a cancellation of their reservation. She was offered no refund, and simply told it was due to overbooking.
Parsons told ABC News she spent over six hours over three days on the phone with Expedia’s customer service team, before they offered her US$500 in Expedia vouchers and three nights in a Holiday Inn Express near her planned destination.
Per ABC, Expedia told the news outlet that since the cancellation was “caused by external factors beyond the direct control of Expedia,” a policy listed in the company’s T+Cs, Expedia had “no liability and will make no refund”.
Parsons, per TMR, called her Expedia customer service experience “awful”, where she had to put up with “dealing with multiple, multiple people, and repeating myself”.
She also called their response – the vouchers and stay – a “ripoff”.
“I wasn’t receiving cash in return. I’m receiving vouchers to do business with an entity that I’m not sure that I ever would want to do — or ever would recommend to do — business with ever again,” Parsons said, per ABC.
Expedia also told the ABC News affiliate, “We apologize for the inconvenience and frustration Holly Parsons experienced and can confirm our team contacted her to successfully resolve this case.
“At Expedia, we strive to provide the highest level of customer service, and any time there is an issue with an Expedia booking, we recommend that our customers contact our excellent customer service team.”
Another US media outlet pointed out that Expedia and the lodging industry are only obligated by “practice” to rebook overbooked customers, but there are, in fact, no laws to protect consumers from these circumstances.
It comes after a string of stories we’ve covered on Travel Weekly where the value of travel agents can’t be highlighted enough.
From Penny Spencer emphasising the time and effort agents save clients, to a list of 10 reasons you can’t travel without an agent surfacing recently, there’s no shortage of praise for what agents do versus OTAs.
“Under $5000 per person our best customers will book anywhere. As we creep over that we come into our own more,” McLachlan said.
“Travel does not lend itself comfortable to online sales with the exception of the simplest transactions. For those that scoff, ask the investors in OTA’s.”