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Just Because...
Just Because...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Guilty of Idiocy:

OH boy oh boy - do we have a doozy for you today! Grab your coffee, wine, whatever - this will be the Guilty of Idiocy of ALL Idiocies (yes - even more than Gateway and I NEVER thought I'd say that).

Y'all know I'm loyal to places that have done right by me. I am one of those who frequents a business/establishment, etc. based on track record and, for the record, I do give allowances for "bad days" "off days" or one time incident. For years, I have sworn by and have had many enjoyable trips with them. If I can "name my price" I will because, for the most part, Priceline has kept their standards applicable with the industry. A three star is a three star; a four star is a four star. I've recommended them to the heavens to my friends and family. I've praised them in reviews and I'm sure here at Just Because...

However, it's not the case any longer. Priceline and I broke up. I mean it's a serious breakup whereby they come near me again, I'll put them on blast even more than I am right now. If they were human, I'd slap them with a restraining order. I was even told by other customers that I work with that Priceline has been severely letting them down.

I've dealt with some real "characters" in my never-ending quest to find decent customer service. Again, I feel the need to reiterate - if I find great service, I'll tell you, them, their manager and write a letter if I so choose commending them for going above and beyond. If you act like a customer is not "worth time and effort" or give me stock answers or read from a script rather than think before you speak, game on. I will shut you down immediately, ask for your manager and I make it simple. I tell the person "Who do you want to have me throttle - you or your manager". 99.9% of the time, they move up the call to the management and rightfully so. Does that mean I'm going to sit there and tell the manager how inept you are - most of the time, no. I want a resolution and apparently it's only management that can provide that. Not a big deal. I don't go out of my way to make life hell for CSRs - they do that all on their own.

I can tell you that I would rather cut off my ear than EVER talk to a Priceline customer representative again. I can tell you that after this trip is finished next week, Priceline is getting a SCATHING letter to the CEO because, apparently their "Head" of customer service can't be bothered to address an issue that was so simple. Instead, she, much like her CSR counterparts, "passed the buck" and gave the issue to a CSR who basically regurgitated a form email and thinly veiled "research" (Make quote marks in the air please and you'll get the effect) communicating an unwavering position. Rest assured, that when a customer is happy, they tell people. When they are pissed, they tell even MORE people. And you, my dear readers, should be warned about what I just went through.

Here's my question - in the quest for affordable travel, can Priceline at least be honest with its customers?

My issue is simple - they placed me in a hotel that is a two star, at best, and called it a "three star". If anything, it only merits a three star based on the fact that it is located right near the Liberty Bell and Freedom House, etc. - the Historic District of Philadelphia. By all other reviews, it is basically, as one person termed it "A Motel 6 With Interior Stairs". Now, tell me - when did Motel 6 (or it's equivalent) become a 3 star hotel? A three star hotel is the Sheraton Society Hill. A three star hotel is the Hilton. A three star hotel is the Hyatt. A three star hotel is NOT a Holiday Inn. And while I wasn't going to call out the hotel, I feel I need to address the situation prior to going down there.

While I have spoken with the hotel and fully communicated my concerns, Priceline, rather than listening to a long term customer and actually INVESTIGATING the cause of my distress, goes to three sites and says "Well they rate it three stars so it is three stars". They don't read the reviews. They don't check the Better Business Bureau. Basically, by this lack of attention to detail, one can safely say that Priceline really doesn't give a damn. They just want to close the case file and be done with it, from all appearances. Their actions certainly reflect this behavior.

Now my major concern, outside their obvious head in the clouds mentality about what merits a Three Star v. Two Star hotel and obvious error re: same, is the executive management and their version of customer service. Also, I feel I need to address the problems within their Customer Service Department and their attitude towards those that frequent their business.

Last night, when I was made aware of their 'choice' of a "hotel", I immediately called Priceline. I know it is standard for them to not make changes of hotels when they book them. However, when they book a two star hotel as a three star, they are clearly trying to pass one property off as something it clearly is not. Therefore, it would nullify that particular cluase of the fine print contract and they could, indeed, make a simple change. I didn't have a problem upgrading to a property that truly fits the "Three Star" category and paying for the upgrade.

However, when I spoke with them, I was told to hold and that they could transfer me to a manager who would immediately address my concerns and help me find a resolution. Enter: "Don" [#3059], a Customer Service Satisfaction (or whatever) representative and definitely, by no means, was NOT a manager.

Let's talk about Don shall we. Don, during our not so pleasant discussion was rude, would interrupt me with an answer without even letting me finish my sentence or question, condescending, distracted, would answer without listening, evidently was incompetent and, when I basically reiterated my initial request for management, he informed me that there was no manager on the floor. Apparently, by all appearances and Don's statement, one could safely think that the CSRs manage themselves. There is no management available for customers. However, he said if I really needed to deal with a manager, I could email through their website and communicate my concerns which would be addressed in "24 business hours". Well, Don - 24 BUSINESS hours is, pretty much 3 business days. His response "Well they are open from 8:30 - 6" all said with a bit of a smug attitude. If I could have reached through the phone and done the V8 slap, I would have. Fine then 2.5 days if you want to quibble. I told him more than once that he personally would be called out if he continued to act the fool. He was comfortable with that and willing to accept the responsibility for his [non]actions. He begrudgingly gave me his customer number because I told him that he would be addressed in the email - its more than just my initial concern. There is a severe problem within the ranks of Priceline and Priceline needs to address it.

Now, in crafting the email, one cannot just email from the website without doing a little digging. See, that's how Priceline gets you. Here's how to do it - because they are negligent to make this fully available to their customers. They choose to hide it under another link - INVESTOR RELATIONS. Wait - there's more hide and seek games because then you have to go to MANAGEMENT and then the holy grail of "Are you a customer who would like to give your feedback to our management team? Click here." What the hell? How unbelievably arsine is THAT? Well, they asked for Feedback and by all means necessary, they got it.

I blasted an email to them through the site and, for good measure, rather than copy their publicist as I wanted to do, a Brian Ek, I decided to hold the person accountable that is in charge of the Customer Service, Lisa Gillingham. Because, as you all know, if you are a manager, you are responsible for the actions and efforts of your employees - both good and bad. Lisa's full title is "Senior Vice President, Customer Service and Operations". Wouldn't that entail her actually taking responsibility for the actions of her customer service team? Review after review I read of Priceline really made me question their ability to take care of a customer. Apparently, by their "pass the buck" mentality and their shoddy rating system seemed to alienate many a customer. I am not the first, and by their behavior, I'm sure I won't be the last.

Well, I got a call back from them and a poorly crafted (and by all appearances, mostly stock language) email from their representative, Katie Leilous. I would like to think she is a nice girl and all, but she's the lamb put out for the slaughter. If you search Rip Off Report and the internet, you'll find both her name and Ms. Gillingham and incident after incident of their constant dropping of the ball. Keep in mind, I clearly asked for a manager and I get someone from "executive offices." However, I don't see that Katie is a manager nor did she identify herself as such. From all that I've seen on the internet, by her Classmate's profile, she's younger than me, she's apparently less than cooperative with irate customers and Ms. Gillingham seems to put any and all complaints on Ms. Leilous' shoulders which, as clearly evidenced by my response to her email, cannot handle the burden. And, for the record, Ms. Gillingham's email sent me a lovely read receipt so I am fully aware that she did, at least, open the email. She should, at least, try to assist her staff with solving a simple problem. However, she took the easy way out and just ignored.

I've already spoke with the hotel and will address that with them. They are aware of my concerns and my obvious dissatisfaction with When I return is when the game is on. I will not tolerate either Ms. Gillingham's indifference, Ms. Lelious' lack of customer service or's evident display of their version of "Forget You, Customer". Well, they haven't waged battle with me yet and, you can rest assured by the time I'm done, there will be people crying - one of which will not be me. No, I think there will be people that will be a little disturbed that they didn't just handle something so simple from the outcome. And those two names that will receive the brunt of my wrath if I have my way are Katie Leilhous and Lisa Gillingham.

Beware -, regardless of their advertising, only really cares about one thing and that's not customer retention. It's how to find the most lazy way about problem solving and who cares if their customers are happy or not. In their view, there is a sucker born every day. Take this as a warning to NOT be their sucker. And, I'm sure we'll cross swords, and soon. Except this time I'm slaying the damn dragon and that, Customer Service Department, is you.

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Posted by Lys :: 5:56 PM :: 1 comments

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