Sunday, November 09, 2014

A Lesson from the Ink Spots

There are many joys in planning a trip; however, as the song goes “Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall”. Just the other day, I had mentioned to Ron how excited I was getting doing all of this preparation. Now that I am not teaching, there is time to focus on the particulars and share the research.

After successfully arranging two home exchanges in Cuenca, Ecuador to span our 6 week stay in that city, it seemed possible to find another exchange in Quito. It was not to be; either no one was interested or they had other plans for the time we needed. Disappointed, we turned to VRBO, AirBnB, and HouseTrip.

When Ron was busy doing other things of importance, I settled down to the computer to gather some information. On each of the sites, I favorite some potential rentals so the two of us could look at them with great scrutiny and a larger map than the sites provide. Foxy as they are, the sites do not show you exact addresses or even streets, but they place a large distinctive colored circle covering a wide area. Getting a sense of locations, we ruled out places along the way. For some of the places, it was easy to delete the ‘favorite’ bookmark, others I just didn’t bother.

We found a place that looked incredible, was within our price range, and the location was excellent. She was listed on one of the three sites I had checked. We sent her a request for a booking. Three days later, we had not heard, though the site claims an owner response within 24 hours.

As I was milling around, I noticed the same property on HouseTrip, so I sent another request. The rent was the same regardless, so it didn’t matter to me. Strangely enough, I received a confirmation of the booking within 12 hours. We were elated at our good fortune. I had a suspicion that the owner pays a smaller fee to HT for booking, so was ignoring the request from the other service. Within another couple of hours, the charge appeared on my credit card online account. Fair enough, I knew this would happen.

In a matter of hours, I received an e-mail from the property owner. She profusely apologized, but stated that the HT booking system made a mistake accepting our reservation without her agreement to it. Due to it being for March 2015, she said she could not plan that far in advance, so we should try again in January. We want to have things squared away and pay for the places we need to before we leave January 12th, so we will move on to alternate choices. None of them are on HouseTrip.

I sent HouseTrip messages explaining the situation via e-mail and Twitter. I find it very strange that they have this picture on the “Contact Us” page, yet I could not find a phone number for the service anywhere on the website. This is superimposed over the photo. “We are always there for you. Our multi-lingual service team of more than 100 people is ready to assist you, 24/7, 365 days a year.” My question is why do these people have earphones on if they are not answering phone calls? Do we care if they are used for their music listening pleasure?

Bravo! They responded with their need to confirm it with the owner. They did confirm it, BUT then took it upon themselves to send reservation requests to the 3 other places I had ‘favorited’. I had only saved them to show Ron, not because we were thrilled with them. So were they trying to get my $400 reallocated to another of their properties rather than crediting my charge card? There was informed consent communication about this, so I was ticked. I tweeted them and then wrote an e-mail. 

Here is the double BRAVO!! They wrote me back about two hours later, explained they put through a refund credit on my card and added a 10% voucher for the next use.

There will be a next time, because I like their layout, but this customer service, even without a phone number has cemented the deal.

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