One of the questions that I've wondered about over the past several years is whether or not one is better off using discount websites such as Expedia, Orbitz, and the lot. Somewhere in the back of my mind I have reasoned that making a reservation for a flight, hotel, or rental car through one of these discount sites somehow promotes inferior customer service in one's actual relationship with the company. HOWEVER, I COULD BE WRONG.
Taking my actual experiences in travel into account over the past several years, the argument could possibly go the other way: it is better to use a discount travel website.
In the past three years, my wife and I have flown several times, stayed in too many hotels, and rented a handful of cars. We've made reservations for "low prices" through the likes of Expedia and we've also made reservations through the company's own websites. While I haven't found in difference in the experience of customer service in dealing with the check-in counters, the billing is just too fuzzy - and I'm talking about direct reservations, not the discount places.
I guess it is the hidden fees that I truly despise. For just once, I would like to book something for a quoted price and actually see that price on my credit card bill. Just once...is that asking too much?
Enterprise - "We'll Pick You Up"
My recent experience with Enterprise Leasing Company serves as a prime example. I decided to make the reservation on the actual Enterprise site, finding no real price advantage to using the other sites. For a short trip to Kentucky from Birmingham, the rental was going to be $125.00. The actual bill on my Visa statement (no actual bill was issued by Enterprise) was $175.00. After a deep breath and counting to 10, I decided to leave a message at their website. It was easy enough. In fact, I received a call the next day from someone with the company to follow up. He had left a message with a number - a number I called several times but only got his voice mail. It wasn't worth my trouble to worry about calling him everyday, and obviously, it wasn't worth Enterprise's trouble to make sure we use them again. (I certainly won't.) And, no, they didn't pick me up, nor did I violate any of the known pitfalls that could have added a charge. The car was clean. It had enough gas. Etc. etc.
If the industry just works this way, then I can just quit renting cars. However, the vehicle that I rented earlier this same year through Expedia (and it was not an Enterprise car) did not result in the same charges/hidden fees. Is Expedia the way to go?
The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth looks to be an interesting book that dives into some of the things that business do. This blog describes what the book refers to as a "bad profit" - money made at the expense of customer relationships.
In the future, I will ask for a price quote, and I will ask them if that is the price that I will see on my credit card bill. I'm not looking for a price somewhere between $100-$200 when I rent a car. I'm looking to know whether it will cost $100 or $101.