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Best Price Guarantees Can Be Tricky

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FloatingHTTPHave you ever wondered if that “Best Price Guarantee” that a number of travel companies offer is really worth it?

A number of companies claim that you can’t find a lower price than the one they offer online…and hence the guarantees.

Recently, one Expedia customer had an illuminating “guarantee” experience with the site’s “Best Price Guarantee.”

First, some background: Expedia’s guarantee essentially says that if you can find the same package on another site for less, Expedia will replicate the lower price and give you a $50 voucher for future travel.

Expedia also says that for the guarantee to kick in, you must find a lower price elsewhere within 24 hours of making the Expedia reservation, and that the lower price must be verified by an Expedia representative.

And when one man, Ryan J., claimed he did find a lower price than the one he had already booked with Expedia, he followed Expedia’s instructions regarding their price guarantee. He said he called well within 24 hours, and found the exact same travel package for less money offered on rival site Travelocity.

Did he get the $50 voucher?

Not exactly. Expedia claimed it couldn’t find the lower priced package. No voucher.

Now it was our turn to get involved.

PeterGreenberg.com contacted the company, and after several calls and emails to Expedia, the travel site offered to make amends to Ryan. Here’s the letter we received from him:

Thanks for your help with the Expedia issue.

Brenda from corporate customer care contacted me by phone yesterday. She apologized very genuinely and even engaged in a lengthy conversation about how things might be improved. She offered me a $200 travel credit towards future travel, which I politely declined. She then proceeded to refund $200 of my OTHER existing itinerary (not even the trip that caused all this trouble!).

I was also given a direct phone number to her office, staffed 24/7 in San Francisco, and told to call immediately if everything with my upcoming trip is not 100% perfect. Thanks for your help!

-Ryan

But what Ryan really wanted an answer about the guarantee and why he didn’t qualify for the voucher, and now we did, too. Expedia’s Senior PR Manager Katie Dienes responds to a few of our questions:

What does someone have to do to receive the $50 travel voucher?

If an Expedia customer books a trip on Expedia.com and discovers a lower price on the same itinerary at another public website within 24 hours of booking on
Expedia.com, they should call our customer support line -1-800-EXPEDIA and instruct the agent on where to find the competing offer. The Expedia agent will go to the other site and replicate the lower price, and ifhe/she is able to do so, will credit the customer’s credit card and deposit a $50 coupon for future travel into customer’s account.

So the only way to actually get this voucher is if an Expedia employee can verify a rival price?

Per the terms & conditions, the lower rate must be available for booking at the time the customer contacts us and within 24 hours of the booking made on Expedia.com.

What percentage of callers who attempt to use the Best Price Guarantee are able to claim it? And how long, on average, does it take to complete this process?

Our own internal surveys reveal that for all calls to Expedia customer support regarding our Best Price Guarantee, about 45% are simply inquiries about how the Best Price Guarantee works, and not specific claims. For those calls in which customers made claims on Best PriceGuarantee, we made refunds and deposited coupons in more than 65% of cases. In cases where we did not make a refund, it was because the agent was unable to replicate the lower price claimed, the customer was calling outside the 24-hour window, or the customer was making the claim on a trip with components that varied from that of the trip booked on Expedia.com.

According to feedback from our own customer support agents, it typically takes only a few minutes to identify whether a claim meets the criteria for Best Price Guarantee. The agent will need to replicate the lower priceonline, and that is done with customer on the line.

In cases where a lower price is available elsewhere online for the same trip as the customer booked on Expedia.com, the customer will be advised that therefund will be processed and the $50 coupon deposited to the customer’s account within 24 hours.

One important note: Expedia declined to answer how long on average it takes a customer to complete the guarantee claim process, not just find out if their particular travel package qualifies.

And therein lies the bigger question: how much time are you willing to invest to see if you qualify for that guarantee?

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