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The Nightmare with Expedia Continues

Posted by Tony & Cheri on January 22, 2013

Quite a bit has happened since we wrote a blog last month detailing our difficulties with travel industry giant Expedia, Expedia: Bad for the Traveler, Bad for the Hotel, mostly due to the power of social media.

Tony & Cheri, Owners of the Luna Blue HotelFor starters, our story seemed to touch a lot of folks. In fact so many people liked what we had to say and shared it with others, that our blog eventually went viral. Thousands of people have read our story and many have e-mailed Expedia to complain about how we were treated.

The blog was first shared on various Facebook pages and then by internet news networks Hacker News and Reddit.com. Adrianne Jeffries of The Verge online news service interviewed us and wrote an excellent article about the situation: One Small Hotel’s Long Nightmare with Expedia.  Next came the The Daily Mail, London’s second largest newspaper, which posted an online story about Expedia’s bad behavior towards us.  And it just kept going.  Blog after blog picked up our story and shared it; people throughout the world tweeted and retweeted our story on Twitter, and it was spread all around Facebook.  Most recently we were interviewed on Blogtalk Radio by Canadian Travel Expert Deanna Byrne: David vs Goliath. Small Independent Hotel Battles Expedia.

We are overwhelmed by this amazing response and moved beyond words by the avalanche of support we have received.  To everyone who passed our story along, commented on it, and e-mailed or messaged us words of support or suggestions on how to handle this situation, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Expedia Finally Responds

As a result of this internet activity Expedia finally responded to our situation…kind of.

One common reaction to our blog was a bit of healthy skepticism.  Many people said ‘That’s terrible, but it’s only one side of the story. I want to hear from Expedia.’  So did we.  We had been waiting for a response from Expedia for months.  We never got one.  However it seems that while Expedia could and did ignore all of our e-mails and phone calls, they were less able to withstand the power of social media and the press.  Expedia finally broke its silence on our situation when contacted by Adrianne Jeffries for her story on The Verge. Of course they didn’t have much to say.

The Expedia spokesman refused to comment on our allegations and would only say that: “Expedia … can confirm Luna Blue Hotel and Expedia are no longer working together.

So Expedia says it isn’t doing business with us.  That’s great; it’s what we have been asking for for several months.  But we have just one more question:

Expedia: If we are no longer working together, WHY ARE WE LISTED ON YOUR AFFILIATE BOOKING SITES ACROSS THE INTERNET AS A PARTNER HOTEL AND WHY ARE YOU STILL TELLING PEOPLE WE HAVE NO ROOMS AVAILABLE AT ANY TIME?

Expedia still hasn’t answered that question.

Expedia by Any Other Name is Still Expedia

Photo by Tim SmithShortly after our story appeared on The Verge, and after causing several long months of damage to us, Expedia finally disabled the Luna Blue Hotel pages on the Expedia website.  At least people going to Expedia’s main pages would no longer be told we had no rooms available.  Unfortunately this is a tiny step with little consequence given the size of Expedia’s reach. Expedia STILL continues to list us on dozens of their affiliate sites throughout the internet. The on-line booking site Venere is a perfect example.

Venere is a subsidiary of Expedia.  Like Hotels.com, Hotwire and many other travel sites, it is wholly owned by Expedia and acts a booking site using Expedia’s database.

We have never contracted with Venere and never given it permission to list our property.  Yet Venere/Expedia claims it is a booking agent for our hotel.  When anyone uses Venere to check for availability they are linked back to Expedia which says we have no rooms to rent ever… and then they are directed to other more expensive hotels!  And we continue to be listed, with no availability showing,  on many sites linking to Venere/Expedia such as travelyahoo.com, cleartrip, holidaywatchdog.com, travelpod.com, tingo, reservetravel.com and many others. 

The biggest and most important site to link to Expedia/Venere’s false information is TripAdvisor.

TripAdvisor is the world’s largest travel website. It maintains pages about nearly every hotel in an area, including ours, upon which people can post reviews. Also on these hotel pages, TA sells space for advertisers and vendors like Expedia, Venere, Hotels.com, etc.  On our TripAdvisor page Expedia/Venere places a link or tick box which says you can check with them for availability and “best rates” at our hotel. There are two problems with that… 1.) we aren’t doing business with Expedia/Venere and 2.) when you click the link, Expedia once again falsely says we have no availability ever.

Photo by Tim SmithIn other words, anyone looking at our hotel on the largest travel website in the world will be directed to Venere/Expedia and told, falsely, that we have no rooms to rent!   And yet…Expedia says it’s no longer working with us.  To Expedia, we guess “no longer working together ” doesn’t mean that they won’t use our name to fraudulently lure people to other hotels on their site.

We recently asked TripAdvisor to remove this link, which they have temporarily done.  However they removed this link in the past at our request only to have it return shortly thereafter.  Unfortunately TA tells us they really have no control over the space they sell to Expedia. Each month Expedia resubmits its designated links to TA for posting on its pages. Although Expedia/Venere is saying they don’t do business with us, they have been continuing to advertise our hotel each month on TripAdvisor, claiming to be our booking agent.  We will see what February brings. For now, Expedia’s war on small hotels continues.

We Aren’t the Only Victims of Expedia

So as you can see, Expedia’s tiny gesture of removing us from the Expedia page does little to stop the continuing damage they are doing to us. And frankly we are not surprised by this.  Because along with the well wishes and messages of support we have received in response to our first blog, we have also been swamped with people–both consumers and those in the travel business–telling their horror stories concerning Expedia.  For some examples just take a look at the comments people have posted on our previous blog post.  Many of them relate their own nightmares with Expedia and are quite enlightening.

Photo by Tim SmithThe stories we have heard range from horrible customer service to stories similar to ours… i.e. hotels being listed as having no availability on Expedia when there are plenty of rooms open. However the one that struck us as the most outrageous was the story of Columbus, Georgia. It seems that this small town had a dispute with Expedia, demanding that Expedia pay certain taxes which were required of anyone booking hotel rooms. Expedia refused, and the city of Columbus brought a lawsuit against them.  However, Expedia wanted more than a court decision. It wanted to punish this little town and anyone who did business there. So Expedia wiped Columbus off the map by removing EVERY hotel in the town from all of its affiliated travel sites, as if the town didn’t even exist.  If you went to Expedia and looked for a hotel in the town of Columbus, you were told there weren’t any, and directed to hotels in the next town!  To embarrass the city government and bring pressure on it, Expedia attacked every hotel in that town not because the hotels had done something wrong, but because they were being used as pawns in Expedia’s ever widening attempt to control all travel bookings.  Expedia continued to hide every hotel in Columbus, Georgia from every one of its websites for over five years, until the case was finally settled.

In our opinion this example clearly shows Expedia’s corporate goal is not mere financial success but it is instead to seek complete and improper control of the travel industry market…and woe to anyone who protests or stands in its way.

What to Do?

So people continue to ask: what can be done about this? The answer is we aren’t sure. A lot of people have written and urged us to lead some sort of campaign against Expedia. But that is not our role here.  We work full time to make our hotel a success. It is a 7 day a week/24 hours a day job. We jokingly say that we are the whitest people in the Caribbean. Everyone has a better tan than we do as we never seem to have time to get to the beach. So we are not in a position to lead a crusade.  All we can do is speak out to tell people the truth about what was done to us by Expedia and help educate others about travel companies such as Expedia and its affiliates.

Photo by Tim SmithThe simplest response to Expedia’s misconduct is …don’t use them or their affiliates: Venere.com, Egencia.com, eLong.com, Hotwire.com, Hotels.com, Localexpert.com or any of the websites listed above.   Don’t book your vacation though a nameless, faceless data bank but instead talk to people who actually know about the places you want to visit.  Call the hotel or restaurant or tour operator directly.  Or call a travel agent who specializes in the type of travel or destinations you want.  We don’t suggest this just because we feel that Expedia harms small businesses such as ours.  We suggest it also because you are better off making your own decisions about your vacation than leaving them in the hands of large corporations who do not act as your advocate.

Remember: the claim that Expedia offers lower rates is not generally true.  Expedia may at times buy blocks of rooms from large hotels or hotel chains and offer them at a discounted rate.  However those hotels are unlikely to offer additional amenities or benefits as they have already tremendously discounted the rate to Expedia.  On the other hand, you may get a better deal by contacting the hotel directly.  In dealing with guests directly, hotels–particularly independent and small hotels–may be much more willing to offer discounts, upgrades, specials or promotions if you book directly.  Remember, Expedia has no ability to negotiate with you for hotel prices, special requests or amenities.  The hotel does.  Call them directly.

Don’t Start Your Research on Expedia or Related Sites

Some people say they use Expedia just to get an overview of available hotels before booking directly.  The problem with this is that Expedia ONLY lists hotels it has chosen to promote.   There will be many other fine accommodations which you will miss if you limit your search to Expedia.  If you want to do your own research, which we strongly suggest you do, check out Tripadvisor, which will list nearly every hotel available in an area, since hotels do not pay to be on those pages, and read their reviews.  Or have a reputable travel agent give you options. A travel agent will act as your advocate, if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, ultimately leading to a better vacation–which is what it’s all about.

Always remember it is your vacation and your money…don’t let somebody else tell you how or where to spend it. Don’t let some mega-corporation limit your travel choices.

Some Good News

We continue to receive not only messages of support, but bookings as well. The word is getting out and people are finding they can reserve at our hotel by contacting us directly via our website, e-mail or Facebook.  2013 Travelers' Choice Award Winner - Luna Blue Hotel - Best Bargain MexicoAnd we have been contacted by several quality travel agents with whom we have begun working.  Sadly, we we are still getting way too many messages that say “I heard about the problem with Expedia too late. I booked another hotel because I thought you were full.”  So we are keeping up our efforts to tell travelers around the world…we are open and we have availability.

We are also very excited, as this week were were awarded a 2013 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award for being one of the best Bargain Hotels in Mexico!  TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards have been given each year for the last 11 years to the world’s top properties.  This is the second time we have won this award, and we are very proud about that.  According to TripAdvisor, “Unlike any other hotel honors, TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice winners are based on millions of valuable reviews and opinions covering more than 650,000 hotels and collected in a single year from travelers around the world.”  Thank you to all of our guests who wrote such great reviews about us on TripAdvisor’s Luna Blue page. We remain committed to offering our guests the same high level of service and accommodations which have earned us this award. 

In closing, once again, we would like to say thank you to all who offered support and helped spread the word. We deeply appreciate it.  Now…come join us in paradise.

‘LIKE’ the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar

24 Responses to “The Nightmare with Expedia Continues”

  1. [...] Dia de los Muertos The Nightmare with Expedia Continues [...]

  2. It’s true: truth really IS stranger than fiction! So glad things are starting to come together for you; you never should have been put in such a position to begin with.

  3. R. Stilling said

    Why hasn’t the SEC been notified? They seem to stick their nose everywhere else and have time to harass qualified businesses to no end. Smells bad……

  4. KimP said

    The time you have already had to put into this mess must be so frustrating. I am an “amateur travel agent”, and help family and friends book trips. I have eliminated all of Expedia and their affiliates from my searches, and am spreading the word. This is a classic story of the little guy vs corporate greed, and it’s up to us little guys to educate others, and not give up. We’re all very proud of you two for doing just that!
    “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” Best of luck with the on-going battle, and with future business. See you guys soon!

  5. tina said

    Hi ya.. we were at you’re beautiful place 4 years ago. I cannot ever ever say anything bad or awful about the Luna Blue and their staff (cats included!) We had a great time, and plan on returning. But i gotta say… expedia is rotten to the core.. omg i had no idea!! We only use tripadvisor for ideas, recent pictures, but we book through our agent… What a bunch of jerks at expedia!! I hope they are proud of themselves for picking on someone just trying to earn an honest living.. Karma can be a b—h !! (not beach either) and theirs is due, long overdue… just wait and see….

  6. Ron Fetch said

    My daughter is booking a trip to your hotel with 4 of her friends. At 20 she is learning very quickly it is better to speak directly to the hotel. Great lessons. Hope to see you agains soon myself

  7. I love Mexico. I will certainly come to your property when I visit your area. I have a small B&B in New Mexico, and always look for a small independent property when I travel, be it a B&B or boutique hotel like yours. I also write a blog, and created a page that addresses Expedia and the such. I hate these booking companies and have been advising other innkeepers to NOT use them for years. My mentor in this business was put into the GDS (Global Distribution System) when she first opened 18 years ago and signed up with a small local company that took online bookings for her. Many years later she decided to not be available online anymore and it was then discovered by me that even though she had been taken out of the inventory with the company she was listed with, the GDS system is almost impossible to be removed from. Because of this she was listed all over the internet and showed as either being full all the time or as being out of business. Always – another property was offered up as an alternative. It is for this reason that I continue to encourage small properties to think twice or three times before getting involved with ANY of these corporate companies. They don’t care about the property – just the money. I have other issues with them too, and would be happy to share my views or my blog if you are interested. I hate when people but their ou=wn links in a comment on my blog…so I won’t do that to you here. My motto – “Book Direct!”

  8. Sorry for the typos in my last comment. Also – I forgot to mention – I belong to PAII – Professional Association of Innkeepers International. Our solidarity, community and numbers can often help in situations such as yours. We have members with two rooms and members with 20+ rooms, even have members in Mexico. Please consider joining…it is very inexpensive and the perks are fabulous.

  9. When we opened our Bed and Breakfast 5 years ago we were told by people in our industry not to use Expedia. We don’t use them and aren’t listed with them. After reading your blog posts I am glad we listened and took our friends advice. Best of luck with your battle with Expedia.

    Mike and Kathy Bedsworth
    The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast, Lynchburg, VA

  10. Reblogged this on ramblingbog.

  11. Richard said

    I learned something else about not booking directly with a hotel, they will tell you anything to secure a sale. My family was to be passing through Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve. I pre-booked a room online overlooking the strip, across the street from the fountains at Bellagio. What fun it would be, enjoying New Years Eve looking out over a beautiful view, and watching the pandemonium below along the strip. When we checked in, however, we were given a room on the back side of the hotel with a view of nothing but the parking lot. When I complained that this wasn’t what we’d been promised, we were informed that online booking sites can’t really make such guarantees. I would have refused the room and gone elsewhere, but finding a room on the Las Vegas strip at the last minute on New Year’s Eve is pretty impossible.

    • Wow, that’s too bad, Richard. But we totally agree with you. When you make a reservation through a third party site like Expedia, all you can do is make a request for something; you can’t actually confirm it, since Expedia does not have the ability to do so. And because of Expedia’s culture of secrecy, the information they send to the hotel about you includes no way for the hotel to contact you (no email address, no phone number, etc). All the hotel knows is your name, the room type they sold you, and any special request you may have noted. So even if you did have a special request that you put in the Expedia reservation, the hotel would have no way to contact you to let you know if they could or could not fulfill it. That’s one of the big problems we had with them. Plus, remember that when a hotel receives a reservation from a third-party site (versus one they receive directly), they have already lost a huge percentage of their profit to commission, meaning that if any preferential treatment, upgrades, better rooms, etc. were available, they would most likely go to the people who booked direct, since the hotel is making more money from those guests. And yes, you’re right, those companies will do anything to secure a sale. :(

  12. labdaddy said

    It doesn’t help your story to complain about TripAdvisor in one sentence and then a couple of sentences later rave about the award you got from them. I feel your pain though.

    • We can see why you’d think that, labdaddy. In accepting the award from TripAdvisor while criticizing their policies and connection to Expedia, we see a real distinction between the website and the people who use it. The TripAdvisor award is not decided by the TripAdvisor editors or management. Frankly we don’t think we’d get one if it were. The TripAdvisor award is based upon the positive reviews and feedback travelers give to the site. That’s why it’s called the “Travelers’ Choice Award.” That award embodies exactly what we’re talking about, i.e., that the travelers should get to decide matters of concern in the travel industry. The fact that travelers (and not TripAdvisor’s management) chose us as one of the Best Bargains in Mexico makes us very proud. We have no problem with accepting an award from the traveling public. That’s who we’re here to serve.

      But of course, the truth is that TripAdvisor IS the biggest travel website out there, and we get a huge amount of traffic from them. And it is a very big deal for a hotel to win an award like this from them precisely because they are so big and omnipresent. Bottom line is that it’s really good for business.

      That being said, we have had our share of issues with TripAdvisor over the years, as has every hotel owner or manager we’ve ever spoken to. While they have a huge and powerful web presence in the travel field, they are not without their issues. But that’s not the story we’re telling here.

      There is good and bad about TripAdvisor to be sure. The good is that TripAdvisor–unlike all of the OTAs–generally lists almost ALL hotels and accommodations in an area. This gives travelers doing their own research a MUCH wider view of what is actually available in a given area, since hotels do not have to pay anything to be listed on TripAdvisor. When you go to Expedia or any other online travel agency, you will ONLY see hotels that are paying for that privilege, which excludes many properties that can’t or don’t want to do so–seriously limiting a traveler’s choices.

      The bad about TripAdvisor is that it appears they are in bed with the even more omnipresent Expedia, just like so many other travel websites. The day after we wrote our second blog, two days after TripAdvisor removed the Venere link on our page, the link was back again. In other words, four months after severing ties with Expedia, the largest travel website in the world still refers people looking for rooms at the Luna Blue to Venere/Expedia, which shows us as having no availability. Two of our TripAdvisor reviews where people referenced our problems with Expedia were simply removed by TripAdvisor. Almost every one of TripAdvisor’s 19 “travel media brands” (travel sites) are fed directly from Expedia’s inventory of hotel rooms. In fact a couple of the links we listed on most recent blog which show us as having no availability are actually owned by TripAdvisor and fed by Expedia!

      The more we dig, the more we find out about how complicated and interwoven these companies all are. We didn’t know any of this when we signed up with Expedia–we just thought it would be a good way to get more exposure and increase our revenue. Had we known then what we know now, we would have handled things much differently to be sure. These giant companies just continue to grow in size and power. We just hope they don’t eventually gobble up all of the competition. We think that would be pretty bad for everyone–consumers and businesses alike.

      Tony & Cheri

  13. Brenda O'Shea said

    My property was just kicked off Expedia with no warning suddenly regarding policies I’ve had in place for years. No response from them. Did you ever get back on?

    • Brenda O'Shea said

      I also wanted to ask, what prompted your property to be removed?

    • We’re very sorry this happened to you. And as we know, getting a response from Expedia to an issue such as this is next to impossible. We hope you are able to work out something that works well for you and your property. In our case, we didn’t want to get “back on” with Expedia after the way we were treated. Had we known some of the things we know know about how Expedia operates, we would never have signed up with them to begin with.

  14. Felix T. said

    Hi Tony & Cheri,
    I’m glad I came across your blog about the nightmare you’ve had with Expedia. I worked at one of Expedia’s outsourced call centers for a few months and it was a nightmare as an “employee” to say the least. The main reason why Expedia’s “customer service” is so poor is that there really isn’t any “service” to begin with: the phone reps were just there to answer as many calls as possible each shift and to do that, we had to get each caller off the phone as quickly as possible and move on to the next call. In fact, we were only allowed just *four minutes* on average per call or face reprimands (or worse). In a business where a simple booking error (and believe me, there were LOTS of them that we had to clean up thanks to the idiots in their sales department) can cause a great deal of inconvenience to travelers, how on earth could you possibly provide good service in just four minutes or less? In the end, I actually felt so relieved to quit that job and move on to something better. I do hope things work out better for your business after your ordeal with Expedia and hopefully I get to drop by your place if I’m ever in the Playa Del Carmen area:-)

    • Thank you for taking the time to leave this comment, Felix. Wow, your report of your experiences working at Expedia explains SO MUCH. It’s amazing to us that people still use Expedia for anything at all.
      Tony & Cheri

  15. I love Playa Del Carmen and understand the dream of having your own business. I own my own travel agency and next time I am in playa I will happily stay at your place. I never use expedia for personal or client travel.

  16. […] and others, the story of a small independent property going against a mega corporate giant went viral. Having survived this battle, the hotel went on to win multiple awards for service and […]

  17. […] SFGate and others, the story of a small independent property going against a mega corporate giant went viral. Expedia was forced to back down and leave us alone. Winning these awards is made all the sweeter […]

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