Thursday, November 10, 2005

Booking Hotels - Information Overload

I just had to book a hotel. It's pretty crazy down in South Florida right now, apparently many people (are still) evacuated to Hotels. Unfazed by that, I went online to my (ex)favorite website for travel, Orbitz. I really like how they display the results in a really easy to read grid. I thought I had found a good deal for Sunday, but when I entered Saturday and Sunday, they showed me the same hotel for three times as much. Bad. Why can't at least get the same rate I saw for Sunday only?

I then went to some other sites, it's fair to say they at least did not falsely put my hopes up,
then ended up at Hotels.com. They actually have some nice features too, like selecting a bunch of hotels and mapping them at once. Their comparison grid though was ridiculous, since there was nothing on any rows for all the hotels I selected. I found a good deal, tried to place the order three times and got errors every time. Three times! I then found another (not so good) deal, and booked that for Sunday only. I wanted Saturday and Sunday, but oh well.

I then get an email confirming my reservation, and another email saying:
"(...)you have already confirmed a reservation
for in for
November for 1 night. Would you like to confirm
this reservation for the for November
for 2 nights as well? Please let us know as soon
as possible."

I thought, hey, maybe the error has been solved, how nice of them to email me. It was even signed by a person. Cool -- not. I emailed them back and after a while they replied:

"I am very sorry, but the is sold
out for the dates requested.

A room is not booked until it comes back with a
confirmation letter. In most cases when we are
waiting on a confirmation we usually get one within 24
hours, so this is why you received that automated
response.

In some instances the hotel does not keep their
information updated in the central system, making it
look like there are rooms available. We also
experience the same frustration when trying to book
rooms and get the same response.

Please try http://www.hotels.com for an alternative
property or different dates."


To their credit, the email was nicely written and did explain the issue, so I'm frustrated but not so mad. Good for them, I will reconsider using their site for that.

It was frustrating, but here's the second part. Not only it was hard to get a reservation on-line, it was very often hard to find the phone numbers for Hotels I was seeing listed as well.

There are so many commercial travel sites that many times it's impossible to find the phone numbers -- since the travel sites want you to book through them they don't post that information. The names of hotels are also often different from what's listed in Yellow Pages, so even those didn't help. I had to resort to -- gulp -- twice -- calling 411 to get numbers. I'll swear again when the bill arrives.

I think this is an example of information overload on the Internet nowadays. The thing has grown so much that even with advanced search engines it is hard to find some information, unless you know where to look -- and you just can't know where to look for each and every thing.

What is one to do? Well... I have some ideas and you might hear more about it in the future... Just remember the name "MetaSurfing" ;-).

Mais uma arvore acaba de cair no meio da Floresta sem ninguem ouvir,
abraços,

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