Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Expedia takes a kicking on BBC Watchdog

The BBC's consumer programme Watchdog is a powerful weapon when it concentrates its efforts on a particular company or individual - but Expedia has been taken to the cleaners in the opening slot of the new series this evening.

Three groups of customers shared their bad experiences with the UK's leading online travel agency: Nigel Ricardo's pre-booked hotel in La Rochelle was cancelled; Lee Styles was given the runaround on his way back from Asia; and Leah Daltrey got her dad involved over a problem.

All pretty damning stuff.

Watchdog used some dodgy graphics to illustrate customers entering their details via the web (shock, horror) and then told viewers about "dozens" of similar complaints about Expedia.

Cue analysis from travel journo Alison Rice, who made the usual and valid points about how protection has changed dramatically since the introduction of the web and how buyers should "beware" online.

Unfortunately the presenter Julia Bradbury nodded just a bit too earnestly in the cutaway and then made a predictable comment about the "good old days" when travel was booked through a high street agent.

And finally, back to the studio for Dermot Halpin, Europe president for Expedia, to explain the company's behaviour.

"99.5% of our customers" are happy, Halpin explained, looking reasonably uncomfortable as Bradbury threw accusation after accusation at him.

Responding to (let's face it, ongoing) issues with the Expedia call centre, Halpin stressed that 85% of calls are answered within one minute and 50 people are now employed to deal with problems.

"We are constantly trying to get better," Halpin managed to stress before the end of the interview.

Despite having the opportunity to respond to accusations, as in this case, very few companies emerge from a battering on Watchdog with their reputation restored.

An exercise Expedia will probably not want to go through again in a hurry. And a lesson for other online travel providers.

[Watchdog's online summary]

Kevin May, editor, Travolution

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12 comments:

not an expedia employee said...

I think Halpin handled it quite well. Going on something like Watchdog to try and defend what are essentially individual and more often than not guilty as charged cases is difficult.

For me there is a question mark of the BBC's tactics here. Why do they always pick on the biggest companies, just because they have a high number of cases when in reality it is actually small percentage of the business?

You are right Kevin: Bradbury's ridiculous harking back to the 'old days' showed a lack of understanding of the subject matter.

Martin Couzins, Travel Weekly said...

So 'the good old days' of travel agents and tour operators selling holidays are now over are they?!

Travolution Blogger said...

not an expedia employee: the BBC is perfectly within its rights to select an organisation like Expedia if it has received lots of complaints.

it makes for good tv and more viewers will recognise the name.

Travolution Blogger said...

martin: that is partly the problem with the mainstream media's perception of the travel industry - it's one or the other.

but i suspect a discussion about multi-channel distribution doesn't really pull in many viewers. :-)

not michael oleary said...

Watchdog would have a great time with Ryanair!

Packyourbags said...

It is a shame when Watchdog seem to give companies a battering over what seems to be normal day to day problems.

Not all companies who handle the volume Expedia does will get it right 100% of the time. Even smaller online agent such as ourselves get problems and usually as an agent is beyond your control, therefore playing piggy-in-the-middle, where the customer ultimately looks to us to resolve their problem.

I feel that Watchdog sometimes scaremongers consumers into the "Perils of online booking" which on the face of it these problems are not necessarily down to the online booking aspect of things.

Travolution Blogger said...

Packyourbags: very well put!! the sooner mainstream media realises this the better.

mkt3000 said...

About time something was done about them. When I worked in hotels, we never had an Expedia UK reservation that went smoothly. They'd sell our rooms without actually booking one ("What do you mean I don't have the room I paid for?"), sell room types that weren't in our inventory ("What do you mean you don't have a 3 bedroom suite overlooking the ocean?"), and an assortment of other issues.

I was happy the day we stopped doing business with them.

DEVILWOMEN said...

EXPEDIA NIGHTMARE HAVING TO TAKE THEM TO SMALL CLAIMS FOR FLIGHTS REFUND THEY SAY PAID IN MY ACCOUNT BUT NEVER WAS...ITS BAD ENOUGH CANCELLING MY FLIGHTS HOURS BEFORE THEN HAVING TO FIGHT FOR THE REFUND TAKING THEM TO COURT SOON STARTED PROCEDINGS AS THEY HAVE GIVEN ME THE RUN AROUND FLIGHT CANCELLED IN MAY 2007 ITS NOW OCTOBER NO MONEY BACK...

spider said...

Expedia, a Travel Agency. Nope I do not think so.

They refused to pass on important information concerning a flight cancellation and conspired with the dodgy Insurance Company Mondial to accept and process a valid claim. They are quite happy to leave you stranded anywhere without help after both companies have fleeced you of your funds.

As for the Customer Service located in Belfast they decline to respond to correspondence.

Expedia are not ABTA bonded, wonder why. There is no recourse through ATOL as they deem you to have a contract with the Airline if you book through Expedia, Check the conditions carefully they change to suit Expedia or Mondial not the Customer. Steer clear and book direct, with honest Airlines. It pays.

Conny Vige said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Travolution Blogger said...

Conny: don't spam the blog.