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(Text of a complaint which I just sent to the Better Business Bureau.)

On 9/3/07 I attempted to reserve a hotel room in Boston using Hotwire.com. I provided my credit card details and received an error message, "We are unable to authorize this request. Your credit card has not been charged. Error #435." I attempted to reserve the room again using my husband's credit card information and received the same error.

On reviewing my bank transaction history online, I discovered that both credit cards in fact HAD been charged $402 apiece for the hotel reservation that did not go through. I called Hotwire to complain about this, and was told that there was a hold in place that their Risk Management department would have to remove; the representative did not explain why that was the case. She suggested that I contact my bank and have them remove the hold.

I contacted my bank and asked that they perform a chargeback, and my bank representative kindly made a conference call to Hotwire's billing department, where we spoke to another representative. This representative again said that they could not remove the authorization, that only Risk Management could, and that I would have to leave a voicemail and RIsk Management would call me back at some point. I found this arrangement unacceptable, as their website's claims of not having charged my card are deceptive and I am $800 poorer until these authorizations are released. My bank representative also asked if they would authorise her to release their hold, and the Hotwire representative claimed that would not be possible.

We then spoke with a Customer Care supervisor who identified herself as Janet D. and refused to give her last name. She made the same claims as the call-center person did, and stated that only Risk Management could authorize the release of the hold; she would not state why Risk Management needed to be involved at all. She claimed that no one other than Risk Management could do this and refused to provide me with information about anyone in the organisational structure above Risk Management who could handle this situation.

Finally, I asked Janet D. for her supervisor's name and contact information. She refused to identify him as anything other than "Bob", and claimed that he had no direct line and was busy right now, but that she would "try" to have him call me back.

I am furious about the buck-passing and general refusal to take responsibility for a situation which should have required nothing more than a simple phone call from me or my bank. If they are not going to take money from me for a transaction, they should not authorize a hold on my account. Full stop.

I demand that Hotwire release any and all holds they have placed on my husband's and my bank accounts, and that they furthermore alter their business practices so that authorizations are not placed on users' credit cards until such time as a transaction is actually completed.

Furthermore, I demand that Hotwire alter its business practices such that any further incomplete transactions can have holds released without the intervention of a department which does not take direct phone calls and cannot be guaranteed to actually call people back.

Finally, I demand that Hotwire require its company representatives to provide their full first and last names when dealing with customers. If customers have to provide their full names, they deserve the same courtesy from the employees with whom they are dealing.

Meredith L. Patterson


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 3rd, 2007 08:17 pm (UTC)
You might want to pass this on to Consumerist (www.consumerist.com) as well.

Done, and thanks for the suggestion!
Sep. 3rd, 2007 07:02 pm (UTC)
That's really screwed up of Hotwire, and I entirely sympathize with your frustration. I'm sorry that they suck, and I hope the BBB lights a fire under their butts. I disagree on the call center names, though. Having worked at one, there are some psychos out there. I don't want them stalking me after hours at my home because their Internet isn't working to their satisfaction. (This happened at one of my ISPs enough times that they changed their policy and forbade us to give out our last names.) I think having some sort of identification number is the right solution -- that way you have accountability but not stalkability.
Sep. 3rd, 2007 10:55 pm (UTC)
ugh, that's just ridiculous. I had a very similar thing happen to me last August when I was trying to buy a wedding present online from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I got an error message and they put a hold on my credit card, even worse was I don't have a very high limit so that present put me at my limit and it was a couple of weeks before they released the hold.
but you're talking about a ton of money there, and they can easily see that no transaction went through, I don't get why they won't just let the bank release it if Hotwire doesn't want to bother with it.
Sep. 4th, 2007 01:26 am (UTC)
Ultimately, the credit card company doesn't have to ask permission. They can just say, "Yeah, you suck. We're cancelling that hold. The end."
Sep. 4th, 2007 02:11 am (UTC)
Yeah, I haven't contacted MasterCard yet, as I was kind of busy trying to figure out where we were going to stay tonight. I used my check card, and apparently my bank has an agreement with MasterCard such that they can't just arbitrarily release holds; if the charge had gone through, they could do a chargeback immediately. Holds seem to be a weird sort of gray area.
Sep. 4th, 2007 05:17 pm (UTC)
Visa and Mastercard both require that banks using their branding and service backbone abdicate control of transfers through said service. I had an online vendor keep billing me after the account was closed. I nolonger had a user ID to log in and complain with and they ignored the emails and voicemail sent to their service number. The options were to keep trying to get them to cease (MC wouldn't cancel what their records showed was a valid recurring charge) or to change the card number.
Sep. 23rd, 2007 01:41 am (UTC)
Meredith you are a whore
i think the subject line states it all don't you? if you have ever dealt with bitches such as yourself, you would realize that the customer service industry is a hard job to have. we have to deal with out of control "customers" as yourself and we don't get paid enough as it is. i can state that you were NOT charged. the risk management department got involved because you were probably trying to commit fraud with your "husband's" (yeah right, like someone would actually marry you. what a joke.) card and they needed to investigate it. your card merely had a hold on it which would have been removed. clearly you are an idiot.
Sep. 23rd, 2007 09:50 pm (UTC)
Note to any other AOL-using anonymous cowards like the one above: ad hominem and defamation are not persuasive forms of argument. You fail.
Sep. 24th, 2007 09:45 am (UTC)
You keep telling yourself that Mer, whatever works right?
Sep. 24th, 2007 09:42 am (UTC)
Having read your little rant, I have a few issues. First of all I will say that no, people in customer service should NOT be required to give their first and last names. There have been many instances where people are unstable and have stalked and done other inappropriate behavior re the said customer service rep when they received their last name. It is for the protection of the customer service representative. I for one would not be comfortable giving my first and last name. There are so many things that can happen when you do. Identity theft anyone? I have been in customer service since I entered the work force and I can say without fail that I am an excellent customer service representative. I have excellent quality and have gone above and beyond without thinking it as going above and beyond, having said that..you cannot please everyone all of the time. Second of all, you are all upset because the reps didn't give you information re Risk Management. Here is the reason. Hotwire reps are not given any information about risk management and are under strict guidelines to refer said customer to the risk management department for further information. You cannot give information you don't have. The risk management department is generally involved when fraud has occured. They are mainly lawyers. Hotwire representatives can get in trouble if they even try to think of what it could be about. Also, as far as you thinking the Rep Janet was making excuses about the sup. Bob not getting back to you, hotwire reps, regardless if they are supervisor or not do NOT have direct lines. It is impossible to transfer a call to a specific supervisor. You transfer the call and it's the luck of the draw as far who will take the supervisor call. Also have you ever heard of something like different shifts? Janet would be required to fill out a call back form for Bob to talk to you and he would call you back after reviewing your information. One more thing..I think..I lost track of how many issues I had with your angry little post. Your charge was not an actual charge..yes it's shown up as if it went through, but it's still pending. Once you speak to Risk Management(which you should, duh..it's the way to get your funds released, not whining like a petty child), then they would provide you with the information you so desire and would release said funds. Providing you weren't commiting fraud of course. So there is your answers..do with it what you will. I have a feeling you will continue to sit, sulk and generally be nasty though. Have a great day!
Nov. 4th, 2007 06:42 pm (UTC)
Re: Idiocy
I think the issue at hand is that the company is structured with such a lack of accountability that the consumer is powerless. The issue at hand is not the last names of reps, or the unavailability of supervisors, but the fact that the company will take money from the consumer and then make them jump through hoops to get it back.

I just had this experience with Hotwire last night. I too used my card and then my girlfriend tried to make the transaction with her info. We have now been charged over $1600, and are waiting to hear back from "risk management."

Our banks tell us we have been charged.
Jan. 14th, 2008 07:33 am (UTC)
Response from a seasoned Hotwire Representative
So you'd like us to tell you our names so you can spam this personal information across the net for all to see? Typically we are more than willing to give out our phone id numbers (numbers unique to each individual CSR) if you would only ask. I mean I'm sorry if you feel you were bounced around but once an account has been blocked by RM, nobody but them can touch it for security purposes. That's simply the way it is.

With regard to the authorizations, this is a pretty standard procedure any time you use a Card. First the bank authorizes the merchant to take the funds and removes them from the available balance to set aside for the merchant to take. Assuming that everything goes well the merchant will collect the funds almost immediately and you never know that several steps went down in the process. When things go wrong, even on our site, we are typically able to release the funds with a quick call or fax to the bank. This is done by the phone representative you initially connect with Your situation was very unique in that it involved Risk Management for one reason or another. This severely limited my options.

When you ask for a supervisor's supervisor you are asking for an individual who does not take direct calls because the vast, vast majority of the work they do is off the phones. Typically a callback from one of these individuals takes 24-48 business hours. Oh and "Bob" is the man's name, not a fake. It is also an identifier. If one were to refer to supervisor Bob, everyone would know exactly who they were referring to. Same with Janet D. Not many people hold their positions.

If you honestly feel that you were misled by a representative, you may request that a call be pulled and listened to, though the vast majority of the time this results in a customer being proven wrong. One last thing. Be nice to phone reps. We do have the authority to make judgment calls in situations when their is more than one resolution, and if you've been courteous and respectful we're much more likely to decide in your favor. This wasn't one on those situations, mind, but it's a good little sentiment.

Regarding your thoughts on the quality of our service, we've won the JD Power and Associates reward two years running now for customer satisfaction.

FYI: I posted this for a friend on an anonymized IP address, so in the odd event you try and back trace me, you'll be about 600 miles off your mark. Have a glorious day.

Feb. 14th, 2009 10:34 pm (UTC)
Re: Response from a seasoned Hotwire Representative
Dear Hotwire Representative,

How do I say this nicely? You're on crack.

I just got off the phone with one of your snotty, combative people. I started out extremely nice, even though your web site had INFLATED the hotel ratings of the place I just booked and didn't want. I have NINE major travel web sites listing this dump as either 2 star, or a couple as 2.5. Being local to this hotel I know it's a dump and barely two star (that's being nice). However, this snotty wench didn't want to listen. No, instead she starting trying to prove me wrong with other sites. I don't care about other sites, I KNOW it's a dump, most web sites say the same thing and it's not even in the "downtown" area as they claim. So don't tell me being nice would get it done. Emails go unreturned, a call from a supervisor hasn't happened and thsi snotty woman was someone I would have fired on the spot.
Jul. 7th, 2008 09:28 am (UTC)
I agree, Hotwire's Risk Management needs Customer Service Lessons
I am in a similar boat. For the past two weeks the Hotel and I have left a message as we were instructed to do with Hotwire's Risk Management number ((415) 343-8808). I personally have left a message almost every day and sometimes twice a day asking them to contact me to resolve the issue.

I have not gotten a call back nor an email from the Risk Management group and they debited my account two weeks ago. I was asked by the hotel to pay upon departure with another card so in effect I have payed twice for this stay.

My options at the moment are to dispute the charge with Hotwire or complain to Hotwire's management directly (perhaps their CEO).

I am not asking for much but if I am suppose to leave a message, they should return my call to let me know what the problem is and/or how to resolve it.
Aug. 10th, 2008 06:43 pm (UTC)
Identical Experience with Hotwire
I already posted my experience on my3cents.com, but was motivated to respond to your similar situation.
As far as I'm concerned, Hotwire's practice of charging before a service is actually provided smacks of poor business ethics (at the least) to outright deception and fraud.
Their written disclaimer stating that your card has not been charged is a blatant untruth whether or not Hotwire wants to legally spin it by claiming the funds are only temporarily on hold; this is ridiculous.
My bank needed a fax to confirm that the transaction did not take place and reverse the charges (a total of $1600), which took three days after the initial charges.
What amazes me is the number of false entries posted on Hotwire. On the same day, I tried four times to book a room for one hotel (all charged to my credit card even though the transaction was never completed), and then I tried a different hotel listing with the same result (transaction incomplete, charge to credit card).
What concerns me the most is that Hotwire is able to hold up funds without providing a service when they explicitly state that your credit card WILL NOT BE CHARGED. They MUST change this practice as witnessed by the number of disgruntled (now former) Hotwire users.
You commented about the BBB. Did you receive a response from them and has there been any action taken on this case? I plan to send my own letter to the BBB as well as any other state or federal consumer protection agencies that deal with internet commerce (or fraud/theft/deception).
Regarding the customer service reps at Hotwire ...
To say that they are incompetent is being generous; proven by the responses by some of the reps themselves. Personally I wouldn't want their job since it entails covering up for the bad business policies of the company. The reps with whom I spoke repeated the same lines verbatim as nothing more than trained monkeys. I understand this is the nature of most poorly run customer service industries but unfortunately it is the customers themselves that choose (or not to choose) to patronize these companies. I think it is my duty as a consumer to let as many people know about the practices of Hotwire; either they change their business policies or go out of business.
By the way, there are plenty of reputable alternatives to Hotwire that offer better deals with listed hotel chains. For example, i4vegas.com is good one if you are planning a trip to Las Vegas; it gives the names of the hotels, the amenities, and excellent rates.
Hope this helps others.
Oct. 21st, 2008 03:49 am (UTC)
From a call center rep.......
I work in a call center. We absolutley do NOT give our last names. We get thousands of calls a day. We have had threats of people saying they will blow us up, people menacingly demanding to know our location, and countless threats of "you will be sorry", people saying, "I know where you are" and hanging up, and the occasional obscene caller. Not giving our last names is for our safety. Get over yourself, Meredith.
Nov. 13th, 2013 06:29 am (UTC)
Uhhh, if people are THAT upset with your business, you don't think that something going on there is horribly wrong?

I don't agree that customers should be assholes, but when they're getting ripped off and absolutely refused any sort of customer service or anything to make them want to continue being a customer, they have a right to be angry.

It's sad to me that so many reps have replied to this entry defending such a shady company. I know first hand what it's like to work for a poorly managed company that convinces you that the customer is the piece of shit for wanting justice when they've been scammed, but you are all taking your anger out on the wrong people. Customer loyalty used to mean something, now it's all about how much you can screw the customer.
Mar. 25th, 2009 04:04 am (UTC)
Ever get a response from the BBB???
Just curious - what was the BBB's response???
Apr. 9th, 2010 03:55 pm (UTC)
I have been dealing with Hotwire for 2 weeks about getting my account unlocked. I've now called risk management almost every day and the customer service reps have sent them 3 e-mails requesting a call back. Now I will say unlike most of these people that the reps I've delt with have been very nice, however I still can get no response other than that risk management will call me back. I'm by this point pretty sure that they just forward your information there and hope you forget about it. So if you're waiting on their risk management I wouldn't hold your breath
John Sangiorgio
Jan. 26th, 2013 04:13 am (UTC)
Last night, I experienced the same issue with Hotwire. The put a $200 hold / charge on my credit card for a 1 night stay in downtown Cincinnati. When I arrived at the hotel (6 hours after the online booking) Hotwire cancelled the reservation for no clear reason. I was told by the hotel manager that only Hotwire could inform me on the reasons why.

So in the hotel lobby, I immediately called Hotwire customer service. The customer service rep, in my opinion, was polite but could not tell me anything or do anything only than transfer me to an unidentified voicemail box. I called back again hoping that someone could direct me to a "real" person. And that is when I asked what department owns this mailbox that I must leave a message in... Risk Management. To date, I've left them two messages and have not heard anything back via email nor phone.

The thing that really irritates me beyond not delivering a service they promised to me as a customer is that is there was NEVER an email or call telling me that they cancelled the reservation prior to me arriving at the hotel. This is shocking, distressing, and unfathomable from a customer experience perspective. Honestly, I have no issues with the customer service reps and supervisors whom I spoke with. The BIG issue that I have is with Hotwire, their processes, and problem resolution competency.

It was the first and last time that I'll ever use Hotwire. And block all of my company's employees from using it for business travel (which is what I was using it for). I'll post when someone actually calls me back from Risk Management.

Go to Expedia, Travelocity, Quikbook, or HotelTonight for something much better.

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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