“Nothing more I can do at this point”

Priceline’s map of Daytona Beach, Fla., looked fine to Brian Hutcheson, so he made a bid on a hotel. And he got it.

Wait. No, he didn’t.

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Yes, he did, says Priceline.

As you probably know, Priceline offers deep discounts on hotel rooms. In exchange, you don’t get to choose the exact property and all bookings are completely nonrefundable. Hutcheson knew that.

It’s the map he disagrees with. Let’s get right to it. Here’s the area Hutcheson selected.

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 9.37.43 AM

Are you with me so far?

“My issue is with the misleading area title,” he says. “I booked Speedway – Airport (DAB). This title — regardless of shaded area — leads me to believe my hotel will be in just that.”

Here’s the hotel he got:

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 9.38.24 AM

“I received the Days Inn Daytona Beach Downtown on US 1 Ridgewood Blvd., which is in downtown Daytona. It’s closer to beach side than the speedway,” he says. “This misleading title — ‘Speedway – Airport (DAB)’ is why I think I should receive a refund.”

Now, the industry folks among us will say, “Duh! He should have looked at the map.”

But not so fast.

Labels are important. If you say it’s near the Speedway, shouldn’t it actually be near the Speedway? And not everyone is good at reading maps. Again, some of you will tell him to find a travel agent or use another Web site, but can’t we expect a little truth in labeling here?

I thought Hutcheson might have a case, so I suggested he pursue this with Priceline. Here’s its response:

We apologize if you are dissatisfied with the location of your hotel. We understand that you would like to be confirmed near the airport speedway area.

We presented a map with shaded locations that cover a number of hotels in an area. We have reviewed the location of your hotel and found that is located within the designated area you viewed prior to purchase.

Since your reservation is restricted, it cannot be changed, cancelled or refunded.

Since there are no other options I can offer that would result in a different outcome for your issue, I’d like to thank you for emailing us today.

Hutcheson didn’t give up. He posted his grievance to our consumer forums, where we tried to assist him, and appealed.

Here’s what Priceline had to say:

Our records indicate that you have already contacted one of our Customer Care Representatives and have been advised that we reviewed the location of your hotel and the hotel you received is in the designated area that was displayed to you prior to purchase.

When you were reviewing your reservation information, our website stated that your hotel could be located anywhere within that designated area. Your reservation booked at the Days Inn At Daytona Beach is non-changeable/non-cancelable and non-refundable.

Moreover, when requesting a reservation using the Express Deals option where the hotel name is not revealed prior to purchase, we provide you with the area map that break major cities into more manageable area.

This map will clearly outline the boundaries of the area in which the reservation will be booked. Your confirmed hotel is guaranteed to be within the area boundaries shown prior to purchase. Also, the map you review during the request process will display that the area includes additional cities and/or states.

Since there are no other options I can offer that would result in a different outcome for your issue, I’d like to thank you for emailing us today.

Hutcheson asked me to take this directly to the company, so I did. And here’s the final “no.”

Sorry Brian disagrees with the zone name, but the hotel he received is definitely in the shaded area he was shown when he made the reservation.

Nothing more I can do at this point.

So why drag you, and Hutcheson, through all of this? Because you need to be wary of labels when you’re a consumer, and this is a perfect case in point.

Labels can mislead. Labels can even lie.

The last decade has proven that an “airline ticket” can mean many different things, for example. Who is being transported? Does it include a seat assignment, a checked bag, a meal — or are all those things extra? Restaurants and tour operators do the same thing, too. “All” you can eat doesn’t mean everything on the menu can be consumed indiscriminately. A “VIP” tour begs the question: Who is defining “VIP”?

You get the point.

Next time you see a label, read the map or the fine print before making the reservation. Otherwise, you could end up like Hutcheson. We did our best to help him, but in the end, Priceline was correct. His hotel clearly was within the designated map.

The headline? Not really.

Should Priceline have turned down Brian Hutcheson's request?

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59 thoughts on ““Nothing more I can do at this point”

  1. if you book with priceline you are playing with fire and you deserve what you get.

    it’s like playing a slot machine and being upset when you don’t win.- the odds are not in your favor.

    1. I disagree with the conclusion that “you deserve what you get.” I would prefer to view this as “you deserve what you selected.” The map was reasonably clear, and the hotel is undisputably within its borders. I just don’t see this as “fire” since Priceline did no wrong.

  2. As a Daytona Beach local, I can understand his frustration with getting the Days Inn on Ridgewood. I can’t speak for the hotel itself, but the surrounding area isn’t among the most desirable in the city, and definitely not what most people think of when picturing Daytona.

    That being said, you’re 100% right to push the importance of researching your destination, especially when dealing with an opaque OTA. It may not be a great area, but it is less than a ten minute drive (barring traffic) from the airport or Speedway, so I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with the title.

    Anytime I’m on a site like that and see a zone or area that covers a lot of space (like that one), it usually sets off warning signs

  3. I went to Priceline and looked at hotels in the “Daytona Speedway”. The hotel is in the area, granted, on the edge, but in the area Priceline identified. If he wanted something guaranteed closer he should’ve booked via another means than Priceline. Sorry, but I agree with Priceline on this one.

  4. This is why you don’t deal with Priceline unless you are trying to get a hotel where the location is no so important. You give up control to score a better price.

  5. If you look at that map area, the speedway and airport are the two most prominent features within it, so calling it “Speedway – Airport” makes perfect sense. And even if you “aren’t good with maps” the speedway is still not difficult to locate. Nor are the maps hidden in fine print or deeply buried in the website.

    It’s not reasonable to expect a user to notice something hidden in fifty pages of legalese, but Priceline has made it really easy to see what you might get; I don’t think it’s out of line to expect a user to actually look at a map area when picking one. The site even highlights it when you select it.

  6. How far can this go? What if I say my hotel is in midtown Manhattan and it’s really out on the far side of JFK airport? Would that be OK as long as there’s a map? Map or no map, words mean something. Maybe he could find out how to sue Priceline and, if necessary, make time for small claims court during his visit to Daytona. The dishonesty won’t stop until someone makes it stop.

    1. So he is going to sue Priceline over the fact that his map is labeled “Speedway – Airport” when it does in fact contain both the speedway and the airport?

    2. The airport and speedway are the two most prominent features in the map area, by a substantial margin. And any hotel within that area is closer to the speedway and airport than any hotel outside the area, except perhaps in a couple in the southern part of “Speedway North.” If there were bunches of hotels in other map areas closer to the Speedway and Airport, you might have a point, but there aren’t.

      1. I don’t know Daytona, but it sounds as though the speedway and the airport are sufficiently important landmarks and sufficiently far apart that they should be two separate areas on Priceline. I would imagine that a large percentage of the people who visit are coming to the speedway, so Priceline needs to take that into account and offer hotels that are actually in that vicinity. The map is misleading and dishonest.

        1. Did you actually look at the map, or just assume Priceline is evil? The map itself answers a lot of these questions.

          The Speedway complex is nestled in one of the quadrants formed by the crossed airport runways. The airport fence is literally across the street from the Speedway. It makes total sense to consider them the same landmark.

          And the hotel in question is all of 3.5 miles from the speedway entrance; it’s marked as a ten minute drive. It seems reasonable to deem that “the vicinity”.

          And how is the map “misleading”? It clearly shades the area from which the hotel may be chosen, and this hotel was in it. When going through the “Name Your Own Price” process, you have to pick which regions you want, and it lights up the appropriate one (s) to show where they are on the map.

      1. Map blindness is a serious disorder that affects millions of Priceline consumers every day, LeeAnne…this is no joking matter.

        1. I smell a class-action lawsuit in the making. Priceline should make appropriate accommodations for the map-disabled. Anyone who claims map-disability should be able to choose their hotel themselves at no additional cost. 😉

          1. “map-disability”? I’ll thank you to remember that the preferred terms are “map-challenged” or “map-differently abled.” 🙂

    3. I tried using Priceline’s opaque bookings in midtown Manhattan. They are very specific and the maps are very specific. Manhattan is broken down into 14 different areas. They may not be as compact in a place where hotels are more spread out.

      However, Brooklyn is considered one area for them.

    4. If you look at New York City on the Priceline site, Manhattan is divided into several zones. There are also zones for Brooklyn, Long Island City, LaGuardia airport, JFK airport and a couple of zones for Northern New Jersey. The only way to buy a room near JFK is to click on the JFK box.

      1. So why can’t they do the same for Daytona? I have to say, though, that Brooklyn is huge and much of it is not on the subway. If Chris hasn’t gotten a complaint about Priceline hotels in Brooklyn, it’s only a matter of time.

        1. Manhattan is broken up into smaller areas for obvious reasons:
          – There are a LOT more hotels in Manhattan than the non-beach areas of Daytona, FL. (The beach areas of Daytona ARE pretty small.)
          – Most people staying in Manhattan will not have a rental car, making close distances rather important.

          Given that Daytona IS broken up into several zones, despite not being nearly so densely populated, seems to be a winner to me.

          Why would anybody complain about Priceline’s zone of “Brooklyn”? It’s unambiguous as to what area that covers, even if it is large. If a traveler assumes the entire borough is within easy subway distance, that’s not Priceline’s fault.

          1. I appreciate the comment relating to the importance of distances. I reside in New York City, and I don’t drive. When I travel, I look for hotels that are either easily accessible on foot from the railway or bus station, or accessible from reliable and convenient public transportation. The Priceline maps outside of New York City vary in that respect, with some zones so large that one cannot be assured that the hotels within the zone are actually accessible. For that reason, I tend to use Priceline only for urban areas, and for those places where the public transportation system does not completely serve the mapped zone, I will book a specific hotel rather than taking a chance on getting an inaccessible hotel.

          2. Again, it depends on the area and density off hotels.

            Since you mentioned NYC, this morning I checked Priceline for their NYC maps. Manhattan has 14 zones. Brooklyn has one. I don’t really think Brooklyn is that much easier to negotiate than Manhattan, but probably that there are far fewer hotels in Brooklyn.

          3. I think you are correct that the single Priceline zone in Brooklyn is that there are not as many hotels, and that they’re not concentrated in a single place. But I would not be as concerned with “bidding” for Brooklyn, compared to many other places in this country, because the entirety of commercial Brooklyn is readily accessible by public transportation, and it is quite likely that any hotel would be proximate to a subway station (and at worst, a short connecting bus trip).

    5. Unlike political boundaries–which are well-defined–neighborhood names are not; people will have different perceptions of what constitutes a neighborhood. Thus, reference to a map is a necessity when dealing with such indefinite borders. And while I may well agree that no reasonable person would perceive JFK to be a part of midtown, I would rely on the map rather than my personal perception of what constitutes “midtown” (though in the JFK case, I might follow up with Priceline to see if there was a hiccup in the system).

  7. If you want to be somewhere specific, don’t use Priceline. But if using Priceline, make the assumption that your hotel will be at the furthest point on the map away from your “destination”. If that is not acceptable, do something else.

    For me, I like to know where I’m going to be before I pay my money.

    1. The few times I’ve even considered a Priceline type booking I backed off quickly. The desired locations I wanted seem to always include a tiny undesirable area.. Gosh, it’s like they planned it that way. :-0 Not the odds I want to play on my vacation.

      1. “Gosh, it’s like the planned it that way.” BINGO! 🙂 How else do you think they are supposed to make money?

        The important part is that you realize it.

        Priceline is a great tool if you know how to use it. I’ve gotten some great deals on it. But I would never use it if I have specific needs that might not be met (e.g. two beds), or if I have to be in a region that isn’t clearly delineated in the map. Oh, and I know how to read maps. That helps too.

  8. What confuses me are all the appeals from this issue. The gentleman admits to familiarity with Priceline and its process, agrees to *any* comparatively-starred hotel in the selected zone, and gets upset when a hotel he booked…complies with those terms? Seems like a waste of time and your limited resources, Chris, to jump in to the fray. If you need a specific hotel or non-negotiable amenities, don’t book through Priceline. Seems simple enough.

    1. Agreed, and I’m most definitely not one of the “industry folks”. The label here did not mislead or lie, and the map provided all the clarification that should have been needed. Consumer sour grapes.

  9. Yes, neighborhood names can sometimes be ambiguous. But in this case Priceline removed all doubt by providing a definitive map. One person’s “near” is another’s “way far distant.”

    Are we going to demand refunds for flights to Hartford because the airport is in Windsor Locks? Or to Cincinnati because their airport is in a completely different state? Or even to some little countries because “their” airport is in a completely different country? Didn’t think so.

  10. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and Priceline drew him an accurate picture. I’ve encountered this game with them before, and the only way to guarantee you get the location you want is to reserve with that specific location. Spinning the wheel and hoping you get what you want to save a little money can work either for or against you. The OP wound up losing this time, but his choices seemed pretty clear.

    In all, I, too, am surprised Chris bothered with this one.

  11. This is why there are sites dedicated to helping people figure out Priceline. He could have found what hotels were being given for a certain request and he could have adjusted his plans accordingly. One of the easiest ways is to look at the star ratings of the hotels being given to people and where they are on the maps. One could then adjust their bidding accordingly in order to get a specific hotel.

  12. This is the second case recently where, even though I’m generally on the customer’s side, I can’t agree with the LW. The whole *purpose* of Priceline, from its very beginnings, is that you trade a certain amount of control over the hotel you get for a discount off of the normal price. Priceline’s maps are front and center, and In this instance, you would have to willfully ignore the map to be upset by the outcome.
    Companies often adopt hostile policies that are clearly designed to extract more money from their customers while lowering the quality of service, and they hide behind legalese and policy nonsense to get away with it. This is NOT one of those times. It appears to me that Priceline was right to refuse both the LW and Chris on this one.

  13. So Priceline is not only opaque as to specific property, but opaque as the part of town it puts you in? At least it was in Daytona somewhere.

    We’re just back from an emergency visit to Hollywood, where we saw a sick relative. That’s a place where you absolutely, positively need to know specifically where you’re staying.

    1. No, they clearly show you a mapped area where you could be placed. It is up to you to see where in that area you might get a hotel and figure out if the risk is worth the reward.

    2. It most certainly is NOT opaque as to the part of town it puts you in. The maps could not be clearer.

      Including in this case. The hotel is clearly within the map. It just doesn’t get clearer.

      Unless, of course, you don’t know how to read a map. I can see how that could be a handicap. In that case, one probably shouldn’t use Priceline.

  14. Buy cheap – get cheap. Brian needed something very particular, not just cheap. He needed to investigate a lot longer and open his wallet to get what he really needed.

  15. I voted yes, having worked in Daytona Beach for a while, I can tell you that his hotel is a 5 minute drive from the speedway. It’s not that big of a city and ISB moves pretty quickly. If he was on the other side of the sound and had to take a bridge, it could add about 5-10 minutes to the commute, but I am pretty sure Priceline would call that the “Beach” zone and charge more. As much as I hate Priceline, the OP got a hotel in the zone and its pretty close to the speedway. There are only two hotels that I know of that would be closer to the speedway, and they are much nicer than Days Inn, so they probably cost more.

  16. OK, technically the hotel was on Priceline’s map. It’s their map so they can mislead people all they want. I’m curious about how the hotel refers to itself. Is it “speedway/airport”? If that’s the case, Days Inn is misleading their potential customers. How much did the OP save by booking through Priceline? We now have another great example of not believing anything you hear/read/see about travel until your research is done. It’s a shame. But people who book hotels on opaque sites … if you do, you need to accept the results. I think Priceline could have allowed him to change the hotel, but I understand what kind of a company they are, so no point in expecting them to care about the consumer.

    1. I’ve seen hotels a lot further away than four miles advertise themselves as “downtown” or “airport” locations. I don’t think there was anything misleading about the map or the designation, regardless of who calls it that.

      I find it interesting that on the one hand you say people should accept the results if they gamble on the opaque sites yet insist that Priceline should have bent its rules for this particular customer. The customer got exactly what he bid on, there’s no “technically” about it. Everything presented was — for once — up front and obvious. If the LW wanted a hotel *at* the Speedway or airport, he should have selected that specific location, not rolled the dice on getting a deal within the general area.

    2. How is it misleading people if they show you the area where you can get the hotel? They literally color off the map so you can see how far you would be from your destination.

  17. I voted no, without checking the actual map. Then I went to Priceline to check the actual map and I changed my mind. ‘Speedway – Airport (DAB)’ is an appropriate label for the map. If Priceline labels this area as ‘Daytona Beach’, they would get a lot more complaints. Only a remedy is to split the area into two, something like ‘Speedway – Airport (DAB)’ and ‘Daytona Beach Oceanback’ (I don’t know how it should be called), but that’s up to the company.

  18. Once again I’m going to comment before I read all the other comments (which I don’t usually do). This one is about as cut-and-dried as I’ve ever seen.

    YES, Priceline did the right thing.

    Come on. The map is pretty clear. Name schname. They gotta call it something…and yeah, when you get something on the outskirts of the mapped area it might not be fit with the name…but it’s in the map.

    I’ve used Priceline. You HAVE to look at the maps! The name of the region is completely meaningless. It’s all on the map.

    I’m surprised you wasted any time on this one at all.

      1. I usually at least try to skim them so I’m not just repeating what everyone else has said. But in this case I didn’t see the point…I figured every one of us would be saying the same thing, so why bother. I’ll just add my voice to the cacophony. And sure enough, I was right. 🙂

        I suspect that Christopher lobs us these softballs on occasion just so he can watch his usually snarky, bickering commenter community actually all get along for a change. Kinda like Mom & Dad asking the kids if they would rather go to Disneyland or the Museum of Modern History for vacation…it’s the one time all year they will all agree with each other!

  19. What lie? Is the Speedway in the shaded area? Yes. Is the airport in the shaded area? Yes. But it’s a lie to call the area “Speedway-Airport”? His hotel was in the area he was promised, he just doesn’t like it. He should have booked the specific hotel he wanted if location was so important.

    1. I know why the OP did it. I looked up hotels for Bike Week because I new it would be busy. The Priceline deal for a hotel in the Speedway/DAB shaded area costs $59 a night. While the two hotels that are right by the Speedway, cost $189 and $249 a night for the same period. So if he wanted the specific hotel, he would have had to pay $130 or more per night extra. I think the OP wanted to only pay $59 a night, but still expected the $189 – $249 a night location.

  20. The Mystic (Connecticut) Marriott plays this same game. I notice they’ve added “in Groton” to their listing, but I’m sure that over the years many who thought they were reserving a room in Mystic were dismayed to find themselves on the edge of an industrial park off I-95 several miles south of the tourist town.

  21. This is probably one of the silliest priceline complaints we’ve seen here. Not only is there the map, but the name for the area makes sense. The speedway is almost smack dab in the middle of the shaded area. His problem isn’t that the label for the area is wrong, it’s that the area is too big. Oh please.

  22. I don’t understand it when people want anything specific yet use opaque sites where you can’t be specific. Makes no sense at all to me.

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