Hotwire address is getting us into hot water. Should we delete it?

Sometimes, facts can be painful. But the truth should never hurt, at least physically.

Which brings us to Anita Lavine’s request. Actually, it’s not hers, but her client’s:

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Lavine works for Porter Novelli, Hotwire’s public relations firm. And she contacted me recently to ask a favor.

“Hey, I have a sort of unusual question for you,” she wrote. “I’m wondering if it would be possible for you to update the address listed for Hotwire on your website.”

I publish Hotwire’s address on my company contacts section. My researchers and I do this as a public service. When someone runs into a problem with a company, and a low-level call center employee informs them that there’s “no manager” to which the problem can be escalated, this information helps.

My first instinct: Of course I can update that address! In fact, I love it when companies provide us with accurate information about themselves.

Then I continued reading.

“Over the past few months,” she continued, “there have been a couple of situations where angry folks have arrived at the Hotwire offices after finding the address on your site, and caused a bit of a security issue, while making the receptionist quite uncomfortable in the process.”

Hotwire, she explained, “definitely” wants to hear from customers. But it prefers contact by phone, email or snail mail.

“That being said, would you be open to listing the P.O. Box versus the physical address, just so we can help make sure that all staff and employees stay safe?” she asked. “Let me know if this works, and thanks so much for your consideration.”

I wasn’t sure what to say to that.

Hotwire’s physical address — 655 Montgomery Street #600, San Francisco, CA 94111 — is available on multiple sources online, including Yelp, the BBB, and Bloomberg. Perhaps most notably, it’s available on its own website.

I wondered how Hotwire knew whether these disgruntled customers found their address on this site? Did they ask? Did the mad customers offer this information?

Even if every angry customer originated from my site, what makes Hotwire so certain that removing it would fix the problem? I mean, it publishes its own address on its own website.

Here’s another thing: Hotwire has already successfully hidden the name of its customer service managers from our researchers. You’ll note that there’s no VP of customer service, no service manager. We only list the president.

Curiously, Lavine never mentioned that Henrik Kjellberg, who we had listed as the president, was no longer in that position. But our incredible research team, let by research director John Galbraith, quickly found his replacement, Neha Parikh, and updated the page. (Thanks, John.)

As I review this request, it seems as if Hotwire is doing its best to scrub the internet of any useful information.

Then there’s the suggestion that somehow, I’m responsible for aggressive customers who make the receptionist “quite uncomfortable.” But who is really responsible for an unhappy customer? Is it the consumer advocate who is trying to help, or is it the company which has failed its own customer?

I’m having a hard time accepting the blame for these confrontations. Hotwire had an opportunity to avoid those before the customer showed up at the front door. Why didn’t it?

Removing a physical address would also allow other companies to make similar requests, citing “security” concerns. How many other businesses listed in our directory would love to edit their information, making them even harder to access? I can think of one or two.

Still, if the physical address is not really relevant to resolving a consumer complaint, or if Hotwire’s employees are in actual danger because of something I’ve done, I would feel compelled to help.

So I ask you, dear readers, what should I do? Do I bow to Hotwire’s wishes and delete this information, or leave it online, potentially exposing their receptionist to more “uncomfortable” situations?

Should I remove Hotwire's address?

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33 thoughts on “Hotwire address is getting us into hot water. Should we delete it?

  1. She requested that you “update” the Hotwire address? While I admit I haven’t checked the dictionary definition, to me an “update” happens after some change is made which causes existing records to no longer reflect reality. Hotwire didn’t change their address though, so there is nothing to “update”. What they really want is to obscure their address with a disingenuous request hoping that you won’t catch on.

    I don’t agree with angry customers showing up in person and potentiality harassing a receptionist, but obscuring the address is not the answer.

    1. “Update” in this context means to make current. So long as the street address listed for Hotwire is the current one, you have every right to list it.

  2. Poor Hotwire, having actual customers show up at their OTA . Pity that a certain subset of customers can’t resolve their problems by other means, can’t we just keep their money & make em’ go away?? How about they create a welcoming atmosphere for customers with a reception area, milk n cookies, and a live person to help them fix their problems? They could learn to improve their delivery of travel products by listening to customers who fell through the cracks. Oh, all that would adversely affect their pursuit profits over people? Tough!.

    1. You say angry customer w/o a resolution (who must live in the SF area only – or pay to travel there) – I say mentally ill crazy person who feels slighted after not reading (or being able to understand) the terms and conditions of the agreement they entered into. Both are possibilities, yours might even be more probable. It doesn’t mean that they’re both not real situations.

      After all, what kind of a person actually, physically goes down to a corporate office expecting to get a legitimate resolution? Is there any proof that they’re going to be able to actually speak with someone who can help or that a resolution has ever been achieve?

  3. I’d ignore it. Their address is posted in multiple places and they can’t prove angry customers were directed there by you. They need to suck it up and invest more in customer service.

  4. Absolutely not. If the address is listed on their website, Google and other places, then you are just repeating what is already in the public domain. What seems like a reasonable request really isn’t reasonable.

  5. As there is only two options to the poll, Yes or No – I chose yes. If someone shows up at that office and does something crazy, you would be partially accountable for that. Before you say that the address is available in many places, where does your site’s listing fall in the web search results? If it’s first – that’s on you. If it’s on page 8, that’s a little bit of a different story.

    Was there an offer to remove the address if maybe there could be a) increased communication b) an offer to update any missing information that’s on the site with the appropriate individual and their direct communication? and/or c) the ability to have a customer service representative directly assigned to help consumers as requested from the Elliot staff?

    To plainly try to deflect blame for angry individuals entering the Hotwire office seems to just be a way to cover your butt. It could be used as a bargaining chip to try and get better access and/or results. Maybe try to use your leverage to improve the total overall situation instead of digging your heels in and try to position yourself on the higher moral ground over one detail.

    1. It appears near the bottom of the first page of search results. BUT most importantly, Most of the first page results are all official Hotwire pages, with the address front and center. As far as people showing up, Hotwire needs to deal with that via security or a phone lobby like Sprint. Or Chris could arrange a tit-for-tat – they change the address to the PO Box (not really a big deal) in exchange for two working senior customer service managers contact details.

      1. NO, don’t delete the address. Ain’t Chris’ fault or problem. If Hotwire won’ assist customers and they go there, it’s Hotwire’s fault.

    2. How would be “partially responsible”? The information needs only to be searched for under Yahoo Finance – (=Expedia). Their address and information is all out there. Maybe they need a little shaking up instead of being hidden and uncaring while they reap millions, if not billions. Lesson #1 ?…….NOBODY should be using them. They are deceptive and absolutely no bargain or savings if one does their homework directly with hotels and airlines.

  6. I assume the purpose of publishing the physical address is to use it to deliver written letters or notices by courier, and those companies do not, to the best of my knowledge, deliver to PO Boxes. Therefore, it would be taking away useful information. If the company has a security problem in their premises, they need to address that themselves. They could secure the entrance, employ a security guard, or other such action. Trying to hide the address is not a good security solution.

  7. They could do what Spirit Airlines does if they’re so concerned about security… it’s easy to find Spirit Airlines corporate address, but apparently when you go there, there is no receptionist or anybody around when you walk into the lobby, just a locked door and a phone for you to pickup to contact them, and getting through to a human being is no easier than if you called any of their corporate numbers. Spirit knows how awful they are and has mastered the art of hiding from the public very well. I’ve only used Hotwire once and it was fine so I don’t really have much experience with them, good or bad, but if they’re so concerned about people coming by to the corporate offices, rather than try to hide, why not improve their service and make it easier to contact the right people when something goes wrong? Then nobody will care where their corporate offices are because it will be unnecessary to show up in person.

  8. What purpose is there to listing their physical address if they’re willing to provide a mailing address? If a company had two addresses listed on their site, wouldn’t you pick the mailing address? If not, then you’re not listing the address for the purpose of helping readers contact the company. I used to work for a company where people would show up and wait for customer service reps in the parking lot. You’d here them shouting the name of the person they wanted to confront every time someone exited. We had people hop on planes and bang on the door just to scream at a tier one rep because they didn’t like a policy. If I were trying to help employees feel safe, I’d probably Google the address and start by requesting that the top results list our mailing address, even if we we’re legally required to list it on areas of the site. Especially if those results came before our own site or if it we’re a blog or forum post saying, “You can just go down there.” The first priority has to be the safety and security of your employees. You can’t provide service to customers if employees are afraid of being attacked in the parking lot.

    1. Physical address may be needed to serve papers for Small Claims Court or other legal documents.

      There is no “parking lot” for this office building in downtown SF, trust me. It’s across the street from the Transamerica pyramid.

      No legitimate business should be concerned with posting their address, after all it is a matter of public record.

  9. if the address is available on other sites……………..what’s the big deal ?……………include the P O Box #, the phone #, & the email address ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,you are still providing a good service for your readers.

  10. Yes take down the physical address and accept their offer to use the PO box, no employee of ANY company should be afraid of showing up at work and be confronted by a customer pissed off at the execs of the company, fron line employees do not make the rules but they do follow them other wise they would be out of a job. IMHO

    1. Then you’d get angry Hotwire customers showing up at the Post Office and confronting the postal union employees, so it’s just unloading the problem onto another bureaucratic organization that doesn’t like to be bugged.

      1. Yeah, but confronting postal employees gets you in trouble with the Feral Gubmint, who are not noted for their sense of humor.

      2. LOL, You really think someone would go to a post office and start yelling at the post office employees because of the frustration of not getting past a P.O. Box ?

  11. The request is reasonable and the Hotwire contact gave you a reasonable reason for the request.

    You can make as many arguments about customer service and if was better people would feel the need to visit the corporate office to complain. But isn’t the real purpose of providing a mailing address so that people can write to company? Not for person-to-person visits?

    Unfortunately, the world we live in full of crazies. Shootings in schools, workplaces, and places of worship. The people who work at Hotwire have a right to feel safe in their work environment. And have told you that there have been security issues and are trying to resolve them. That should be good enough.

    Yes, the address can be found at other places. So what? Let them look there instead of your site. Err on the side of caution.

    No physical harm comes from posting phone numbers, e-mail addresses, or PO Boxes. Real addresses is a different matter.

    1. NO, don’t censor your site. It’s HOTWIRE’s problem if they are non-supportive of customers, and people go there to complain.

  12. I dont think it should come down, as it is public in other places, it doing so would lead to other requests which gut your listing.

    HOWEVER, I do think you should add the proper mailing address if that is what she offers with the P.O. Box as a second address on there. It may lead to better routing of mail.

    I do think companies have a right to “defend themselves” and most are not in the business of screwing customers (even if some stories make it seem that way). I would turn the tables and list both, and ask for information about escalation paths and key contacts. Let companies have a section of the page where they can write what they want. It gives us more information and even stronger case if that path fails as well.

  13. You should do a little bargaining. Offer to drop the physical address in exchange for updated email addresses for VP of customer service, service manager, etc., with continued updates when these email addresses change.

  14. Hotwire has already successfully hidden the name of its customer service managers from our researchers.

    Shows what they are……… OTA? Ha ha ha ha!

  15. Having dealt with odd customer service requests to my work or personal phone numbers, I can sympathize with getting irate customers looking for an answer and not taking no for an answer. I figured out one of those (a mistake in an online directory plus my number one digit off) and could provide the correct number, but it got tiring dealing with someone else’s problem.

    However, I do tend to agree that it’s questionable if anyone got it from a silicon source.

  16. “Hotwire” is just one of the aliases that Expedia uses, including, Trivago, etc. If Expedia were interested in transparency, they would not be doing business under multiple names.

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