My mention of priceline.com last month evoked a woeful tale. To be sure, one modest snafu hardly invalidates a brilliant business model. But as we lurch into the brave new world of cybercommerce, we look to each other for guidance. Does this stuff really work? How well?

Thanks, therefore, to Graig Ponthier, for the story that follows. (Countervailing anecdotes welcome!) Graig writes:

“I thought I was being very ‘Tobias’ when I decided to get on priceline.com and see what kind of bargain I could get on hotel accommodations for a recent trip. For me, it was only worth spending $40 a night since I could have driven back home instead of staying the night. After shooting for the moon (3, 4, 5 stars), I finally found that my $40.00 got me a suite at a 2-star hotel (with kitchenette, separate living area, etc.) I was pretty excited because of how easy was this. I didn’t even have to call the hotel, just show up and the room would be waiting.

“Well at check-in, I discovered that the room reserved in my named was at a special discounted rate of $65 (which was not a suite and was not a double occupancy as Priceline stated it would be). I explained to them about my $40.00 room and discovered that none of the front desk employees have even heard of Priceline.com. They asked if I had something I could show them that shows this rate. I thought for sure that I was a victim of a Priceline scam, since they already had my credit card number.

“Well, all I had was my bag and my laptop. So, I went up to my $65 room, booted up my laptop, dialed up the server, loaded up my emails to find my confirmation. In pure embarrassment, I brought my laptop down to the lobby, placed it on the front desk as all the other patrons watched and waited. Anyway, they finally did honor the rate but the whole check-in process was a nightmare. Oh well, I guess I still saved some money on the rate. Unfortunately, they got it back at the hotel bar.”

 

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