Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My letter to Priceline

Dear Senior Vice President:

I recently had an incredibly frustrating experience with Priceline. I reserved a rental car for my wife so she could pick it up in Salt Lake City on her way home from Sacramento, where I had to stay with our car for work. Upon arrival, she found that she could not pick up the rental car because I had reserved it with my credit card, and she has no credit card. The rental agency would not allow me to pay for her rental. Fortunately, my parents drove her home, and her parents loaned her their car for a week.

The frustration began when I called Priceline for a refund of the $66.00 charge I had received for insurance on the rental car. I spoke with two representatives who religiously repeated the same mantra, “I’m very sorry for the inconvenience, Mr. Fairbourn, but we cannot issue a refund.”

In summary, I paid $66.00 for insurance on a rental car that we were not able to pick up, and Priceline will not issue a refund or even a $66.00 credit toward a future Priceline reservation!

I know you understand the value of word-of-mouth marketing, especially in today’s world of online social networks. I frequently receive emails and Facebook messages from friends seeking travel advice. I am 27 years old, I have traveled to fifteen countries in the last four years for education and leisure, and I am very good at traveling on a budget. I also travel at least once per month for work. I have often used and recommended your website for comparing rates and fares, but now I will actively warn against it.

For example, after my frustrating experience, I posted my story in response to the Facebook question, “Have people had bad experiences with Priceline?” Also, I have begun posting status updates and links to warn my 857 friends about the risk of booking through Priceline (namely, if something goes wrong, you will not get a refund). I would love to follow up my warnings with a happy story about how Priceline recognized the problem and made it up to me, but in the meantime, I will continue to warn my friends that Priceline is “very sorry for the inconvenience” of having charged me $66.00 for nothing.

In closing, here are my suggestions:

  1. Refund my insurance payment.
  2. Revise your rental car reservation procedure. When someone books a rental car, and the name of the driver does not match the payment information, display a dialog box warning about payment on pickup. Of course, include a link to the fine print about acceptable forms of payment.
  3. Make this up to me. I would recommend a credit toward a future reservation (in addition to the refund), because that is the only way I will use or recommend Priceline again.


Brett Fairbourn


  1. I always worry something like this will happen ... P.s. I rented from Priceline last week in Oregon. They do have a snippet about using the same credit card on their website ... I saw it and was uber-paranoid about doing something wrong. Can't wait to hear their response!

  2. Yes, I've read aaalll the fine print now. I should have realized Heidi would not be able to pick up the car. But I didn't. Oops, my bad... can I get my money back please? NO! What??

  3. I get it I really do, I have been so frustrated before, over lesser and greater amounts of money. Just a thought: you might consider coming across a little less all important or indignant in your first piece of correspondence with the guy who actually can remedy the situation. Said with love, Juls

  4. I got a refund... was hoping for more, though.

  5. I came across pissed off... because I was pissed off.