As the summer holiday season nears, travel booking websites are using workarounds to fool customers into clicking on their “deals.”
The practices come at an alarming time as the Memorial Day weekend is coming up.
Eun-sung Lee (pseudonym), 37, recent went on travel sites recently to test the market on flight deals. When Lee tried to make a booking as the price was so low, the screen showed that he was locked from booking general seats. The only seats remaining were special seats that required additional fees. The difference between the advertised price and the actual cost that Lee was asked to pay was considerable.
“Even reading the tiniest piece of writing when using the travel sites could minimize the most unexpected surprises,” Lee said. “I booked a hotel recently through a site, but I was asked to pay additional fees at check-in, so I had to argue with the site’s customer service.”
Some have made reservations at hotels that have already closed down.
Jenny Chu, 29, made a booking at a hotel in Europe ahead of the Memorial Day weekend. After making the reservation, Chu called the hotel to confirm. No one answered her calls. After all, the hotel has been closed recently.
“If I went on my trip without double checking, I would have gone without a place to stay,” Chu said. “When I called the site, they kept saying that they will ‘confirm.’ U was able to cancel and receive full refund, but it was still a waste of time that caused inconvenience.”
More than 2,000 cases have been reported to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in which a consumer was duped by a business advertising a certain price only to make additional charges through workarounds.
“The cases only become more creative during the holiday season,” said CFPB deputy assistant director Ron Borzekowski. “It’s essential for consumers to confirm with a person on the phone after making the booking. All consumers should report to the CFPB immediately if they feel that they’ve lost their rights.”
A Korean travel industry professional added: “We get a lot of calls from Koreans who make individual bookings on websites. They should always be careful about the authenticity of such websites as some of them are even fake.”
By Yeol Jang