Hotel booking websites

We recently had a short break on another continent and used a well-known booking website in order to book a hotel. Our booking was based on the information provided on, or rather through that website. There was no other source of information on the hotel in question and it seemed to suit our needs according to what information was available to us. So we were a little surprised to find that the hotel was very basic and did not compare well to the advertisement. We have since taken this up with the booking website and the advertised facilities have been changed. Of course, the website itself disclaims everything under the sun, not their fault, etc.

This leads me though to the question of trust. The web has become a rather tenuous place, what with search results generally useless unless you are very clever with search terms. Results are filled with hopeless information that is generally light years from what you want. It seems, then, that hotel booking websites are going the same way. Rely as they may on their disclaimers, where there is no other source of information regarding a hotel one must ‘trust’ what is published on these portals and lay the blame for any unforeseen issues at their door. Or are we destined to only use them for an introduction and after this communicate directly with each hotel? If so, what use are they?

Someone simply looking to book a hotel and find the best deal is going to base their decisions on what is set out before them by the booking website. Surely these websites need to take a lot more care over their advertisements. If a hotel states that it has a continental breakfast one should not expect just a bit of toast. If it says the room has a coffee maker then a coffee maker should be in the room.

To my mind these companies cannot hide behind the same kind of ‘mere conduit’ ideas that protect Internet providers because they are themselves a service. You go to them so they can help you make a choice. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has already investigated the sector and carried out enforcement actions against some of these websites. Their angle is to do with competition so is not relevant in the case I outline here but I do wonder if the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) may take an interest. I have yet to fully digest the findings as it is not an area of law in which I have practiced. However, the law is not a mystery to me and this is one of those niggling issues that I tend not to drop…

There’s something in your ear!

I almost fell for this scam in India. Two guys approached us and seemingly helpfully told me that he saw something fly in my ear and wanted to help. Before I could say anything he had grabbed my ear lobe and produced a metal instrument to which my wife shouted ‘stop’. I pulled away and adopted a somewhat defensive stance which made the guy step back but continue to say he wanted to help. After this we ignored them and carried on. I searched for this and it is a well known scam that I missed when doing my pre-trip research – typical! If you fall for it the magically produce something that was apparently in your ear and expect a tip.

Indian train ticket scammers

We came across an interesting scam while in New Delhi. The scammer approached me and told me first that our train as delayed by 6 hours – it wasn’t – and next that our tickets were invalid ad we had to go to the tourist office on the second floor. I played along here but there was no second floor. Another scammer, I’m guessing they worked in pairs, then told me that we had to go to the railway’s central office in town and get the ticket changed for a later train. At this stage I got my mobile out and told him I would ring our driver and he could explain to our driver why. Unsurprisingly we were told that the tickets were fine!

But I don’t understand the scam. All that they would have achieved is that we would miss our train, and given ticket sell out days or even weeks in advance we would not be able to buy replacements. So what do they gain personally? Strange people.

Since we returned I have searched and found other scams at railway stations too, including people standing by the x-ray desks and pretending to be railway workers. From memory we did not see anyone around that looked like a genuine railway worker other than the guards on the trains themselves so I would not readily be able to tell if someone was official or not. Some uniforms and IDs would be useful.

Anyway, just be careful. My mistake was I was holding our tickets and that made me a target.