Thursday, December 30, 2010

Truth in advertising

Expedia, Orbitz, Starwood, Hilton.... They're all the same. Even American
Airlines think that OTAs stink.. Misleading pictures (no one ever gets that
room on the home page), "special" rates that morph into a different deal
when you actually book, the small print that tells you the wi-fi will cost
$18 a pop, homogenized call-center service, and all the other nonsense that
makes booking a hotel stay a rather miserable experience.

Then, of course, there is the location itself. You wouldn't think that a
hotel would intentionally misrepresent its location, would you? Would they?

Well, yes, they did.

The "they" I'm referring to is the Sheraton Skyline in London, at Heathrow
Airport. But not really at Heathrow Airport. Close, sort of. A bit. Not

I arrived at Heathrow. Hotel booking form in hand, I searched for the
Sheraton Skyline, London Heathrow Airport "situated just minutes from the
airport." Was I in the wrong terminal?

I looked, and I asked, and I looked until finally I realised the hotel was
not at the airport. Outside perhaps, just down the street? I read the
booking form again... "Just minutes from the airport" so I hopped into a
Black Cab and off I went, expecting a short cab ride. $55 later I arrived at
said hotel, "just minutes from the airport."

I don't usually blog about personal experiences of this nature, but it was
simply too great an opportunity to talk about the prevalence of misleading
information online. Or, in fact, every medium.

As consumers, we've come to distrust a lot of advertising. We've come to
distrust a lot of media.. To be sure, there's a lot of rubbish and
misinformation out there. Even Apple is in on it, destroying our trust
thanks to its private army of app developers collecting our personal data.
And soon, when our Facebook pages become flooded with social media spam,
we'll come to distrust that space too.

But to mislead customers about your business's location -- so you can
increase the chances of bookings -- that
is the ultimate trust-breaker.

When I complained to the front desk, they told me to ring the corporate
booking centre. When I rang the corporate booking centre, they more or less
told me to go to hell. My hotel "at the airport" turned out to be a false
economy when I added the cab rides and wi-fi charges..

So the moral of this story isn't don't stay at the Sheraton Skyline (well,
perhaps a bit). It's about not believing everything you read. Not even an
address can be counted on as accurate these days. Research, ask questions,
never assume that what you see online is what you'll get, and triple check
the address.

Because there's no truth in advertising anymore.

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