Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Hotwire.com Engages in Systemic Consumer Fraud...and Worse

WARNING:  Your Hotwire.com "reservation" is not - according to Hotwire.com - a reservation at all. It is nothing more than a gamble that you might get a car...or you might not...and it might actually be 19+ miles from airport location you booked it at.


There is one thing that really gets me going is dishonesty...and Hotwire.com certainly engages in that.

If there is one thing that well and truly gets me furious is the blatant engaging in Consumer Fraud as a part of systemic practice...and Hotwire.com clearly engages in that too.

I have one client that has, in a matter of days, encountered two outrageous experiences with Hotwire.com that are only outdone by the abusive and dishonest handling of the issues by is Customer Service people.

Example 1:  You reserve a car through Hotwire.com for pickup at the airport.  It winds up being a rental with Alamo.  You arrive at the airport, go to the Alamo counter and it is empty.  You call the posted number and are told there are no cars. You need a car and the only ones available are from competitors for triple the price since you are a walk-up (desperate) customer. 

So you rent the car and then go back to Hotwire.com to complain and seek the difference back since you had a contract for a car at a certain price and now it costs you more.  Right?   Not so fast!

Hotwire, after three Customer Service representatives are involved, essentially says, "We don't make any money on the rental and you could have cancelled it.  The fact that you contracted with us for the car doesn't matter.  We have no obligation to you.  But we will give you 20 Hot Dollars to use towards another rental"  Huh?  

What about that car now costing me triple what I contracted to pay? Hotwire.com could care less.

Example 2:  You go to Hotwire.com to rent a car for pickup at the Denver International Airport.  As you type it in, and knowing there is only one airport in Denver (and you are arriving into Denver International Aiport), you see a dropdown that says:
*Denver, CO (DEN) Denver Airport
*Denver, CO (DIA) DENVER Airport
  Denver, CO (city)
(The asterisks * represent an airplane depicted on the Hotwire.com site.)

You select "*Denver, CO (DIA) Denver Airport" and book your car.  It is with Avis, so upon arrival you hop on the Avis shuttle bus only to find out upon arrival that the Avis airport location is not where Hotwire.com arranged the rental.  It is at an Avis location over 19 miles and 30 minutes away. (But if you want to rent the same car at the airport location it will, once again, cost you triple what you had your reservation for.)

So you contact Hotwire.com and your call is sent to Manila, Philippines so you can attempt to speak with an agent that has hardly mastered English, no less United States geography, so she cannot comprehend what the heck you are talking about and then spends over an hour...that's right over an hour...supposedly trying to get a supervisor while insisting she can help you.  You ask for her name (which she refuses to give you) and beg, plead, demand, scream for a supervisor and finally somehow you get one located in Oregon, but she lies to you and claims you put in a zip code went you made your reservation.  (Raise your hand if you have even a clue what the zip code is for Denver International Airport.)

You get nowhere and figure out it is cheaper to pay for the $50 taxi to get to your car than it is to rent one at the airport location, so you bite the bullet.

But you don't give up!  Three Customer Service people later (now now spending over 2 hours on insisting you not be ripped off) you are still be accused by yet a third person of being an idiot that does not know how to rent a car at the airport.

But as you now say, "I'm going to sue the bastards!" you go back to the website and find something very interesting:  If you book a round-trip car rental you are given the Avis airport location, but if you book a one way you are not given the airport location (but in grey letters on the side of the page it shows the location is supposedly 9.8 miles away...which is actually the one that is over 19 miles away- because you left the plane at the airport and distance "as the crow flies" is irrelevant!)

Plain and Simple, Hotwire.com engages in:  
Classic Bait & Switch.  
Classic Consumer Fraud.  
Classic Fraud.

Hotwire.com clearly has a system that is designed to do at least three unconscionable things:  
  • (1) Hotwire.com preys on people relying upon Hotwire.com to arrange rentals where they had requested; 
  • (2) Hotwire.com systematically lies to customers; and,
  • (3) Hotwire.com intentionally makes the process of obtaining even a chance at resolution so difficult that it is not economically viable for the average consumer to pursue legitimate claims.
If the price sounds too good to be true it probably is.
If there is a lot of money spent on marketing you need to be extraordinarily careful.

I'll let you know how all this works out.  What I do know at this point is Hotwire is going to be a a lot of Hot Water!