Not so fast, says online travel site Expedia after a pricing glitch gave some travelers extremely cheap rooms in some of the most expensive cities in the world. Apparently, a “technical error” in Hilton’s computer systems caused incorrect prices for some Hilton reservations in Japan, setting off the usual mixture of honoring some prices, disavowing others, and re-avowing still others after complaints. Expedia tried to offer gift certificates for future travel to Japan in compensation, but that option was not acceptable for many travelers who had just booked complete trips, including air travel, on Expedia.
While it may be impossible to completely avoid pricing errors without incurring unacceptable costs, automated checks should detect these “Order of Magnitude Errors.”
Additionally, a clear policy for handling errors can help preserve customer good will. Expedia’s explanation that they didn’t want people reselling (non-transferable) reservations rings hollow, since it penalizes people who did not create the problem.