Watch Out for Scams on Expedia.com - picture of hotel door with tag hanging from doorknob
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Watch Out for Scams on Expedia.com

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I have been a big fan of online booking site Expedia for nearly a decade, and have used it to book thousands of dollars in airfare, hotel stays, rental cars, and more.  I’ve used it so much that I currently have $225 built up in my Expedia Rewards account, which is quite a bit when you consider how long those points take to earn.

Still, I recently encountered an issue with them that infuriates me- bait and switch pricing.

Watch Out for Scams on Expedia.com

It all started when I went to book a hotel room for my parents for Spring Break 2015.  As I mentioned a few months ago, we plan on using Southwest Rapid Reward points to fly the six of us (myself, Greg, two kids, and my parents) to Montego Bay, Jamaica, then IHG Reward points to pay for our rooms at the Holiday Inn Sunspree All-Inclusive Resort in 2015.

Greg and I have enough points for all six nights if we use their cash and points option, but my parents only have enough points for 3 nights.  My plan was to book their free room with their points then book their other nights as cheaply as I could.

I checked prices for several weeks before deciding it was finally time to pull the trigger.  For the week of March 31st through April 6th, Expedia had a room listed for only $243 per night, far less than the competition.  And since my parents only needed to pay for three nights, the total should have been something close to $729.  But each time I clicked through to book, the price came up as $885.  Weird.

Since the vacation was almost a year away at that point, I decided to check back a few days later.  But when I did, the same thing happened.  I then began checking other dates and pricing on Expedia and found similar issues.  For example, the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort is listed at $157 per night in June, but changes to $192 when you go to book.  Something wasn’t right.

Expedia Customer Service Sucks

So I called Expedia in order to get to the bottom of the issue.  If the price was supposed to be the lower one they were advertising, that is obviously what I wanted to pay.  Likewise, if the “real price” was actually the higher figure, I wanted to tell them to quit advertising the lower one.  Then I got ready for my head to explode in 3….2….1

Unfortunately, I forgot that Expedia customer service sucks giant donkey balls.

Seriously, talking to them is on par with talking to someone at Comcast, and that really says a lot coming from me.  During the handful of phone calls I subjected myself to, I talked to at least one person who told me I was reading it wrong, another who said that my internet connection must be messed up, and another who basically said “sorry ’bout ya,” while making it obvious that they couldn’t care less about my problem.

When I finally got ahold of someone in their corporate office, however, this is what they told me:

Basically, the front-end and back-end of their website don’t always talk the way they should.  So it might advertise one price then switch to another when you go to pay.  “Our site takes a while to sync up sometimes,” the Expedia rep told me, “so you just need to wait a day or two.”

So that’s what I did.

I waited.

And waited. 

And waited.

At that point, it had been at least a month since I called and complained.  And, lo and behold, the prices still changed when you went to book a room at that hotel.  Go figure. 

So I emailed their corporate email.  No response.  I sent them a letter via snail mail.  No response.  I tweeted them incessantly and finally got a vague reply that was subsequently deleted.  Yes, seriously. 

The Bottom Line

I understand if a website takes a few days to sync up, but a month or more?  At this point, Expedia is knowingly using bait and switch practices on its website and doing nothing to fix the problem.  A customer could easily see the low price of $157 per night and not notice they were being asked to pay significantly more for their room.  We all know how bad people are at math, am I right?

In my opinion, Expedia should not be advertising incorrect prices.  And if it is simply a website error, then they should fix their website.  Otherwise it just looks like they are trying to pull one over on their customers.

Furthermore, the fact that they don’t bother replying to complaints of this magnitude is troubling.  Most companies would be horrified if a customer felt they were misleading customers, and would at least acknowledge that a complaint had been made.

The bottom line is this:

Watch out for scams on Expedia.com.  They are knowingly and willfully advertising prices they have no intention to honor.

And, if you’re not paying attention, you could end up paying far more than you planned.

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92 Comments

  1. MomofTwoPreciousGirls says:

    And FYI they also runTravelocity. We tried booking a trip to Vegas last month. Every time we went to choose a flight it would say no seats available so we tried travelocity instead. They had the same issue. Woke up the next morning and though nothing was booked or confirmed I had $2500 in holds on my credit card! Tried calling to remove them but they gave me the run around. I gave up thinking I would just wait for the holds to drop. Three business days later they put more holds. Over $4700!!!!! I went ballistic on the cs people and took to Twitter. They got the holds off fast but I then also filed complaints for both sites on the BBB. We went elsewhere to book.

    1. I figured that out when I checked prices on Travelocity and found the same thing!

    2. We just had a similar issue. I used to use Expedia but will never use them again. The worst customer service. I am going to try to contact media about their scams.

  2. they are not the only one, I’m constantly frustrated by the flight comparison (momondo & other skyscanner…). You end up going through all the booking process and after having spent 10 minutes putting all details… Then the price increased of a bunch of credit card fees or luggage or other BS like this.
    So now I mostly know which are the usually cheapest airlines on my typical route (to visit family) and I book it directly on the airline website.

  3. You know how you know when you go on lots of awesome vacations? When you’re able to spot scams and price changes on a travel agency’s website! 🙂

    Seriously I’ve noticed the same thing (but not quite to the same degree as you) about the prices not lining up when you first browse and then go to book. I’ve called their customer support before as well and it was the WORST.

    1. It really is awful. I was put on hold for stretches of 30 minutes during each of my calls. It’s almost like they are just seeing if you will hang up.

  4. Thanks for sharing your experience! I don’t often book travel, but I could’ve sworn the same thing was happening when I looked – I just attributed it to my unfamiliarity.

  5. I tried Expedia for the first time in June to book a hotel room and it was a total nightmare. There customer service is non existent and I swore to never use them again. How long can a company pull this type of crap and still stay in business??

    1. Good question! I have never had a problem with them until now, but I am hesitant to use them again. Their customer service sucks!

  6. Ugh this is really unfortunate to hear. I use Expedia almost exclusively (and have used them exclusively for at least five years now). I may have to start trying some of the other sites now : (

    1. Check the prices before you book! I’m not saying I will never use them again, but I will be very cautious when I do!

  7. I gave up on them years ago. I might use them to check a price, but any more going directly to the source to book has been cheaper or at the very least I can submit a best rate claim and do a little better sometimes.

    Have you considered filing a complaint with the BBB or some other type of agency and let them deal with the crap?

    1. I reported them to two regulatory agencies already but haven’t heard back.

  8. Your experience is really bad. I would try other sites who are better sticking to what they promise on advertising. Expedia should mind taking responsibilities really well if they want people to continue using their services.

  9. I haven’t had any troubles with Expedia, but I’ve only used it maybe twice to get flights, not accommodations. I think that’s pretty skeezy on their part to advertise one thing and bill a different one. And you’d be SOL getting the difference back if you had clicked through and not noticed the additional $100 or so.

  10. Okay, that would SO tick me off too. We aren’t planning on a vacation any time soon, but when we do, we won’t be using Expedia.

  11. Ugh, I hate things like this, they truly make my head want to explode, and it’s more than enough reason for me to swear off a company forever. I’ve done it with Ikea, and I guess Expedia is next.

    1. There are a lot of businesses on my black list too! Comcast is enemy #1!

  12. I wouldn’t think a major travel web site collecting customer info and and $$ would take days to sync up. Sounds real fishy. Would make think how save my personal information is.

  13. Gross. Thanks for sharing.
    I had a semi-similar experience with an airline recently… my transaction didn’t go through, so I called them, to make sure I wasn’t double purchasing the tickets. The price went up $100! “someone else must have purchased those cheaper tickets, there’s nothing I can do.” Their system isn’t even good enough to redirect me and tell me that, I had to call them to make sure I wasn’t an error and they’d already charged me. Ugh. So, I am an additional $100 out of pocket because of their sketchy practices.

  14. I usually use Expedia to compare prices and then book on the hotel’s website to get points. Sometimes they are a bit cheaper, so I wonder if they would be the same or more if I actually made the booking. I will remember that if I use them again.

  15. I have had great success with Priceline. They have never given me a problem and I don’t see the price issue. I have seen it on other sites before though.

    1. I have used Priceline before as well with no issue.

  16. Thanks for the tip! I will watch out for it. I use Expedia, but not all the time.

    I recently found out from a friend who just moved to England that when you book a hotel online there, it’s a legal contract. She missed a flight and had to arrange different lodging, but they still expected her to pay for the room she booked even though she wasn’t there. So if you visit England, you may want to take that into consideration as well!

    1. Hmmm….sounds fishy. However, I know you can only cancel your booking with Expedia within so many days and still expect a refund.

  17. Wow, I don’t know what’s worse – their incredibly crappy customer service or them blaming it on their site taking so long to “sync up”. We don’t really use Expedia much. I’ll use it and Kayak to compare prices and then go through the hotel’s site. That said, it looks like I may be writing my own rant on US Bank as we have a problem with them going on a flipping month now and getting very similar stellar service.

  18. My feeling is that this may be a very common practice. Computer systems are able to track our browsing history and then pop up ads that reflect our interests/socio-economic standing. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that this happened.

  19. Thanks for the head’s up! I’m getting so tired of website services, or any company (I’m look at you Canon) where they don’t list a phone number to get a hold of a real person. That all they have are drop down forms that don’t meet your needs at all. Because I think those forms really do nothing to help. I have a feeling though with expedia, they are not the only travel site to do this.

    1. I absolutely hate that. Just put your customer service number where people can see it, please!

  20. Thanks for pointing this out…I used to use Expedia a lot and still like it. I don’t think I was that vigilant about the pricing, and hopefully I wasn’t scammed by them, but I will definitely be watching out for that if I ever use them to book.

  21. I’m questioning the legality of what you experienced with Expedia. Maybe it’s time to make a report to the consumer bureau of protection? Not sure it may do much but it may worth another e-mail?

    1. I already reported them to two different governing agencies. I hope something comes from it, but I doubt it!

      1. sarah finnegan says:

        I did to . I want this on the news wish I knew how much of a scam they were before they ripped me off 800$ ruining my sons graduation gift and last vacation together. I have complained to everybody I can even contacting lawyer. People shouldn’t get away with this

  22. Thank you so much for writing this post. I don’t use Expedia personally, but I think it’s valuable to know which companies to stay away from. Thankfully, you have a platform and maybe they’ll start paying attention and change.

  23. I’ve experienced this type of behavior multiple times with Expedia, I pretty much gave up on them years ago because of the bait-and-switch tactics.

    One thought to possibly take advantage of this is to use IHG’s best price guarantee to try to get IHG to match the lower price. I’m not sure if IHG would match the lower advertised rate of go through and match the total booking rate, but even if it’s the higher rate you might get some explanation from IHG on the price difference (undisclosed fees, taxes, etc). If expedia’s high rate is lower than IHG’s rate, you could also get the first night free even if you didn’t get the low rate.

    http://www.ihg.com/hotels/us/en/customer-care/lowest-internet-rate-terms-conditions

    1. I am going to wait a few more weeks…then I might try that!

  24. Ben @ The Wealth Gospel says:

    Looks like I’m never using Expedia again…

  25. Gross. I prefer to book directly from an airline or hotel, and I usually find that it’s actually cheaper that way. I booked a one way flight on Expedia from Philly to Seattle once because it was a steal, and it turned into a total disaster when the flights were delayed and I was rerouted all across the country. That was an epic travel day.

    1. It isn’t cheaper if you consider the price that Expedia is advertising (yet not honoring!)

  26. Ugh that sucks! One time I booked a hotel on there and they pulled a scam on me. After I booked it, I received an email and it said I had booked a hotel with a slightly different name (it was a REALLY crappy/shady motel across the street). I knew it was instantly wrong and I knew for a fact that I did not book that. I called their phone number and luckily they changed it but I had to convince them they were wrong for about 30 minutes…

  27. Yesss, thank you for posting this. I’ve been trying to book a 2015 vacation through Expedia, who constantly showed the lowest price, but every time it gets to the checkout, the price is over $750 MORE than it should be! I called their terrible customer service twice and the first time I was told I needed to update my browser (da fuck?) and the second time the lady said I’m not adding up the numbers correctly and “maybe I should try to use a calculator”….!

    $185/nt as shown on page. $185 x 7 = $1295 Price jumps to $293/nt at checkout, totaling $2051 before any taxes/etc. How they’re allowed to continuously do this is what I’d like to know. I’ll never use them now.

    1. That’s insane! I am sorry you’re going through that but glad to hear I’m not alone!

  28. Wow! This is awful Holly!! The last few times I have booked with a travel site, I have just used Priceline and named my own price, so I knew what I was getting when I booked. I can imagine, though, many people not paying attention to this and getting caught in their bait and switch practices. Sucks!

    1. Yep, it sucks. I can totally see it happening too. How many times have you broken out a calculator and itemized a purchase like that? I know there have been times when I haven’t.

  29. I happen to work at a Marriott and just wanted to confirm that this is true and they even give us a hard time. Also wanted to let you know how the whole system works. The rooms they advertise, they haven’t bought them yet. They sell them to you for X, turn right around and by them from us for Y and make a killing due to them getting the hotel more “foot traffic.” So they’ll sell the room to you for $110, buy it from us for $45 when the price was actually $135, and then give us a prepaid card number that YOU don’t know so when you check in and I say “so I have a MasterCard on file expiring 06/15” and you say “no I don’t have a MasterCard, here’s my Visa.” You get charged twice! We have codes that should let us know if you bought it that way but they’re very strange, such as XMIA is the AARP discount…why it couldn’t just be AARP I’ll never understand.

    Also Holly, Expedia owns hotels.com and trivago.com if you didn’t already know!

    1. I can’t believr that Expedia is allowed to get away with their overcharging, price changing and even if you do book via their service they have the wrong contact number for the accommodation place you have just booked. The number stated just rings out without anyone answering. Also their is not anywhere to cancel a booking on their website under manage bookings.

      I am still waiting for their customer service to respond to my email other than quoting a reference number for the email sent to them.

      I will never use them or any other booking online service in case they also are linked with Expedia. It is a scam company who don’t really care about customers concerns. DONT EVER USE EXPEDIA.

  30. That is some seriously unethical behavior. I’d wager they know exactly what they are doing, and count on people not doing the math. I’ll use Kayak to compare prices, but like Julien I usually head over to the airline/hotel/car rental company website and book from there. Usually there’s no difference in price, I’ve found.

    1. Expedia is posting a price that is significantly less than what the hotel charges! (They just aren’t honoring it)

  31. I’ve used Expedia to book flights for years. Looks like it’s time to book directly with airlines from now on … after all, I want to start accumulating frequent flier privileges! 🙂

    1. I know- I have been huge Expedia fan forever. Not anymore.

  32. Wow! That’s horrible. I can’t believe they get by with doing that but like you said, a lot of people probably assume they got the low price as advertised and don’t do the math to see that they didn’t. Or they just assume the increase in price was all the stupid fees we have to pay these days. Thanks for the head’s up. I don’t regularly use Expedia but it’s something I’ll look out for there and other sites.

    1. At least make sure to tally it up before you pay! =)

  33. Unbelievable. I think I’m more concerned with their customer service, or lack of customer service, than the shady pricing. So many other problems can pop up that you may need help with and they do not sound willing or capable to assist.

  34. Jason @ Phroogal says:

    I stopped booking on Expedia, Travelocity and Priceline. I actually found prices to be cheaper going directly to the source. I’ll use price comparison sites just to get an idea of the cheapest to narrow my search but ultimately I’ll end up booking with the airline, hotel and car directly. There is a benefit to this and that is when you have an emergency and need to cancel the airlines, hotels and car rental places tend to be more accommodating.

    Oh, and a huge company like Expedia stating it takes days for backend and frontend to talk to eachother is a bunch of big donkey balls. I work in technology and things work fast. What they are employing is a pricing strategy where they hide fees, show different prices based on locations/IP addresses and your cache.

  35. I’d love to find out in a follow up post if they actually respond now when they see this post. I was just thinking about booking a cruise through them, but am highly considering going through a travel agent instead.

    1. They’ve made it very clear that they do not care!

  36. Thanks for sharing Holly. I appreciate the insight. I am so disgusted the with the way some companies try to do business. They should be embarrassed.

  37. That’s not good to hear! My new organization uses the corporate version of Expedia for work (it still kinda sucks compared to AMEX business travel). I’ve only booked one trip on it, but I’ll keep that in mind.

  38. I’ve never used Expedia to book anything for any of the vacations I’ve taken, probably because I find them to be a bit more expensive than some of the other sites out there. Priceline is what I’d normally default to when it comes to hotels etc, for it’s bidding tool.

  39. I had an “issue” with hotels.com as well. We made a reservation, but due to some circumstances out of our control we needed to cancel – what a mess that was. Hotels.com basically said the hotel wouldn’t let them cancel our reservation. We called the hotel and they laughed saying they would do it in a heartbeat, but since the reservation was made through hotels.com, it had to be cancelled through hotels.com – all they had to do was call.

    Both pointing the finger at each other and saying they needed the other to do something.

    Frustrating!

  40. No wonder you’re a PF blogger Holly! You really keep an eye on every detail on your booking. I had observed the same problem with that when I tried to book on one of the airline websites, the prices are different when I clicked on “book ticket”.

  41. Thanks for the heads up, Holly. That is just so nasty!!!! It’s good to see you fighting tooth and nail for every travel $ for you (and us)! You go girl!

  42. Perhaps you should file a class action suit! Seriously….

    I use kayak and haven’t had any problems with them at all.

  43. Lisa E. @ Lisa vs. the Loans says:

    How ridiculous! I never really liked my experience with Expedia, and this just solidifies that I should really be booking elsewhere.

  44. Interesting, they did the same thing to my Mom when she tried to book a room for us at a mid-size hotel chain in the Denver metro area a couple of weeks ago! We booked through another travel site.

  45. Mac Feeley says:

    I found a hotel room for $136 and hit the reserve button and began to book the room, and then I noticed that the price was $180. I double checked and tried again. Same result. Then I tried a different room at a different price and still the $44 difference. I called, explained and was told “I’m so sorry, there is nothing I can do.” I kept asking to talk to someone who could honor the advertised price. Different people had different reasons why they could not, though all expressed their regret. Some said the price changes had taken place and I needed to recheck the website (I did; nothing); others said all the rooms were taken (a lie, there were several different types/sizes of rooms, all with the same problem). Still another person said it was the hotel’s fault–I pointed out that I was reading Expedia’s site and below the price it has a note “price guaranteed”! Nothing, so am posting this note as warning and send a note to BBB. One hopes that all other mistreated Expedia customers will also notify BBB, and that Expedia will be more responsible.

  46. Very disappointing at the ‘bait and switch’ that the Expedia website did. Booked a flight to Curacao for next year (Jul 2017) and got a price of Flight $332.00 plusTaxes & Fees$115.76 per person already included in the $446.26 flight. I entered my info for two travelers and AFTER I had entered my payment information a total of $1254.52 was charged to my CC. Nowhere BEFORE the payment was submitted did your site indicated the price would change. The only saving grace is that I was able to cancel it. But will contact my CC anyways to be sure.

  47. I bought a cruise through Travelocity.com, an Expedia company. They advertised a Mexico cruise with 3 ports in Mexico. Imagine my surprise when I was told shortly before leaving that the so called Mexico cruise is actually a California Coastal cruise with 3 ports in California and one port in Mexico. Very deceptive.

  48. Joel Avila says:

    Don’t use EXPEDIA. Their price match guarantee is a joke. I just booked 5 nights in Vietnam only to watch the price drop immediately after entering my CC information. The room discount went from 5% to 10% within minutes. Before booking, I did have the option of paying $40 night additional for a cancellation policy, but had not taken the offer in advance. In the end it was approx. $375 additional for the 5 nights since I could not cancel & then re-book.

    Trying to get them to live up to price matching is a nightmare. You need to call them, get access to their price match submission page, fill out information & attach PDF’s showing the before & after rates, and then go online for your next flogging. I my case, this included more than a week of back and forth with new requests being made, and different employees responding each time the thread continued. They just want to wear you down I think…. 1 word: AVOID

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