Thursday, January 17, 2008


Two or three weeks ago I won a certificate for two free nights' hotel accommodation. I registered the number online as required, and a few days ago, I received a reservation request form from the affiliate company that's the actual hotel room consolidator.

This form has to be in by the 22nd. So yesterday I located it in the pile waiting on the stairs to go up to my study, and began filling it out.

I saw they want around $24 for "room tax." OK, I'd expected that. But I also saw they want the room tax fee paid by money order only.

As Arte Johnson used to say, "Veeeehhree in-ter-esstingg!"

So just on spec, I Googled this consolidator, Premium Travel of Maple Valley, Washington . . . What's this? They're cited on a couple of consumer complaints sites. They're not always on the ball with sending the room vouchers, apparently. And allegedly their customer service over the phone leaves a lot to be desired. And refunds, when demanded, take forever to arrive, if they ever do.

But that was just two or three people with problems. I imagine a company like this must process thousands of orders every year. Bound to have some things fall through the cracks.

For more information, I checked the Better Business Bureau for western Washington state. Whoo-ee! This Premium Travel outfit has had a hundred or more complaints in the past thirty-six months, and a lot of them remain unresolved.

Hmm. That's not good. But let's not be hasty. Maybe a lot of those complaints were from people visualizing free stays at the Ritz-Carlton, but actually being lodged at the Days Inn. I mean, free is free, right? What do you expect?

Still, still . . . I wasn't going to run out and buy my $24 money order. Not until I'd called this company and formed my own ideas of how cooperative and helpful they were.

Besides, I truly wanted to know what to expect, as to hotel class, proximity to attractions, and so on. And how much flexibility we'd have as to room arrangements. I mean, I'm travelling with a friend, and it'd be awkward to find out our free room only has one double bed, and that it'd cost a small fortune to change.

So this afternoon I called the number on the reservation request form, at Premium Travel's address outside Seattle. Ring .... ring .... ring .... ring .... ring .... Computerized phone company announcement came on: "This number has been disconnected. Calls are being taken by . . . " and the voice told off a number with a different area code.

Back online, thanks to various reverse lookup websites, I learn this new number is located in Sumner, Washington, down closer to Tacoma. But none of the sites say it belongs to Premium Travel. Some say no other information is available, others want to charge me to go further, and one says the number is unassigned!

I try "Premium Travel" in "Business unknown," in the entire state of Washington.

Hmm. Curious. More than that, suspicious.

I call the new number, just to see what happens.

This is what happens: I hear another computerized voice, telling me, "The mailbox for Premium Travel is full. Please hang up now." Said in a way that clearly communicated, "We don't really care if you hang up now or not, because we're going to cut off this call Right Now anyway, screw you."

Mailbox is full, eh? Full of irate messages from people wondering where their bloody hotel vouchers are or wanting their room tax fees back?

Um, I strongly suspect that I'd be an idiot to buy that money order and send it in. Besides, where would I send it? Obviously, the address on the form is no longer good!

Looks suspiciously like my friend Frieda* and I will have to do rather more planning and spend a bit more cash if we want to go to Williamsburg in the spring. But I'd rather do that than waste hours of my time on a wild goose chase, all because I got hooked in for $23.95-- and have to pay our own way in any event if we still planned to go.

I may be in for $15 already for processing the initial certificate, if I could remember what card I charged it to. That's enough.

I haven't talked to Frieda yet to see what she wants to do.

Nor have I notified the appliance dealer where I "won" the initial certificate. Wonder what they'll say!

1 comment:

Sandy said...

Nothing like a crook taking some of the wind out of your sails. Better to learn about them early than for them to ruin a nice trip. Gits!