Thursday, June 4, 2009

Richard Branson, Expedia, broken promise

Last month I had to stop reading Business stripped bare by Richard Branson. I stopped when I got to the line, which said, "A brand is a promise." This was so profound that I had to digest it completely before reading the rest of the book.

In the meantime I had to travel to Toronto. I booked a hotel through Expedia, like I always do.

When I arrived in Toronto and checked in the Residence Inn, just out of curiosity I asked the counter girl what the "Rack Rate was." It turned out that the rack rate was cheaper than what I was paying Expedia.

Wait a minute, did I get ripped off by a brand I trusted the most?

If you don't know what a rack rate is, think of it as a maximum rate that hotel will charge to a customer who walks in without a reservation. Its not a rate, its a punishment.

Next day I called Expedia customer service. Deep down inside I was hoping that this "overcharge" was a misunderstanding and it would go away as soon as I called. The customer service person told me that indeed they were charging what they were charging. If I had a problem with this rate, I needed to bring it up to them before I made the reservation. (What the bleep?)

At this point, the whole thing clicked in my mind. This was a breach of trust and a broken promise. This is what Richard Branson was talking about in his book.

I had been trusting Expedia all along, thinking they could do anything, but they wouldn't overcharge me like this.

Before checking out of the hotel, I made sure to toss my Expedia "Elite" card in the trash.