How NOT to Have a Sale
O ne Internet travel agency has apparently really botched up what seemed to be a promising sale for Cider — er…I mean Cyber — Monday; but participants who attempted to take advantage of what apparently became an example of how not to have a sale were less than satisfied, to say the least.
A sale of 90 percent off on select hotels was advertised by Expedia — I received the e-mail message myself — and it mentions nothing about coupons, which are apparently what needed to be used for the sale.
The graphic shown below was what was extracted from that e-mail message I received, which announced that the sale was to start at 9:00 in the morning Pacific Standard Time; and I am based in the Eastern Time zone of the United States.
New deals were promised every hour; and you apparently had to use the software application program of Expedia on your portable electronic device in order to be able to take advantage of the potential savings.
Hotel and resort properties from major lodging companies are typically excluded from promotions such as this one; but a bargain could possibly be secured from an independent hotel property.
The Sale is Over — But…
The sale has since ended, as shown below…
…but not before the “damage” had already been done, as a majority of FlyerTalk members complained about various aspects of the sale.
First, confusion reigned as FlyerTalk members did not know which code to use for what; and apparently, the offer targeted to Canadian residents started at 9:00 in the morning Eastern Standard Time — three hours earlier than the offer for customers based in the United States.
Coupons expired almost immediately, as demonstrated by this complaint by FlyerTalk member tigone13: “Cybersteal, failed! coupon expired at 9:01am for Bellagio.”
Technical problems ensued, according to what FlyerTalk member TMM1982 posted: “Bookings aren’t going through. Keeps saying ‘Sorry we’re having a problem.’”
There were pricing issues. “Entered code, price went down to ~33, entered CC, app error, came back, entered again, was charged full price (as I guess coupon expired or something)”, posted FlyerTalk member montezume. “Luckily it was refundable.”
Unmet expectations led to disappointment. FlyerTalk member riphamilton resigned to the possibility that “expedia’s 90% is identical to last year, but it looks like they’ve limited availability big time.”
Fewer Competitors to Blame?
Could fewer competitors be the reason for less incentive to give to customers what they were expecting? Expedia and Travelocity had a marketing agreement since 2013 — until Expedia, Incorporated agreed to purchase its now-former rival from Sabre Corporation for $280 million in cash in January of 2015. Hotwire, Hotels.com and Trivago are only three of the travel brands which are a part of the Expedia portfolio.
Because Travelocity was considered a “legacy” Internet travel agency — along with Expedia, Orbitz and Priceline — that caused me to wonder: as with consolidation in the commercial aviation industry, could this acquisition be bad for consumers? Could this mean fewer discounts and tighter restrictions of loyalty programs offered by Internet travel agencies? Is the supposed decreased inventory of this latest sale an indication of things to come?
With exceptions, that scenario might not happen immediately — if at all. The main reason is that the barriers of market entry are significantly more difficult in commercial aviation — due to high cost of capital and strict regulations by governments, to name a couple of factors — than those of Internet travel agencies, which means that it is more likely for a new start-up company to compete and keep the pressure on existing Internet travel agencies than it is for a new airline to be launched.
Then again, Eastern Airlines has been in the process of returning to commercial aviation, as I first reported back in 2009 — although the airline is still not yet officially in operation and a flight still not yet flown. Meanwhile, PEOPLExpress has all but failed in its second life, as none of its aircraft have flown in greater than three months.
Launching an Internet travel agency is not exactly easy, though. One factor is that you need to have access to a global distribution system — or GDS — provider such as Travelport or Amadeus in order to access the thousands of airfares available; and you need a robust Internet web site to be able to handle traffic and the technology necessary for success…
…and even the global distribution system industry had experienced consolidation over the years: Apollo, Galileo and Worldspan are all trademarks of Travelport.
Sales are meant to attract both new customers as well as current customers by providing a deal of value which would prove to be irresistible. Although some FlyerTalk members did score some good deals, many were dissatisfied and probably will not use Expedia again.
You might say that it is unrealistic to expect to secure a hotel room at 90 percent off of the room rate — and you would most likely be correct. Perhaps the sale should more likely be at a lower percentage — 70 percent is still an enticing number, as an example — but with more availability so that more customers can have their expectations of scoring a bargain be met; and come out of the promotion satisfied.
“Worst communicated and executed promo ever” was expressed by a frustrated FlyerTalk member anngi. “Can’t imagine they got any good will from this more like pissed off customers.”
That is not what you want to hear from customers after running a promotion designed to attract and retain them.
In other words, Expedia has apparently demonstrated how not to have a sale…