The story began in late December 2015, when I decided to spend few spring days in Russian Venice – Saint Petersburg. Having visited the city before, I had a clear plan of how this trip should look like: centrally located hotel, a lot of walking and museums, some shopping. There were three of us coming, so we needed a larger room or apartment. I always book my hotels on Booking.com, because I love their rating and feedback feature, attractive rates and wide choice of hotels.
Once I knew the dates, it was perfect time to start looking for hotels. The choice was truly big at the time – there were bunks in 10-bedroom dorm rooms, private rooms in the same hostels, small hotel rooms, private apartments – you name it! I was pleasantly surprised by the prices – compared to Europe and US, Russian hotel rates were nice and low. My first choice was a 2-bedroom apartment, but that option didn’t work out for us due to an email received from the apartment owner asking for a full payment. What made the request strange was a Lithuanian bank account details, where the owner wanted the money to be transferred. It seemed risky and so we cancelled that one right away.
Our perfect room was with a common free cancellation option, very close to the center and had a nice design of the rooms – perfect for 3-4 people who don’t necessarily want to snore in each other’s ear. The price was great, too. We booked it and forgot about the booking for the next 4 months. Meanwhile, we bought the tickets to and from the destination, made the visas and insurance. Everything was ready for the trip! Or was it..?
A friend of mine who happens to live in Russia decided to check on our booking about a month before our visit. To my (and their) surprise, the hotel had no idea of our reservation! Moreover, they had no rooms available, either. Oh my! It’s merely 4 weeks until our trip and we have nowhere to stay! When initial shock had passed, we started checking other options for the dates. Sadly, there were hardly any good options left and all of them were much more expensive now. Apparently it’s holiday time and most of the hotels are already overbooked. Our situation wasn’t very optimistic.
Looking for help
We decided to turn for help and wrote to Booking.com customer support. It didn’t take long for our hotel of choice to contact us again – with apologies. And a promise of free room (which is nice of them, but didn’t solve our problem. Well, not entirely). We did use the free room though, so nothing bad to say about the hotel, they did their best to help and compensate us. Now the Booking.com team was even more helpful. After reviewing our request for couple of days, they came back with good news – we got offered a nice alternative hotel option and a promise to refund the difference. Happy end!
This is not the first time I hear about good service of Booking.com and their customer service. They really reach out to their customers and make sure everything is well and everyone is happy. Normally, a hotel would just inform you that no rooms are available. This can happen even few days before the check-in. And there is nothing you could do about that. Booking though these guys gives you guarantee that you won’t be left on the street – they will take care of you! Similar situation happened to my mother, when she arrived in Tenerife hotel and found out there is no rooms booked (it was a privately owned room). She had to book another room for much higher rate and got refunded the difference.
This is not meant as an advertisement – this is a real story that happened to me. I have booked with Booking.com more than 20 times now and can say that the reviews are mostly accurate and so are the photos. Of course, there may be bad properties (and bad experiences) but the site has no power over them. As for the customer support and taking care of the client – they are the best!