On the off chance that you’ve been living under a rock and you haven’t read about the fiasco that has been going on between the Luna Blue Hotel down in Playa Del Carmen and Expedia, you should first start with this article.
The short version is simply this: a classic case of corporate greed and absolute lack of personal attention to detail or customer service. And if you remember my recent blog post on Review Sites – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly than you’ll know that there are a certain amount of dangers to simply putting blind trust in these Goliath companies who only have one goal in mind: the bottom dollar.
What it boils down to is this: Luna Blue was experiencing issues with Expedia always showing their hotel as being booked, even when it wasn’t. And despite numerous emails, phone calls and other means of attempting to contact someone at Expedia who could resolve the issue, they were met with a stone wall of indifference.
This is where things get interesting, and why I titled the post “A Perfect Example”, because what we are currently witnessing is the power of social media to influence change. Much like the recent Instagram fiasco where the company first stated they were going to sell users’ photos and then backtracked within a matter of mere hours after the international backlash from the user-base, we the people have the power to influence change when we all work together towards a common goal.
In the new book I’m working on right now, there are entire sections talking about freedom of information and the spread of global Internet. Around the world we have come to a point, as a species, where we can communicate freely and openly without someone controlling the information through propaganda and editing and blocking the flow of news.
As a species, we are able to begin righting the wrongs of so many global entities who have grown corrupt and stagnant, and we have the power to influence people to work together with each other, with other human beings, rather than being forced to rely on corporations whose interests are absolutely not with the customers they are supposedly providing a service for, but instead in merely the profits.
Something you all know from reading the blog posts here and my various books and watching the videos and beyond, is that I promote The Human Experience. And above anything else, I always recommend “living like a local”, speaking the local language, using local services, talking to people living in the local areas, using expats and travel bloggers as your “go to” source of information as opposed to the big names in the industry.
Why? Because they are antiquated, part of the Capitalist/Imperialist system that has already crumbled and broken. Because it’s always better to support your local economy. And in an era of globalization, the entire planet is your backyard, and local can be anywhere from Japan to Mexico to Russia to Canada or Brazil. It’s the same planet, and we are all of us neighbors, brothers and sisters.
The modern day traveler doesn’t need to go through a nameless entity to find lodgings and adventure activities and people and restaurants. Instead, we can use the power of social media, freedom of information and the vast reach of the global phenomenon that is The Internet to create our own realities outside of the system.
Now that I’ve said all this, let me get back on topic. If you read their blog, you’ll notice that since everything went viral, Expedia has issued a press release stating that “we are no longer in business with Luna Blue Hotel”. But if you check Expedia’s site, as well as the Luna Blue blog, you’ll notice that their hotel is still listed on the affiliate booking site across the Internet as a partner hotel…and Expedia is still telling people that the hotel has no rooms available.
As an example of what I’m talking about, The Luna Blue staff mention that they’ve never contracted with Venere and never gave them permission to list the property. Yet Venere/Expedia claims it is a booking agent for the hotel. When anyone uses Venere to check for availability they are linked back to Expedia which claims that the hotel has no rooms to rent, and they are then directed to other, competing hotels! Meanwhile, Luna Blue continues to be listed, with no availability showing, on many sites linking to Venere/Expedia such as travelyahoo.com, cleartrip, holidaywatchdog.com, travelpod.com, tingo, reservetravel.com and others.
This is only the tip of the iceberg as far as the lengths that Expedia is willing to go in order to retaliate against anyone standing in its way. The Colombus, Georgia fiasco talked about on Luna Blue’s blog is another example, with the company removing every single hotel in the city from their service for five years until they settled the lawsuit that the city brought against them for being unwilling to pay local taxes. It was a strong-arm tactic from a multi-million dollar company to try and force a city into submission.
The simplest response to Expedia’s misconduct is to not use them or their affiliates: Venere.com, Egencia.com, eLong.com, Hotwire.com, Hotels.com, Localexpert.com or any of the websites listed above. More importantly than that, in my opinion, is (as the owners of the hotel themselves mention) simply don’t book your vacation though a nameless, faceless data bank but instead talk to people who actually know about the places you want to visit. People who have lived there, traveled there, have a blog there, or a guidebook with local contact information.
And before you think that Luna Blue is one of only a handful of hotels raising their fists against the global giant, they aren’t. Just earlier in 2012 another personal friend of mine down here in Cancun shared his experiences in a post called 5 Reasons Not to Book Hotels Using Expedia, Hotels.com or Hotwire. There are several more examples of just how corrupt and horrid their system is, and how bloated it has become over the years.
The beauty of living in the age we now live in is that we the people have access to free information from global sources. We can visit blogs, Facebook pages, local news sources, Google+ pages, online magazines, online newspapers and go straight to the source. We don’t have to rely on a web of lies and half-truths from global entities whose best interests are the bottom dollar, not the customer experience. We can communicate directly with hotel owners, such as Luna Blue, to find out their actual listings, their actual prices, their actual services, without some nameless, faceless entity giving us false information simply to try to make a dollar.
You’ve heard me say it a million times, and I’m going to keep saying it, even though I sound like a broken record: live like a local. And that means going to the local sources for your information. Those of us in the travel blogging industry already know this as gospel, but for those of you who might be new readers and new to the travel gig, realize that The Internet has allowed us to connect on a global scale. When you are preparing for a trip and searching for hotels, never book through a nameless entity. Find the website, the Facebook, the Google+ or the blog of the hotel/hostel in question and talk to them directly. Only then can you be assured of a truly rewarding customer experience, plus you’ll actually meet the people who run the place and connect with them as human beings as opposed to simply handing over your credit card information to a nameless entity who doesn’t care about you beyond how much they can squeeze out of your pocketbook.