The Rapture: A Cautionary Tale of Road Trips & Online Discounts

Ew. I’ve got something in common with Harold Camping:  we both missed our rapturous weekend plans.

Nope. I wasn’t hoping to be scooped up to heaven by God or aliens.

This weekend Ira and I had plans to celebrate our 1-year anniversary(-ish) in Sonoma.  Since our first date entailed a wine tour of Paso Robles, I thought it would be fun to try another wine region and relive some of that early sexual tension. (Oh, and possibly make a cheese redemption* by visiting The Cowgirl Creamery and The Vella Cheese Company).

Being the bargain hunters that we are, we spent literally hours looking at various options at online discount sites.  And finally on Thursday, with no decision yet made, I took the proverbial pig by the horns and made a unilateral decision: The Timber Cove Inn on the Sonoma coast.  You have to see the photos. Go ahead and look. I’ll wait.

Seems like fun, right? Romantic? Beautiful scenery?

Yep. I thought so, too. I even upgraded our room so we’d have a view from our jacuzzi tub. ((sigh))

I plunked down my cash at BookIt.com — a site that promises “customer elation” (as opposed to mere satisfaction).  Needless to say, I was halfway to my own private Rapture.

When Ira got home from work and I showed him the website, he seemed kind of impressed, too. (You know, for a guy.)

We packed our bag. And Saturday morning, itinerary in hand, we headed out.

First stop was breakfast. And while waiting for our respective high protein meals, I decided to check my email.

There was a short missive from BookIt: “We’ve been trying to reach you about your reservation…please call us!” (Were they trying to reach me psychically? I never got a phone call!)

Trying not to panic, and breaking every rule I have about talking on the phone in a restaurant, I dialed the number.

Samantha (the BookIt rep who took my call) very nicely explained that somehow there had been a mix-up and The Timber Cove Inn had sold out before I made my reservation. Ipso facto, we didn’t have a room.

“We can try to move you to a comparable hotel, or we can issue a refund,” she said.

Are you kidding me?! At this point, eyes were quietly bulging.

If we hadn’t stopped for breakfast, we would’ve driven all the way to Sonoma before I checked my email.

Samantha was lucky I was in a public place.

My voice low and calm, I explained to her that this was a celebratory weekend and yes, I’d really appreciate it if she could find us another location in the Napa/Sonoma area. But something nice. She promised to call me right back.

About 15 minutes later, I was informed that the only hotel they could find in that area was a Best Western. In Roehnert Park. Meh.

No offense to Best Western, but this just wasn’t a Best Western-kind-of-weekend. I looked at Ira. He could see it in my eyes. “Take the refund and we’ll try again another time, babe.”

Samantha assured me that she would send me an email confirming our conversation (I never got one) and attempt to issue me a refund immediately.

Late Saturday night I got a system-generated email that told me my money was on the way. No apology. No explanation. No nothing.  At this point I don’t need to tell you I am totally elated.

So on Sunday, I dug through my inbox to find that original message from BookIt and sent them a reply.

I was pretty nice about it, I thought. I explained the situation (this time to someone named Michelle), and let her know that Samantha had hinted there might be a credit issued to me in compensation for my troubles.

This morning I got a reply from her basically blaming Timber Cove:

The Timber Cove Inn contacted us the morning of the 21st to advise they had sold their last room, and were in the process of notifying us they had no availability when your booking came through the evening before.

For the record, I booked the room on Thursday around noon, and it took until Friday evening for them to get my reservation? Really? Wow. Technology ROCKS!

Michelle also went on to say:

This situation is a rare occurrence, and I sincerely apologize for any inconviences it may have caused you. In the rare event when a situation like this occurs, we will relocate our guest to another property that is comparable in location and amenities at no additional cost to them. Unfortunately, in this situation this is a new market, and we have very few alternative options in the area you were booked.

She then told me it could take up to 10 days for the money to be refunded to my card, and that my case was now in the hands of the Resolution Department (who would decide whether or not I should receive any further compensation).

Hmmmph.

To be fair, I did warn Samantha that I would be blogging about this.

We shall see what happens.  I’ll definitely update this post, either way.

In the mean time, if you have any recommendations (or warnings) of your own you’d like to share, please contribute via the comments below.

p.s. – Our weekend wasn’t a total loss.  Ira knows how to treat a girl right. He took me to Fry’s (yes, I get technology instead of jewelry), and then to see Bridesmaids (laughed so hard I nearly peed my pants). Plus, there was plenty of quality cuddle time.

I wonder if Camping enjoyed his weekend?

*See The Great Seattle Cheese Tragedy

+++++UPDATE: As of May 31, 2011

I’ve heard back from both the Timber Cove Inn and BookIt.com. Both companies apologized with sincerity and grace for my inconvenience with gift certificates: $100 from BookIt, and a free night at Timber Cove.

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4 Comments

Filed under Travel, Wine

4 responses to “The Rapture: A Cautionary Tale of Road Trips & Online Discounts

  1. I know you’re the Supreme Techno-Gal but personally I HATE booking anything online…I much prefer talking and trusting the folks on the ground…where I plan to sleep!

    Hope they make it up to you and have someone checking their social media-grumble meter.

  2. Airlines over book on the assumptions that some people will be late or won’t turn up; I didn’t know hotels did it. I was considering a hotel for my holiday; I’ll watch out for that. It’s a good idea to turn up early apparently. Nice blog.

  3. I’m sorry you missed your romantic weekend, but it certainly is nice to hear of companies coming through in the end. I hope you get to take advantage of the payback soon.

  4. Great post…I wonder if they would have been so “compensatory” had you not threatened to blog about this….that is the shame of customer service…that you have to threaten.

    Great Job Though!

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