My open letter to Dara Khosrowshahi, President and Chief Executive Officer, Expedia, Inc., and President, Expedia Worldwide
Dear Mr. Khosrowshahi,
First, I want to congratulate the Expedia Board of Directors and the shareholders they are beholden to. It is an impressive gambit to appoint, as president of what is billed as the "largest travel company in the world," a man with a name such as yours. At first blush, your name indicates that you are a female prodigy in the world of tennis and/or ice dancing. Instead, you are a certifiable Big Shot. Perhaps they picked you and your moniker because no one can easily yell, "Damn you, Khosrowshahi!", even in a fit of anger.
I am sorry to inform you and yours that this gal is not so easily deterred. I married a guy named "Aristides." I know how to get around a name. I am going to save myself for duping by the likes of JP Morgan and the $2 billion they want to lose on my behalf.
Ergo, I now pronounce you DarK.
DarK, you and I have a problem.
I'll go first.
This weekend I took a trip with my family. I booked each of our three hotels through Hotels.com. I don't think I need to remind you that Hotels.com is one of the websites your little conglomerate operates. On night three of my family's never-ending-story road trip, we pulled into the Marriott in Stamford, CT. Using your website's booking engine, I had booked two stately rooms at that fine establishment. Lo and behold, upon check-in I was told by Gaston that a reservation for only one room was in their system. (By the way, Gaston is from Ecuador but was named after the French blow-hard from Beauty & the Beast - go figure.) Long story short, I ended up paying directly for a second room at the check-in counter. Gaston and then the gal I checked out with (forget her name, but she wears too much foundation and tied her perky Marriott scarf impressively tight around her neck, if you need to talk to her) assured me that I could resolve any over-payment issues with dear old Hotels.com.
Now it's your turn.
Here is your problem: I read the confirmation notice Hotels.com emailed me forwards and backwards, up and down, back to front, and side to side. And guess what that confirmation do-hickey confirmed? It confirmed that I reserved two rooms, and I paid Hotels.com for both of them.
Where does that put us, DarK? Again, I'll go first. That puts me in the unenviable position of having paid for three hotel rooms, but only having gotten two. That puts YOU in the sneaky position of having billed me for two rooms, but only telling the Stamford Marriott to give me one. In case you're reading this without your abacus within arm's reach, that means you owe me $119.
"Just call customer service," you say? Ahhhh, DarK. DarK, Diddy DarK Dark DARK! I did, my friend, I did! This is the part of the letter where you should sit down, grab a Perrier, and have your assistant's assistant whip out a fresh stack of pink slips.
I spent more than one hour on the phone with two of your customer "service" agents. After I dialed your 800 number, I was patched through to a scarf farm in rural India. I only had to go through about 13 menu prompts to finally reach a talking human. The connection was faint, but Sunny greeted me cheerfully (I assume that's how he got his nickname, DarK) and assured me I didn't have the wrong number. He listened to my situation, told me two or three times to speak up because he couldn't hear me over the clacking of the looms, and then put me on hold while he contacted the Stamford Marriott. Had to confirm that I actually paid for the room you all failed to book for me, he says.
Well guess what, DarK? After being on hold and listening to violins die for 10 minutes, THE LINE CUT OUT. That's right, Donnie DarK-o. DEAD. KAPUT. TONY SOPRANOED. D-E-A-D.
I summoned my inner Dr. Oz, thought healthy thoughts, and went through the whole rigmarole again. This time Cheery (seriously, DarK, give these people better fake names) went through the whole she-bang again. THIS time, though, I was on hold for 20 MINUTES. Cheery would come back on the line every five minutes or so to report that the front desk staff either wasn't answering or was trying to track down the "appropriate person" to confirm my payment at the hotel. THEN Cheery gets on the line to tell me that "appropriate person" was out to lunch, and COULD I PLEASE CALL BACK IN AN HOUR WHEN HE/SHE "SHOULD BE" BACK AT THEIR DESK.
How are you feeling at this point, DarK? Livid? Ashamed? Soul-crushed? Good.
Now how do you feel after I tell you that Cheery ended our 45-minute call with this query: "Anything else I can help you with today?" If flabbergasted isn't your answer, I'm calling Brown to see if you actually did graduate from there. Because, you see, Cheery failed to help me with anything at all, so even Einstein couldn't figure out a way for her to help me with "anything else."
An hour after I threw the phone against the wall, I decided to take a new approach and "live chat" with one of your minions. Good old Michael looked through my "file" and told me that Cheery was going to take care of everything and get back to me. This sounded fishy, since Cheery hadn't mentioned anything about that. So I followed up with two questions: when would she be getting in touch, and how? Michael's response?
"IF YOU DON'T HEAR BACK FROM HER, GIVE US A CALL."
Do you see the problems with that response, DarK? Namely that it's not a response at all? Or that to the extent it is a response, it's the kind of response a defense lawyer would consider a case-winner were I to be prosecuted for any aggressive act I choose to take against Michael? My point here is that Michael should be carrying something other than mace in his messenger bag tote.
My other point is that you have a lot of work on your hands. Job one is to change your name plate to DarK. Job two is to figure out how to reiumburse your customers without requiring them to take a sick day and rob a Rite Aid to score some Xanax. Job three is to improve your phone connections to India. I don't want anyone else to have to scream "I overpaid for that one night of service!" It's awkward and people start getting suspicious.
Do this for me, DarK. For crying out loud, I gave up good years of my life providing legal services to your company. This is no way to repay me.
I want my $119. I want 119 complimentary nights at the Marriott of my choice. And I want you to write your name on the white board in your most uncomfortable conference room 119 times. Your FULL name, DarK.
Then, we'll call it even.