Why Does Hotels.com Feel The Need To Change My Google Places Number?

This blog began like so many other Social Media outlets for me, with high hopes for engaging commentary on life as I see it. Turns out, they have all followed a similar path… a couple of thoughts followed by months of neglect (Think I’m joking? Check my Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter feeds… sad, very sad). Hey, at least I’m consistent.

Speaking of consistency (killer segue!), it’s time for another rant on Google Places listings! You’re psyched, I know. But this post has a bit more focus, I promise. At this point I’m fine with the fact that Google has no regard for the business owners. It’s their database after all, so they’re gonna do as they please. And until some other amazingly functional search engine comes alone, it appears we’re going to have to play the hand we’re dealt – in this particular instance I mean that I’m going to have to verify the listings for a couple hundred hotels over and over again since the data is being changed.

No, this post is not about Google. It’s about Hotels.com.

We’ve seen phone numbers changed by random 3rd parties more times than I can remember over the past 3 years, but this week a curious thing happened; a supposedly reputable entity changed one of our hotel’s numbers to one of theirs.

I kinda expect garbage like this from stupidhotelaggregator.net sites… but to have a company like Hotels.com do this was shocking to say the least. Crazy thing is, I did a little digging and found some other hotel eCommerce folks who’ve run into the same issue with Expedia (who just happens to be the parent company of… wait for it… Hotels.com!). So, Hotels.com changes the phone numbers of a hotel’s Google Places listing and Expedia does the same thing. Hmmm. Makes you think.

Look, OTA’s are wonderful. People who are not loyal to a single brand get to view lots of options and in the end pick the cheapest place with the prettiest photos. Good for them.

The issue is that hotels have to pay a commission on that booking. All the while, they have a perfectly functional website where this guest could be booking (at a better rate to boot – cheaper for the guest and no commissions for the hotel, the proverbial win/win). So while it make be lousy for the hotel to have to pay a commission for a guest they could get for free, it’s the nature of the beast, a necessary evil that at times actually helps fill those last few available rooms for the property. It’s just business.

But having a traveler log onto an OTA and CHOOSE to book through them is 100% their prerogative. The issue is that changing information on the web to trick guests into booking through the OTA is well beyond being just business. We’ve entered the area that I like to call “being scum”.

Granted, there’s probably some moron with Hotels.com going rogue and thinking they are helping by changing info in Google to drive more business to them. But as a company, if actions like this are condoned, what other ethical gray areas does Hotels.com dabble in? Thing is, it’s not an isolated incident and the fact that it continues to happen points to some kind of larger issue. If you don’t have control of your employees, you’re condoning their actions.

I also wonder how the hotel brands themselves would feel to know that someone they pay commissions to and essentially partner with is ripping them off?…

As it stands, our only recourse is to continue to correct the issues created by Hotels.com as we find them and alert the brands to the fact that their partners are stealing their guests out from under them.

Oh, and launch a social media campaign with the sole purpose of utterly destroying their reputation. I’m thinking of a website like Hotels.com Changes Google Places Listings To Steal Guests dot Com… something along those lines.

It’s gonna be a busy year.

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