the LYNCH report

The Power of Clear Insight

Travelocity’s Bait and Switch…

with 4 comments

Nearly impossible deadlines, daily conference calls/meetings and working through the night at least one night in five for three months have made one thing abundantly clear: I need a vacation. And I don’t mean maybe. So it was perfect timing when the excellent Golden Nugget casino in Vegas sent me an invitation: three nights of deluxe accommodation and $300 in slots play or chips, all on the house. All I needed was airfare and I’d be in a four-diamond hotel playing blackjack in no time. Just thinking about it had me feeling more relaxed.

Off to the Travelocity site I went, equal parts guilty and giddy: guilty for allowing myself some unproductive days; giddy for allowing myself some unproductive days.

Mild, low-level irritation set in almost immediately: Travelocity doesn’t render very well in Firefox. Oh well, there’s a price to be paid for using a web standards compliant browser. I plugged in my request for a round trip flight to Vegas, selected a departure date of August 3rd and a return date of August 5th, and clicked the big Search Flights button, grinning while the site spent some time thinking about what to offer me.

While the Travelocity site did its thinking, I was busy imaging myself playing blackjack poolside: a comped Becks in one hand, a stack of winnings in the other. It’s fair to say I was sliding into a pretty damn fine mood.

Four days in Vegas for $449.

Four days in Vegas for $449. Immediately above, 5 days for $387.

My flights came up, on the dates I wanted, for $449 – considerably more than I paid for a March trip to Sin City, but not bad, given the direction the price of oil has gone since then.

But wait: immediately above the square where my selected dates intersected, the matrix showed I could depart August 4th, stay five days instead of four, and pay just $387! That seemed like the right flight for me! I reached for my wallet, pulled out the credit card I suspected had the most room on it and prepared to book my flight.

I selected the $387 flights and continued grinning. That is, until the following page appeared, showing the price had increased to $486 (a 25.58% increase!). Suddenly it wasn’t such a great deal after all. I clicked the back button, and that’s where it got really strange.

Price goes from $387 to $486, a 25.58% increase.

First the Bait, then the Switch: Price goes from $387 to $486, a 25.58% increase.

I decided to see what the prices were for some other dates, so hit the little arrow button above the departure dates column. This shifts the departure dates back by one day. But what was this? Suddenly my original dates of August 5th to August 8th showed a price of $384! Clicking on that option, however, brought up the same, “Sorry, the lowest price has increased” message, and now the price was $452!

here, the original dates of Aug 5 - 8 have been shifted, so that the site thinks we want Aug 4-7. Note the Aug 5-8 flight now shows $384. Until you click it, that is...

Suckers click here: the dates you actually want always appear more expensive. Here, the original dates of Aug 5 - 8 have been shifted, so that the site thinks we want Aug 4-8. Note the Aug 5-8 flight now shows $384. Until you click it, that is...

It turns out the dates you want (ie the exact center of the matrix) always show a higher price, while various surrounding dates show lower prices. That is, until you click them or move the matrix. Then, suddenly, the price changes, and not for the better.

I don’t know why Travelocity needs to engage in this sort of bait and switch tactic – it serves no purpose but to leave a customer feeling ripped off and manipulated. Here’s what I do know: it’s back to the grind for me – I think I’ll skip Vegas and stay home instead…

Written by westcoastsuccess

July 22, 2008 at 8:34 am

4 Responses

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  1. Same thing happened to me and I decided not to fly too!

    Stephen Larson

    July 15, 2009 at 7:49 pm

  2. Same thing happened with me. My reaction is to go to other websites to book flights, which cannot be what Travelocity has in mind. Don’t they understand that customers presented first with a low price are going to be ticked off at a higher price, even if that higher price is reasonable. Orbitz, Expedia, here I come. Travelocity’s bait and switch tactics are a total turn-off!


    July 27, 2009 at 10:07 am

  3. I don’t get Travelocity. Do they think we are all a bunch of ninnies? I gave up on Travelocity about a year ago after they did this bait and switch thing to me EVERY search. I tried it again this week and came up with the same game. I just go to Orbitz or to the airline directly. Too bad, becaust Travelocity use to be the best travel web site. I sent them a complaint email and just got a denial saying it was the 3rd party’s search engine’s problem.


    August 18, 2010 at 10:02 pm

  4. Hello. Very interesting post. Can I add a link to this blog to your account on Twitter?

    Rejs wycieczkowy

    September 14, 2011 at 1:55 pm

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