Case opened. Around 10:15am on Monday, December 21st, 2015, Mr. Charles Scrooge called Hotpotato customer service to verify his booking two days prior of the Iroquois Resort, Manhattan, NY through Hotpotato Secret Rates (booking number 102201923). The resort claimed they had never received the reservation although a confirmation email from Hotpotato had indicated: “Your booking was a success! There is no need to contact the hotel.”
Hotpotato Customer Service Representative #31, Jayesh Sodhi, fact-checked the transaction, indicating Mr. Scrooge had paid forty-nine dollars per night for a four-day stay from December 25th to December 29th. The Representative also contacted the hotel but received no response. Sodhi confirmed the booking had been successful but the reservation was pending because of an internet glitch. He also ensured the itinerary would be on file in 48 hours. Case closed.
Case reopened. Around 12:10pm on Wednesday, December 23rd, Mr. Scrooge claimed Iroquois was still unable to verify his reservation. Customer Service Representative #24, Rajesh Kapoor, put Mr. Scrooge on hold for nine minutes and forty-two seconds and attempted to contact the hotel. According to the Iroquois, the reservation number was invalid. Kapoor returned to Mr. Scrooge, but hung up immediately after the customer screamed, “Move your stupid Indian ass and get it done!” Case postponed.
Case reopened. Thirty minutes after the previous call, Mr. Scrooge called again to inquire into his reservation status. Customer Service Representative #47, Shanaya Khanna traced the booking number and responded, “We are sorry, but it looks like our system has booked you in the Iroquois Hotel in Yukon, Canada. Forty-nine dollars per night seems unreasonable for any hotel in Manhattan. Our Hotpotato Secret Rate advertises final sales to guarantee low prices—”
He interrupted screaming, “do you know how much money that was? How many hours do you lousy curry cooks have to work for forty-nine dollars? Now that times four!”
“We are so sorry,” Khanna repeated, “but what we can do for you is to grant you the same amount of our booking credit to compensate for your loss.” Mr. Scrooge then requested a refund to his Citibank Prestige card. Khanna politely stated such a transaction would violate the terms and conditions signed by the customer before booking the hotel. After a 25-second pause, Mr. Scrooge agreed to the compensation. Case resolved.
Case update: on December 26th, Mr. Scrooge filed a complaint against the unfulfilled refund. Customer Service Representative #14, Natalie Betra, explained the holiday season had delayed the transaction and Hotpotato’s policy would refund a customer again if the amount was not on record in six months. Mr. Scrooge threatened to sue the company and hung up. Case resolved.
In the following weeks, Hotpotato continuously received negative comments on Facebook, Twitter, and Travelocity regarding customer service. Most complaints resembled Mr. Scrooge’s case with overrated hotels and unreliable locations. In fact, he had commented on the latter two sites of his experience under the pseudonym “mcduckinhiscoinpool.” He accused Hotpotato of false advertisement, discouraging others from using the website. Web Specialist #7, Ishtar Patel, banned all activity from this account on Travelocity for three days.
To save the reputation of the company, Hotpotato invited all CSRs and Web Specialists responsible for the North America region to formulate improvements. The Representatives agreed to increase transparency to users, revealing the location of a hotel before booking. Web Specialist, Ishtar Patel suggested the Web Team should only reveal the approximate locations so their hotels with fewer amenities might still be stayed in accidentally.
However, the CSRs worried about their honesty because the customers remained unsatisfied with the quality of the guest accommodation. The Specialists proposed a new communication method between Hotpotato and its users. The company would incorporate supernatural forces when introducing the hotels on the Internet. The Iroquois, for example, and other accommodations sharing a common name, would also offer “a thrilling experience of interhotel teleportation through a wormhole.”
Chained hotels, like Hilton’s Doubletree and Marriott’s Residence Inn, would experience “a breathtaking multilocation effect defying the laws of physics.” The naming could not only inform the customers of potential problems but could also entertain businesspeople tired and sick of traveling. The administrators were satisfied with the proposal. Meeting adjourned.
Three months after the implementation of the proposal, Hotpotato declared bankruptcy. There was no record of any refund disbursement.