Saturday, April 3, 2010

Me: 1, William Shatner: 0

If you've been watching those clever commercials for, the ones with William Shatner as "The Negotiator," and you're thinking you might try to use their services to save some money on your next vacation, I have some advice for you.


Go through a local travel agent instead. I'm begging you.

I recently booked airline tickets and a rental car through Priceline, noting on their "help" page that I could get a "full refund" if I canceled within 24 hours of booking.

Being a novice traveler - the type of person for whom a "long trip" means somehow making it out of Penobscot County and back without getting lost - I assumed that "full refund" would mean I'd get all my money back.

Well, as it turned out, I did need to change my itinerary. So I called their toll-free hotline, but was told that the refund only applied to the airline tickets, not the car. The car reservation was non changeable and not refundable.

In other words, I had misread the words "full refund."  Instead, it apparently said "fool's refund."

I have since learned that all these advertised low prices come with all kinds of ridiculous strings attached, some of which Priceline and its competitors won't necessarily make obvious for you from the beginning.

In an attempt to learn more about how consumers can be tripped up if they miss something in the "fine print," I contacted Priceline's media relations department and told them I'd be writing a travel advice column, and that I needed information about its contracts with car rental companies and hotel chains.

The result? Let's just say I got much better customer service from their media relations director than from their customer service department.

Who's the Negotiator now, punk?

Speaking of giant corporations not functioning well:

Apple has just come out with a device called the iPad, bringing it just a little closer to its ultimate goal of trademarking every single word in the English language by putting a lowercase "i" in front of it.

Except this one is going to fail. Miserably.

They might as well start calling it the iFail.

On the surface, I can see the appeal of the iPad. There aren't many other ways to tell the world how important and trendy you are, for one thing.

This device is about the size of an Etch-a-Sketch, which means it will fit conveniently into your pocket if you are Paul Bunyan. What's more, it offers all the most valuable functions of a laptop or a cell phone, except the ones you actually want.

Good luck printing, typing, taking photos, making phone calls, or running more than one program at a time with your iPad.

Come to think of it, you'd be a lot better off with an Etch-a-Sketch. It's a whole lot cheaper, and at least you can bang it against the floor when you get frustrated, and it will still be good as new.

The worst thing about the iPad, though, is that it won't run Adobe Flash, which provides animation and video for roughly 75% of the world's websites. is one of them, actually, so maybe it's not so bad after all.

No comments: