Bad UX: How booking.com deceives clients

Hi, guys, wanted to make some kind of warning for you to make sure no one gets into situation like this.

Sorry, some videos and screenshots are cyrillic, but it’s pretty much straightforward (and there’s more videos and screenshots at the bottom).

Recently, I’ve made a reservation of a hotel for two people (as I thought). But two days later I’ve bumped into my reservation and was really surprised that it was for 1 guest, not for 2 as I wanted.

Yes! I checked with booking support, on website and booking app: it is room for one, I cannot change anything: I cannot add people, it’s not “main guest” with +1. It’s Room for one.

Here you can find my screencast. I’m selecting a room from the list, which shows up as two back people icon that means “a room for two people”. They’ve got different icon for just one guy:

Two icons = room for two, one icon = room for one

So, as per screenshot, if I click straight on the room type that was conveniently displayed for me as the best match, I go to acceptance page, where I need to fill my data.

Ok, I cannot deny the fact that it’s my fault that I couldn’t see that the room I was booking has become “Room for one”. But with all the banners across the website that say “HURRY, THERE’S 21 MORE PEOPLE VIEWING THE HOTEL”, it’s really easy to overlook these things.

I tried to contact to booking support, thought that it’s all obvious that it’s their fault, but after manager reviewed my screencast, he said that it’s fake! That I combined two different videos into one :) And they wouldn’t do a thing to resolve the issue.

I’ve decided to make it differently: I’ve recorded two videos on the phones, reproducing the issue, so that they cannot blame me for faking it (from two different angles and background music).

After my third attempt to get something from booking, they told me that it’s totally my fault that I should’ve check the booking before submit (it’s not a bug, it’s a feature!). Nice..

BTW, I’m web developer, so I tried a couple of things: login/logout and check again, reproduce in incognito, checked other hotels. I’ve figured that the issue is hard to reproduce, looks like some kind of ab testing bug or round-robin servers. Sometimes it happens, sometimes not, 50/50.. It doesn’t happen for rooms where two people is the only option or the room is cancelable.

So the bottom line is: thoroughly check everything before you do! Even if you could loose a reservation of an awesome hotel :( Because today it’s pretty minor thing, tomorrow they can change the price or even send you some other place..

There’s hope that booking techs reading it, if you do, please, tell your managers about the issue and that they lost a client who was with them for ages.. Bummer.

Bye, Booking.

UPDATE 1 sept, 11:20pm

I’ve decided to get more data, and found a lot of stuff.. I’ve got OSX 10.11.6. This bug is reproducible in Chrome (v60), Safari (v10.0.2), Firefox (v49), I have the same results for windows on evergreens. For mobile and tables there’s just different layout that doesn’t show best match within the search list. It’s all the same: sometimes it’s ok, sometimes it’s not.

  1. go to booking.com and fill in the form (sheraton samui, don’t select any suggestions, 23set-01oct, 2 adults and press search).
Initial page to start search

2. now comes the magic:

2.1 Sometimes initial form submission leads to search results
2.2 Sometimes it leads to region selector
Sometimes it leads to property picker

Alright, I can believe that there’s some black magic because of autocompletion debounce/throttling:
2.1 I haven’t selected Sheraton Samui from dropdown
2.2 I’ve submitted form earlier then autocompletion first request
2.3 I’ve submitted form after first debounced request (when I already typed Sheraton).

3. if in 2.2 we pick Sheraton — we go to 2.1
4. so there’s the list of search results and every hotel shows you the best match:

Twin/Double room for two people

Remember how the whole thing looks? There’s “in high demand” badge below the hotel name. And simple “Twin/Double Room () ()”

5. Alright, if we click on this link (that says Twin/Double Room), new tab will open the page of hotel and many choices:

Let’s copy the URL of the page with search results (or you can try to reproduce steps until you see different search results), conveniently, booking sends opens up hotel’s page in new tab:

WOW! Notice how the Search result item changed? There’s now “Only 2 rooms left” warning (not because it happened in the last minutes, but, it’s different mechanism!)

6. Now, if you click on “Twin/Double Room” with this notice that pushes you to make a choice before all the rooms sold out, you will be redirected…. Onto another page! To the second step of booking process!

Yes, it’s all logical, we’re in a hurry and want to make a reservation before sold out, no problem, awesome! But… It’s really hard to notice in between all these coloured and shouting pieces of “Almost done!” or hotel cleanliness rating and awesome features included (balcony, oh wow!, bathtub, no way!, flat-screen TV, am I dreaming?!), there’s a price and guests quantity change! And you cannot even change it (if you ever notice it..)!

Wait, wat??

I’ve tried to find any corner-case criterias, and figured, that if there’s a non-cancelable room that can be both for one and for two, and clicking these rooms redirect you not to hotel’s page but booking step 2: prepare! 1 guest max selected even if you picked the other value! Check another hotel with the same criterias:

Suite for two, non-refundable, click!

No surprises! Indeed.

Oh, wait.. it’s just you, who sleeps on the porch (while your wife/girlfriend enjoys the vacation)!

I know, things happen, especially for the projects that big. But the most frustrating thing is that booking.com managers said that I’ve faked the screencast and declined my request to change the guest number (since it’s their issue). I didn’t want my money back for non-refundable booking! I even agreed with paying more money for the 2ppl twin room (just as I wanted it to be).

And here I am yet.. doing QA work :) and looking for a better website, that at least can accept the fact that sometimes everybody makes mistakes and willing to solve the issue.

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