Priceline.com is proof that anyone can buy television time and say anything they wish. The many commercials showing the former Star Trek Captain dashing around to save people money are amusing, but they don’t tell the full story.
According to numerous customer reports posted online, use Priceline.com at your own peril. The rating site consumeraffairs (dot com) alone shows 33 pages of complaints about Priceline, and there are also additional pages of complaints on consumer review sites such as "my3cents" and "complaintsboard." In fact, type the words "Priceline" and "complaints" in any search engine to bring up a horrifying litany of bad service and duplicity from Priceline.
However, plenty of people still successfully use the online travel service — just make sure you read the fine print before completing any purchases.
Since the heavy advertising tends to dispel customary wariness, Priceline doesn’t lack for new customers. But if the plethora of complaints are valid about misuse of credit card numbers or wrong flight bookings or no bookings at all, it might be a good thing to find the deal on Priceline and negotiate it directly with the airline, hotel, car rental firm or cruise line yourself.
The site is full of fascinating options, but to find more details about the tantalizing headlines, you’re told to register your email address. There is a working "skip sign-in" button, if you happen to notice it.
As for support — the most common complaint is about the lack of it. ConsumerAffairs.com said, "There is little customer service when you are a Priceline traveler. If your plans go awry, it's not likely a quick call to an 800 number will help."
The site offers news about little-known deals in the "Last Minute PriceBreakers" section. Example: Frontier Airlines’ offering of a limited time one way fare of $49 (round trip must be purchased). But rather than risk Priceline, we used that news to search Frontier Airlines directly. A little googling allowed us to locate and, had we wished, to book an expensive trip for a total of $122, all fees included. On the Priceline site, getting more information about the cheap fare required us to sign in with an email address.
Priceline can be a genuine money saver if you need an airline flight fast, like in the next few days. But if you have time to shop around, do so. One common complaint is about Priceline’s policy of forcing customers to book blindly. You are offered a flight destination or hotel rate, but you’re not told the time of the flight or the name and location of the hotel until after you’ve handed over your credit card number and made the purchase. If the flight is in the late night hours, or the hotel is 25 miles away from where you were told it was, too bad.
Priceline may have action commercials, but customers report a lack of any action when it comes to fixing or taking responsibility for mistakes. The overwhelming number of online complaints and negative reports should make travelers wary of trusting Priceline to deliver on its promises. Keep all confirmation numbers and other documentation, just in case. Be sure to read one of our top-ranked online travel sites review, Smarter Travel.