I’m Breaking Up With Flipkey/Trip Advisor

I am dropping FlipKey/TripAdvisor as an on-line rental service.  Their behavior, in my opinion, has reached beyond mere incompetence to downright maliciously immoral.  Here’s why:

-       If you’re a guest, you have 24 hours to cancel with 100% refund.  That’s it.  No matter how the host has set their cancellation policy, you cannot get back the Booking Fee paid to FlipKey – which is murkily anywhere between 8 and 16% - unless you cancel within 24 hours of booking.  VRBO/Homeaway and Airbnb refund that fee along whatever policy the host has set up.


-       As a host, you cannot set up more than one property under one login.  For us this has meant constantly logging in and out to manage our three properties.


-       Guest or host can only make one change to any reservation.  If you need to change the dates, amount charged, etc. more than one, you have to call customer service.


-       If you call customer service, you wait on hold for a long time, then get someone in a foreign country who has no access to your previous eight calls.  They may be the nicest people in India or Phillipines, but they are helpless to solve your issue.


-       It goes beyond incompetent to malicious, in my opinion.  In my most recent issue, my guest and I needed to make a change to his reservation.  He asked to change his dates.  I followed the procedure to propose the change so he could approve it, and he did.  But the new dates never showed up on FlipKey.


Later, because the dates displayed wrong on the website, I accidentally sent him charges for an extra night and he approved the change.  We both realized this mistake but could no longer make changes, so called customer service. 


We were told he must cancel the reservation must be cancelled and re-booked.  It took us both 7-8 phone calls each to make this simple thing happen.  As for the over-charge?  Here’s where I think it smells especially rotten:  I had over-charged the guest by one night, which was $200.  That also meant he was charged an obscure amount extra in booking fees, as well as taxes. 

So I asked the rep to make sure when the guest re-books, he’s charged the correct amount.  At first the rep told me I would have to refund the guest $200 at check-in.  But what about the extra booking fees and taxes, I asked?  Well, you refund him $200, he replied.  But what about the extra charges?  We went around and around.  I asked him to figure out for mw what the booking fees would be so I could refund my guest that amount, even though I’d be “eating” it.  He went away for a long time, then finally came back and said the old amount of booking fee was $158.78, while the correct amount would be $130.  “That’s only 17USD,” he said.


Oh really?  I’m no math genius but that’s $28.78.  Plus taxes.   Which my guest is owed. 


“Don’t worry, about it,” the rep says again, “Your job is done here, we will refund the guest $200 when he checks in.” 


“But he’s owed more than $200,”  I say again.  “He’s owed 4200 plus $28.78 plus taxes.”


Round and round we went.  And finally he hung up on me.


Meanwhile, out of desperation, my guest and I found ways to reach each other via email (oh – another gripe – while other websites will redact personal info you might share to get in touch with one another outside their platform, FlipKey will delete the whole message, meaning you could both lose important  information you’re trying to share.)  He was completely confused about money, and no surprise -  turns out he’s never seen a breakdown of what’s what, rental amount, booking fee, taxes, security deposit, cleaning fee.  I can’t verify this is true because I’ve never made a booking as a guest through FlipKey, but this guy seemed pretty savvy and he saw nothing like this to help him navigate what was true.


Which explains why the rep through they could get away with not refunding my guest all he was owed.


So, to conclude, they forced us into a position where my guest had to cancel and re-book (rather than just modify the dates like rational human beings might on any other platform) by screwing up our date change in the first place and not allowing more than one change each.  Then, they screwed up trying to fix it in every possible way, making multiple phone calls possible (they send emails but you can’t reply, and when they say they’re going to call, they don’t.)  Then they tried very hard to not refund my guest what he was owed in the way of a refund, acting like they were doing us a big favor by re-booking him.  Every interaction was a disaster, down to the fact that they kept telling me I needed to release the dates so my guest could re-boo, but they were his original dates and the site wouldn’t let me.


THEN they told my guest – five times this went back and forth, in writing and by phone calls- that my permission was needed to get him 50% back on his original cancellation.  That should not have been remotely necessary – my policy is 50% refund within 8 weeks of the guest’s stay.  This was happening in February and his stay wasn’t until July – not even in the ballpark of 8 weeks.


We’re kind of used to Flipkey not being the brightest bulb in the batch.  When they switched over to the pay-per-booking model, their alternative annueal fees were insane and varied by market but not in any way which reflected potential profit in those markets – they were going to charge us way more for the Catskills than for Moab, which is insane.  Also they often make mistakes with money, they take the longest to refund a guest’s security deposit, etc.

But this went beyond merely fumbling the ball as we’re grown used to .


So, frustrated as I am with VRBO/Homeaway for “double dipping,”  (now charging an annual fee and booking fees, having followed Airbnb in the model of charging per booking,) I’m dropping Flipkey in favor of VRBO and Airbnb. 



Photos by Emory Collinson        © Niki Naeve 2015