Wouldn't ya know it...Yesterday I put up a new article on DiMono.net about how to add rows to a table in a cross-browser way, because it's something I had to figure out for work. Between the time I put that article up and about half an hour ago, I've spent most of my waking hours figuring out how to completely customize a file input field cross-browser. I think I have enough material for an entire website now on how to customize those damn things. You may see a flurry of articles pop up over there soon.
In other news, the rest of my waking hours since that article went up were spent prototyping the layout for a new website I think will get a lot of use from people on this site. Look for it in 2007.
In other other news, RvBTO planning is heading in to the home stretch. There are a couple new news items on the site, as well as a finalized guest list, a more detailed schedule, an almost complete prize list, AND a way to request to be present at dinner with us and the RT guests (really you just submit the form and you're in as long as you show up). Is there any reason not to come?
Why Travelocity sucks asscock - part 4So I'm set with Expedia to get my tickets. In fact, they've already been paid for. Actually, as an aside before I get to the rest of the story, this morning I checked my email and was surprised to find two emails from Expedia about how my itinerary had changed. I call them up and ask about it, and it turns out Delta has cancelled all flights from JFK Airport in NYC to Austin except for one that leaves at 6:25AM, which is a little bit too early for someone leaving Buffalo at 3PM.
My new itinerary involves hopping on a flight from JFK to Cincinnati, then within 35 minutes hopping on another plane to get to Austin. New arrival time: 10:30PM. Total flight time including (now) 2 stop-overs: 8:25. That's a long time. More importantly, all my seat reservation information has been wiped out because the flights all changed (except for Austin to JFK on Monday morning). Apparently, Delta Airlines had decided to assign seats to everyone on check-in, since the schedules had been changed, so I couldn't even request seats through the Expedia site.
This is bad. It's no good getting on a plane not knowing where you're sitting, or how far from the shitter you are. So I ask the girl I'm on the phone with from Expedia for Delta's service number, and I call them to request some seats. I set everything up the way I want, and everything is going swimmingly. Then the woman at the other end of the phone says something to the tune of "since we've changed your itinerary, if you'd like to switch to a flight that leaves a little earlier or a little later and only has one stop-over we can do that for you at no extra cost."
After a bit of discussion, I settle on a flight that leaves Buffalo 2 hours later and goes directly to Cincinatti, then after an hour and a half I get on the same Cincinatti-Austin plane as before, and I have the seats I want. Just for kicks I head to the Expedia site, and it turns out it would have cost me an additional C$235 to book this flight in the first place. Let's hear it for getting unexpected deals! I would have checked on Travelocity too, but I just don't care any more. After all, it's time for part 4.
On Saturday I was all set to get my hotel room and finish the planning portion of my trip. I'm told I should check out hotels through Travelocity, because their customer service when it comes to hotels is really good. After all, they have the gnome, and unless your name is Griggs a gnome is always a good thing.
So I look at hotels with free parking and non-smoking rooms on the Travelocity website. I find a hotel with a special deal going on: 15% off if you book now, marked down from $59.00 to $50.15 (US funds) per night. The hotel is the North Austin Plaza Hotel & Suites. AAA gave it 3 diamonds, but I read a few of the traveller reviews and have some questions about them, so I head to their website to get their phone number.
As a web programmer, let me say that from a design perspective their website is horrible. I browse at 1024x768 and the page content I care about isn't even on the screen until I scroll down. Shameful. More to the point, imagine my surprise when I learn I can book directly with the hotel for $39.99 per night. Go try it yourself: Sept 7, 4 nights, 1 room, 1 adult.
So not only does Travelocity have incorrect flight prices and shitty flight support staff, but their normal price for booking at this hotel is 50% higher than the hotel normally charges? I may not know much about hotel rates, but I know when someone's trying to stick a fork up my ass.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Travelocity sucks thick, sweaty asscock.
Why Travelocity sucks asscock - part 3Last time we left our intrepid explorer as he had just decided to book his flight to Austin using Expedia.ca. Of course, by "our intrepid explorer" I really mean me, but you knew that already. Last weekend I sat down at the Expedia website with a Longhorn schedule to investigate ticket prices. Flight price from Toronto to Austin was $604. Every time. ...At least they're consistent. I looked at trips from Buffalo, and it turned out the weekend of September 8-9-10 was only C$335. I know a deal when I see it, so I picked this weekend and then waited to make sure I could get the appropriate time off work.
On Wednesday I logged on from work to purchase the tickets. Turns out Expedia lets you use your MSN Passport account to register tickets, which is AWESOME because I already have one of those. I choose my flights, set myself up to return home on a Monday morning red-eye, and then I see a familiarly daunting message:
We're sorry, the price of this flight has changed from C$335.92 to C$337.24
...Fuck. I grit my teeth and bear it, because I'm not going hunting again. As I get through the checkout process, I notice something missing: I wasn't given a chance to choose my seats. Even Travelocity let me do that, so I decided to hop on their site and check out the same flight. After all, they suck, but if they let me do what I expect to do I may need to just grit my teeth and bear that, too. So I hit Travelocity.ca and enter the same flight information. You'll never guess what the results were.
...So I'll tell you. When looking with Expedia, there was one flight offered at C$335 and the rest were about C$400. When looking with Travelocity, the cheapest flight I was offered was C$435. So Travelocity has poor internet customer service and their prices fail to be up to date. Lick my sweaty nutsack, Travelocity.
So I phone up Expedia, not wanting to lose time on email since I'm doing this at work and my boss sits directly behind me, and I ask them what's up. Turns out I simply missed a selection between "No preference" "Window seat" "Aisle seat" and "Specify seats." All is good, and I book the flight. Now I just need a hotel room.
Check back next time for part 4! (sorry, up until today the story ended here... now there's more).
Why Travelocity sucks asscock - part 2As I ended with in my last journal, emails with Travelocity told me it was Northwest Airlines' responsibility to update the prices on their site. Just for kicks I decided to look at the same flights on Expedia and Orbitz, and on those sites the prices were displaying correctly. Odd that they'd update two sites but not the third. I began an email correspondance with them:
I am interested in flying from Buffalo to Austin for the dates specified. My first choice was Travelocity.ca, especially when I saw there were round-trip tickets available for the dates I wanted starting at $203CAN per person.
I selected a reasonable departure schedule (Flight 1129 / 283 / Flight 5742 operated by Northwest Airlink) and found several return flights available at $208CAN per person. When I selected any return flight, however, the price was elevated to as high as $1000CAN per person.
Considering the advertized price when looking for tickets was $208CAN, I'm sure you'll agree this was quite the price increase. When I then returned to the booking process, the prices were again displayed at $208CAN, which is the source of my concern: if the updated prices are known, why are the low prices still being advertized?
I contacted Travelocity about this, and after pushing my way through the standard form-letter response was told it is the airline's responsibility, not Travelocity's, to make sure ticket prices are kept up to date. Why are the apparently unavailable $208CAN seats still being offered on Travelocity.ca when they are not available?
Thank you for contacting nwa.com Customer Service.
Chris, when fares are viewed using the nwa.com Reservation system, the current fare is given at that exact time.
These fares are available on a first purchased basis and no fare is guaranteed until purchase.
Since we handle many requests simultaneously on several reservations systems, occasionally, the fare will change before you get through the entire purchase process.
When this happens, the next best available fare will be displayed.
Please be assured the final purchase option will always display the applicable fare.
I trust this explains why the fare increased during booking.
Thank you again for using nwa.com Customer Service. We appreciate the opportunity to serve you, our customer.
Johnny Couch nwa.com Customer Service
Thank you for your prompt response to my inquiry, but it does not actually satisfy my question.
If the fare prices across the Travelocity site increased upon checkout, I would accept this as the reason and move on. However, after being told on the site that the fare price has increased, the less expensive fare remains on the Travelocity site. It seems the "cheap" tickets have long since sold out, but on Travelocity (and only on Travelocity from what I've seen) they are still being offered despite being unavailable. It's not that they sold out during my checkout procedure, it's that they have long since sold out but are still being offered.
Why do the "cheap" tickets continue to be advertized on Travelocity when they are no longer available?
Dear Chris Marks,
Thank you for contacting nwa.com Customer Service.
I apologize, our fares from NWA.com are live. Our site is constantly updating. If you are seeing differences on Travelocity, please contact their website administrators. They can be reached at 1-888-709-5983. If you would like assistance booking on NWA.com, please contact Internet Support at 1-800-692-6955.
I trust that once you have contacted the proper place, they will be able to assist you further.
Thank you again for using nwa.com Customer Service. We appreciate the opportunity to serve you, our customer.
Katy Sisson nwa.com Customer Service
I emailed Travelocity customer service first, and they said it was NWA's responsibility to keep the prices current. It sounds like you and them need to get together and figure out who's supposed to do what. Since the problem does seem to only exist on Travelocity, I will contact them again regarding it.
Thank you for your assistance.
It seemed to me that NWA was on the ball, and Travelocity was the only place where the prices weren't current. Considering NWA was the one whose product is for sale, it seemed to me that the only reasonable explanation for anything wrong on the Travelocity site was Travelocity error; why would NWA update their prices and ticket availability everywhere else and leave Travelocity wanting? I contacted them again:
I just talked to Northwest Airlines customer support, and they specifically said I should contact Travelocity about the mistaken ticket prices. The other travel booking websites (Expedia, Orbitz) and nwa.com all had current booking information, the only site without it was Travelocity.ca. You say they're responsible, and they say you're responsible. Does anyone actually know what's going on?
Unfortunately the agent at NWA gave you the wrong information, all airlines are responsible for the inventory and fares on our website.
Thank You Jennifer Travelocity.ca
Clearly one of two things was happening: either Travelocity has committed an error and won't own up to it, or their support staff is totally incompetent. Either way, I'm booking my trip with Expedia this time. More on that in the next and final (and shorter) part of the story.
At the beginning of June I started looking at flights to Austin for the weekend of October 14. Airfare from Toronto was already $600, so I started looking at nearby airports. Imagine my surprise when I found a NorthWest Airlines (NWA) return flight for C$208! I didn't even bother to look anywhere else, this was a cheaper fare than I was ever expecting to find, so I went through the booking process. Then I got to checkout, and received a daunting message:
We're sorry, the price for this trip has changed
Usually this means there's a few extra dollars that have to be tacked on, so I look rather calmly at the new amount... C$520/person.
I figure the cheap seats merely sold out and go back to the trip selections, only to discover that it's still listed at C$208. There are a variety of combinations that come in at less than C$220, and I try most of them. All come in over C$500 at checkout, some as high as C$1100, but reset to ~C$200 when returning to the flight list. I haven't done a lot of flying, but I've done enough business to know there's something seriously wrong here. So I send them an email. Here are the first five messages between us:
Message : I am currently browsing prices for airfair between Buffalo (BUF) and Austin (AUS) leaving on October 12, 2006 ( Northwest Airlines Flight 1129 / 283 / Flight 5742 operated by Northwest Airlink) and returning October 16, 2006. The schedule I selected was listed at a cost of $208CAN, but when I select any return flight your results page says "We're sorry, the price for this trip has changed" and the new price is more than $500CAN. Why are flights listed at $208 being sold at more than $500?
Thank you for using Travelocity.ca .
Unfortunately, due to the website pricing offers by all airlines being live. No fare is guaranteed until the ticket is issued. The airlines fare offers are based upon class of service availability. Once the fare sells out the airline offers the next available fare. Travelocity cannot control this detail. However, once the fare has been submitted for purchase request, if the airlines changes the price offer the original offer is not affected unless your credit card declines. From that point no fare is guaranteed until the ticket is issued.
Thank You for your interest,
Thank you for your reply, but it has nothing to do with my question. Please go to your website and select the flights I have indicated, which will show on your site as costing $208. As soon as you select the return flight, the price is raised to as high as 5x the original price. This is not a case of fares going up, this is either a case of a bad database entry, or unethical practices. Please send me a reply that is not a form letter.
The airlines are responsible for all inventory and prices on our website. If the fare sells out that's when you will receive the message that the fare has gone up. The airlines have to update the website with the accurate information.
Thank you Jennifer
So the initial price shown ($208) and the final price shown ($1159 for 2) are coming from two different places? Because even after I receive the price update message the prices still appear as they initially did. If the prices updated everywhere after that happened it wouldn't be a problem; my concern is that they always show $208 when browsing, and only change to the higher price after you select your flights. This is putting a bad face on your service, and it concerns me enough that I'm considering switching all my online ticket purchases to expedia.ca because their prices appear to be more up-to-date.
No reply ever came to that email. Nonetheless, taking the bull by the horns I sent an email to NWA customer service. If it's their responsibility, I'm going to find out what's going on straight from them. More on this next time.
The jobToday was the first weekday after Canada Day, which means we're supposed to have it off from work. I went in for a half day because there was stuff that needed doing and I was promised two days off later in the week for it, which seemed like a pretty good trade to me. The company is starting to make a concerted effort to ramp everything up in preparation of some nice large projects that look to be coming our way later this month (including a project that nicely mimics a site I've been planning on my own time), which has the unexpected side-effect of taking away most of what I have to do for now.
Here's how this works: I'm currently working on plugging in content to a website that's basically been built already by myself and two other people. Once that's done I work on the next available website. The fun fact is that the next available website hasn't been landed yet, because everyone is very focused on bringing in the big fish that's been dangling on the line for the last two weeks and will hopefully be signed within the next two weeks. All other projects are either in pre-production and not my concern, or haven't yet been signed. I only have two items of business that I can really work on once the current site is done:
1) Create a Best Practices document for the company to standardize website production in to what I've found is the most efficient method of construction. 2) Work on the proposal presentation for the company's website, which is being treated as an external project to aid in the project management training of one of my coworkers and me.
The first isn't as much work as it seems, and the second relies on my coworker having the same time available as I do to work on it. So it seems I could have a nice short week ahead of me.
In other news, I found out what my salary will be when I get hired full-time. It's almost a 100% increase from what I'm getting now, and it comes with performance bonuses which, depending on the sites and how quickly I bring them in, could potentially double my income again. Call me crazy, but I think I'm doing okay for someone who hasn't actually been hired yet.
2) Whoever makes post 186,678 in this journal wins, as long as it takes less than five hours to get there
3) Mod me some amount, and tell me why that number is special to you. Whoever gives the most compelling reason wins
4) First person to post "You are a chicken, now suck my egg" in 100 different people's personal comments wins
5) Whoever gives me the mod point that puts me to my next level gets all my mod points
6) First person to get me a copy of Flash MX wins all my mods
By the way, if I see anyone holding a contest along the lines of any of those, I'll ban them, and in some cases everyone who participated. Of course, anyone who reports such contests to me will be rewarded. Please only report contests that started within the last couple weeks though, it's not really fair to hit someone for a contest they held in 2004.