Friday, December 22, 2006

Beware of your privacy when using online booking systems!

I am in the middle of an infuriating and entirely unsatisfactory experience with Malaysian based booking agency This company is operated by Orient Travel and Tours, which also operates

My father and I had plotted for months to meet in Singapore over new year, and surprise my mother for her 60th birthday. Mum knew she was going to Singapore, but had no idea I was flying in from the UK to meet them for 4 days. Bring on the chilli crab!

Dad (who's surname is also Surplice) booked his and Mum's accommodation at the Raffles The Plaza hotel through In a second and unrelated booking, and with slightly different dates, I booked into the same hotel through MariMari's site.

Marimari confirmed my parent's booking via email, and then in a second email to my parents the same day, mentioned that they were also happy to confirm the booking for a Ms Melanie Surplice. That email had the gall to ask if we were related! Do they ask all the Mr Smith's or Mr Lee's who put bookings through their system, if they are related?? Mum happened to read the email and instantly put two and two together. Thank you MariMari for stuffing up the surprise!

When it came to my attention that MariMari had compromised my privacy by disclosing my name in another unrelated booking, I sent an email to the marimari staff member who I had been dealing with. I was subsequently told that she had resigned. How convenient for MariMari...

The new reservations manager then emailed me to say that they had read all the email correspondence and couldn't understand what the problem was. ARGH!!!

I wrote another long email and pointed out exactly what the problem, that YOU DON'T DISCLOSE OTHER PEOPLE'S NAMES IN BOOKINGS THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THEM. This is just entirely unacceptable business conduct. In many countries, it is also an illegal breach of privacy. Not so in Malaysia, I'm told. But more about that later.

I wanted MariMari to fix their gross error, and compensate me in some way for stuffing up the surprise.

I also said that if they didn't resolve the situation satisfactorily, that I would, amongst other things, blog about it, contact key travel and IT journalists about it, and notify the various tourism authorities about this unacceptable conduct.

MariMari came back and offered me what they suggested was a "token gesture" for the "inconvenience" they had caused their "valued" customer. They offered my parents and I each a refund of one night's accommodation. Pathetic I say! The surprise cost a whole lot more than the SING180 worth of accommodation they offered us, and frankly, I was insulted.

I stay in hotels all over the world and have never experienced anything like this. Were it not peak season, I'd have cancelled the booking straight away, but at the risk of not finding accommodation in Singapore over new year, it's just not worth it at this point. I will certainly never book any accommodation through again.

I'm still in dispute with this company.

Stay tuned for the next installment...

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