“Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don’t.” – Pete Seeger
I come from an era where the common advice for any business transaction was: Read the fine print before signing! Today that saying should be more along the lines of: Double check before clicking away!
Now that I am retired I have the time to check online for good travel deals and interesting places to visit. Flight tickets, hotel rooms, B&B’s, rental cars and show tickets – I book them all online. Making vacation plans this way does take some time, but it’s well-worth the effort as I have found some fantastic deals online. To be fair, I have also ended up booking some, shall I just say, interesting and unique places (aka less than desirable).
It has all been part of the learning curve, but after doing this for several years I was beginning to feel like an old pro. But overconfidence is a dangerous thing, as I was about to find out.
I was searching for a one-night stay close to the Orlando, Florida airport. We would be flying in late that evening and heading out early the next morning, so a clean, quiet, inexpensive room was all that we required.
I quickly found something that suited our purposes and after reading some very positive reviews, I proceeded straight away to book the room. The site said only two rooms were left at that price, so hesitation was not an option. (I always doubted the claim that only 2-3 of anything were available until I lost some potential deals.)
By now I knew the drill quite well, so I made my selections and efficiently clicked on the appropriate boxes, typed in my credit card information, agreed to the conditions (And, no, I didn’t read things over.) and clicked on “Submit”. As I went to print the page, I saw it. I took a double look and was stunned to see that I had just agreed to pay $3700 for a room!
What had I just done? I tried to cancel the booking but to no avail. Then I attempted to backtrack and edit my choices with no luck there either. Then in a panic I started to click on everything in sight, but that was less then helpful and repeating, “Oh, my God!” seventeen times in a row was clearly not working.
Finally I settled down, took a deep breath, cleared my mind and started to carefully study the information in front of me. It was then that I realized that instead of booking the room for one night, I had booked it for one month!
Yikes – what now? I had only one hope and that was to use the old-fashioned telephone and call the hotel directly. I was fortunate to get a real, live person on the other end who was able to stop the transaction before it was processed.
But I have learned my lesson. Reading the fine print, or all print, for that matter, is still the best policy, especially before making that final click.