I recently received a special offer from a trusted travel site – a source I purchase from regularly online. Okay, it was Gilt, in fact. I’m a big fan of the members-only shopping site and I’m either pleased or embarrassed (depending on the day) to say that I am a Gilt Noir member in good standing. That means I shop there a lot. I trust them. I like their style. And they like me, too. So occasionally they pass on special offerings.
This particular offer was through Luxury Link, a travel site that promises special, above-and-beyond experiences at the best hotels and resorts, worldwide. And Gilt was offering an additional percentage off to Noir members. Awesome! (Or so it seemed.)
I was in the market for a few additional nights for an upcoming trip to Italy, but there were no special offers that fit my needs in Milan, where my husband and I needed to travel for business. But a Relais & Chateaux property in the countryside near Lake Iseo caught my eye. It was a beautiful, historic property with a spa and thermal baths. The property had many accolades – and they were offering an exceptional package to Luxury Link customers.
My husband and I couldn’t resist.
We decided to add three days on to our trip just to experience the special travel package – really something we’d never indulge in without the special offer from the travel site.
We received a warm, personal welcome by email from the property itself after confirmation from Luxury Link. We were pleased with this follow up. We felt more than comfortable about our booking – and we simply filed everything away for future reference.
Imagine my surprise when several weeks later, Gilt sent me a pre-emptive apology letting me know that Luxury Link had gone out of business!
First, I have to say that Gilt handled the situation with top quality professionalism and customer service. I continue to be impressed with their overall operation. They let me know about the problem BEFORE I found out somewhere else. So although they had to deliver bad news, they simultaneously became my advocate, rather than “the bad guys”. They also offered me a significant credit on their daily shopping site, just to make up for the inconvenience. They had tried reaching out to their travel partner but they weren’t convinced things would be handled correctly. So here is what they recommended we do:
1. Contact your credit card company to let them know that the company you booked with has ceased operations. Let them know that the services you’ve purchased will not be delivered – because the company no longer exists.
We followed their directions exactly and the credit card company canceled our transaction and credited our account.
2. Contact the property directly, let them know the problem and ask if they will honor the package you purchased through the booker.
We’ve reached out to the hotel – just today – and are awaiting their reply. I’m hoping we will still get to experience their fabulous property.
But what if we’d already been en route to the property when news of Luxury Link’s demise had become known? Then what? Here are a few tips for protecting yourself should things go wrong with your booking agent.
1. Make sure you’ve paid with American Express or a credit card that will go to bat for you. AMEX is known for offering good protection in this way. If you’ve booked with a debit card, it may be more difficult to get things handled – depending on your bank.
2. Consider travel insurance. I have to be honest, I never buy it. I’m a seasoned traveler who has been in third-world countries, had lunch next to UN peacekeepers, been evacuated from a hotel due to a tornado warning and slept in villages where the government turns the water and power off for days at a time. I figure, whatever happens, I’ll figure it out. But if you are traveling with kids or planning a special, once-in-a-lifetime trip, you may want to have financial backup should your booking not be honored.
3. Use only trusted sources and trusted third parties to book your travel. Yes, even a trusted source can steer you wrong (and a trusted source might even go out of business, I suppose) – but if you are a good customer, they’ll probably work with you to make things right, if they can. If you are fairly new to booking online – ask your traveling friends or do your research by reading travel blogs and reviews before you purchase.
4. Always Google it. Do a quick google search and read all the latest news before you book. I say this because, when I just checked, the Luxury Link website still looks like a FUNCTIONING high end, professional travel site! It even appears that you can still book through the site – although of course I didn’t follow that through.
But if you Google “Luxury Link” you’ll find a couple of recent articles about the company going belly up. And any mention of such a thing should be a pretty obvious red flag with any booking company or app you’re considering using.
Luckily – I found out in plenty of time and Gilt took good care of me.
Counting all our travels, my husband and I book over 100 nights of travel, online every year. This one experience won’t change that.
Safe, happy travels are just a click away – as long as you do a little research first!