From London, Luton Airport the trains and buses don’t operate until 5am, and after an actioned packed 3 days in Iceland, I was in no mood to sleep on the cold floor, or sit perched against a scruffy, also crowded “wall seat”.
My flight would get in at 1am and after 3 very expensive days in Reykjavik my budget just just allowed for a cheap night’s accommodation somewhere. I found Easy Hotel, which is Easy Jet’s hotel group and like the in-flight experience, it wouldn’t be mind blowing, but just what you needed for the quick flight, or in this case very short stay.
I opened my booking.com app and started the search, very close to the top result, I think it may have actually been first was the Easy Hotel. The most important search criteria for me was the distance from the airport, said the tight strings of my purse. Below the images of an OK looking room I found in the description that it was only 10mins walk from Luton Airport to Easy Hotel Luton - Yay!
With my flight slightly delayed, exhausted and needing no more drama I booked the hotel. Just in case I’d have problems with signal after landing in Luton, I checked Google Maps to preload the walking directions to my phone. Hmmmm, GMAPS said it would take me 45min to walk there, my immediate reaction was this can’t be right, but also it’s Google Maps, which booking.com and the rest of the world piggy-backs on for maps, so it’s most probably correct!
Now irritated, I called the hotel and they confirmed it would be about 15mins drive and the receptionist actually said “You can’t walk here sir”.
This was highly irritating! But now, about to board there was nothing more I could do.
When I arrived at Luton Airport I called an Uber and yeah, it took about 10-15mins drive to get to Easy Hotel, and I was not happy. Especially because the next morning I would need to spend £15 more on public transport to get to my destination.
Before closing my now weary eyes, I popped open the b.com app and messaged customer service, informing them that the information I received was incorrect, and IRL (in real life) this is how it affected me. They apologised but then let me know that they calculate the distance between point A and point B “As the bird flies”, oh ok, but I am not a bird though! The next day I let them know that while I appreciated them giving me a £20 credit in lieu of the money I spent on the Uber, this did not work, again - I am sure no birds are actively using booking.com.
The customer rep said they’d pass the message on to a product team member, and I am not sure how far that went, but this bizarre incident left me perturbed - what was their train of thought here? “Let’s calculate the distance between point A to point B in a straight line and then display that to our feathered friends - sounds great!”
This is inaccurate and if people like me (not from London for starters) are making their decision solely based on the walking distance too and from a point of interest then this is a complete balls up!
“When you plug in a destination and dates on Booking.com and Expedia, the order of results is largely determined by how frequently customers reserve a particular property once they’ve clicked on it, the “conversion” rate. Whether that is beneficial to the consumer is up for debate.” Do Those Travel Search Results Look Fishy? Here’s Why - The New York Times.
This snippet from a blog post on The New York times got me wondering how many other users that had been guided to Easy Hotel by previous conversions on this property (or other paid mysterious ways), possibly had the same idea in mind - “Its only a 10minute walk away”.
After 20 years in the business with 26k plus employees I am sure they know what they’re doing, but this weird decision of theirs (even though it may have been one team out of the hundreds, the collective is accountable) had a negative financial impact on me this time.
I, the user, should always be most important.
Me, the user, should still be most important. It's when you forget that real people are sitting behind computers or out and about on their mobile phones using your products in varying scenarios, that the hypothetical ground beneath you should start to tremble. Business, product and development requirements kept in mind, the users expectation for not only how the product works, but how it will serve them IRL when they take precious time out to interact with “it”, is number one.