Is this online travel agency for real?

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Did Mitja Baumhackl just book a room through a scammy online travel agency? He thinks so after making a recent hotel reservation at the Fullon Resort Kending in Pingtung, Taiwan, through a site called Asiarooms.com.

And while there may be a technical explanation for what happened, it looks a little fishy from a customer perspective. Maybe you can help me figure out if this is scammy or not.

Baumhackl, who lives in Singapore, booked a room in Taiwan in late May for a June stay, prepaying TWD 23,760, or about $791.

“I called the hotel directly two days later and confirmed the reservation,” he says.

In early June, he received an email from Asiarooms, stating that they were sorry, but the hotel was actually sold out of rooms and not accepting online reservations, and that Asiarooms would be happy to rebook him at another hotel. (In hotel-speak, that could mean the wholesaler’s allocation was sold out. Unless the hotel gives the merchant what’s called “last room” availability, then the merchant has to find other merchants who will trade their allocation.)

Baumhackl didn’t want a different hotel. He’d already plunked down $250 for train tickets, and wasn’t eager to change his plans.

I contacted Asiarooms live chat and chatted with a representative. He said he would call the hotel to investigate, and then told me that they did not speak English and he could not assist.

This was not true, because 10 minutes before the live chat, I contacted the hotel and spoke with them in English. Not great English, but I confirmed the reservation.

The representative said he was unable to investigate the reservation and said it could only be handled through the Asiarooms Bangkok office. I repeatedly told him to convey that the reservation should not be canceled. He did not respond to this request other than to say he would convey my information to the Bangkok office.

They went back and forth a few more times, with Asiarooms insisting the hotel was sold out, and Baumhackl insisting it wasn’t, and that he wanted the hotel to honor it.

“I called a friend who knows Mandarin, and my friend called the hotel on my behalf,” he says. “The hotel had my reservation and was happy to rebook it directly under my name and credit card. The hotel told my friend that Asiarooms.com had called them to cancel the reservation.”

Eventually, he canceled his Asiarooms reservation and rebooked with the hotel.

“Oh, and the final hotel price was TWD 2,640 less expensive than the price on Asiarooms.com,” he says. “Probably the amount of the commission that they were hoping to make.”

It gets worse.

“I posted a review of this booking experience with Asiarooms.com to TripAdvisor and today Asiarooms.com responded in the TripAdvisor forum,” he says. “They printed my full name from my reservation as well as the name of the hotel where I will be staying. This personal information was not available in my TripAdvisor account, so basically they took information from my booking with them, which has since been canceled, and posted it in a public forum.”

So is Asiarooms.com a scam? No, the only thing they’re probably guilty of is having a name that could be confused for a title of an adult movie. Not that I would know.

Bending a few facts and fighting with a hotel over commissions — oh boy, I’ve never heard of that happening.

But was Asiarooms.com behaving in a scammy way? And you know what I mean by scammy. You don’t cancel someone’s hotel reservation because of a commission dispute and then, when he has the gall to complain, post his reservation to TripAdvisor.

The review appears to have since been removed. But still, is that any way to treat a customer?

Is Asiarooms.com behaving scammily?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Behaving badly…yes. Scammy? That may be a stretch. I think of a scam as taking money without delivering what was promised. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. However, the actions in this case: pretending not to speak English, lying about the room availability, etc seem to be outside of acceptable business practices.

    Of course, other countries may have different acceptable business practices.

  • Blackadar

    Yeah, that’s called scammily in this country.

  • John Baker

    What a wholesaler changing a reservation after the fact? Never!
    Had this happen to me when going to a convention in Orlando. After they took our reservation (fully prepaid), they came back two months later to say the hotel was full and they were moving us to an “equivalent” hotel. Except it was blocks away instead of across the street from the convention center. A little investigating with the hotel showed that the company never had the rooms they promised or took payment for nor the ability to get them (the convention bought out the hotel). Ended up having to fight for a refund and rebook the rooms.

    Last time I used a wholesaler….

  • Raven_Altosk

    Scammy AND scummy! Just like the phishing phone call I got from a woman claiming to be from Microsoft who needed to tell me a problem about my computer. I had fun with her for about 10 minutes before unleashing profanity at her.

  • Raven_Altosk

    It’s a scam. Asiarooms needs to sell its domain to the porn industry and get out of business.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Name of wholesaler? I want to know who to avoid.

  • John Baker

    @Raven_Altosk:disqus I don’t remember. We were an exhibitor and we received a ton of phone calls from wholesalers looking to sell rooms.

  • Asiansm Dan

    Thanks. I make a BIG X to Asiarooms.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Those phone calls ARE fun!

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Stories like this always make me shake my head. He’d apparently never heard of this AsiaRooms site before yet not only does he do business with them but he blindly books without checking their rate against any other sites or even the hotel itself?

    It’d be one thing if it was some insanely low price so he thought he’d just give it a shot, but he paid more than the hotel would have charged directly. This is why scammers will never ever go away–there are people like this who just can’t wait to be taken.

  • Cheri Head

    Stop. Using. Online. Travel. Agencies. It’s that simple.

  • JenniferFinger

    Real or not, they’re behaving scammily-at least by USA standards of customer service.

  • IGoEverywhere

    Scam, error, or mis-communication, it was handeled horribly. Here is my take on the whole situation. I suspect that Asiarooms made a booking error on their end of some nature and were trying to get out of it. They sold the incorrect room or the wrong price, or any number of other excuses. I have no idea on international law, but if my full name appeared in Tripadvisor with any defaming information, I would sue them instantly. I can be angry at a customer, but I cannot release their personal information.

  • S363

    A couple of years ago I booked a hotel room near Bangkok airport, on a website that I’d never heard of and don’t remember. I promptly emailed the hotel directly to confirm I had a reservation, all worked out fine, and it was a pretty decent room for the price. I did put the charge on my card, which offers some protection. Of course, in that case I was risking around $22, not $791.

  • emanon256

    Um, yeah, this does sounds like more than “Scammy” to more, it sounds like a scam. I know I sound like a broken record, but please NEVER use these on-line fly-by-night fake travel agencies. Book with the hotel directly or a real live agent. If you book with the hotel there can be no buck passing, and if you use a real agent, they will help you should something bad happen.

  • emanon256

    I thoguth they took the money, and didn’t deliver what was promised.

  • emanon256

    I had a similar experience on hotels dot com before I knew better than to use them. I was going to a conference, the conference rate for the hotel was $400 for 3 nights, hotels dot com had it for $350 for the same 3 nights. A week before the conference Hotels dot com told me the hotel had no availability and they would move me to an equivalent or better hotel 3 miles away (I wasn’t renting a car). I called the hotel and was able to still get the conference rate and booked a room for $400. I then told hotels dot com I wanted a refund since they couldn’t honor my reservation. They did refund me, but kept $50 as a penalty, which their T&C’s said they could if I canceled. And the fact that they couldn’t honer the reservation, also in their T&C’s, didn’t get me out of the cancellation fee since they could provide alternate accommodations. I had an attorney review the T&C after the fact and it was iron clad.

  • emanon256

    Amen! And so many of my relatives still won’t listen to me, and still use sites like this and pay more and get screwed.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I told the one who called me that I was in the witness protection program and I was freaking out that she’d found me! I accused her of only pretending to be with Microsoft, and insisted she must be Tony’s new girlfriend, and if Tony thought he was gonna find me and bump me off because of what I told the Feds, he had another thing coming. Oh, and I commiserated with her for the lack of…um…”substance” Tony had in the sack, and told her she really should dump Tony and give Vince a try.

  • The Original Joe S

    And did the lizards eat all the bugs in the room for you?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    There is no suggestion that their was an issue getting a full refund from Asiarooms. In a classic scam once they have your money they don’t give it back.

  • pauletteb

    Thanks for posting these incidents, Chris. My list of companies/properties NOT to do business with keeps growing and growing.

  • pauletteb

    My aunt fell for that scam just before Thanksgiving. Fortunately my daughter the fed IT specialist was home for the holiday and was able to clean their crap out of my aunt’s system, but not before the scammers wiped a lot of files from her hard drive in retaliation for her canceling the CC charge. The same scammers called my daughter a couple months ago . . . It took the idiot close to 20 minutes to realize HE was being scammed.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I looked at the website and their list of numbers and addresses and they seem pretty legit and they did send the money back so overall, this appears to be a bad customer service and followup story.
    I have dealt with small travel agencies in the past with long records (back 20 years) and sometimes they’ve gotten me fantastic deals. Like half off airline tickets via a consolidated bulk purchase they did from Swiss Airlines and got me $600 tickets to Poland including frequent flier mile credits. If they specialize in a particular airline, hotel or cruise, sometimes they negotiate fantastic deals. The caveat? Those tickets were non-refundable, non-exchangable and if you didn’t use them on that day at that time, they were dead. Period. The change fees were something like $400.

  • emanon256

    Okay, good point. I change from Scam to Scammy.

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    Yup, I think scam is the word … collect the guest’s money then try to leave him out in the cold.

  • TonyA_says

    Definitely scammy. What else can you call a pre-paid hotel booking site that takes your money for a supposed stay when they do not have a vacant room to sell?

  • Cybrsk8r

    I let them go into their routine and then, in the most urgent voice I can muster, say a pot is boiling over on the stove. I then lay the phone down and go back to what I was doing.

  • AH

    i just got one of those 10 minutes ago! since i wasn’t in the mood to play games with them, i just told them i knew it was a scam and hung up.
    (phone number on caller ID seems to indicate a verizon cell phone in utah)

  • Bill___A

    Like anything, you have to check out who you are dealing with. Looks like dealing with them is a mistake. Always get two quotes and google the prospective business for problems.

  • Bill___A

    For the gazillionth time, not every “real live” travel agent has their act together. You can get into trouble dealing with them too.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    To me, one type of scam is to promise one product then deliver another product. I would like to know the hotel that they wanted to rebook the OP at…it is my guess that the rate will be the same but the hotel would have been inferior based upon my experiences. It is my guess that this is about a commission as stated in the article.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    He didn’t lose his money because he ‘fought’ back before the scam was fully completed.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    It is true that there are brick & mortar travel agents that do not has their act together. In all fields and industries, there are individuals that do not has their act together.

    One advantage of dealing with a brick & mortar travel agency is that you have a better recourse in case of a problem. It is much easier to drive to a building to discuss your issues than trying to deal with an online travel site that could be located anywhere in the world.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I would mostly agree with you with one important caveat. A scam requires intentionality. Was it the seller’s intent to promise one hotel but deliver another? Without that intent I don’t think its a scam.

  • Mel65

    I’d say scUmmy more than scAmmy…