Oh when will I learn??
Took an online flight quote for our trip back to the UK into a well known local agent with a "Price Match Promise" policy. Printed the quote off my screen, made sure OH's credit card had sufficient credit (4 adult fares back = scary total price!), and went in to sit on one of the agents stools while she did the booking.
Well, firstly she checked availability of the flight times, and told me one of the legs of the trip I wanted wasn't available any more ("must have got booked out in the gap between you looking on screen and me checking now") so I then suggested a slightly later connecting flight (which luckily I'd also taken a printed quote for in with me), which she was able to find availability on.
Then she told me she had to verify my quote, but hey ho, for some reason the website Australian Travel Agent : Best Flights Online Travel Agency Australia wasn't available on her computer ("some of these online sites are really dodgy, I wouldn't ever book with an online site, so many things can go wrong") When I suggested the onscreen message she was getting ('You are not authorised to view this site') might mean her employers had blocked access to competitors' sites, I was told that absolutely wasn't the case and the implication was that the Bestflights site wasn't genuine, or that I'd made it up.
So then she gets on the phone to her boss - with me sitting in front of her listening to her end of the conversation ("Yes, she's brought a print-out in but there's no telling how genuine it is, and she hasn't gone and tried to book the flights at these prices.....no, not taking insurance or anything else...only a tiny price difference between our price and hers - about $200...ok, and we include the Bestflights booking fee?.. right, thanks")
So I'm left there being subtly accused of not being honest, thinking '$200 might only be a tiny amount to you girlie, but to me it's a few days car hire/a dinner in Hong Kong for the family and a harbour cruise' and having first checked whether this particular agent charged a booking fee and being told they didn't, now knowing they are in fact going to take advantage of Bestflights charging one and keep it for themselves!
Ok, so they offer to beat the price I have by $1 a person (woooooo!) and she starts the payment process, only to find when I give her OH's credit card details, that she can't do the booking without him being there in person to sign, and won't guarantee the price until payment is fully confirmed (ok, understandable, even though I offer to get him on the phone and authorise the transaction - we have merchant banking facilities where I work - I'm sure an agent such as this must have the same and be able to take transactions over the phone! But apparently not.)
So I pick up my printed quote, come home, get online and within seconds book the flights (the original timed ones I wanted in the first place which are still available), and - and this is where the price match thing is a complete load of b****cks - save about $180 on the total travel agent's price (even after their measly $1 per person discount) because they would have charged 1.98% credit card fee on top, and the online site doesn't!
Ok, there is still a faint chance I'll turn up at the airport to be told my Bestflights ticket is worthless and there is no trace of my booking (I have booked with them before though, and it's been ok, but I won't know this time till I go) but honestly, surely if a high street agent wants to compete with the online companies they really need to sort themselves out and really give some decent service? Even offer that little bit extra? I mentioned doing a sunset cruise during our stopover in Hong Kong, even found one in one of their brochures while I was sat there with times that suited, but did she offer to book that for me? No - she said "oh you probably won't have time to do that" (we did have 9 hours in Hong Kong even with the later flight time!) and "they don't include transfers from the airport to the cruise and back so you couldn't do it in the time" (hello? Hong Kong has a great public transport system, and taxis - and I think they may even speak English there a little!)
Anyway, sorry for ranting and going on but the moral of my tale is.... don't believe a price match promise and if you don't want your honesty to be questioned, your wanting to save $200 being treated like the request of a pauper, hidden charges to mean you end up paying more anyway, and to waste 45 minutes of your life, book online instead!!