Booking.com, the popular online travel booking website, has long been criticized for its bad user experience. But recent investigations have uncovered a more serious problem: the company's widespread use of dark patterns and manipulative design elements that deceive users and influence them to take actions they otherwise wouldn't.
One of the most prevalent dark patterns on the site is the use of pressure tactics, such as creating a sense of urgency by highlighting the number of people looking at the same property or the number of rooms left. These tactics exploit users' fear of missing out, pushing them to make hasty decisions without fully considering their options.
Another typical dark pattern is the hiding of fees and taxes until the end of the booking process, a lack of transparency that can lead to unexpected charges and a sense of betrayal among customers. The website also uses flashy graphics, bright colours, and large fonts that can be overwhelming and distract from important information, leading to mistakes or missed details in bookings.
To make matters worse, Booking.com's customer service has been called into question, with many customers reporting difficulty in getting in touch with support and receiving adequate assistance with their bookings. That's where my story of interaction with Booking.com customer support comes in.
Barely half an hour after making my reservation, I got an email saying that they had cancelled my booking and issued me a refund. The month I received was lower than I originally paid. I found myself out of pocket nearly thirty dollars. After some investigation, I found it was due to fluctuations in the currency exchange rate.
Also, I was left wondering why the website had charged me in U.S. dollars, as I am located in Canada, where prices are typically listed in Canadian dollars. When I was finally able to track down a support number, I had a call with a representative who instructed me to send an email with screenshots of the transactions and to wait for a response. Since then, I have heard nothing back (and it's been a month since). That's the type of user experience Booking.com offer today.
It's clear that the company prioritizes profit over the satisfaction of its customers. As travellers, we must remain vigilant and be aware of these manipulative tactics, and remember that there are other options for booking our travels.