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Hotels.com censors negative reviews

[UPDATE July 29 2010: I have closed this thread and the other hotels.com thread to comments. I appreciate all the feedback, but this blog was never intended to be the why hotels.com sucks support group. Also, I'm tired of people searching on google for "hotels.com customer support", finding my blog and posting comments or sending me messages as if *I* am somehow an employee of hotels.com.]

my post the other day about trying to submit a negative review of the terrible hotel I stayed in needs a follow-up. (see my initial post about hotels.com censorship).

I have insisted that hotels.com tell me why they have censored my review. I keep getting horribly formatted huge form letter emails in reply.

My review has been submitted 3 times now, and with no feedback or comment has been rejected/censored.

Today I got another in the series of frustrating emails. In the message it contains the entire policy statement, listing all the reasons a review can be censored. My review violated none of those reasons.

The email continues to basically say: yes one part of our company is censoring your review, but the other part of the company does not know why and won't take the time to find out. So much for that second part of the company being called Customer Care. ha!

I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience. We have attempted to explain that there is no specific problems with your review, but for whatever reason, it may not be posted.

That's the last word from hotels.com on why they censored me. There is no problem with my review, but they still won't print it or tell me why.

Saying "for whatever reason it may not be posted" is just not acceptable as a response from customer service. Their system is database driven and surely tracks actions for later audit and manager review. If they wanted to, they could tell me why my review has been rejected.

I can only assume that hotels.com has something to gain by limiting negative reviews.

My experience has seems to indicate that hotels.com censors negative reviews. Hopefully at some point this will come to the attention of someone in that company that can do more than say "i don't know, go figure it out yourself"

Another horror story

A couple of weeks ago I was looking for a hotel deal in DC and came across a good one (I thought) on Hotels.com. I was a little sleepy and just wanted to get it over with, so I made the reservation through them - a mistake I will not be repeating. Cut to the day before we're scheduled to leave, and the remnants of a hurricane are battering the Virginia coast - not a good time to go. I called the hotel only to be told I had to change the reservation through Hotels.com; the hotel could not touch the reservation.

Fair enough. I got online and changed it to three weeks in the future, sent myself a confirmation (they don't do it for you), and thought that was that, since I'd made the change more than 24 hours before our scheduled arrival. I even saved a few bucks since the rate was lower for the new weekend. A few days ago my wife got our credit card bill, and lo and behold, I'd already been charged for the stay. I had been under the impression that, like most hotels, I was giving them my card number to hold the reservation. Turns out that once you give them your credit card number, they can charge you any time they damn well feel like it. But that wasn't the worst of it. Although I'd made the change on the Hotels.com Web site with plenty of time to spare, I'd been billed for an extra day - for a stay I had not yet begun.

My first call was to the "Call Us" number (800-3-HOTELS) on the Hotels.com Customer Care page, possibly the most misnamed Web page I've ever encountered. The service rep, whose name I didn't catch due to his unusually thick Indian accent, assured me that the credit had gone through - for $26 bucks, when they owed me $126. I asked to speak with his supervisor. He put me on hold for three minutes, then came back on the line and said he could explain if I'd give him a chance. I told him to go ahead. He "explained" that the extra day's charge was due to Radisson's change policy, not theirs. Again I asked to speak to a supervisor. He began giving me all kinds of excuses why I couldn't, so I just hung up on him.

The next call was to Radisson's main number. The rep I talked to said they never charged extra to change a reservation. By then I had read some of the stories here and knew that further contact with "Customer Care" was useless. I called Expedia, as someone else here had done, and they gave me another number for Hotels.com, which turned out to be their vacation packaging subsidiary. That lady asked which number I'd called, and I gave her the one on the Customer Care (God, I find it hard to type that) page. No, she said, that's the reservation number (It's marked "Reservations and Customer Care on the page). The customer support number, she told me, is 1-800-219-4606.

I called that number and got a support tech named Nelson, who I could barely hear to due a bad connection. When I told him how the other guy had lied about Radisson's change policy, he put me on hold and called them himself. A few minutes later he came back on the line, told me he was still working the problem, and asked me to hang on. Five minutes after that, he returned and told me I would be getting a full refund for the extra day's charge. And all of that only took my entire evening.

Whether or not they'll actually post the credit, I don't know. I'll check in 48 hours, as was suggested, and keep my fingers crossed. In the meantime, I'll add my voice to the chorus: AVOID DOING ANY BUSINESS WITH HOTELS.COM. Tell your friends and neighbors. Spread the word. These weasels count on a constant supply of newbies unfamiliar with their underhanded modus operandi. Nothing gets cockroaches noticed better than shining a light on them.

I have been researching a

I have been researching a trip to New Orleans for a few days now and came across Hotels.com and at first I was delighted to see all of these low rates on places to stay in the French Quarter. Spending (wasting) 2 days looking at Hotels and reviews to finally pick a place I thought was right for our stay. The "normal" rate that Hotels.com says the hotel charges was $109 a night and they could book it for $65! Wow that's great right? Not so! After clicking "Book It" I fine these Tax Recovery Charges & Service Fees added to the total charges. I know many of you already know about this issue but, it ended up being $108.79 for the room after these fees? A savings of $0.21! The reviews were helpful but there were no savings and their customer service was a joke speaking broken English and putting me on hold for 10 mintues.

I ended up going right to the Hotels website to book the room which it turns out offered 40% off a 4+ night stay! :) Booked the room for 5 nights at $61.53 after taxes! These travel sites seem to be good for reviews only and they censor those to boot!

Hotels.com confessions, from an ex-hotel manager.

Now that I no longer work for a hotel, and have returned to the resturant management field after a downturn in my areas economy forced me to either take hotel mgmt, or another even worse job until I could get back into my chosen field, has left me with a surprising depth of otherwise useless information that I must get out of my head so here it goes. Hotels.com and other online booking agencies ( agencies that are not owned by the individual hotels themselves ) are in business to make money, plain and simple just like the hotel is. However the seemingly incredible and overwhelming desire of people wanting to "get the best deal" by doing as little work as possible to get that deal, has made these apparent bargain companies look fantastic to consumers that are incapable of negotiating a deal, for whatever reason they have, afraid of asking for a better rate, fear of losing out on prime booking season, being too lazy to call around and so on. These companies are raking in huge sums of cash because they have found a way to play on our collective fears of paying too much, while at the same time actually increasing the cost to consumers, and giving the hotel the shaft on profit ( interestingly enough, none of my staff was ever given any form of gratuity or "tips" from anyone, and I repeat anyone that had booked through an online discount agency, while regular guests and off the street walk-ins were usually very generous and appreciative for their excellent service ).
So here's the meat and potato's part of this rant. Consumer checks the booking rates online, then after reading the pricing, features, location and other hotel information they decide they are happy with what they see and are all to happy to forward their credit card information and lock in that great rate before it goes away, as the rates on their sites are about 50% made up, or in plain english lies. As soon as you send the credit card info you are billed sometimes almost instantly, but always before check-in at your location as the hotel itself never, and I repeat NEVER actually has your credit card or other personal info, save for first and last name, number of ocupants and what type of room you need, making changes to your rate, or room features at the hotel itself virtually impossible, besides the hotels know you were only rate shopping and not looking to stay there because of their brands strengths, or collective image, meaning that service from regular level employees will be lackluster as soon as you exit the check-in counter and head to your room, my tipping comment comes into play here as well. However it is of little concern to owners and upper mgmt types as the negative reviews strangely never make it onto the booking agencies site, as the agreement with the hotel is arranged to automatically filter negative comments, thereby increasing the number of bookings for the hotel which in turn makes more money for both parties, so if you really want to lodge a complaint about the physical hotel put it on the actual hotels website or review board or whatever. That covers the horrible service that most people get, because when you book online and then show up you are automatically labeled as a cheap-ass and a complainer ( really sorry if the comments seem negative i'm just giving you guys the info from the other side of the counter ). Now onto the rates, for example if you think the rate they are advertising online is really great, call the actual hotel itself before booking, please do not let your natural instinct of "gotta book it now to get that rate" impulse spending habits kick in.
Ask the hotel what their rates are, DO NOT tell them that you were just looking online at hotels/expedia/priceline, as hotel employees are trained to tell you that the rates offered by these companies are really fantastic and you should book through them, right now to get that "great rate", by the way when asked why they can offer theses great rates there is only one response " due to the number of rooms booked through the agency we can offer selected rates for the level of business that they bring us". Ask the hotel what there cancellation policies are, do they have an additional charge for pets, do they have an additional charge for multiple guests, what is the breakfast like, do they offer wireless internet access, do they have a pool, in most cases the responses from the hotel employees are vastly diffrent to the information on the booking site and on that note people do not let any booking agency charge you for an additional person fee if you are staying in a room that was ment to sleep more than one person with more than 1 bed, no hotel in their right mind would charge you for an additional guest if the room was set up to accomadate more than one person! If the site really can offer you a beter deal than the hotel itself book through them just make sure you hear from both sides what the additional expenses would be. Rates.......... the online agencies strive to make at least 50% profit at your loss, example john just booked a room online lets say at $50 plus tax for one night at a hotel that charges $60 for an average room, a confirmation fax is sent to the hotel that has your basic info and the rate they are going to pay you ( the hotel ) for the room..... get ready to gasp the room that you paid $50 for is sold to said agency for right around $20-$25 guests do not receive a bill from the front desk, unless it is by accident from employees, people who do receive a bill accidentally are usually horrified by what they see as most consumers think the hotel takes all of the money and then pays the agency a small commission on the sale, like a car salesman would get. A sharp guest of mine who was a regular stay was handed a bill accidentally by a new employee, instead of getting mad and going off the deep end he asked to speak to me about the rates, I obliged and we worked out a deal for his future stays that actually cost him less than what he was being charged through the agency, and made the hotel more money at the same time! Win-win!!
Its really easy folks, these b.s. companies make money hand over fist because they have found a way to con you out of your money buy playing on your fears of not being able to negotiate and wanting to get that "great rate". What should you do then if you want a great deal? Kindly talk to the hotel employees, state the fact that you would like to stay at there location, disclose wether or not you will be using AAA or other discounts prior to doing the back and forth with the rates, and above all compliment the hotel stafff not nessecarily on themselves personally, but in a way that makes it look like you want to stay there if they are willing to work with you, " you know I would really like to stay here beacuse I always have a good experience at your hotels, and the staff is always great to us, but the rate is just a little outside of my budget, is there anything you can do so that we can see a little more eye to eye on this?" A little ass kissing never hurt anyone espescially hourly employees, you will be surprised how much easier it is to get great rates and service by being friendly, rather than acting like a hard ass who is belives they are hasseled by the counter help. If the said hotel just cant get you in at a good rate, try another hotel, believe me there are no shortages in that area. Lastly, if the trip or occasion you are planning is important please dont let your desire to save money ruin a good time, I would rather pay $50 more for that great romantic weekend getaway than have it ruined by a hotel I did not want, or did not have the features I desired, or gave me a bogus room, because I wanted to cheap out. I have never heard anyones wife comlain because you decided to spend a few extra bucks on your dream vacation, but how fast the weekend is ruined by not getting what you thought you were buying, and ending up in some run down hellhole 10 miles away from anything interesting in town. Your weekend fling was just turned into fodder for arguments and dirty looks, "oh yeah, you don't remember when you booked us that awful hotel, and then we got ripped off because it wasn't refundable and ended up at the days inn?" Cheers and good luck!!!


I originally started booking with hotels.com because they appeared to have good prices compared to what the hotels themselves were offering me. Also, they have the special member program where after you book 10 nights you get one free and they have a price-match guarentee. Well, the first reservation I made with them online was perfect. They sent me a nice email with the weather, local attractions, and all of my reservation information. When I called the hotel themselves, they would only offer me a price that was a$30 more than that at Hotels.com. My second experience with them, however, was not so lucky. I booked online after checking all of the other sites and calling the hotel change. A few days later a competator had a price $30 cheaper, so I called to get a price match. The money was refunded to me, but only after I was transfered all around to several people and spent over an hour on the phone. As my reservation got closer, I needed to add an additional night due to incliment weather. While researching to see if the hotel had any rooms available for the extra night, I again found a rate that was another $22 a night cheaper. I called Hotels.com again to add a night and change my rate. The woman on the phone tried to get me to cancel my current reservation and book with the other agency, which didn't seem to make any sense to me. She clearly did not want to take the time to get me the better rate and kept beating around the bush, telling me it was easier to just cancel this reservation and book another one with the other company. I did not want to do this because I wanted my two nights to go towards my 10 nights at Hotels.com. She put me on hold for 25minutes and then came back and said that because of certain limitations she cannot give me the additonal discount. When I asked her what the vague "certain limitations" were, she stumbled on her words several times before saying that the amount that I have requested and found on the neighboring site is less than what they pay the hotel to try to book this. Therefore, they would not be making any money off my booking. I was furious with this and asked to speak to a manager because it is not fair to consumers to guarantee a price match if you are not going to do it. She then put me on hold for another 10 minutes before saying that the manager is not available. Even when I told her I would wait AGAIN to speak with a manager, she assured me he/she would not be available for a while. Then she proceeded to tell me that she would send me a $20 gift card for my next purchase with them...too bad she couldn't just take that off now...and too bad I will NEVER book with them again!

Hotels.com : read before booking

This booking service offers NO advantages and will only ensure you of getting sub-par service and rooms. When there is a dirty, cramped, cigarette smoke smoke reeking room on the fifth floor that no one wants, guess where you will be booked? All this and no recourse, no significant savings and customer service from Hotels.com that involves someone reading from essentially a script. Better to call the hotel itself; Hotels.com takes your money and could care less about what happens to you after that. Our hotel room was not ready, even by 6pm and still had hair IN THE BED along with stains on the bedspread.The front desk did not help and as the earlier post from an ex-hotel worker indicated, treated us like second class citizens. I'd rather pay more and not have to stay in the stinking shoebox sized room we've been handed; bad weather and multiple conferences in this location on this weekend make it difficult to find another room especially after 4 hours of driving in near blizzard conditions. Thanks Hotel-hell.com. I received no joy today and again, strongly urge any one considering this service to call the hotel directly instead to get reservations and rates, DO NOT USE THIS ON LINE BOOKING SERVICE< I feel like a fool.

Neg. reviews sent to Hotels.com re: the Hampton Inn in Morgantown WV and Hotels.com in particular. Interesting to see if any reviews surface...


I won't use priceline dot.com again. I flew out to Seattle and booked my hotel in Tukwila, My daughter informed me that the same hotel is 5 minutes away from her instead of 45 minutes. I called thr hotel and asked if there would be charges, fees or any other problems if I CANCELLED my reservation with them and book with the same hotel in Lynnwood. I was informed my reservation would carry over and they would honor my reservation with priceline. I Checked in with Lynnwood recieved the same information. when I checked out I was charged 200.68 for my hotel room. The hotel informed me I had to go back through priceline to get my refund back. So now Im playing the email game, oh they credited 56.00 and Im still fighting for the balance. Yes, princeline sent me back to the hotel who sent me back to priceline. The bottom line I paid in full for my reservation and then was charged another 200 dollars for my room. Now I have to fight them for to do the right thing and take care of this matter. I will never book with them again and I will send this to my family and friends and I will encourage them to send it to there family and friends. Oh did I say I also work with the state so I will also send this to my co-workers to inform them of the rip off and misinformation I continue to recieve and how I have not recieved my balance that they charged me twice for and refused to credit back the total amount.

Bait and Switch Bandits!

I booked a room online thru Yahoo-travel-HotelGuide.com. The reservation site has a drop down box for number of adults and children. I filled it in correctly and was given a price. I booked the room and found that Econolodge in Tucumcari, NM charged a whole different rate. Econolodge blames Hotels.com and Hotel.com blames Econolodge. The customer is the one who suffers from their bait and switch tactics. Even with printed proof of the reservation, both admitted it happened all the time, but it was the other partys fault. Buyer Beware! They are a rip off!! I am through with online reservations that are not directly tied to the company offering the services. Geryle in Oklahoma

hotels.com bogus terrible website for price match and reservatio

What can i say,
1) The customer service is bad.
2) Even after listening to my complaints the rep did not find his supervisor and try to calm down an disputing customer
3) The price match is not working as mentioned
4) The reservation with the hotel was not made on time, leaving me in the dent.


Rewardpoints is bogussssssss

i just got off the phone after being transferred, hung up on and then i had to call back...long story short i wanted to use their 10 night stay get one free deal...well i stayed 3 nights in feb and to my surprise i was never credited...i called once before and was told it will be fixed check back in 3 days...well, here we are today and i still don't have my points...i was told that even though i called their 800 number and booked my reservations through hotels.coms the deal they offered was really expedia therefore, i'm unable to get the 3 night credited to my reward points...hmmmm so i end up confused there affliated but you don't get the rewards credit unless its a hotel.com deal ...yeah confusing... so when you call you have to ask them if your stay will be part of the rewards deal because nowhere do they tell you! So end of conversation they offer me an 100 dollar voucher which they will send me a paper in 4 weeks for me to fill out and send back....uhhhh still confused lol..lol..long story shorter i'm over hotels.com ...waste of time never again...especially after reading these voucher stories lol..

Terrible service - Double billing and run-around

Arrrgh. Hotels.com double-billed me: once by their site and once by the hotel. It took 10 calls to get this resolved - I had to keep calling back. "We are working on this sir, please call back in 24 hours". Again and again. They had no way to call me back or to escalate the call. I had to keep calling their kind but helpless entry-level customer service reps. And by the way - the hotel billing was about 30% cheaper than that by hotels.com! My co-worker had a dropped reservation and got the same run-around. I would never recommend this service.

welcome rewards program of hotels.com - beware

I had terrible experience with hotels.com recently. I booked hotel through hotels.com recently for 2 nights. I thought i could use their welcome rewards, but was reused to be credited with 2 nights stay as the hotels.com representative said my reservation was booked through subsidiary/affiliated website of hotels.com. Though reservation was booked by hotels.com representative (i called up their customer service for booking) and never during the call did they mention about my booking through affiliated website or that i will not be eligible....i came to know all of this only after i completed my trip...

rewards program hotels.com:
No points to collect.
No blackout dates.
No restrictions.
Just accumulate 10 nights, even at different hotels, and get a night free.

There's a hidden twist which i came to know after i lost my 2 nights...never fall into such traps! beware!!!.

Never book hotel through HOTELS.com

I had booked through HOTELS.com for my stay in OHIO. They charged me $55.14 Tax Recovery Charges and Service Fees. When I booked through HOTELS.com, they did not sent my card details with the reservation. So, the hotel where I stayed charged me another time. Guess What - The charge was $60 less than what HOTELS.com charged. Thats when I came to know, never ever book it with HOTELS.com. Better find the details of the hotel which you want to stay, call the hotel directly and book it. Each day you stay it will be $20 less. Hotels.com steals money royally from the customers.

To get the refund back, till now I had spent 1 hr with HOTEL.com customer representatives. Their customer care is one of the worst.


I will never use this site again. They cheat customers out of money and they say the it is actually the fault of the hotel. DO NOT use them to book a hotel. I will never book them again. Their price is over inflated... then when you arrive you find out that you could have received the same room for a cheaper fair... Then when you call to cancel the reservation, which I did in less than 15 minutes after booking, they still charge you for the first night, whatever the cost. I have spent TWO HOURS on the phone with HOTELS.COM trying to get them to cancel the reservation and remove all charges. AT This point they say they are working on it...BUT I will never again book with HOTELS. COM ---Buyer be WARE!!!


They are absulately fraud..in their cancelation page..they say ...they dont charge any cancelation fee but after i paid they sent me voucher which said I cudnt cancel anything..wht a joke...I called and ppl are pretty rude and wudnt let me cancel..finaly i had to call my card and claimed as stolen...never going back to this HOTELS.COM

Beware - Bad for business trips

I have tried unsuccessfully for months to try to get a receipt from hotels.com. The hotel refused to provide one when I left, informing me that hotels.com would mail a receipt. I have emailed them, but they keep sending me the confirmation, but no receipt. I am not sure if they even know the meaning of the word receipt or the importance of one when submitting business expenses.
I will never use their site again for personal or business stays.

Wish I would have

Checked these reviews BEFORE getting taken by these crooks. How can we keep others from falling for this Crap.

it just gets more confusing

Customer service that's so bad it really is comical. Here's the most recent insanity from the "customer care" staff at hotels.com in regards to censorship of negative reviews:

I apologize for your continued frustration in regards to this issue.

Unfortunately, we do not have any control over which reviews get posted on the website. I can advise that since the process was redesigned there are several kinks still being worked out. I thank you for your patience during this process.

I apologize, but we do not have control over the review posting process. We would not be able to advise on why the review was not selected to be posted.

Once again I'm left scratching my head.

At the moment, hotels.com is running TV commercials that focus on the existence of user reviews on their site. The ads imply that hotels.com customers get great treatment from hotels because the hotels want to make sure you write a good review. The ads also imply that one of the most important benefits of using hotels.com is that you get to see other traveler's honest reviews.

It comes as no shock, but this seems to be a serious distortion of reality. Customer care says that that hotels.com itself does not have any control over the reviews on the hotels.com site?

So, I am left with questions: Who does control what reviews get posted? What percentage of reviews that are posted don't make it? How many rejected reviews are positive and how many are negative?

This experience has taught me a few lessons, the latest is this: the times have changed and the internet has grown and evolved. When I first used hotels.com, not many hotels had their own websites. It was an easy way to find smaller and less expensive places to stay. Now, with all the travel review sites, blogs and other information that is out there -- combined with the fact that most small hotels and hostels now have their own web presence -- services like hotels.com become less and less needed and useful.

Once you take out the validity of/ability to trust the overall rating of hotels; once it becomes clear that they don't have a staff that checks, or cares about, the accuracy of data (like how many blocks to a certain location), hotels.com no longer has any value to offer the public. It's all just a waste of 0s and 1s (i wonder what the carbon footprint of all their servers adds up to).


That is impressively circular. What if you just try reposting it now? Seems like they switched up their system and since they "do not have any control over which reviews get posted on the website" it ought to show up, right?

Alternatively, you could contact the BBB in Bellevue (where their parent company is based: http://press.expedia.com/) or Dallas (where whois suggests they are hosted) and object to the fact that Hotels.com advertises "un-biased customer reviews from people just like you who have stayed at the property" but then refuses to post reviews that are negative, which amounts to posting only reviews with a positive bias.

If you're really feeling hostile, you could start contacting places like Ripoff Report or Consumerist that are sure to draw more attention to the issue.

good links, thanks

If I can trust anything that the hotels.com customer care folks have said, the new system was in place before my second and third attempts to post my review. I just don't believe that their system would not have some method to allow managers to audit how the staff is moderating of customer reviews. I find it hard to believe that they have no control over content on their own site.

I might post something on ripoff report or comsumerist, thanks for the links. I might also try to follow up with the BBB if I have some time to kill.

sadly, I don't think there is anything illegal about the level of fraud in the hotels.com commercials. there is no team of experts double checking hotels, there is no unbiased and fair gathering of ratings from past hotel guests, hotel staff (from what I read on the net) tends to give people that reserve via hotels.com (and sites similar to it) crappier rooms and worse treatment. It's all just smoke and mirrors, probably aimed just as much at the stock holders of the company as it is at the buying public.


Nice post...Thanks for sharing with us, we would be aware of such things hereafter...

Great Post.... Thanks for

Great Post.... Thanks for sharing..... Want to more here after...

I think this is because

I think this is because anyone can post review. they need some staff to monitor these reviews.


no that's not accurate. You can only post a review on hotels.com if you have made a reservation via their site at that hotel within the past 6 or 9 months. I'm all for them having staff to monitor and moderate the reviews, but if they are going to refuse to print a review they should have and be willing to communicate a valid reason for rejecting it.

Hotels.com fraud

I called them today to ask for a price adjustment on a reservation I have since their own price is now lower trhan the one I was charged. After 3 attempts (they keep putting me on hold and then hang up) they came up with the excuse that non refundable reservations are not subject to price guarantee (what a scam, it should be the other way around, refndable not and non refundable yes). They told me it says so on their web site. However their newly redesigned web site does not say that and the eamil I have from them says exactly htat while the reservation cannot be cancelled, it is subject to their price guarantee. Disgusting!


I just have to comment on using Hotels.com. I booked a room with them and when I arrived at the hotel I wanted to change to a room with 2 double beds, ( I had booked for one bed). I fully realize I may have to pay more, I have no issue with that. When I asked the desk clerk he told me he could not do it, I had to call Hotels.com. So I did. what a nightmare! All I wanted was to change to a room with 2 beds!! It took me about 1/2 hour on the phone with Hotels.com customer service rep to get her to understand what I wanted. Once she finally got it, (not a rocket scientist) she told me she could not do it and transferred me to another hotels.com agent, (sorry if I;m not being PC here, but it was someone in India who could barely speak English). After about 15 minutes on the phone with the "expert" I fully agreed to pay an additional $ 16 for the "upgrade".. and even after specifically reviewing the transaction with the agent & asking him to confirm that I would only be charged the additional $16 I hung up, kind of satisfied.. That is until a little birdie in my ear told me to call my credit card company & verify.
Sure enough they charged me the full price for the "new" room $89!! And they put it under a new reservation number, IN THE WRONG HOTEL IN ANOTHER CITY!!.
I quickly called them back, and spent another 45 minutes on the phone with another 2 agents, (again the last one, the expert in India) and finally got my credit card credited. What a bunch of idiots!!
I will never use hotels.com again.

another big lie: obscurity == security

I was doing some research today, keeping up on new developments in HIPAA compliant software. (HIPAA is U.S. law which regulates the portability, privacy and security of healthcare information)

On the site of a software company that is selling a "secure email system" that they claim is HIPAA compliant, I found the following completely ignorant statement about the relationship between security and free/open source software

"Why does SafetySend use Proprietary Code and Technology?
Because any code or technology that can be purchased is vulnerable. Generic security codes and technology is is considered 'at risk' because of its shared accessibility. SafetySend code and technology is exclusive and not sold or shared. If you can buy security technology, it can be compromised."

This is completely false and misleading.

Before I continue to rant, let me explain that there are two ways of looking at digital security: Security by obscurity or Security by design.

SafetySend believes that there product is secure because the code is kept secret (security by obscurity). There could be very serious holes, but they think that by keeping prying eyes away from the code that no one could ever figure out where the holes are. History has shown that keeping something secret rarely works to keep it secure.

The security by design camp believes that by releasing code for frequent and open auditing, code can truly be made secure. It is not a failure when a security hole is found via such an audit, it is part of the process, it is a good thing as it allows for that hole to be patched.

Technologists have to assume that the entire design of a security system is known -- at least to those that want to compromise your system. The only piece of data that must remain private is the cryptographic key, which also should be easy to regenerate from time to time (and not be a hard-coded part of the application).

Releasing code does not automatically mean it is vulnerable -- any code is vulnerable. The issue is how you handle that reality.

Think of it as the difference between hiding under your bed because you are afraid someone might pick your lock and learning how to pick locks (or hiring a locksmith that knows how to pick locks) to test and make sure your locks are secure.

When security related code is released in Free/Open Source Software, the developers explicitly deny the ideas of security through obscurity, we must design secure code. It has been argued that this publication of source code can actually improve security because the code can be peer-reviewed by anyone.

The end result is that bugs are found and fixed, instead of hidden. Many security holes that are ignored, for example, in proprietary operating systems have been found, published and patched in Linux. This is not despite the open nature, but due to the open nature of the code that it becomes more secure.

PGP is a publicly published codebase for encryption. The fact that it is public has not changed its status as a military grade encryption tool. The argument put forth by the folks at SafetySend to sell their product is completely false.

Keeping insecure code private does nothing to make it more secure or less vulnerable.


Every once in a while I find myself talking with a vendor who thinks they'll get anywhere by pulling that particular batch of wool over my eyes and it really pisses me off.

Too many organizations are overwhelmed by anxiety about security and don't really understand the difference between obscurity and real security. In my experience, many organizations also get stuck on the difference between open source software and publishing data for the world to see. I usually go back to the same lock analogy: security by obscurity means that you're relying on the lock-maker to be telling the truth (this lock is secure. trust me.) where as a free and open source lock, by necessity, is available for scrutiny. I can look over the lock design, take the lock apart and study its inner workings: if I do the leg work, I can *know* that this is a well designed lock. I'm not leaving it to trust.