After an exquisite redeye flight on Cathay Pacific, I arrived in Vancouver late on Friday a little after midnight. When I got to my hotel, to my dismay I was told that the hotel was fully booked, and that my Travelocity reservation was for Saturday night, not Friday night!! Apparently, because my flight technically arrived on Saturday, my reservation at the hotel was automatically made for Saturday.
You see, I booked my flight+hotel together, and I just assumed that Travelocity would handle the timing intelligently. Boy was I wrong. Apparently when you arrive in a city at 1:00 in the morning, Travelocity expects you to find something to do for the next 12 hours until the hotel’s 2:00 afternoon check-in time. All night Vancouver clubbing?
So is this a bug? Or a feature? I thought about what possible logical reason might they have for doing this deliberately. Why would they not automatically assume that checking-in at 1:00am on a Saturday morning is effectively the same a Friday night overnight stay? If a guest arrives at, say, 8:00am I might understand assuming that one doesn’t need a room. But what about 6:00am? That’s pretty early, but not so early that we can really assume a room is needed. What about 4:00am?
One solution, to me, would be to set an arbitrary cutoff point — later than midnight! — where one can assume that you probably will want a room. 4:00am seems pretty good to me.
A better solution, of course, would be to not assume anything and to present the user with a choice. For check-ins between 12:00 midnight and 9:00am, for example, the system should ask if you would like to reserve the room for the full night, or wait until the next day to check-in. Simple, right?
So I ended up finding a cheap, crummy room at a Days Inn three blocks away, where I slept soundly and checked out six hours later. One of the first friends I met at the IA Summit that morning was former Rare Medium colleague and now Travelocity information architect Adam Polansky. Boy, I let him have it! I was joking — of course it’s not his fault, and I know that Travelocity is serious about user experience. Adam is on the case!