What is false booking?

  • Jul 09, 2024
What is false booking?

What is False Booking?

False booking, also referred to as phantom booking, is another form of sharp practice that some travel agents and tour operators employ in cases where they want to deceive customers on the availability and actual price of certain travel products such as flights, hotel bookings, vacation packages, etc.

In a false booking situation, a travel agent puts up a very low price for a travel product even if he cannot confirm whether he has the product at that price. When the customers try to inquire or when they try to make a booking of that product the agent is quick to inform them that the product has sold out or that the price that was previously given was just a system error. They then attempt to change the customer to a superior or more expensive product.

This makes the customer feel that he or she has missed a good deal by a close shave, which was nearly sold out. Due to pressure from family or friends, customers will opt for the higher priced product that stands out to have a better profit margin in the sight of the travel agent.

Several reasons would lead travel agents to engage in false bookings from time to time.

The main motivations for travel agents to falsely advertise unavailable inventory are:

- To attract customers with unbelievable lowball prices: Customers can easily inquire about the availability of inexpensive products which are listed at ridiculously low prices. Agents rely on customers to upgrade from that initial interest to a more expensive sale.

- Create an illusion of exclusivity and urgency: This inflates the perceived demand for the products and creates an illusion of scarcity of supply. This leads to positive emotional responses amongst the customers, and gets them to make a quick decision to book, lest they miss out.

- Lack of accountability and penalties: Legal sanctions against false bookings have, over the past, been rather ineffective. In many regions of the world, legal measures to counter bait-and-switch by travel sellers had not been implemented or where they were in place, they were not very effective.

- Higher commissions and incentives: This inventory is normally sold to clients who are willing to pay a premium and suppliers reward travel agents with higher commissions, bonuses, and incentives when they can sell this inventory. It is financially profitable to persuade customers to buy a particular product over another.

In addition to more profits, fake reservations mean the travel agents can attract more customers and sales leads. Unfortunately, while fake listings provide significant profits to dishonest travel agents, they significantly erode consumer confidence and the reputation of legitimate companies.

Some of the setbacks that people encounter when using false bookings include:

- Cheap airline tickets that are offered at very low prices which many people are eager to purchase as soon as they are released into the market. - Hotel room rates that are unbelievably low during resort seasons and are gone after booking research is conducted. - Mass tourists who can get all-inclusive vacation packages even at 60-70% less the market price and which no other company appears to sell. - Sugary deals on loyalty upgrades and gifts many times on hotel bookings with high popularity. - Incredibly low cruise package prices that skyrocket the moment one tries to book them only to become available again.

Three: How Can You Spot Possible False Bookings?

There are a few red flags that may indicate an advertised travel deal is a phantom listing: There are a few red flags that may indicate an advertised travel deal is a phantom listing:

- The price is significantly lower than the same product offered by other stores and companies. Always cross-check prices. - Ambiguity as to what is provided, what comes as a package, and what constraints are involved. Read the fine print. - Pushy sales methods and time-sensitive promotions on why the customer should make the purchase now. - Pricing in different results: same item different prices displayed when switching between devices/web sessions. - Inconsistencies in what the sales reps relay to potential customers about pricing and stock availability. - That they do not send official booking invoices/confirmations beforehand.

If you have any doubts, contact the airline, hotel, or tour operator directly, and do not rely on the quotes given to you.

Be guarded against fake booking alerts

Avoid getting tricked by false travel listings by taking these precautions: Avoid getting tricked by false travel listings by taking these precautions:

Compare Prices

Compare advertised fares on some popular OTCs to determine whether you are being offered a good deal.

Research the Seller

Make sure there is no history of false advertisement from the travel agent, or customers complaining of being defrauded into booking with the agent.

Read the Fine Print

When booking, always check under the T&Cs for any information concerning availability guarantees or any change/cancellation policies and blackout dates before making any confirmations.

Confirm Rates in Writing

Do not pay providers without receiving written rate and inventory confirmations. Just like the above tip, make sure that you follow up until you get a booking confirmation.

Use Credit Cards

Closely related to the previous point is the notion that people like to pay via credit cards when purchasing online travel products. This is rather easy with banks for charges that are fake on the transactions.

Document Everything

Maintain copies of the advertised tariffs, correspondence, cancellation terms and promises to have documented evidence in case you need to pursue a complaint in the future.

Inform Authorities

False advertisements should be promptly reported to consumer protection agencies, regulatory authorities, and travel-related associations to avoid such stunts.

Since there are so many travel agents, the few unscrupulous salespersons make all travel agents be viewed as what they are ignoble. This way, be wary as a consumer and avoid the issues of bait-and-switch listing by noticing them early. Do not work with agents who are in the business of giving false bookings. Don't be a dummy customer of unscrupulous travel sellers who provide misleading information or engage in unprofessional practices.

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