A Conversation with Expedia Leadership


A lot has changed in the past 20 years. Instead of collecting VHS tapes we now have a queue for movies in Netflix and Amazon. America Online was once the most popular website around and people “logged in” by plugging into a phone jack.

Technology is rapidly shifting, which means businesses have to be able to respond to the change. That’s something online travel company Expedia has managed to do since its inception in 1996. The Seattle based business started out as an online travel booking site owned —not surprisingly —by Microsoft. Today, Expedia commands 10 additional online travel sites including: Orbitz, Travelocity, Hotwire, HomeAway and Hotels.com. The company has positioned itself as a trailblazer for online travel booking. Expedia became an accredited business with Better Business Bureau in 2000 and despite its exponential growth, has managed to maintain that status for more than 15 years.

This month John Morrey, Vice President and General Manager and Nick Curry, Global Customer Operations talked about the company’s past, present and what’s happening in the future.

When you look at where Expedia started 20 years-ago, how has it changed?

John Morrey:

Expedia was founded at Microsoft, with technology at its core and very much a PC-first business. But we were also among the first established legacy players in the industry to recognize the opportunity created in travel with the rise of mobile devices. And so Expedia has undergone a complete overhaul, as it relates to technology. One thing powering this shift is the fact that Expedia essentially has more data than anyone in the industry at its disposal: who wants to travel where, when, how, with whom. By leveraging the company’s tech roots and our test-and-learn approach to product development, we’ve tapped into and scaled that vast trove of data to generate smart tools and insights for travelers and partners.

How has it stayed the same?

John Morrey:

Expedia is as much a technology company as we are a travel provider. We’ve invested heavily in new technology, and are making huge strides in utilizing data to improve the experience for travelers at every stage – before, during and even after they return home. We continually build and ship new services to pass knowledge onto our customers around the world. Despite the many changing variables in the travel industry, our mission is fixed: to power the best travel brands in the world to deliver best-in-class customer experiences.

How is Expedia growing in terms of business and investments?

John Morrey:

We remain focused on the test-and-learn method and using it to optimize and innovate. Obviously, 2015 was a busy year for the Expedia, Inc. portfolio as we brought on a number of exciting brands like Travelocity, Orbitz and most recently, HomeAway. We’re excited about the opportunities these new brands present. We feel very well-positioned in the global travel market.

What projects are you currently most excited about?

John Morrey:

We’ve been busy adding new platforms to our mobile app since it was first introduced. The Expedia app saves time and money when booking travel and the interface is easy to navigate and requires fewer than a dozen taps to select a flight. But I think what travelers enjoy most are the notifications and ease of use, all necessary information is at your fingertips and if your flight is cancelled, your hotel is overbooked, or you need to speed up the time to book a car, we update you immediately. These seemingly small notifications and features help save time, but also help establish peace of mind that Expedia is operating on your behalf no matter where you are or what device you’re on.

How has the travel industry changed in the past decade?

John Morrey:

For one, transparency. For travelers, being able to see real customer photos and reviews instills confidence when you’re scrolling through hotel and flight options online. And when sites like Expedia require Verified Reviews, the fear of being misled fades. Another change is tied to technology. Twenty years ago, planning a trip involved little to no technology, often nothing more than phone conversations with travel agents. Expedia changed that dynamic, putting the booking power into consumer hands. Our tech platform, and the people who make it run, is what has allowed us to integrate other travel brands onto the Expedia platform. It powers our ability to continue investing heavily in technology so our customers get tools they need and our suppliers can trust we have the best data.

Another change is tied to price. Recently debuted on Expedia.com, Upgrade Options help airlines compete on more than just price, empowering customers to make the airfare choice that’s right for their travel occasion. The ability to have more control over what, exactly, you’re paying for has been a big change, and win, for customers.

What trends are you seeing in the travel industry?

John Morrey:

The importance of data has never been lost on us. We’re a data-driven company. Customers now arm themselves with as much data as possible when making travel choices. Our research shows that travelers search nearly 50 times across the web before they feel confident enough to book air travel. Insights on price changes, the best time to book and where to get the best deals are all critical data points these days.

These days, we also understand that the experience of moving back and forth between mobile and desktop should be seamless for consumers. They’re getting smarter every day, with more data at their fingertips. Planning trips is also becoming increasingly complex, however, as more options are added. We spotted the mobile trend early and have been tightly focused on it. From iOS and Android to Windows Phone and even Apple Watch, Expedia’s apps are designed to be the ideal travel assistant. Together, our collection of Expedia travel apps enable customers to browse and book everything from hotels and flights to rental cars and local activities on the go and access up-to-the-minute trip details and alerts in a simple, efficient way.

Expedia became an accredited business in 2000. Why do you feel it is important to retain accreditation status?

Nick Curry:

We want to provide transparency to our customers so they feel confident that Expedia is a business they can trust.

It is natural for larger companies, such as Expedia, to receive a high volume of complaints. Despite this fact, Expedia has managed an A+ rating with BBB. What do you credit that success too?

Nick Curry:

Without a doubt, our reputation is built by our agents who work tirelessly to provide thoughtful and helpful resolutions to customer cases. Booking travel with Expedia not only saves money but also connects you with customer service representatives who are there for you when issues arise. They are intelligent, resourceful and most of all, dedicated to ensuring service issues are resolved.

Why is it important to address complaints or concerns from customers?

Nick Curry:

We are passionate about travel and want everyone to have a great end-to-end experience with Expedia. When that doesn’t happen, we want to hear about it so we can understand what went wrong and use that insight to make the experience even better for the next customer.

Expedia has been honored with a number of awards and accolades, which award stands out to you most? Why?

Nick Curry:

We recently were awarded the 2016 People’s Voice Webby Award for Best Mobile Site & App in the Travel Category. Our efforts to exceed our customers’ needs have led us to invest significantly in our mobile offerings. As new technologies emerge, we want our users to be among the first to utilize them. We’re very proud that our app delivers such a welcome experience to our customers.

Did you know? Expedia offers a business rewards program. Business travelers can earn rewards through the Expedia+business program. Registration is free. Learn more at expedia.com/business.


Don’t Be Scammed When Planning That Summer Getaway

Travel Scams Blog 6.1.16

Have you noticed the sun starting to set later in the day? Can you hear the chirping sounds of baby birds? If, like me, you’re counting down the days until summer, then you’re probably already planning a vacation getaway. Unfortunately, this is also the time when scammers are out trying to trick you out of your hard earned money.

The Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker has recorded a number of travel scams in the Northwest, with consumers reporting a loss of more than $17,700 in the past few months.

This year a Western Washington resident reported losing more than $900 to an online travel company. The individual reported to Scam Tracker that after booking the trip they were unable to reach anyone over the phone. In Vancouver there were reports of someone receiving a call stating they had won a free cruise, if they paid $60 up front. The caller was pushy and loud, trying to pressure them to agree to the deal. Fortunately, the Vancouver resident was disconnected before they got tangled up in the scammers con.

If you have your sights set on planning a dream getaway, BBB serving the Northwest wants to prevent it from turning into a nightmare. Here are five things to remember when planning your vacation:

Travel Scams Blog GIF 6.1.16

  • Don’t be fooled. Be on the lookout for fake travel websites. Sure, the site appears to be professional, but even con-artists can put together a good-looking webpage.
  • Read the fine print. Life happens, and when you are planning a trip months or even years in advance, it’s best to know what your rights are when it comes to cancelling a trip. Read the fine print on cancellation policies to ensure you won’t be losing money if you have to postpone the trip. Also, be on the lookout for any hidden fees that might be tacked on at the end of your trip.
  • Rental home scams. Watch for fake rental listings and vacation packages that sound too good to be true. Scammers can easily hijack legitimate online listings and make it look like their own. To avoid getting caught up in a scam its best to deal directly with the property owner or manager. You can also do research online to verify the property you are renting actually exists.
  • Don’t get too social. While it’s tempting to live tweet your entire vacation, try to limit what you share online. Thieves sometimes use social media to acquire personal information about travel plans. It’s safer to wait until returning home before uploading those pictures to your Facebook.
  • Be Wi-Fi wary. Today many hotels, airports and restaurants offer free Wi-Fi. It’s not difficult for scammers to access personal computers or smart phones on public networks. Also be careful when using computers offered to guests at hotels. Identity thieves are known to add keyloggers onto public computers to track passwords.

Keep your vacation fun by playing it safe this summer. Learn more about scams in your area by visiting www.bbb.org/scamtracker/us.

For Safe Travels, Take Precautions to Avoid Scams

Image courtesy of fito | freerangestock.com
Image courtesy of fito | freerangestock.com

‘Tis the season for summer vacations! Whether traveling in your home state, throughout the U.S. or to a foreign country, taking precautions and knowing about potential scams could save you from a ruined vacation.

Book Online Securely

When booking travel arrangements and hotels online, it is safer to go to a company’s official website or call them directly. Do not click on online ads or links from emails. If using travel search engines, be wary of sites that offer prices significantly lower than other sites. If you choose to book through a third-party booking company, follow up directly with the hotel, airline or rental car company. You don’t want to find out after you arrive at a destination that the reservations were never made!

URL security

Make sure you have a secure connection before entering your personal or financial information; the web address or URL should start with “https” and show a lock icon.

Always pay with a credit card when booking vacations, and make sure you receive confirmation in writing. In the event that something goes awry with your vacation, you may be able to file a chargeback with your credit card company. If you are asked to wire money for a rental, that’s a big red flag that the deal is probably not legitimate. Never wire money to someone you do not personally know and trust.

Do Your Research

BBB has seen numerous reports of vacationers arriving at their destination only to find that the rental doesn’t exist or does not resemble the photos online. Use trusted websites, ask friends for referrals or use a travel agent to ensure you’re going to get what you pay for.

Be skeptical about vacation packages that are offered online, by email or on the phone. If a cruise or resort price sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Victims are often saddled with hundreds or even thousands of dollars in additional “fees,” or the accommodations may be totally inadequate.

Also watch out for promises of “free” airline tickets—there’s always a catch. Victims are often lured with promises of free plane tickets to attend a seminar, which usually involves spending thousands of dollars to buy into a vacation club. Those tickets turn out to be only vouchers with fees that often cost more than a regularly priced plane ticket. And the vacation club? If you did buy in, you might find there are many barriers to actually booking a vacation unless you upgrade your membership or pay additional fees.

Travel Safely

Remember to notify your credit card companies before you leave, especially if you are traveling to foreign countries. There aren’t many things more frustrating and inconvenient than having your credit card declined while traveling because the company thinks it’s being used fraudulently.

During travel and once you arrive at your destination, surf cautiously on public Wi-Fi networks (e.g. hotels, airports, coffee shops, libraries). Avoid file sharing and financial transactions, and disconnect when not in use. Be wary of hotel lobby computers available for guests. Identity thieves have been known to add keyloggers onto public computers that track passwords. Believe it or not, your smartphone’s 3G or 4G may be more secure.

While staying in a hotel, carefully scrutinize any menus that are slipped under your door. Fraudsters sometimes use phony menus to trick a guest into calling them to order food, and the consumer ends up giving his credit card information to identity thieves. And of course, no food will be delivered.

Beware of fake front desk phone calls, especially late at night. A scammer pretending to be hotel staff will claim there was a problem with your credit card, and ask you to confirm your card details over the phone. Don’t do it! Personally check with the front desk in the morning to correct any billing issues.

At the end of your hotel stay, check your final bill. Watch for fees that you didn’t incur, such as minibar purchases or TV on-demand movie rentals.

Be vigilant and careful when planning your vacation, and then go and have a wonderful time!

Aim for a Hassle-Free Move with BBB’s Tips

movingmonthMoving is never easy. In fact, it can be a real hassle, especially on a fixed budget. I’ve done it at least a dozen times since I graduated college, moving all across the country. And while I consider myself a savvy consumer, I have made a few big mistakes along the way.

Some of the worst moving stories I’ve heard, however, happened while I was working as a TV news reporter.

I remember interviewing a family who moved to the Seattle area from the Midwest and literally had their personal belongings held hostage by the moving company. The family was verbally quoted one price and then charged more mid-trip. Unable to pay, the movers held on the family’s belongings and starting charging them daily for storage costs.

Eventually law enforcement got involved, but that wasn’t until six months after the family had already moved. They were living in an empty apartment and sleeping on their clothes. They chose to go with movers who quoted them a low a price, and they never got anything in writing—and they learned a tough lesson from that experience.

Sadly, rogue movers are everywhere, giving the industry as a whole a black eye. In March, Better Business Bureau teamed up with the Oregon Department of Transportation in an undercover sting operation where law enforcement busted several illegal movers.

Then for National Moving Month in May, BBB worked with the Washington State Utilities & Transportation Commission to issue a news release with safe moving tips.

Within 24 hours of sending out that release, BBB and UTC appeared on local TV news programs 26 times, reaching an estimated 250,000 households. Each time, consumers were urged to check bbb.org first to find movers they can trust.

Before a customer even packs a box, BBB and UTC offer the following tips for hiring a moving company:

  • Contact the UTC to confirm the company has a valid permit and inquire about any consumer complaints. Call 888-333-9882 or visit utc.wa.gov/movingtips.
  • Check with BBB to find out the company’s rating and determine if there are any complaints filed against them. Start at bbb.org/search.
  • Be sure to receive a free written estimate—moving companies are required to provide one.
  • Get estimates from at least three different companies and do not make a decision based on price alone.
  • Finally, do not sign any incomplete documents. Make sure all forms are as complete as possible.

The bottom line: moving can be hassle-free if you take the time to research businesses and get everything writing. Remember that estimates are only educated guesses, but final prices can vary depending on the actual services performed. From what I’ve seen, most problems arise from disagreements about estimates, liabilities or damages.

If you have an issue with a moving company that you just can’t resolve on your own, file a complaint with BBB and the appropriate government agency.

Heaven forbid you ever have an experience like the Seattle family I interviewed—but if you do, call law enforcement immediately.

Before Buying or Selling a Timeshare, Consider This

Image courtesy of Pexels.com
Image courtesy of Pexels.com

In the midst of dreary winter weather in the Pacific Northwest, it’s nice to think about a getaway somewhere sunny and tropical.

But vacations to exotic places can be expensive, and they often seem out of reach. As a result, many people choose to invest in a timeshare property, believing that will make vacations more affordable.

However, some timeshare “deals” are just too good to be true. Here are some things to consider before making an investment.

Evaluate the location and quality of the timeshare. You want to do business with a reputable company in a location you can see yourself visiting often in the long-term.

Understand the benefits and the obligations. Though the cost may be lower than buying a second property, it doesn’t mean additional costs don’t exist. There are maintenance fees and property taxes.

Read and understand the contract before you sign. Be aware of cancellation policies and other fees. Ask someone who has experience in real estate to read the contract to ensure you are getting a fair deal.

Always cancel in writing. The FTC suggests when canceling a purchase, you should always send a letter through certified mail with a return receipt request so there is documentation of the interaction.

Be cautious of buying outside the U.S. If you buy a timeshare with a company that operates outside of the U.S., they do not have the same obligations and you will not be protected under U.S. law.

When you’re ready to sell your timeshare, do your research before hiring a timeshare reseller. Find out where the company is located and in which states it does business. Ask if the salespeople are licensed to sell real estate where your timeshare is located, and verify this with the state licensing board (Washington: Department of Licensing, Oregon: Real Estate Agency, Alaska: Real Estate Commission). Ask if the company charges a commission, handles the entire closing and provides escrow services. Consider it a red flag if they charge an upfront fee.