Expedia: from software bug to customer service nightmare, a modern Odyssey

While traveling through Europe, I logged into my Expedia.com account and something odd happened: instead of being logged in, the Expedia system decided to redirect me to Expedia.ch and created a new account. Oddly, it copied all my credit card details, account information, frequent traveller details, and individual travellers to this new (unwanted) account. After this glitch, I ended up with two accounts with the same username and the same password: one for Expedia.com, the other for Expedia.ch. This is likely some form of GDPR violation as the data of multiple Europeans including their passport information was copied to a different company (Expedia.com and Expedia Switzerland are two independent companies that should not have access to each other's data).

Most of the time when I logged in, I ended up in my Expedia.com account that had all my travel details, my previous itineraries, my reservations, and my points. But every now and then, I ended up in the empty Expedia.ch account clone which was annoying. Additionally, I received unwanted emails from the clone Expedia.ch account.

So I set out to delete the obsolete Expedia.ch account which ended in an interesting Odyssey in 30 acts. What started as a software bug turned into a huge customer service fail that resulted in 30+ interactions with customer service, them losing all my data and all my collected points, and offering me 3000 points and 75$ for my issues as compensation in the end.

Instead of keeping an account and my data private, Expedia created a fake account. Instead of deleting the fake account, Expedia deleted both accounts. Instead of them reactivating my wrongfully deleted account I had to create a new account. Instead of adding points to the new account, Expedia deleted the new account again. After 30+ interactions over two months with the massively incompetent support, I lost about 10,000 points, my status, but received $75 and 3000 points (about $100 total) in compensation. Go Expdia!

So, in conclusion, I would strongly recommend against using Expedia. If you have to, try to use points as quickly as possible. Keep emails and proof of interactions. If you can, move to a competitor. Unfortunately, there are not many alternatives apart from Expedia due to a massive amount of consolidation in the travel portal business. The main alternative appears to be booking.com. But first read on about the individual acts and interactions with the crappy support:

Act 1: Expedia.com: May 9

I contacted the gold support team and asked them to delete the unwanted Expedia.ch account. After several days I received a reply with a canned response that accounts cannot be merged. I responded that I'd like to remove the cloned account as it's a bug in their system.

Act 2: Expedia.com: May 20

This time, someone apparently read my email and mentioned that I must contact Expedia.ch. So I contacted Expedia.ch and described the situation, again. I was told to expect an answer in 1-2 days.

Act 3: Expedia.ch: May 23

I received a reply that, due to data privacy laws, accounts cannot be deactivated over email. The email also mentioned that I should call a phone number in Germany. This is when I learned that Expedia.ch accounts are handled by Expedia.de. So I called, and described the situation, again.

Act 4: Expedia.de: May 28

After a short waiting period, I got a competent call center agent who walked me through the deactivation process of the dead account. He mentioned several times that it was odd that he could see bookings from the Expedia.com account but assured me that the German team has no access whatsoever to the Expedia.com account and deleting the Expedia.ch account will not influence or disturb the Expedia.com account. In any case, he assured me that if an account had active bookings this account could not be deleted under any circumstances and that the system would not allow it.

He went ahead and deleted the Expedia.ch account and told me I would get a confirmation mail.

I did never receive a confirmation mail. Instead, both my accounts were deleted.

Let me repeat: both the dead unwanted account and my active account with points and several active reservations were deleted.

Act 5: Expedia.de: May 28

I called again and complained that my account had just unwillingly been deleted. He checked and saw that both accounts have been deactivated and assured me that this should not have been possible.

The agent told me that he would look into the case and fix it. My hopes were up and I thought that the German agents are helpful, able, and would remedy the situation. With my hopes up we ended the call.

Act 6: Expedia.de: May 28

I received a voice mail from the previous agent who explained that they could not do anything from Expedia.de as my account was at Expedia.com and that they cannot access those accounts.

He mentioned that there is a mediation service as part of the European service center that I should contact. He sounded genuinely unhappy about the situation, which, unfortunately, did not help me much.

So, I followed his advice and contacted the mediation service, and explained the whole situation, again.

Act 7: Expedia.com: May 29

I contacted the internal Expedia customer service (through a special email address that I was given) and described the whole situation, again. After not hearing back for a day, I contacted the regular customer support. From the regular customer support, I received an email that I should call as quickly as possible.

So I called, again.

Act 8: Expedia.com: May 29

When calling, I was told that all lines were busy and that the estimated wait time was 20 minutes. I waited for an agent for 40 minutes, continuously being told that my call was important and that my time was important. To be honest, it did not feel as if they felt that my time was important.

After finally reaching an agent (Jim), I explained the situation, again. I was told that this cannot happen as accounts with active reservations cannot be deleted. I explained the situation, again. He talked to his supervisor and told me that this should not happen. It took a while until he realized that the bug was on their end. When he did, he promised me to escalate, inform next level support, and connect me.

So I was connected. I waited on hold for 20 minutes, the next agent had no clue and I explained the situation, again.

Act 9: Expedia.com: May 29

The agent (Jay this time) observed that both accounts were deleted and insisted that deleting accounts with active reservations is not possible. He informed me that reactivating deleted accounts is unfortunately not possible (another canned response). I explained the whole situation, again, and, again, he understood that the bug was on their end. Again, he talked to his supervisor, and, again, promised to forward me to the next level.

So I was connected. I waited on hold for 40 minutes, the next agent had no clue and I explained the situation, again.

Act 10: Expedia.com: May 30

By the time I reached level 3 support (Sheryl this time), I was on the phone for 2 hours and 15 minutes. Sheryl told me that she was the last person in line and that there are no higher ups.

Sheryl again told me that there is no way to delete an account with active reservations. I explained the whole situation, again. She understood quickly that the bug was on their end but mentioned that there is no way to reinstantiate a closed account. She was unsure how to help me and mentioned that she would escalate my issue to their internal help desk after collecting some information.

I mentioned that I had been on the phone for 2 hours 30 minutes by that time. She responded that she'd first have to double check with the two hotels if my registrations were still active on their end. She managed to check the first reservation in 15 minutes. While working through the second reservation, we got disconnected after about 3 hours on the phone.

Act 11: Expedia.com: May 30

I received an email from Sheryl that we unfortunately got disconnected and that I should call back, referencing a case number so that the next agent could continue the work. Interestingly, this email was signed "Expedia Corporate Service". When calling the provided number, the system informed me that the expected wait time was 36 minutes. Given the massive amount of wait time for the previous call I gave up, figuring I would try again the next day.

Act 12: Expedia.com: May 31

I received a call at 1am followed by another email from Expedia.com with a different case number, mentioning that I should call back and that they are trying to reinstantiate my account.

So I called. Again, they were experiencing unexpected call volumes and I waited 20 minutes on hold until I spoke to Sarah, a nice agent trying to help me. After referencing the case number (I tried my luck with the second case number first, hoping they would reference the same case file -- I wonder if they garbage collect these numbers) she placed me on hold again as she had to speak to their helpdesk.

After reading the massive amount of messages that had been accumulated so far, she decided to escalate.

Act 13: Expedia.com: May 31

After 20 minutes on hold (the call has now been going on for another hour), Anna picked up and explained to me that she had taken over the call. She claimed that deleting an Expedia.ch account can never influence an Expedia.com account as these are two different systems. So I explained the whole situation, again.

After another brief hold, she asked me for the number of open points, when I was last able to log in, and the itinerary numbers of all open bookings. She collected the information and informed me that she sent it to the "higher department for account management" and that they would get back to me within 48 hours. She let me know that it was not my fault and that I would hear on how they will resolve the situation.

Total time of call: 75 minutes.

Let's eagerly await new information!

Act 14: Expedia.ch: June 1

I received an email from Expedia.ch that they require the two Expedia account numbers for further investigation. As Expedia has deleted my accounts and, when trying to login, claims that there are no accounts associated with my email, I responded that I don't have the account numbers. Interestingly, my two open bookings are still tied to my phone number and the agents (both CH/DE and USA) can look up my account information using my email address. I therefore told them to leverage my email to look up my account.

Act 15: Expedia.ch: June 1

Expedia.ch responded that they located my account and requested deletion (of the CH account) again. I responded that I'm no longer worried about deletion of my Expedia.ch account but that my Expedia.com as part of collateral damage due to their broken system. I'll await their answer.

Act 16: Expedia.ch: June 2

I received a reply from Expedia.ch stating: "May we kindly ask you to contact Expedia.com customer support as we can only handle bookings from Germany, Austria and Switzerland." The reply again shows that they did not understand the situation, i.e., that their deleting the Expedia.ch account caused the deletion of the Expedia.com account that was somehow linked due to a bug in their system.

I replied explaining the situation, again. Let's see what they do.

Not that I started feeling like Don Quixote a long time ago, but the feeling intensifies.

Act 17: Expedia.com: June 2

I received a note from corporate customer care that my original Expedia.com will be reactivated or my original points will be recredited. They will inform me when the request succeeds.

Act 18: Expedia.ch: June 3

I received a GDPR request from Expedia Germany that asks me to confirm my right to be forgotten. Interestingly, several agents told me that they can see all data from my "deleted" Expedia.ch account and always made sure to say it was deactivated and never said deleted. So I'm a little confused what they mean with this GDPR request and what will happen if I react to it. Due to the previous mess with the intermixed and interconnected accounts, I'm slightly worried what will happen if the account is not just deactivated but really deleted. Only time (and the next several acts) will tell.

Interestingly, this GDPR request brings up another question. As my data was copied from Expedia.com to Expedia.ch without my consent, copying all my personal data along with the personal data of 3 other travelers, I start to wonder if this is a severe GDPR violation.

Act 19: Expedia.com: June 6

After not having heard back anything from Mark in 4 work days, I reached out again and asked if there was any progress on their end. The story continues.

Act 20: Expedia.com: June 10

After not having heard back for another couple of days and with less than a week until my upcoming trip with two paid reservations on Expedia remaining, I've sent them another reminder. I also mentioned that I'm losing my patience (I assume this would be clear after 20 interactions but hey, they may be a little slow at the customer service department at Expedia). Let's see if I hear back.

Act 21: Expedia.ch: June 11

Later in the afternoon I received a series of emails that I apparently changed the email on my Expedia.com account. After a couple of these emails and a name change from Mathias Payer to GSO and an updated email of XXX@expedia.com I stopped receiving any more emails.

A couple of minutes later, I received an email from Katrin Rothe from Expedia.de regarding a GDPR request. She explained that linked accounts will automatically be deleted together and that reactivating accounts is not possible.

Her statements clearly contradicted several other previous statements and reassurances that a) accounts with active reservations cannot be deleted, b) the different Expedia entities are different and that the two accounts are independent, and c) that the account could be reinstantiated.

She instructed me to create a new account and they would 'reinstantiate my open points'. So I created a new account. I also asked her about the state of my reservations for next week which have already been paid and that I can no longer access.

I'm about 12-14 hours of emails, debugging, and pleading into this customer service nightmare. Looking back I should have just given up after the first interactions with the incompetent support but there was always this glimmer of hope and the sunk cost fallacy. Given the massive amount of effort on my end for a bug on their end, I feel that they have to compensate me for this issue (that is fully on their end).

Act 22: Expedia.com/ch: June 13

Another 2 days since my last interaction with the European Expedia branch and 3 days with the US branch. I have not received a reply or confirmation regarding my upcoming travel nor any compensation nor any other form of update. My newly created account is empty (neither points nor reservations nor any other data).

I therefore reached out both to the European and US Expedia customer service. Interestingly, my travel on the two already paid reservations is coming up in 3 days. I reminded customer service of their crap/non-existing service.

I'm thinking about filing a complaint regarding the GDPR violation and/or customer service issues as this is (and has been for a while) beyond reasonable. In the email, I told them that I'm expecting some form of compensation for my efforts.

Act 23: Expedia.??: June 13

As Expedia is no longer replying to my emails and I can no longer access the reservations through Expedia, I've reached out to the hotels directly to double check if my (already paid) bookings are still active.

One hotel replied in 10 minutes, the other after 4 hours. This is an amazing difference compared to my experience with Expedia.

Act 24: Expedia.com: June 14

I received Expedia spam that I should join their fancy reward program. Sigh. This is apparently how Expedia treats long term customers. I've sent them a final reminder, following up on the previous cases to see if they reply or not.

I haven't heard from Expedia since they completely removed the account reminders and half dead account on June 11. Instead of following up and reinstantiating my points, compensation, and status they completely dropped all contact and I'm now left without any confirmation for my reservations or any way to contact their support as they no longer reply to any requests.

Over the years I've seen bad customer support but treating high volume customers this way seems like a bad business strategy.

Act 25: Expedia.com: June 17

Mark responded with an email that he was out of the office and that I should have received an email explaining the situation. I'll be waiting for him to resend that email.

Act 26: Expedia.ch: June 18

A day after the end of the previous reservation and the day of the start of the second reservation, I received a note from Expedia Germany asking about my rewards balance and resending me the two reservations. Which seems a little late considering that the first reservation is already over and we have checked into the second hotel. It's also odd that they ask me about the points balance of my previous rewards account.

The service agent mentioned that she'll look into a compensation for my experience. I'll be waiting for more news.

Act 27: Expedia.com: June 20

Without any note or change from my end, I can no longer log into Expedia.com using my newly created account (from June 11). Expedia must have deleted this newly created account again as part of their analysis process. This is becoming more than ridiculous. Let me repeat: Expedia, after being unable to reinstantiate my deactivated account, asked me to create a new account and now also deleted this new account. The error message I get is the same as when they initially deleted the first account.

At least, I no longer get the spam messages about different amazing offers I could get.

Act 28: Expedia.ch: June 23

As my account has been deleted again and I did not receive any notification in another week -- despite promises from both .com and .ch support to contact me, I've sent another reminder to Expedia.ch, inquiring why my newly created account from early June has been deleted again.

I honestly don't know what these guys are doing and how they stay in business.

Act 29: Expedia.ch: June 29

After another couple of days of waiting (and giving up with Expedia), I received another email from Expedia priority support. The agent confirmed that my second account was 'accidentially' deleted as well and encouraged me to open another account and confirmed that a) this new account will not be deleted again (lol), b) that they will reassign me the open points from my previous account, and c) that they offer me 75 EUR for my difficulties.

Looking at the massive amount of time I have invested into their broken system, this results in an amazing hourly pay of about 5 EUR. Thanks Expedia!

I responded and am waiting for them to actually follow up. Let's see if they also reinstantiate my 'Gold' status.

Act 30: Expedia.com/ch: July 1

Almost two months after I started this unhappy journey, we have reached a conclusion and my open tickets have been closed. I received an email from Expedia Switzerland that they will gift me 75 EUR and return my points. Just a little later I received an email from Expedia.com customer support that my account had been successfully reactivated [sic].

When I logged in I saw that I received a coupon for 75$ (not Euros but close enoug I guess) and roughly 3000 points which corresponds to roughly 600 in spending. Unfortunately, I know that I've spent at least 400+620+170+240+600 on hotels in that timeframe that have not been credited, which should be 10150 points give or take.

Additionally, they did not reinstantiate the 'Gold' tier for what it's worth and I'm now a lowly 'Blue' tier.

Final act

My plan is now to spend the money/points I received on my next booking and then never to use Expedia again. Maybe I'll even try to delete my account again for some extra fun!