Agoda, Is My Security Only Worth $26?
Agoda is one of the most popular hotel booking sites there is on the Internet today. It rolls up on the first page in any search engines. It stalks your online movement & pops like window clocks with screaming cockatoos—book me, book me now!
Is Agoda really a smarter choice?
I like booking through Agoda because their selections are varied & wide. They also offer great deals & easy payment options. I never had issues with them not until they screwed up one of my reservations.
A few months ago, I went to Japan for a 2-week holiday. I journeyed from Tokyo down to Fukuoka. It was indeed fun getting an overload of temples, ramen & geishas.
I am a spontaneous traveler & I never book my accommodations way too early in time. This travel style works well for me.
Everything went fine except when I went to Matsuyama. A night before I left, I went to an internet café in Hiroshima to browse for hotels online. After the struggle in changing the computer’s language from Japanese to English, I finally made it to Agoda’s portal.
After a few clicks, I successfully made a reservation at Hojo Suigun Youth Hostel. I was happy because I thought I got a good deal—$26 room in downtown Matsuyama!
It was about 2PM when I left Hiroshima the next day. Sailing on Seto Sea, I was already imagining myself in Dogo Onsen, Japan’s oldest hot spring resort. And oh, the castle, the haikus & the temples were already calling me.
I swear Agoda, you gave me headache.
The horror began when I arrived on the island. I asked the tourist helpdesk for directions to my hostel. To my surprise, he told me it is still 17 kilometers away! My eyeballs began to roll.
To make it more difficult, there is no direct transportation from the port to Hojotsuji. So I dragged my bag 800 meters to the train station & boarded the rickety wagon to downtown. Then I dashed another 500 meters to the main station to catch the last trip.
As the train sped, the sight of the city faded into grasslands & small townships. Kilometer after kilometer, I felt that the romance I imagined was turning tragic.
At that moment, my mind was transiting between the waning light & counting train stops. Drama was nowhere there but my eyebrows were beginning to curl.
Then the train finally arrived at Hojotsuji. Quiet. No sight of any English word around. Right there I knew I was in the wrong place.
The search for the hostel brought me to about 700 meters of walking around a maze of houses. Whatever happened to the description “at the city center”?
Bring it on, Agoda!
There’s no frustration quite like walking into a hostel far from where you imagined it to be. But I was already there & turning back wasn’t an option. But when I met my host, he looked surprised of my arrival like I was an unexpected guest.
I instantly felt another drama lurking somewhere. While waiting for my room, I connected to the hostel’s WIFI. An email from Agoda popped.
So that’s where the confused look was coming from! At that moment curses quietly flew into thin air. My host came back, this time with a smile. He had made a special room for the night. Enter angels singing!
I have to admit I was pissed by that booking misadventure with Agoda. But there was no reason to cry over spilled milk. I always believe in the beauty of spontaneous traveling.
But that didn’t mean I’m letting Agoda get away with it.
That night, my host made a lovely dinner for me. Over real home cooked Japanese food, I spent a wonderful night of Shikoku stories.
Then Everything Started to Sink In
I purposely planned to stay in Matsuyama only for a day. I just thought of having a pampering steam bath at Dogo Onsen. Then visit the castle early the next day before I fly to Osaka.
Being so far away from it all, I knew it was already impossible to do anything as planned. Either I go & miss everything or stay & mess up on my budget. But this is Japan & every yen matters. So I just consoled myself with mochi balls in the airport.
Where Did It All Go Wrong?
It all boils down to my misunderstanding that Hojotsuji is within the downtown area of Matsuyama.
But the description of the property’s location is also misleading. Agoda should explicitly write that Hojotsuji is located 17 kilometers away from the city center. To the unfamiliar, anyone would easily think that Hojotsuji is the place to be.
On the other hand, Agoda’s last minute cancellation was potentially inconvenient & risky. If my host did not make a special room for me, I would have been wandering around. Where would I find cheap hostels in creeping darkness? How would I make it back to the city when the last train had already departed?
Look Ma, $26 More!
The consolation offer made me seriously think, was my security that night worth $26 only?
It may not have been a pleasurable experience but I admire how Agoda handled the situation. Their Customer Care acknowledged their mistake. They kept in constant touch & even phoned me to check if all is well. We sealed it with a fair closure.
I learned many things from this misadventure. Among them is the reality that even with a confirmed booking, you can still get ditched at the last minute. This also taught me not to trust descriptions & to consult the map. But most importantly, I learned more how to deal with backfires from spontaneous traveling style.