Thursday, September 26, 2019 Genius program and a non-existing customer service.

I have been a loyal customer of for several years. More than half a decade, to be precise. As such, I had a "Genius" account. "Genius" account is the terminology for a frequent traveler. You get 10% - 15% off on many properties with a "Genius" status. One day, suddenly, my "Genius" status was revoked with a message.

Your Genius membership has been temporarily suspended

We noticed that you've booked with an invalid credit card or made an unauthorized credit card recharge for a booking that should have been charged/was subject to cancellation fees. While we understand that sometimes these things happen unintentionally, we want to make sure that our accommodation partners are being treated fairly. For now, we've suspended your Genius status. You can still book with us but your status will only be reinstated after your next completed booking. After you've booked, stayed and paid you will automatically be added back to the program and you can continue to enjoy your discount and travel rewards. See Terms & Conditions 

Now, I have never done any of these. Those are wrong accusations. I have been using my account for like 7 years. This is not a throw-away account to make a booking and then disappear without paying the hotel. I would never do that anyway.

On the other hand, these days, I have several travels planned. Having "Genius" status revoked at this point will make me pay an additional 15% of my upcoming booking, compared to what I was going to pay with a Genius status.

Naturally, I sent them a private message on Twitter and also asked them in Tweet to look into the private message.

"Hi, My profile is XXXXXXX. My genius status is canceled with the below message: 


I never booked with an invalid card or did a credit card dispute on any of
bookings. In fact, I am a happy customer for several years. This must be a technical glitch. If you let me know which booking had this issue, I will be able to pin-point what went wrong.

I really want to rectify and keep my genius status as always."

72 hours passed. They were answering to everyone else - but not me. Not even an acknowledgment that they received my tweet or are looking into this. Not even an automated or a canned reply that I would receive from my insurance company. They even replied to those who complained a day or two later than me.

So I used their "Contact us" page in their site. After typing all these, I figured, they are not even receiving what I typed. Instead, the "Next" link sent me to a static page that states,
"Get in touch Our Customer Service agents are always happy to help with any questions you have. Call Customer Service."

"You can also call us

If you have a booking with us, you can speed up your call by having your confirmation number and PIN code handy.

United States of America  United States of America

Support in English
1 (888) 850 3958
Support in Spanish
1 (866) 938 1297
International (English):
+44 20 3320 2609

The phone numbers above are for in-country calls. Only local charges apply, except for international numbers."

So I called them using the number they have listed.

The call replied with an automated message,
"Due to the large volume of calls, we only assist those who have their confirmation number and PIN code ready" and went on to ask those. 

A mail to left me with an automated reply email:
Thanks for your message ,

Please reply to this email in the format below, with the confirmation number and PIN code for the booking you need help with. This will help us to resolve your query faster.

Confirmation number: XXXXXXXXXX (10 digits)

PIN code: XXXX (4 digits)

You can find these details at the top of your confirmation email, or by logging in to your account.

My query is not for an existing booking

Don’t want to wait? It’s easy to solve most booking queries with our self-service tools:

So those with general account-wise problems such as me have no way of getting help from Not Twitter, not from their support page, and not even from their call center via phone. is definitely understaffed for such a large-scale booking company. I feel betrayed as a loyal customer. This is probably a technical glitch. But they must rectify it as soon as possible. This issue is otherwise making me pay more for my upcoming travel bookings. When everything goes fine, we don't see the negative aspects of a company. Only when something goes wrong, we start to see them. Time to look for alternatives after sticking with them for a decade. 

Today, after 5 days, I received a reply from on Twitter.

"Hi there Pradeeban. Thanks for your message. There might have also been something else related to your booking history which prompted the Genius level suspension. Unfortunately we cannot provide you with a different outcome other than the one already given."

If they are really honest with "accommodation partners are being treated fairly", they should let me know which booking had issues - so I can rectify. That way, their (imaginary) accommodation partner also can have a better outcome. I am sure this is just a technical glitch, and is pathetic in their customer service. They are just lazy to find and rectify what went wrong. What a complete lack of customer service when something goes bad?

Most of the web applications are developed to be user-friendly, scalable, and high-performing, with an end-goal of high revenue. But when things go wrong, the humans - the agents of the company come to play. Humans are the weakest link in any technology. Train your staff well to handle the corner cases. When you ignore the valid concerns of someone who is met with an issue in your web application, you lose their trust. That's how many flight agents and booking sites such as managed to get terrible reviews in review sites such as Trustpilot. To get some idea, check how managed to get only 1.5* review, at the time of writing this post.

Update [Oct 22nd]: During the past 2 weeks, I stayed in 3 hotels booked through and completed the payment directly at the hotels. Yet, my Genius status hasn't been restored yet. Shady indeed!

@bookingcom, the worst social media and customer support team. When everything goes fine, it is good. But the moment something goes wrong, you will meet their irresponsible and incapable support team. Time to book accommodation directly with the hotels, ditching these middlemen.

Update [Oct 24th]: replied on Twitter, indicating they have restored my Genius Level-2. But turned out, I am just in Level-1 now. They were unavailable for further discussion. Interestingly, to achieve Level-1, I just need 2 completed stays in 2 years. And Level-2,  just 5 stays. With already 3 bookings/stays completed, I would have earned level-1 even if I started from scratch. Similarly, with 2 more stays, I would reach level-2 on my own.

Update [Oct 25th]: Finally, my Level-2 status is restored, and I received an email from, confirming this, interestingly in Swedish (Maybe I created my account in Swedish):
(Translated: You are now on Level 2 in our loyalty program Genius! )

Du är nu på Nivå 2 i vårt lojalitetsprogram Genius!

Hej Pradeeban! Du har genomfört 5 vistelser som bokats via Det betyder att du är på Genius Nivå 2. Du får nu tillgång till ännu fler exklusiva reseförmåner med ditt, samtidigt som du behåller alla förmåner som du fick på Genius Nivå 1.
Vi vill belöna våra kunder med Genius-medlemskap. Det är vårt sätt att tacka dig för att du bokar med oss.
Reseförmåner med Genius Nivå 2:
  • Rabatter på  % och  % på utvalda boenden
  • Gratis frukost på utvalda boenden
  • Gratis uppgradering på vissa alternativ

    Dina genomförda bokningar:
    25 jun 2013 - 27 jun 2013
    23 okt 2013 - 28 okt 2013
    22 dec 2013 - 25 dec 2013
    26 dec 2013 - 29 dec 2013
    15 sep 2014 - 19 sep 2014

    Note that all the bookings are from 2013 - 2014 (I removed the hotel names for privacy reasons). Of course I had later bookings. These are my earliest. My first stay with was in Porto in 2013 summer. It was also my first personal trip since I left Sri Lanka. I deserved to be in Level-2 since 5 years ago. ;) 

    Interestingly, I never received such email in the first place when I reached Level-2 in the first place. This whole episode (and the way handled this) is plain weird and made me lose my trust and confidence in I may still use them. But I won't actively promote them or recommend them to anyone.

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