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How Booking.com manipulates users (ro-che.info)
583 points by bogomipz 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 304 comments



This is what A/B testing does to a popular site. You test for immediate customer engagement but cannot (easily) test long-term customer loyalty. This is why booking.com has become the largest online hotel booking site in several continents. Nevertheless, I think it will eventually be their downfall.


"Frankly, I don’t think I am going to stop using Booking.com. I am not aware of any other service with a comparable number of properties and reviews."

It's hard to quantify negative impact of future dealings, but it's even harder to say Booking.com should change their methods when the people aware enough to be annoyed continue to give them money. It's like complaining about Google following you around the web and using GMail.

Either the alternatives just aren't good enough or the negative externalities not severe enough to change consumer behavior. Either of those considerations could change, but until they do it's hard to argue Booking.com should reduce current earnings. Not when people who book a room above a bar that plays music into the early morning blame themselves for not reading the fine print...


>"It's hard to quantify negative impact of future dealings, but it's even harder to say Booking.com should change their methods when the people aware enough to be annoyed continue to give them money"

Please tell me how to avoid the duopoly that is Booking.com(Priceline Group) and Expedia in Europe? Especially so when making new booking on short notice. Booking.com has maintained close to 60% market share:

http://www.hotrec.eu/newsroom/press-releases-1714/dominant-o...


Why not use TripAdvisor? Not owned by Priceline or Expedia (yet!), nowhere as manipulative as Priceline, and you can actually compare between Priceline and Expedia offerings on the same page. The reviews are much better, rating system is not complicated/hidden and you can sort of ranking/reviews and much better UI with the new redesign.

Disclosure: Ex-Tripadvisor engineer.


Why? Trip Advisor is actually one of the biggest contributors to scourge the fake reviews! Anyone can't post reviews on Tripadvisor you don't need to be a verified guest.

'“The effects we find in our study are actually not that small. For example, the mean hotel in our sample has thirty negative reviews. We find that a hotel that is located next to an independent hotel owned by a small owner will have six more fake negative Tripadvisor reviews compared to an isolated hotel.”'[1]

Here is PDF link to the report: "Promotional Reviews: An Empirical Investigation of Online Review Manipulation", which is worth a read:

http://www.nber.org/papers/w18340.pdf

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/avaseave/2014/01/27/when-online...


TripAdvisor used to be part of Expedia. They were spun off in 2011.

And, of course, TripAdvisor has their own issues that they don't really care to deal with (fake reviews are a constant problem since they have no way to verify that someone actually stayed there).


I don't actually travel much, and have never used Booking.com. So no dog in this fight. But your question is pretty much my point: if people aren't going to use some other service, it's a lot harder to quantify long-term negative impacts of dark patterns vs the measurable short-term lift.

[Edit] There's only so much conversation to be had around a point like "we don't want to become MySpace." If what they are doing generates more revenue, and if people don't get so annoyed that they'll use another service, and if they avoid lawsuits and regulators...

You'll never hear this pitch in an executive meeting: "I have an idea that will reduce revenue X% with no quantifiable long-term benefits."


I've started to use Google Maps more and more, they give you a good overview of several sites and their prices.


Go direct


Unfortunately directly booking with the hotel has drawbacks as well. 6 months ago I booked The Pullman Hotel in London directly (they had the same pricing as the online agencies).

When I arrived late in the evening my room was not available: the (online, credit card backed) reservation I've made was "lost" and no more rooms available.

There was no way to sort it out easily so I booked another Hotel (higher price, and had no time to do some Tripadvisor/Rating research).

The exactly same thing happened when I booked a hotel in Czech last year via HRS. When I arrived I was told by the hotel guy that there was only 1 room available instead of the booked 2. I tried to sort it out directly with the hotel - no chance after 10 min. of discussions.

I then called the HRS hotline, the service agent put me on hold while he called the hotel. I saw the guy at the reception pick up the phone, a few seconds later he came to me and told me that 2 rooms were available. :/

That said: it seems that the OTAs (HRS, booking, expedia) have enough "arguments" (e.g. threaten with delisting etc) that as a customer you may also have benefits from this kind of oligopoly.


If you booked with booking.com and the reservation was lost your pretty much SOL as well.


Booking actually helps in these situations, a friend of mine works as a customer service agent there and spends a fair share of his time resolving such issues. If I get it right, in such cases Booking should suggest the new property to a guest and reimburse the price from the first hotel.


> I am not aware of any other service with a comparable number of properties and reviews.

Why do you need so many properties and reviews? You're staying in one room, presumably. You just need at least one room with a few good reviews in your price range and you're good to go.


I find it strange too, though that may be because of the type of locations I stay. I don't seen any reason for customer loyalty to a single booking site. There is very little friction to just use the hotels own booking sites. For each town I stay in there is usually two or three hotels to choose from that have online booking (occasionally I have to make a phone call to book since there are no hotels with online booking.) From those two or three, I sort them by price, and work from the cheapest to the most expensive until I find the cheapest that I think will provide what I want, and book using that hotels site. Occasionally it is booking.com, but more often than not, it is the Motel 6 corporate site or the Comfort Inn corporate site or similar.

I also never look at reviews since my experience has found that reviews are useless to me. I think reviewers tend to care about things I don't, and have had excellent experiences at places with generally bad reviews.


> I also never look at reviews since my experience has found that reviews are useless to me. I think reviewers tend to care about things I don't, and have had excellent experiences at places with generally bad reviews.

This is the same with restaurant reviews on sites like Yelp. A restaurant that has 2.5 stars could have excellent, delicious food but are docked points because people who went there and reviewed cared more about the service than the food, or expected the service to be top notch at a place where great service isn't typically expected.


> I don't seen any reason for customer loyalty to a single booking site. There is very little friction to just use the hotels own booking sites.

Each site has its own layout and functionality. I like to use the same site every time so that the buttons will always be in the same place, I know how to sort by my criteria, the customer service number is already in my phone...


I avoid good reviews and look at what people complain about.

This also helps avoid hotels full of snooty elitists.


Because since people's tastes differ, if a site has a small inventory, it's very likely they will have nothing at least some of the time you want to book. If some small site has nothing that's a fit for you even, say, 10% of the time, the vast majority of people would choose a site they know will have something all of the time.


If anything, booking.com feels like one of the worst whenever I use it. I vastly prefer tripadvisor, for example, even though their iOS app is a horrible unusable battery drain.


I've tried tripadvisor a few times, but always go back to hotels.com / bookings / google maps. I just find tripadvisor kinda tricky to use and filter to get the type of hotels I'm after.


A suggestion for people who are upset with this behavior:

Use Booking.com (and Google, Expedia, etc) as a showroom, after you have found a certain hotel, find their web site or phone and arrange a booking directly.


Sometimes the direct prices are actually more. Your best bet for sticking it to them might be to use an alternative booking service.


Booking.com takes an 18% commission. Only a severely incompetent business would refuse to give you a lower price in exchange for them not having to pay that 18%.

All the big franchises (Marriott, Hilton, IHG, Hyatt, Choice, Wyndham) will give you a cheaper “member” price at their direct website. Being a member is free, it’s just like airline miles and you even earn points.


Commissions vary depending on a lot of factors. My property in the south of France, we pay 10% and it’s well worth it. It’s incredible lead generation and saves us a ton on marketing and advertising. I’m happy to pay the commission because for small hotel owners, it’s much easier than having to spend continuously on marketing.


Right. But imagine you have your rooms listed for $220 in your own site, and for $200 on Booking. If someone books on Booking, you get $180. If someone calls and asks to book at the rate they see at Booking, but directly with you, you make $200.


If I understand this correctly, such deals should be forbidden by contracts with property aggregators.


And small hotels will give you extras as they're not allowed to lower the price but can give you more service. However, wouldn't do that in countries you're not comfortable dealing with as you lose the protection that booking.com gives you.


Except that hotel room bookings work a lot differently for lot of hotels than any other types of bookings. Hotels usually sell rooms in bulk to Priceline, Expedia and other OTAs and possibly keep some for their own funnel. So they may not have the same incentive to sell at that price you saw on Priceline.


That is not true for the chain hotels in the US. They also all have best price guarantees where if you see a lower publicly advertised price than the hotel’s own website, then you get a free night. But that never happens since it’s all updated in real time now, and the hotel’s systems will not allow reservations at a lower price.


Actually I've been able to use Best Price Guarantees many times. But it's not as easy to use as you say it is: each program has it's own set of complicated terms and conditions and often reject seemingly reasonable requests. Also, usually the chain needs to independently verify the rate, which can take up to 1-2 days, and by that time, the rate may have changed. Also, often you need to book the lowest rate for the guarantee, which could be a nonrefundable rate.

Easy/Lenient/Refundable: Starwood (20% off) Marriott (25% off)

Easy/Lenient/Nonrefundable: Hilton ($100 certificate)

Medium/Nonrefundable: Hyatt ($50 certificate)

Hard/Nonrefundable: IHG (1st night free)


And who is that in Europe? I tried both Agoda and Hotels.com without much success.


In Europe, I always check the price directly from the hotel, if it's last minute, I check hotels tonight and if the price is really much cheaper in booking.com, I call the hotel and get them to match the price.

I sometimes use hotels.com though since I often can get a 5% cashback plus their reward scheme which gives me a free night every ten nights (effectively a 10% discount)

Oh and for reviews, I check tripadvisor since, on the contrary to booking.com, they actually publish bad reviews.


>"Oh and for reviews, I check tripadvisor since, on the contrary to booking.com, they actually publish bad reviews."

But what good is publishing bad reviews if they are fake? See:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/avaseave/2014/01/27/when-online...


Agoda = Booking.com


Agoda is a Priceline subsidiary, like Booking.com


Perhaps calling the hotel to ask if they'll match the online price will work?


I book via hotels.com to get there 8% discount (on hotels that apply), or booking when/if the hotel is on the genius 10% list. But yeah, if the hotel I want to stay in isn't on a discount on either site I'll book direct if the price is the same/less. I do travel often without a computer and need to book quickly so will just use booking or hotels app, as it's easy and quick, whereas the booking direct is usually rather hard. + I don't usually book within a hotel chain enough to gain any rewards, which you do on hotels.


You mean like this from last month where they listed the same hotel in New York City as both a 3 star and a 4 star:

https://www-moneysavingexpert-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/www.m...


Yes, among many others.


I actually think this is caused a by a highly croweded, overly competitive market. There are so many booking sites that they have to resort to these things to win sales.


Review scores are also a bit offset. I have tried to give the absolute lowest to every metric booking.com gave me to rate and the resulting score was 2.5-ish. I was thinking about making a browser extension that rescales the values accordingly but I just made a mental note that a score 7 hotel is in fact a score 6. With this scaling the scores on the lower end gain more as a 3.3 score becomes a 5. Take this into account if you opt for the lower-middle end.


I remember a similar thing with Zocdoc. Something like, the appointment was on time (5/5), but my experience was horrible (1/5), so my review "averages to 2.5".

Reminds me of the thing about "it either will happen, or it won't, so that's a 50/50 chance".


Actually review scores are the one thing I love about booking.com. I never book below 8.0 and always skim through at least 20 reviews (takes max 1 minute). I've never really been disappointed by an 8.0+ hotel and everything above 9.0 was really good.

I'd recommend staying away from hotels with very few reviews. But many (even smaller) hotels have several hundred reviews. They're usually very reliable.


Notably, many review sites don't let you score a zero. This will make the resulting number higher and many people are pretty bad at math. They see that it averages a 4 rating and think it can't be that bad, but it's because nobody could rate it a zero.

On the plus side, I learned a new phrase from HN today. I now know what 'dark pattern' means.


Thank you for highlighting this. I used booking.com a few years back when I stayed in London on a budget. I realised something about the site had made the review scores feel really useless but I never realised why until I read your comment.

In the end I just compared on worst reviews until I found a hotel where the bad reviews were about really unimportant things to me. The hotel I stayed in actually had one of the lowest review scores of all the ones I had considered but the lowest-scored reviews described an experience I could enjoy far more than the worst experiences at comparable hotels.


You're right, it's a 2.5-10 scale. For future reference, the median review score for a hotel on booking.com is around 8.1, based on a bunch of scraped data. Varies a lot by location, though. Business travelers also tend to rate almost a full point lower than any other group (family, couple, solo, groups), but I'm not sure if you can break out that information on their UI.

My personal heuristic for using booking.com is rating > 8.0, then skim over the negative reviews for dealbreakers. Bad ratings for restaurants or concierge or whatever is fine for me, but "room reeked of cigarette smoke" is not. Positive reviews don't really have a lot of signal to me, but YMMV.


What the.. That, unlike all of those dark UX patterns they are masters of, actually seems deeply deceptive and potentially illegal, depending on your locale. If this is true they have stepped across a line.


What if the manpulation was easily avoidable?

The last time this website came up on HN (same issue), I conducted an experiment. The annoyances and manipulation described by the blogger sounded like it relied on Javascript and graphics. I wanted to see how far I could get without using a graphical browser.

I was able to

1. search hotels,

2. return a list of properties in CSV/JSON/TXT,

3. return prices and

4. book.

It required only a shell script of 107 lines, 308 characters, 2934 bytes. This could be further reduced.

I used only a command line http client, sed and tmux send-key (optional). Further optional: Fully customized HTTP headers, including randomized User-Agent if desired.

I had to store a session cookie for getting price or booking but no cookies were required for searching.

I used no Javascript.

I was able to eliminate all the annoyances and manipulation cited by the blogger.

Conclusion: At least for booking.com all these annoyances can easily be avoided by choosing the right browser.

(I did occasionally see the "Only ___ rooms left" message as this is returned in plain text. I did not however see the number change over repeated searches for the same hotel. In any event, I just deleted that line in the output, assuming it is untruthful.)


>It required only a shell script of 107 lines, 308 characters, 2934 bytes. This could be further reduced.

Yeah, totally common for average people to do this.


> all these annoyances can easily be avoided by choosing the right browser.

The right browser == non-graphical browser. Good joke.

You can achieve the same by installing a simple browser extension for managing cookies & randomizing browser footprint. Firefox has some.


Can you post your code?


Nice. There is https://github.com/rg3/youtube-dl/blob/master/README.md . Maybe something equivalent should be done for booking.com .


greasemonkey script!


You seriously had to book a shitty hotel in order to understand that you're being manipulated?

Let me give you the short version of how to book on booking, which is BTW an excellent site for travel arrangements:

1) Ignore anything that makes it sound like you're in a competition. Cheapest price, someone is looking, etc. You're trying to book a hotel room that suits you, not win a race.

2) Any hotel ranked below 9+ has problems. You just need to figure out what the problems are, and those will appear in the reviews section. Don't be lazy - you need to read dozens of reviews. The good news is that you can skip the good reviews - they won't contain what you're looking for. If you book any hotel that has a less than 9 average, make sure you understand what people didn't like about it. If it's over 9, everyone liked it, and you will too.


Despite knowing all about dark patterns, I let myself be manipulated into paying $120/night for a room (expensive by Sri Lanka standards). Because of the repeated "only 1 room left!" messages and I didn't want to mess up my anniversary holiday

A few days later, I checked again and the room was going for $50

I mailed them about it. They agreed to refund me $50, so that was nice of them


That's actually nice of them... Do not take part in the race :)


I booked an 8.9 and only found out afterwards some of the rooms aren’t cleaned if you book through booking, because those rooms aren’t actually from the hotel but a private owner renting out their rooms. I contacted booking about it, they did nothing.

The private owner also put a hold on my credit card, as did the hotel, with the sum of both being high enough i bumped into my card’s limit before the end of my stay. Oh, and the very low rate of booking.ccom turned out to be the same price as booking direct once all the semi-hidden charges were added.

Lesson learned: always book directly with the hotel.


To anyone from Booking.com reading this: I'll go elsewhere next time I need to book a room.

Dark patterns may help profits in the short-term, but they're terrible for your brand. Just ask TicketMaster.

It isn't just tech-savvy users that will catch on to this either. If an everyday user uses Booking.com, reads reviews and thinks their room will be great, but then has a bad experience, they're going to stop trusting Booking.com's reviews, and stop trusting their brand. It will only take a few bad experiences to go elsewhere.


> To anyone from Booking.com reading this: I'll go elsewhere next time I need to book a room

I like to think that I'm take-savvy (I've been on this forum for quite a while) but I'll happily continue to use booking.com the same as I've done for the past 10 years, give or take. I don't care at all about their brand, I'm aware of their "dark patterns" and as such it's very easy to avoid them, what it matters for me it's that in the last 10 years they've always been reliable (as in 100% reliable) and on point with their descriptions and ratings, no matter the destination (from a 2-star hotel in the middle of the Carpathian mountains to a 5-star hotel in Istanbul). In other words they really do provide value, the same way as Ryanair provides value (it doesn't matter that everybody likes to hate on Ryanair, everybody is still flying with them).

I also spend more than 5 minutes reading through the actual reviews before making a reservation, unlike the writer of the article which is unhappy that not everything is mentioned front and center on the first page. As such, I've never ever had to deal with dirty sheets or a dirty bathroom when it came to locations reserved through booking.com.


>"what it matters for me it's that in the last 10 years they've always been reliable (as in 100% reliable) and on point with their descriptions and ratings, no matter the destination (from a 2-star hotel in the middle of the Carpathian mountains to a 5-star hotel in Istanbul).

I would say you have been unusually lucky then. The practice of fake reviews from booking.com are pretty well documented[1][2]. And 5 star hotels are generally a pretty safe bet just about anywhere in the world, you pretty much know exactly what the experience will be. Accuracy of a 5 star hotel says very little about booking.com.

>"In other words they really do provide value, the same way as Ryanair provides value (it doesn't matter that everybody likes to hate on Ryanair, everybody is still flying with them)."

You mean like suddenly grounding 50 flights a day for the next six weeks and giving customers no shortage of grief:

http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/ryanair-...

>"I also spend more than 5 minutes reading through the actual reviews before making a reservation ..."

That doesn't really mean much when the reviews are gamed does it?

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/06/bookingcom-invest...

[2] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jonha-revesencio/the-truth-abo...


It's tech-savvy, like technology. Not "take-savvy".


> Dark patterns may help profits in the short-term, but they're terrible for your brand. Just ask TicketMaster.

TicketMaster's customers are people selling tickets, not those buying them.

Their entire business model is based around burning their own reputation, not the reputation of whoever's selling through TicketMaster. That's why they can get away with using dark patterns to make more money for their customers and themselves - consumers don't have a choice.


> Just ask TicketMaster.

TM has been doing pretty well in terms of stock price (not the user happiness) -- probably the metric that they care about. So, I am not sure if that's the best example.

Source: https://finance.google.com/finance?chdnp=1&chdd=1&chds=1&chd...


I don't know if they will keep doing well in terms of stock price If/When Amazon release their ticket master competitor[1]

[1] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-amazon-com-ticketing/excl...


Wait, because Amazon is known to do better than others on UX and lack of dark patterns?


Don't they practically have a monopoly on ticket sales, though?


They have a monopoly just like Comcast.


I recently used booking.com for the first time, as I was in a rush and needed somewhere to stay that night. The hotel I booked through booking.com was a Best Western. After the booking went through, I received a flurry of emails from both booking.com and Best Western.

One of the Best Western emails encouraged me to sign up for their rewards scheme. Having liked Best Western hotels previously, I signed up, and downloaded the app onto my phone. To get rewards for the booking I just needed the Best Western booking ref. number.

There wasn't one. Just the booking.com ref. number on their Emails, and no ref. number on the Best Western ones.

Once at the hotel I asked for the Best Western booking ref. number and was told "As you've booked through booking.com you don't qualify for rewards on this stay, sorry."

So that will be my first AND last use of booking.com. Fool me once and all that.


That's not exactly the fault of booking.com though. Hotels have learned that if they want people to book directly with them (which gets them more money), they need to make it attractive to customers. They can't really offer a lower price than booking.com and hotels.com due to contracts they have with those companies so instead they offer a reward scheme and exclude bookings not made directly with them.

They also sometimes offer lower "member only" price for members of their reward scheme as a way to get around their contract (in that case the lower price they provide than booking.com is not public but only restricted to members so it's not a breach of contract).

That said, I don't use booking.com, I find their dark patterns too deceptive for me.


> That's not exactly the fault of booking.com though.

> They can't really offer a lower price than booking.com and hotels.com due to contracts

See, it is the fault of booking.com. I'm not saying I'd have done it differently in their position, but their demand that hotels charge the same via booking.com as directly (even while booking.com gets a cut) is the direct cause of complicated reward schemes like this.


I’ve also learned through multiple bad experiences to use booking.com only to find hotels but to book directly with the hotel.


I use booking.com occasionally because I can actually get to the information I need and want without difficulty.

The things described here are not exactly dark patterns - you can bypass them and get to the truth. (This is unlike TicketMaster.) Perhaps I would call them grey patterns.


The impact is worse than just hurting brands.

After hotels.com boned me, I've soured on the very notion of online bookings, price comparison sites for travel stuff, trusting ratings.

Caveat emptor (aka Freedom Markets™) is bad for business because it increases transaction costs (friction).

Reforms like consumer protection regulations are championed by businesses trying to make an honest buck once they get tired of the cheaters ruining the market for all the players.


Can you describe what happened with hotels.com? I've been using them exclusively because my travel is so random and it's just easier to have all the hotel bookings in one place. But it does make me uncomfortable that I'm getting taken advantage of in one way or another. Thx in advance.


First incident: Reservation at great place in Key West. Flew into Miami, drove to Key West, arrive late at night, no reservation. Never heard of us. Scramble find a room. Later, struggle to get our refund.

Resolve to never again use hotels.com

Second incident: Find Kalaloch Lodge resort online. Call them directly. Nice chit chat about peninsula, rain forests, etc. Drove to resort. Arrive, no reservation.

Turns out hotels.com and their affiliates buy up domain names, do SEO, and pretend to be the owner / operator of independent resorts.

aka cybersquatting. I call it fraud, theft, malfeasance.

The owners we spoke to said it happens all the time, they're super frustrated, don't know how to fight back.

Best as I can tell, Freedom Markets™ (caveat emptor) has become increasingly the norm. For everything. It's exhausting.


Thanks for the detail. For either of those incidents, did they seem to have a low number of reviews? I can't think of what else might telegraph that kind of problem, which surely is a hassle, especially if it's precious vacation time.

When I've traveled with my family, I'll sometimes call or email the hotel directly to confirm. As a group we are not as resilient as I am solo. We've not had a reservation go missing, but we have had rooms with no extra bed, which is almost as bad.

Where we have had those kinds of problems more often is using airline miles for rooms. The only solution there is to book a suite or something else special, then they are more likely to make sure it happens.


I use them almost exclusively as well, but with a caveat: before booking, I always check the hotel's site for better pricing or bonuses you get for booking directly.

Yes, some of the practices are a bit annoying - I get multiple emails a week with their "10% off codes" that aren't valid for the majority of hotels on the site. But since I'm not worried about staying with any specific hotel chain, their stay 10 nights get one free (really it's often more 'get a steep discount on a night') ends up being worth it for me.

And the one time I wanted to cancel a reservation - I was told by someone staying at the hotel at the last minute that it was a dump - Hotels.com got it canceled for me and got the cancellation fee waived, which I wasn't expecting, but definitely appreciated. Of course, then I went ahead and booked a different hotel through them, so they got my business regardless.


Last time I booked a room, I had leaking water everywhere in the room. Since I was alone and it was only for 1 night, I didn't bother to complain.

With that said, I will still book my rooms through Booking.com. But at least this article gave me some nice pointers to keep in mind in the future, like the "fine print".


Even worse. I went to a horrible, horrible hotel in Prague (which at the time was the #1 result, don't know if still is). My (obviously) bad review, while polite and with pictures attached, was ignored after 3 weeks in limbo. Not explicitly refused, no explanation. Just poof, never happened. And support is also ignoring my questions. All that being a "Genius" user. Unfortunately I don't have Twitter so no public-shaming-user-support.

Be careful with reviews. They might not be fake but certainly arbitrarily filtered.


I usually check reviews on Google maps and tripadvisor before making a decision on a multi-night stay, but for the 1 nights I can usually get by well enough with photos and the sites own reviews. Though for what it's worth, the hotels that offer the 10% discount for genius members on booking are usually real discounts, but it's about the only "real" thing I look at on booking.


Concur. I always cross-check on TripAdvisor. It sometimes feels obsessive, but on an expensive trip, a bad night can mess up several subsequent days. Hotels/Booking.com are selling, and many of the customers are not frequent travelers -- turkeys ripe for the plucking.


Put the same review on TripAdvisor. In my experience, they are not afraid to host bad reviews and I've always found the reviews there to be informative and indicative of quality.


Unfortunately for us (and fortunately for TicketMaster), there usually is no alternative to them. That doesn't hold true for Booking.com


Do you know any alternatives? Because last time I looked, every booking site I could find was also owned by the same company that owns Booking.com, other than Expedia, which is also a terrible site that uses dark patterns and other scamminess.


I use booking sites to find, look at and compare hotels. But I try to book by phone or E-mail. Often the hotel asks what rate are you seeing online and negotiations start from there. Except for the dark patterns I believe these companies are also known for channeling their profits to tax evasion paradises. Yeah, it might cost me a few minutes, but I don't book tens of hotels a year.


Lastminute.com and TripAdvisor.

I never make any hotel decision based on booking.com information, other than their price. To be fair, the clue is in the name, make your decision elsewhere and then come back and use them to make the actual booking (assuming it was cheapest). I appreciate this keeps them and their dodgey tactics going but I'll pay that price.


I've used Expedia a bunch of times, and I've never been burned.

Though I do only use it for flight tickets, not for hotels. And I always go there in an incognito tab, to make sure I avoid any cookies etc.


I think that it would only take a startup selling a few really big names before the monopoly breaks.

Sell Taylor Swift on a different booking system that isn't pathological to users. A few other top shelf performers. Venues will be switching like there's no tomorrow to keep the top performers.

The tricky part of this is getting an audience with people like Taylor Swift. On the other hand, with people like Trent Reznor working for Apple, if you had an alternative that worked well and didn't suck, you could probably get some attention pretty quickly.

It's almost as though there is a market that needs to be disrupted. And all the elements are there.


Ticket Master is part of Live Nation Entertainment and Live Nation is the Ticket Master of the promoter and venue side. They are the largest promoter in the US. If an artist tries to circumvent the TicketMaster/Live Nation monopoly they will find that they aren't able to book any of the venues in the market they need. This a near monopoly, they are the mob. No startup is going to "fix" this.

Live Nations was spun out of Clear Channel which controls the majority of the important radio stations in the US. Needless to say the relationship between Clear Channel and Live Nation is a very "special" one. See:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Live_Nation_(events_promoter)

and

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/25/business/25ticket.html?mcu...


I find the current "market equilibrium" for both hotel booking and event ticket sales quite weird. I mean, both of them charge ridiculously high fares for a service that costs a fraction of that to produce. I mean, take hotel booking. Hotels could (technically) easily set up a booking co-operative (or two to get some competition), and refuse to sell anywhere else online. The fees to be able to run the co-operative would be sub 1%. It needs no marketing budget because that is the only site that comes up when googling hotels (others are dead).

Or then I am missing something in the market dynamics of hotel booking.


For tickets, some of that booking fee is actually going to the venue.


My 30s search gave no answer. If my total cost of a ticket is 100, how much of that ends up typically to ticketmaster's pocket and how much to the venue?


Do people not Google for alternatives? I can think of at least 5 competitors to Ticket Master. There's even one that only charges 5% seller fee and no buyer fee.


For most events (at least in the US), you can only get tickets via TicketMaster. Venues sign an agreement with TM that forbids them selling tickets elsewhere. TM controls venue's entire ticket sale workflow, including inventory, printing and sending tickets, etc.

Going with another vendor is a gigantic undertaking, you would need to overhaul most of your processes. Most venues don't have the resources/bandwidth to pull that off.

And that's how TM stays a monopoly.

Source: used to work for a large venue.


Ticketmaster pay a substantial share of their "service fee" to venues and promoters. By signing an exclusivity deal with TM, venues can guarantee themselves a greater share of the effective ticket price. Artists are powerless to negotiate because of TM's dominant position in the ticketing market. It's a grubby little money-go-round scheme that exploits artists and fans alike.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/12/business/12tickets.html


Sure and it's the same on the artist side. If you want to tour you can not avoid Ticketmaster. Remember Perl Jam at the height of their popularity and powers tried to take them on and lost:

http://ultimateclassicrock.com/pearl-jam-sues-ticketmaster/


>"I can think of at least 5 competitors to Ticket Master"

Not in the US you can't. And certainly not for venues large than a club.


This is exact my situation. No more bookings on booking.com after a bad experience.


Where's elsewhere then? AirBnB doesn't count, just in case.


Kayak, Expedia, booking directly with a hotel...


TripAdvisor


Agoda.


Honestly, mostly have 4 choices:

1. Priceline (this includes Booking.com, Kayak, Agoda, and others).

2. Expedia (includes Hotels.com, trivago, and others).

3. Smaller aggregators (such as lastminute.com).

4. Booking directly.

The dark patterns described in the blog post are used by everyone, including many hotels themselves, so you're never going to avoid them.


agoda.com is very good IMO at least around southeast asia. haven't yet used it in the West.


from what i heard agoda is the same company as booking.com


Just because they have the same parent company doesn't make them the same company imho. Pretty much like how the Ritz Carlton is not the Four Points, although they are both Marriott companies.


I use booking for searching

Than check on goggle and call them directly

If they say we're full, I tell them there are still free rooms on booking, if they want I can book there or they can give me the room and avoid paying booking


They don't care, I bet like 90% of their traffic is from pop-unders from better travel sites.


One of the most useful business school classes I took was entitled "Consumer Behavior" which was a deep dive into behavioral psychology and all the techniques used by marketers / websites to grab our attention. Booking.com rather overtly hits on all the techniques we discussed in detail.

I used to think these techniques were "dirty." But humanity evolved to be responsive to this type of manipulation. It seems the web has accelerated this process with the ability to A/B test on a massive scale. All the big websites exploit cognitive biases to drive engagement - facebook, google, twitter, instagram, netflix, youtube.

This is one of the reasons I'm convinced knowledge of behavioral economics is one of the most critical pieces of knowledge to have in the early 21st century - not only can you use it to drive engagement on your own platforms, but you can learn what tell-tales you are biased to react to, and resist accordingly.


Not sure I understand your logic. Are you saying that these tactics aren't "dirty" because as human beings we are very susceptible to them? One would argue they are unethical precisely because of this. Or do you mean it's ok because everyone else does it?


As someone who stove to be "rational" in everything I did, and dismissed the power of emotions in human decision making, coming face to face with the effectiveness of persuasion made me realize that winning friends and influencing people was about speaking a language that resonated with actual humans. The way people behave and respond has been studied for generations - and the best salespeople in all realms either intuitively or deliberately have discovered what makes people lean one way or another. It's a huge mistake to dismiss the biases that define us, but rather we should embrace and understand their impact.


Well he’s calling for more education and awareness. It’s like Big Food. The entire CPG industry has been stuffing people with sugar, salt, and fat for decades, exploiting human nature. We are finally seeing society resist this as we have become educated about the dangers of sugar and salt consumption. Meantime, putting ethics aside, all the major food and beverage companies made hay for a long time until recently. What is ethical and what is money-making can be at odds for a long time before they converge (if ever).


Can you suggest any good books on this? (or perhaps just the textbook your class used?)


For sure! Our "textbook" was "Influence" by Robert Cialdini. Here's a number of others:

-"Thinking Fast and Slow" by Daniel Khaneman -"The Undoing Project" by Michael Lewis -"Fooled by Randomness" and "The Black Swan" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb -"Pre-suasion" by Cialdini -"The Moral Animal" by Robert Wright -"The Most Important Thing" by Howard Marks -"Everybody Lies" by Seth Stevens-Davidowitz -"How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big" by Scott Adams -The "Freakonomics" Trilogy


I tried scraping booking.com once, it quickly became obvious that they use many 'dark patterns' in tricking visitors into booking quickly. Not using cookies was the most efficient method in discovering the 'real' price of an accomodation.

But is not just booking.com, 99% of airline ticket sites use the same techniques.

Basically what they do is raising the price on each subsequent visit, sometimes also lowering the amount of 'available' tickets. This creates a sense of urgency.

My advise is always: shop for the hotel/ticket/whatever you like, then open that URL in a new private/incognito tab, so you get a lower price.


Nah, hotels are now manipulating prices like airlines, with computers responding in near real-time to perceived demand. As demand increases, so does price. Multiple searches show a rise in demand, so the price goes up, even if there really was just one person searching.


I noticed Udemy also manipulates users by saying that x course is 80-90% off but only for one more day!!!!... until you realize it's been that exact same price for weeks/months.

I understand it's not new to have the retail price be higher than the 'sale' price (for example, clothes and furniture), but even at clearance outlets, the price difference while large is rarely as dramatic nor as prolonged.


Udemy is also huge for having a "One time $10/$15 coupon!" that "expires in 3 days" and will immediately be replaced by another one. All you really have to do is google "Udemy coupon" to get any class on the site for $10 or $15 depending on what the current coupon is.

This also works for the craft store chain Michael's but to a lesser extent. They almost ALWAYS have a 40-50% off coupon in their weekly ad. So if you find something that you want but it's expensive, you can usually get it for half off. It's pretty awesome!


Hi/Lo pricing is great that way. Harbor Freight always sends 20% off coupons. It's a wonderful technique for running price discrimination.

The frequency of running offers, and which offers to run, are just business details that can be tested and optimized. Some firms are a lot better at it than others. But at its core it's not fundamentally different than coupon mailers or rebate offers.

If you ever buy furniture for sticker price you're doing something wrong...


Not saying this is a nice thing to do, but they do it because it works, no? Didn't someone (JC Penny?) try getting rid of this constant "on sale/coupon" crap but that had a negative effect on their business?

If something is constantly "70% off" (especially non digital goods and services), shouldn't consumers stop for a second and think how this makes sense?


JCPenny tried to pivot, which included:

- Selling to a different demographic (young adults - like 20-25 y/o) <-- This was probably a huge reason for the failure

- Making their stores "trendy" (for example, removing POS, instead employees walk around with iPads that have scanners attached)

- Removing constant "70% off" sales

Removing the sales probably was a part of the failure. But it was not as huge of a deal as people make it out to be.


Am I remembering it wrong or was Udemy cancer? https://hn.algolia.com/?query=udemy&sort=byPopularity&prefix...


They've actually improved, too! It used to be $499 courses regularly marked down to $15 and similar ridiculous discounts. It wasn't just limited to people using coupon sites either... Udemy was mailing the crazy discounts to people all the time back in 2014-2015.


Airbnb does this too. No matter where or when you search for, you'll see a notification saying something like:

"Only 13% of listings are left for these dates. We recommend booking a place soon."

As a random example, apparently Kamloops, BC is filling up fast for Dec 3-6 (midweek in the middle of winter). And so is Flint, MI on Feb 19th, a Tuesday.


My biggest problem with Airbnb is opaque pricing at the search page. They will claim a room is say $250/night, but after fees, taxes and cleaning charges, it might be $400/night. Cleaning charges in particular can vary widely. Even though Airbnb knows the exact travel dates and hence the exact amount, they still choose to show the lower daily price rather than the actual. I consider this a dark pattern too.


Yeah. Just like in the US they don't show taxes (which vary!) on products in retail shops. It's obnoxious, and I don't understand how this is legal, even in the US.


The difference here is that you can easily calculate taxes based on the price you can see since taxes don't vary in the same state/province (because this also applies to Canada...).

On Airbnb, it's up to the property owner to decide cleaning fees and such, and there isn't any rule about what that includes (that I know of).


Strangely, Airbnb has another problem that is the exact opposite. My wife started to book a unit, got to a point where it said she had 9 hours left to complete the booking, and then someone else booked it first. She was so angry because it seemed to clearly indicate that she had X time left to complete the booking. She messaged the host again to find out what happened; apparently this can only occur when instant booking is available (and the host cannot deny another potential guest in order to keep days open for a pending guest).

Having seen dark patterns described/decried on HN, I thought it was funny that Airbnb apparently has accidentally-light patterns.


I just block a lot of this booking.com noise with uBlock. These are my filters so far:

  www.booking.com##.sr_rooms_left_wrap.only_x_left
  www.booking.com##.sr-booked-x-times.clearfix.lbsr
  www.booking.com##.soldout_property


Here's a little bit more:

  www.booking.com##.soldout_property
  www.booking.com##.sr_rooms_left_wrap.only_x_left
  www.booking.com##.lastbooking
  www.booking.com##.sr--x-times-booked
  www.booking.com##.in-high-demand-not-scarce
  www.booking.com##.top_scarcity
  www.booking.com##.hp-rt-just-booked
  www.booking.com##.cheapest_banner_content > *
  www.booking.com##.hp-social_proof
  www.booking.com##.fe_banner__red.fe_banner__w-icon.fe_banner__scale_small.fe_banner
  www.booking.com##.urgency_message_x_people.urgency_message_red
  www.booking.com##.rackrate
  www.booking.com##.urgency_message_red.altHotels_most_recent_booking
  www.booking.com##.fe_banner__w-icon-large.fe_banner__w-icon.fe_banner
  www.booking.com##.smaller-low-av-msg_wrapper
  www.booking.com##.small_warning.wxp-sr-banner.js-wxp-sr-banner


Wow - the New Union. I live in Manchester and the place is literally right at the top end of one of Manchester's main clubbing districts (the gay village). "Lively and central" is an understatement. It has a ropey reputation locally as a pub, but you couldn't pay me to stay there. I can see why he's pissed.

I will caveat that I've had some excellent experiences with Booking, but always with very careful cross-referencing with other sites.


Oh it's not only booking.com

The newest scam is: flight comparison websites show you a low price, but only if you pay with a VISA. Switch to MasterCard and it's an additional 20-30€. But then you invested in the whole booking process already.

Amazon Prime: Try to cancel it. They make it sound as if you lose Prime right away. There's an option "remind me 3 days before next payment" that suggests you should think more about your decision. Only after you cancelled, they tell you that you lose your benefits only after your Prime subscription expires.


I booked with AMOMA (another hotel site) and now they email me a "10% off" voucher every week. The only thing is that to claim it I need to follow a link in the email. When I follow the link, the prices of all the rooms increase, and the room price I already had open in another tab suddenly becomes "unavailable". I've also clicked the link to remove me from their mailing list half a dozen times, but they never remove me.


> They make it sound as if you lose Prime right away.

That might be the victim of taking phrasing from different markets. In the US and UK, when I've cancelled Prime, I immediately lose the benefits + get a pro-rata refund for the remainder of my subscription.


I was a vast user of Booking.com (as I travel a lot).

My advice: go to booking.com, find the hotel you want to stay at. Search their phone number or email, contact the hotel directly and you'll get a much better price (15% is booking.com fee).

Downside to this is if you are not booking standard 5 star hotels etc that are meant to have some level of professionalism etc, you might end up getting treated worse just because smaller hotels etc do care a lot about their booking.com rating so they tend to treat booking.com customers better than others (my wife owns 3 hotels, 2 of them happen to be of a smaller size and in reality when they have a booking from booking.com they tend to do anything to please them as opposed to bookings directly from their website).


Some airline ticket booking sites still track you and increase the ticket price on return visits, optimised to certain intervals. Many in the industry call it "dynamic pricing."

It made the news a few years back[1] but you can still see it sometimes in a few different industries. You can get into arguments with people about whether marketing as a whole is an enterprise built on manipulation, but this is quite clearly manipulative.

[1]: https://www.theguardian.com/money/blog/2010/aug/07/computer-...


It's interesting that Amazon tried this in its very first years, but had to give up due to customer backlash. I wonder why the practice survives in travel services.


Well, I am joining Booking.com as frontend engineer this November and this makes me a bit worried. The only reason I chose to join Booking was Amsterdam (I wanted to live/work outside India for a couple of years).

I have also heard the tech stack is kind of old and so learning-wise it might be an issue. Any tips on surviving and keeping the learning curve straight from a current/former employee?


Congrats first of all. However did you tell Booking about your motivation to join them - "The only reason I chose to join Booking was Amsterdam (I wanted to live/work outside India for a couple of years)". Its pretty standard for companies to ask that question.


Nah. That's one of the major reasons. Others being - working with a diverse culture, working on a big scale such as theirs, and building things based on data rather than opinions.


Hey! Congrats! I'm just curious about interview process in Booking.com. Are they same as typical data structures and algorithms oriented interviews? Did they let you know about their tech stack?


Yeah, questions were pretty much same you found on the internet. About the tech stack, they do let us know a little but mostly it depends on the team you land on.


The tech stack is Perl+MySQL. Ancillary tech is Go, Rust, Java, C. Lots of Javascript.

Very high delivery velocity (You will be expected to roll out code in your first week).


Thanks for the tip! Are you in Amsterdam? Would love to catch up in the first week, if you are around.


Booking.com 's website is awful. They are still stick in 1995. They do product development solely based on A/B tests. That's how the product is so crap.

But they have a Monopoly (almost). So that's why people keep using them.


IOW - how more or less every e-commerce (especially aggregation services) site tries to get you to spend your money there


Booking.com is, though, more aggressive than their peers. More in the same category as event ticket sellers.

Lots of "not quite lies" in the interface to generate false urgency where none actually exists. Like showing you how many other people "looked at this property", but not saying the timeframe...in the last hour? Day? Week? The idea is to close the deal because you think someone else will snap it up.

They are also crazy arrogant and condescending if you ever have to deal with them as a partner.


Using Amazon as an example of an e-commerce company - when buying an item on Amazon neither the gaming of ratings and reviews or the annoying and manufactured "sense of urgency" as stated in the post, seem to be part of the experience.

The booking.com experience feels like doing business with a sleazy used car salesman.


Yes, Amazon may get flak for other reasons but I have found the experience of shopping on them to be very clean and pleasant. To be clear, I am talking about the experience of finding a product and proceeding to checkout and payment, not about any potential issues about fake products and such.


Agreed, that's pretty much what I meant.

Although even the few times when I received questionable products the issue was resolved pretty quickly and painlessly with either the merchant or Amazon.com

Contrast that with booking.com where all communications between you and the merchant(hotel) have to filter through booking.com and take 24 hours at a minimum to get a response.


They similarly totally lie about matching the lowest price. Had the misfortune of booking through them once, then I found the same hotel for a much lower price on another site (makemytrip) so I sent a screenshot to the support.

After a day they outright DENIED to honor this "Lowest Price Guarantee" with some lame excuse. When I told them that I'll go to the small claims court I never heard back from them. Don't believe a word on this site.


Did you pay for the room with a credit card charge to Booking.com? If so it would be easier to dispute part of the charge with your card issuer instead of going to small claims court.


Yes i did pay with a credit card. Unfortunately unlike US, disputing a cc charge here isn't that easy either. At that time the policy was to take a printout and then go to the bank and submit it there in person (same reason i never went to small claims court too). Seemed like too much hassle.

I instead wowed to never book another hotel on their site (using agoda ever since) and telling friends and posting on forums (it was on the frontpage on reddit india for 1 day) about how they cheated me. I think that must have costed them more money than they cheated me out by not honoring their guarantee.


Being a little disillusioned about the world these days I would assume this has a purpose.

My guess is this: Booking.com already knows that they are fighting a losing battle against AirBnB. So instead of trying to win it seriously, they go to make the biggest profit they can out of their situation by strongly focussing on the idiots. With idiots you have two advantages:

(a) they stay anyways no matter how shitty you treat them. They have different reasons but one of them is that they are simply used to your service and don't want to learn a new one.

(b) they believe at least some of the stuff you put on these websites.

(c) in exchange for not feeling like a total loser for a moment they are willing to pay more.

For an observant booker this website is really less and less useful. For once you can try the alternative and get a much better experience, and on the other you can often just book a room on-site after you arrive. When Booking.com just hands out a reserveration without prepayment don't think the hotel wouldn't give your room to someone else if enough customers arrive at their desk first. Money now is better than (maybe) money later. The only exception may be when you go to the big fair of your industry and the whole town is booked out.


In Europe, I would say the opposite is happening. AirBnB is being pushed out of or held down in many cities by local authorities. In the last two years I have stayed 50 nights or so in rooms booked through Bookings.com or Hotels.com and only 2 nights in rooms booked through AirBnB, and it's now almost two years ago. I had a good stay in the ArBnB booked apartment but the only reason I used AirBnB in the first place was that I couldn't find a hotel in the city since all hotels were booked. Most people I know have never or only once used AirBnB.

AirBnB is fun to try but I wouldn't rely on someones apartment for my vacation.


This has not been my experience living in Amsterdam. Airbnb seems to be growing despite all the regulations that the municipality is trying to put in place [0]. And at least in my social group, Airbnb is vastly preferred to hotels, because of the more personal experience and getting to live in a real neighborhood.

[0] http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2017/08/amsterdam-airb...


> AirBnB is fun to try but I wouldn't rely on someones apartment for my vacation.

Especially when the host might just cancel at the last minute. In that case, all the customer gets is a refund on the accommodation, but not on the full trip which might be ruined.


US, China, Germany here. I only stay in AirBnB or the Chinese competitor, after the last 3 attempts with Booking.com were too bad.


> "My guess is this: Booking.com already knows that they are fighting a losing battle against AirBnB."

For a two or three day trip AirBnB isn't practical, and it's not as if AirBnB is perfect either. At least with a hotel I know there is a basic minimum standard and I have some level of consumer protection.

I go direct to the Hotel's own site wherever possible but often they don't have a facility to book online easily and, where they do, the price is often the same anyway.

Chain hotels are the exception but you often need to book and pay well in advance to get any real saving.


> Booking.com already knows that they are fighting a losing battle against AirBnB.

lol

Booking.com and AirBnB have different markets: fixed-overhead operations competing on a commodity, and owners selling a unique-experience short-term let. There's some overlap (owner-operated B&Bs), but they're insignificant.

AirBnB's real value is that they created a market, not that they're going to eat hotels. Booking.com will be fine as long as 2+ giant hotel chains exists.


> Booking.com already knows that they are fighting a losing battle against AirBnB

Maybe I am wrong, but I though Booking also lists apartments for rent? At least in Romania, I know people that rent to tourists usually publish their offers on both websites.


I work in the travel industry as a developer and my current task is to make our booking engine more "bookingcom-like" (yes, this is exactly how the requirements were formulated by product management).

To achieve this task I did a small research of other travel web sites and I realised that most of them added such psychological elements lately.

Today I found this gold article and forwarded it to the product managers, hehe :)


I've always wondered if some of these tactics are kosher and legal. Especially the ones that say 'someone just booked this' or the notifications on ecommerce sites that say 'X bought this in the last hour'. Most of the ecommerce ones are just fake data meant to entice the shopper into buying into urgency.


Here's the FTC's "truth in advertising" guide, which has links to the primary-source documents: https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/adv...

The most questionable mainstream ad I've seen recently is by Amazon.com, which somehow manages to convince employees that it's "Earth's most customer-centric company" while concurrently using some of the sleaziest dark patterns of any merchant, small or large. Spot the $99/year recurring fee on this page: https://twitter.com/troyd/status/902673505157648384


Thanks, didn't know there was a TIA guide. Would one consider 'X people bought this recently', or 'X people are looking at this now' to be an advertisement for the product, or just a statement unrelated to the actual product (what it is and/pr does, price)


If that legitimately violates the FTC's rules then I've seen a lot of sites in worse violation. Because honestly that $99/yr is pretty obvious in that screenshot. It definitely doesn't make it obvious but it is in plain text on that site.


Quoting from the FTC page that I linked to:

> Nor can advertisers use fine print to contradict other statements in an ad or to clear up misimpressions that the ad would leave otherwise. For example, if an ad for a diet product claims "Lose 10 pounds in one week without dieting," the fine-print statement "Diet and exercise required" is insufficient to remedy the deceptive claim in the ad.

> …

> Most importantly, if you are concerned that a disclaimer or disclosure may be necessary to clarify a claim, evaluate your ad copy and substantiation carefully to ensure that you are not misleading consumers.

Obviously it's subjective whether this ad violates any FTC laws (and presumably, Amazon's legal counsel reviewed it and deemed it worth the risk), but presence of a statement in fine print (or as you stated, that "it is in plain text") isn't the deciding factor.


There's probably a case for it being illegal, but the US laws are fairly high level and vague.

So, you have to catch someone's attention to get the FTC after you. They tend to go on industry specific hunts once public opinion goes a certain direction. Happened with diet pills, cryptocoin hardware, airlines not showing all in costs, etc.

Booking.com will probably eventually get their turn in the barrel. Could be a while though.


Some television commercials even have a pre-recorded countdown to create urgency.


I think they get away with it by saying, "order in the next 15 minutes and you'll get this", but the truth is if you order after the next 15 minutes you also get it.

They're not explicitly saying you won't get it if you don't order in the next 15 minutes, but they're implying it. Telebrands is the company that's been running that game for like forever. Pretty shady!


That's a tactic used across many industries. There is a Dutch insurance company (Promovendum) that actively advertises as 'the insurance company for the higher educated' (in NL this means college or university). It is illegal to discriminate on this, so they do in fact accept anyone, they just don't say so.


Probably super illegal when they are selling to EU citizens


I've just been booking directly from hotels I trust because of this. Used to use hotels.com but they've gotten really bad recently. Can costs a bit more from the hotel but most of the time price is on par. End up getting more room upgrades when booking directly anyways - at least with hilton.


Me too -- this is a very important point. Often the hotel's direct rate will be the same as advertised on hotels.com. Of course you lose the ~10% rebate by not getting rewards points, but since the hotel is effectively earning 30% more from you, they're much more likely to give you a complimentary or discounted upgrade.

So if that sort of thing matters to you, I can also strongly suggest booking direct.

(Note: You do generally have to ask, but I've had good experiences. Do it on-site @ checkin, and I basically say the above -- "Hey I booked direct so you earned 30% more from me. Can you offer me an upgrade to an un-used room since I'm here now?")


Agreed. A couple of months ago as an experiment, when I was quoted 100 Euros a night from booking.com for a modest hotel in a small town in Austria that I had stayed at previously for much less. I didn't make the booking through booking.com but walked over to the hotel when I get to town for an the spot booking and got the same room with breakfast included or 75 Euros a night.


My experience directly booking from hotel websites has been really bad. I usually end up using a service like Booking/Priceline/Kayak/Google, just because the UI is nicer than booking directly from hotels, even if it means having to deal with stuff like this.


I absolutely loath Booking.com's UX.

Whenever it's possible, I use something else, like HostelWorld. Their interface is clean, to the point, and the reviews and ratings can actually be trusted.

I'm happy someone did this website. I just came back from a long trip and every time somebody asked me why I hate Booking.com, I pointed exactly to some of the points that were made there. The fake sense of urgency, the cluttered UI. And the cherry on top: The fact they display the "total cost of all nights" in the results, instead of the per-night cost. That's not a misleading UX, it's just a bad UX decision.

But because of it's popularity amongst accommodation owners and travelers, its fall is unlikely.


> The fact they display the "total cost of all nights" in the results, instead of the per-night cost. That's not a misleading UX, it's just a bad UX decision.

I prefer the total cost in the results, since that's what I'll ultimately pay. Why do you prefer per night? Doesn't that make you do the multiplication in your head?


I agree it’s better to display the “total cost of stay” in the search results, however that isn’t what Booking.com displays. As OP said they display the “total cost of all nights” which excludes taxes and cleaning/service fees.

A few weeks ago I stayed in an apartment in Austria which was €49 for one night, with a €45 cleaning fee... I thought that seemed a bit crazy (ok there were 7 of us, so still pretty good), but clicking through other results I saw all the properties in this area had similar fees. One had the same price per night and a €70 cleaning fee! I guess it’s a way to avoid taxes or such.


45€ doesn't sound like much. For a complete apartment cleanup, including bed linen and etc, you need at least three or four hours, so that's around 11-15€/hour. Seems quite reasonable for Austria.


Yeah for Austria it doesn't seem like a bad price, it's just weird that the price is nearly the same as the accomodation fee. And as a Brit the idea of any kind of service fee is pretty foreign in the first place (why not just include it in the advertised price?).


It's a fixed cost, so they use a fixed fee. If they just added a percentage to the price per night, people who stayed more days would be paying more despite not requiring more cleaning.


I don't get it why people complain all the time and still use it? Even their parent company Priceline UX is much better, then there's Expedia and other sites. I would never book anything on Booking because it's plain ugly and keeps design from 1998, even Craigslist looks modern in comparison.

Their hiring and interview process, at least in product management - it looked like they are fishing for fresh ideas on what to A/B test on their website. All the talk was focused around it. Answering the questions they didn't give a single direct answer only extremely vague ones. Red flags all around.


Briscoes (a homeware shop in New Zealand http://www.briscoes.co.nz/), does this. Just looking at their website today, everything in store is 30-60% off sticker price.

Seems great, until you realise that literally almost every day, they have a similar sale. There's always massive discounts for something in store. I have literally never paid full price, or anything close to it.


I look at a number of sites when researching hotels, but the final straw for me was when the prices on Booking.com's page were actually higher than the prices offered by the hotels directly.

I repeatedly verified this on numerous dates, with numerous hotels -- Booking.com's super-exceptional "deals" were occasionally up to 20% more expensive than a direct booking with the hotel, for the exact same room type.

Has anybody else seen this?


This and the recent Ticketmaster expose make me wonder: is it possible to objectively identify dark UI patterns like this via a browser extension? Usually I can try to see through them, but something that flags stuff like this with a non-obtrusive warning would be nice to add to the list of extensions I automatically throw on new installs for family members (that list currently includes PrivacyBadger and uBlock Origin)


There are a couple of safety and privacy browser plugins, e.g. WOT, that could crowd source this data gathering from their users who already help id scummy sites.


What was the Ticketmaster expose?

Not that I would be the least surprised by any kind of scandal from those thugs but I haven't heard anything recently.


There was a HN thread that was linked to an article about it a month or so ago, but I can't find it now. You can also check out the top comments on this thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13312629

The time ticker "feature" is what was referenced in the other HN article from a month ago.


Also a couple of years ago we discovered that Booking shows different prices from different locations and different devices. Prices are higher at some hotels for Mac/iPhone users and Western Europe/US customers. Not sure if they're still doing it, but it's easily testable if someone wants to investigate.


Showed me the same results (price wise, order was different) in Chrome Incognito on Win 10 desktop and Android.


They're still doing it.

Screenshots taken literally seconds apart refreshed multiple times to make sure it's still the same:

http://eugene.lt/booking/1.png macOS on a MacBook Pro from New York, NY (via a DigitalOcean droplet VPN)

http://eugene.lt/booking/2.png Fresh Windows 10 VM from Vilnius, Lithuania


I think you've got the links the wrong way around.

But this is basic market segmentation, just based on the person buying and not on the product being sold. Hence why it seems more scummy.


Thanks, fixed it.


I'm not surprised that they use all manner of "hey! buy this now!" tactics, like many other travel and shopping sites.

I am surprised that people use a single website to choose where they're going to stay. I never book an unknown hotel without checking reviews on a few different sites (usually TripAdvisor, yay pics, and if in the US then Yelp, yay complainers). And I always check prices at least on the hotel's own site so I know what a discount is and what's not.

For me the likes of Booking, Hotels, and Kayak are for map-search and the actual purchase experience. And for the latter I'm pretty happy with Booking, I use them often.

If the message here is that the travel business gets sleazier the higher you climb up the aggregation pyramid, then yes, true, and I can't remember it ever not being thus.


Lots of complains, but people underestimate how much money, time and effort the company spends on a customer service. It's a war out there, traveloka raising half a billion dollars, "old" companies must fight back.

Not only their prices are usually the lowest, but they also offer matching prices.

The room was not as advertised? Booking would at least offer a coupon for next booking.

Hotel was overbooked? They would find you a room of no lower standard, in similar location, and they cover the difference. It happens that if there's a big event in the city, they might cover your 5* hotel if you booked a shitty 2* room.

Many small properties have shady businesses, booking.com protects you from this.

They might not use the shiniest tech, but their customer service (which is biggest portion of the work force) is top notch.

Source: shared bed with one of the cs agents



I thought the service was great at first - no hassle reservations with easy cancellation. That is until they billed for me a hotel I never stayed at. Ended up having to go through Amex and chargeback the charge since I had clearly cancelled it months before. It's a shame.


I travel regularly and Booking.com is my place to go for hotel reservations. It had to "learn" how to use Booking.com in a comfortable way.

For example, I learned to ignore the continuous push for urgency, I sort hotels based on user rating instead of Bookings choice, and I check TripAdvisor for reviews instead of Booking.com itself.

So why would I even use Booking.com? Apart from it having one of the largest offerings, it just love that the whole process of booking, paying, and checking in is so simple and consistent, no matter where in the world I book a hotel or for what purpose (business or leisure). That is what makes me come back to Booking.com, and that's what I wish Booking.com would spend most of their time on.


On the subject of fake reviews, I've recently started using Fakespot [0] with Amazon and Yelp. Sometimes making a decision for which goods to buy can be tricky, so it's really helpful to filter out a few shady options. Although, honestly, I don't think it makes much difference in most cases.

Are there any trusted review services for travel locations? Something like Consumer Report, but for travel. Although I don't know where their quality levels stand nowadays, I know my parents used to swear by em 10 to 20 years ago.

[0] https://www.fakespot.com


On Amazon I usually just make sure they are a verified purchaser of the product before considering a review. Does Fakepost offer something beyond that for Amazon?

Yelp I understand though as I don't think there is anything like a "verified diner."


It helps filter down the initial list of items you evaluate. For example, you might see two items with 1000 reviews and similar scores, but one of the items might have an inflated score due to review farming.


I use TripAdvisor and Google Maps. I don't know how people feel about their reputations, and I worry about TripAdvisor because they are pivoting more towards being like Booking.com.

But when I was in Havana, we wandered in to a string of terrible bars, cafes and restaurants over the first couple days. So we went to a hotspot and downloaded the offline TripAdvisor. We wouldn't go to a place unless TripAdvisor gave it a decent rating. After that, we had nothing but great experiences.


I completely agree. I plan my full trip with TripAdvisor. I only had minor problems. Also, those restaurants and hotels do care about their reputation so you get a better service


The downsides of A/B testing. Unless of course you have confidence in your brand and decision making to not always trust users and the short term bottom line.


viagogo.com is a great example of user manipulation. They take what booking.com has done and 10x it. I've bought tickets on there (and got ripped off because they told me the wrong pickup location), and its a total shit show. They make it seem like there are all these real time updates going on, and really pushing you to BUY NOW, but I'm pretty sure its all a scam to urge you to buy as quickly as possible.


Seems more of a rant on marketing and dark patterns, but somehow blames Booking.com for things that happens everywhere in the industry.


There is a counter-movement emerging. During the techfestival in Copenhagen 150 people (Charles Adler, Peter Sunde, Jerry Michalsky to name a few) got together to formulate the Copenhagen Letter on Tech - read it here: https://copenhagenletter.org/


That's why you gotta use Expedia or Google


Expedia does "n people booked this location" and "price of this flight expected to rise by x%" ALL the time.


neither one of those is misleading or harmful if true.


Pretty much all of Expedia owned sites do this too. Hard to avoid when Expedia/Priceline own most of them.


I had a dev friend take a job at booking.com he hates it. I suppose the company is shitty at all levels.


I recently discovered (literally) an apart hotel that had bed linen excluded and could be added for 10 euro per bed. This was a first time on Booking with this trick (common on Airbnb) and they did notify me about it in they dark depths of popups and expand to see more.


That what I hate most about Booking : you expect an hotel room with private bathroom and they propose a rental flat or a bed in a dormitory.

I often visit the tourist-office website to find an hotel.


I regularly use booking.com and I think what they're doing is rational,not manipulation.


I just spent 3 weeks travelling the USA and we used Booking.com to see what was around. But then we went directly to the hotel's site to make the booking and you know what? Same price, if not slightly cheaper in some (not all) instances.


The hotel's site may well be a facade and you're still buying through booking.com


Reference?


these rules apply to all PriceLine sites, its not just booking, but because booking either applied them first (and booking is one of the most profitable priceline companies) or they made the most money off them, all the others follow suit and add them to theirs

I used to work for RentalCars and as soon as booking put the "someone just booked" on the site, RentalCars had to follow suit even if the last car booked was 3 days ago


I knew it, thanks for confirming. I use RentalCars a lot and I'm happy with the service, but the "someone just booked" just felt fake. The weird part is that, even though I was convinced it was fake, it still had an impact on me.


TripAdvisor supports booking on hotels and they show all of the comments. Plus, there are much more ratings and comments than anywhere else.


TripAdvisor also supports fake and unverified reviews:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/avaseave/2014/01/27/when-online...


There are merits to both systems (reviews from anyone vs you have to have booked through booking.com), the biggest one is that if you visited somewhere but booked directly, or through another OTA, you can still leave your opinion.

More here: https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/vpages/review_mod_fraud_detect...


Wonder if there is a potential block-chain based business opportunity for reviewing stuff, where all information would be transparent.


Would anyone pay a monthly fee for some dev to maintain some chrome/ff/safari ext that simply cleans up booking.com?


I am actually thinking of having an online directory of specific website cleanup extensions which power users of said websites should be more than happy to pay for :)


I can't imagine recognizing all that shit and then concluding with an expectation to keep using a service like that. Wow


This post has some decent points about reviews and the fine print, but the rest comes off as a bit precious.

I travel a lot and have used Booking.com to save myself quite a bit of money over the years. I still regularly compare their prices with other sites and they are pretty consistently cheaper than competing sites.

The "hurry" parts of their site do induce a little anxiety but I tend to also appreciate the real time information so I know I get the room I want.


The real time information includes bookings made months away from your desired dates.


There should be some browser extension or set of filters for uBlock to hide these shady parts of Booking.


Using this information you could probably make a browser extension to make the website more honest.


"I am not aware of any other service with a comparable number of properties and reviews."

Trivago?


Guy books the cheapest hotel he can find, smack in the middle of the "vibrant gay village". Unsuprisingly, it's noisy and he doesn't get any sleep. Blames the UX of the booking website, because somehow the website forced him into trying to sleep in the middle of a permanent Mardi Gras. Suck it up, snowflake.


Does the author's motivation have any bearing on the facts of Booking.com's website behaviour?


>YouTube autoplays more videos to keep us from leaving.

The sole purpose of doing so is to get more ad shows. See, a person leaves his computer with YT running or mutes it in the background, and returns half an hour later while google already sold 10 or so ad shows. When autoplay is on, yt tend to put shorter videos into your view que


Wow, things got shady at booking.com since I last visited the site last year.


Anyone have stats on their user-base/ geographic breakdown? Thanks.


What good alternatives with prices as low?


Greasemonkey This.

var count_removed = 0; var active = true;

var elements_that_suck = [ "sr--x-times-booked", "raf-promo-block", "msg_low_avail_block", "sr_no_desc_users", "free-cancel-persuasion", "sr-badges__row", "fe_banner__sr_soldout_property", "only_x_left", "in-high-demand-not-scarce", "soldout_property", "sr_room_reinforcement", "sr-booked-x-times",

  "b-form__booker-type",
  "mltt mlttd",
  "vpm_3rfte-container",
  "fe_banner",
  "ribbon",
  "save-percentage-wrapper",

  "urgency_message_red",
  "cheapest_banner_content",
  "sr_no_desc_users",
  "sr_compset",
  "payment-method-filter-banner",
  "b_tt_holder_4",
  "lbsr",
  "only_x_left",
	
  "-scarcity_indicator-pss_scarcity_1_left",
  "hp-description--property-name-top-ranked",
  "thisRoomAvailabilityNew",
  "green_condition",
  "hp-rt-just-booked",
  "urgency_message_red",
	"usp-hotelpage--chains",
	"hp-blue-sans-rack-rate",
	"crossedout-price-icon",
	"-genius-full-logo",
	"hp-description-sub-header",
	"hp-availability-block-usp",
	"hp_sidebar_usp_box",
	"public_transport",
	"non_refundable_nr_blue",
	"genius_block_brand",
	"hp-lists-reserve",
	"js-hp-wl-sidebar",
	"listticker",
	"hp-social_proof-quote_author"
];

var index_page_elements = [ "specialsblock", "latest-reviews-stream", "sb-searchbox__subtitle-text", "sh-postcard-content-title", "index-nav_container" ];

var genius_elements = [ "ge-search-first ge-search-first-www", "genius-sort-icon", "ge-iconfont-extended", "genius_member_text" ];

var businessbookers_elements = [ "bbtool-index-teaser-banner" ];

var raf_elements = [ "raf-promo-banner", "js-raf-center-bar-link", "sidebar-raf-widget__container" ];

var search_page_elements = [ "all-inclusive-ribbon", "preferred-program-icon", "mouse_hover_general_rackrate", "-scarcity_indicator-pss_scarcity_1_left", "-scarcity_indicator-pss_scarcity_2_left", "-scarcity_indicator-pss_scarcity_3_left", "-scarcity_indicator-pss_scarcity_4_left", "-scarcity_indicator-pss_scarcity_5_left", "-scarcity_indicator-pss_scarcity_6_left", "-scarcity_indicator-pss_scarcity_7_left", "vpm_nd_links", "similar_destination", "footerconstraint-inner", "try_another_search_3", "cheaper-than-average", "district_link visited_link", "pub_trans" ];

var hotel_page_elements = [ "d-deal__dod-countdown", "d-deal", "d-deal-b", "hp-low_sidebar_to_content", "hp_cs_back_to_search", "althotels_fullwidth", "recent_property_reviews_block", "hp_useful_links_header", "hp-description--property-expectation", "hp-good-segment-facility-score", "hp_facilities_score_hl", "bpg_logo", "pp_bpg_tooltip_holder", "wrap-hotelpage-top__book top-book-form", "best-review-score" ];

var elements_to_remove = []; elements_to_remove.push( genius_elements ); elements_to_remove.push( raf_elements ); elements_to_remove.push( elements_that_suck ); elements_to_remove.push( index_page_elements ); elements_to_remove.push( businessbookers_elements ); elements_to_remove.push( search_page_elements ); elements_to_remove.push( hotel_page_elements );

setInterval( function() {

  if( active) {
	  elements_to_remove.forEach( function( element_group, idx, arr) {
	  	
	  element_group.forEach( 
  			function (el, idx, arr) {
    		  	remove_elements_by_classname( el );
  		 	});

 	  });

  	}

  	console.log("Removed " + count_removed);
	
}, 1000);

function remove_elements_by_classname( name ) {

  var elements_with_class = document.getElementsByClassName( name );
  count_removed += elements_with_class.length;
  
  for( var i=0; i<elements_with_class.length; i++ ) {
	  elements_with_class[i].style.display = "none";
  }
  
}

var prices = document.getElementsByClassName("rooms-table-room-price"); for(var i=0; i<prices.length; i++){ prices[i].style.color = "deepskyblue"; } prices = document.getElementsByClassName("red-actual-rack-rate"); for(var i=0; i<prices.length; i++){ prices[i].style.color = "skyblue"; }


I thought about interviewing for them in Amsterdam. The recruiter put me in touch with one of their people and she explained to me everything was in Perl, there were little to no automated tests and developers often pushed straight to production. I said I had only worked in perl shops that were migrating from it to Scala or Python. She said, "Well we have no intention of moving."

Like I say with all recruiters, I said I was interested. I thought about it and everything was a red flag. Sure I'd get to live in Amsterdam and stay in Europe with my girlfriend, but ... that sounds like the ultimate shit job. I'd have to endure that until I worked out whatever visa contract they'd have or find someone else to sponsor me with a non-shit job.

So I just ignore the recruiter when he calls .. and ignore him .. and ignore him. Dude calls every fucking day for like four weeks straight; after I had already moved back to America. Most recruiters would take the hint after three failed calls. I can't imagine how desperate they must be. Then I heard from a former co-worker one of our other buddies, a Kiwi, had taken a job with them .. leaving NZ to go work there. He's still there ... hope it's not shit.


How about being a grownup and actually take the damn call? Could you not just tell him you weren’t interested rather than being so ignorant? For a whole month I mean, really?


Meanwhile in another timeline

"All I did was miss three calls because I left my phone at my friend's and when I called they'd given the job to someone else, how unprofessional"


> All I did was miss three calls because I left my phone at my friend's and when I called they'd given the job to someone else, how unprofessional"

What you have described is very different from:

"Dude calls every fucking day for like four weeks straight;"

I doubt you'd leave your phone at your friend's for a month, and if you were uncontactable daily for a month then, yeah, I can understand them giving the job to someone else.


Both sides are at fault, and the parent should have been more direct with the recruiter, but the parent is also right -- after a few calls, no more than a week of missed calls and no response, the recruiter should have stopped.


Recruiters are like the Booking.com of people though.


Recruiters are there for a reason. I respect them even when they are a little bit annoying. We as tech industry are so spoiled with jobs looking for us not the other way around that we forget how great it is to have a recruiter that you can call any time and ask for a new job and he will not stop until he will put you in the new position for free (for you of course). Remember they are just doing their job and we should respect that, so be kind to your recruiter, respond to an email, they will remember you as that guy who didn't wasted their time.


> he will not stop until he will put you in the new position for free

Let me tell you about my first experience with a recruiter. I realise this is only one anecdote, but it sums up their usefulness.

As a fresh graduate I sent a recruiter my CV and he sent me two job specs. I applied for one and the company ended up making an offer. The salary was well below normal, the company's office was in the middle of nowhere in another part of the country, and I'd had to have moved out there and bought a car in order to do the commute. The deal was not a good one, but through the recruiter I negotiated higher pay. During this process I was warned about coming across as 'mercenary', and he made real efforts to get me to take the job quickly ('stop delaying', 'this kind of job won't come up again').

At the same time as having this offer on the table, I received a separate offer from a company I'd applied to independently, with a salary ~25% higher, great benefits etc, which I accepted, to the annoyance of my recruiter.

Once you get talking to a recruiter, they really do put you through the booking.com experience.

I accept their value. But it is limited.


Unless we are talking about talent agents (which are rare in software engineering), the actual job of a recruiter is to work in the interest of his company. Then there are third-party recruiters and sorcerers who don't represent your interests either.

"They are just doing their job" is a weak excuse. Most of the recruiters are doing such a bad job in matching the workforce with companies that they end up wasting everyone's time. The only reason why these brute-force approaches work is the surplus of demand in the current SE labour market.


It's quite funny how they'd keep trying for a month. They could just email, but insist on phone calls


Part of being a grownup is doing whatever the hell you want. If you don't want to pick up that phone (and have a potentially awkward conversation with some sleazebag recruiter that's trying to sell you on a shit job you don't want), don't.

This reminds me of the people that think women (or men) that don't want to go out with them owe them some kind of explanation. No, dude. Get some social awareness and move the fuck on.


Sure, you can do whatever you want. That doesn't change the fact that people will consider u a prick and a coward if you ignore calls for weeks on end without any explanation.


>Part of being a grownup is doing whatever the hell you want.

Wait till you're a grownup and you realize how not true that is.


It's not the same thing. You can skip a call out of the blue, but after you have had some kind of interaction, is really good manners to have open and direct discussion. Both professionally and in the example you mention.


> Part of being a grownup is doing whatever the hell you want

No, that's being a child. Being a grown up means not only thinking about yourself


My thoughts exactly. Unfortunately these days it's clear not everyone feels that way.


Part of being a grownup is doing whatever the hell you want. If you want to ring that phone (and have a potentially awkward conversation with some immature developer that's not yet picking up on your opportunity), do it.

Goes both ways.


The rights come with responsibilities and/or consequences.

Being an adult means you get to own many of your choices, but also their consequences.

Giving the recruiter a direct "no" would be far more professional. OTOH, I've dissed more than my share of recruiters myself, though generally only after an initial clear and unambiguous communication wasn't respected.


not fair that you are getting downvoted for a perfectly reasonable perspective, you are hurting some sensitivities here


Life is easier when you treat people with respect.


This is true. It might make it a bit better knowing that they’re hiring a few of the top Perl people in the world (Yves, Rafael, Ævar), but indeed, everything is Perl. They’re managing to hire quite a lot of people, by the way, but the compensation is a lot higher than what’s normal in NL.

With regards to their testing procedures, the way I understand it is that they’re focusing on mitigation using clever monitoring/automated rollbacks. They pride themselves in their data analytics abilities, and this is part of that.

Source: live/work in Amsterdam and know many people that work/worked there.


Yeah, they're all about A/B testing, not automated testing. The article shows what you get when you laser focus on CRO. They do very well though, and are probably the top hotel booking site? Definitely a lesson in there somewhere.


I'd contend they're a top booking site because of the wide variety of hotels available, not because of the CRO. I'd look for the team that goes and signs hotels up to the platform, they seem to be doing a really good job in all territories.


Yes, that's definitely true, their availability is quite staggering in breadth.


They are roughly equals with hotels.com, that is also very strong on AB testing.


what does CRO stand for?



Conversion rate optimisation


In India Booking is known as the company you want to call when you want to visit Europe. The questions they ask in the phone screen are relatively simple by Indian standards so it's straightforward to get tickets and travel to Amsterdam. They don't seriously consider working there because perl isn't the only thing unappealing about Booking. The pay is so mediocre that Indian devs would prefer to stay in India rather than move.

Caveat here is that I'm not referring to all Indian devs, only the few I'm acquainted with.


I'm courios about the salary offered. In Amsterdam Booking is known to be paying above the market average. Their salary range is also listed stack overflow careers page. Are salaries really that hight in India?


In India there are two kinds of software jobs - the ones at outsourcing firms like Infosys and the ones at firms that make their own products like Google, Flipkart, Amazon, Uber, Ola etc. The former pay the minimum possible, of the order of $15-20k a year. A mid-level engineer at the latter can expect to earn $50-60k easily, plus stocks. Booking offers something similar, at a significantly higher cost-of-living.

If these engineers want to move abroad, they'd usually prefer the US because salaries there are significantly higher.


Depends on where you are and your skill set. If you are a good engineer (10+ exp.) in Bangalore/Hyderabad and land in a product dev company, you might be looking at INR 40 lakhs (~60k USD). By any standard this is a lot and can lead a fairly luxurious life. Few of my friends are getting paid this kind of salary.

But even if you have good skill set, but don't want too much pressure and would like a fairly stable at some Indian consulting company, you might only be drawing around 30k USD. But you get to earn if you are sent for an onsite assignment.


There are quite conflicting reports on pay there, and from what I can tell from their stackoverflow job postings, they're above average. What sort of pay would you expect in India for a job like this?


As I explain here (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15301468), the Indian devs that Booking targets earn comparable salaries at a lower cost of living. If these devs are willing to move abroad, they'd move to the US.


I am certain that booking pays at least 10k over market in Amsterdam


Market rate in Amsterdam is pretty low compared to the US salaries you see all over the internet.

According to Glassdoor for example the average salaries for Software Engineer are:

- US: $103k

- NL: €45k

For somebody who's moving halfway across the world anyway, I can imagine they'd prefer to look for a job in the US.

Edit: The comments below are all correct. I didn't mention any of the secondary benefits since the internet hardly ever mentions those. To somebody from a country where things like health insurance and paid sick/vacation days hardly exist, there's a much smaller chance they look into those things.

Also in the US a lot is dependent on employer (health care, vacation days, etc.), whereas in the Netherlands many things are set by law.

My point was that people who look at salaries on the internet and compare those, will often choose the highest and dismiss the lowest.


This is a misleading way to compare salaries and cost of life between countries.

A much better metric is to look at net disposable income after tax, if you're focusing on the "making money" aspect.

If you're focusing on the life quality aspect you'll also have to consider mortgage, car ownership and time off.

Example:

- In Netherlands you have 24 business days of time off, where you can take them from the moment your contract begins (not after 1 year working), and you can take them however you want.

- Taking a mortgage in Netherlands is currently cheaper than renting and most houses in the "sweet spot" cost around 300k euros, which is ridiculously cheap. Monthly payments are subsidized by the government (for some years) which makes it cheaper than renting.

To summarise, every country has a lot to offer, and at the end of the day life is not just about money.


Looks like I live in a not so bad place afterall

In Italy we have 28 days off plus national holidays

Mortgage are cheap as in other European countries and if you avoid the city center you can buy a very decent apartment for less than 250k

20km from city center you can buy a villa for the same amount

Rents are generally a bit high in larger cities (Rome, Milan, Bologna)

Salaries in tech are not that great, but there's little if no competition, if you're good you can find good deals

Banks and insurances are investing in innovation and new technologies

You get to live the Italian life style

CONS

Nobody is actually investing a lot in Italy, roughly 150.000 people are leaving every year

That leaves a lot of jobs vacant but it can't honestly be considered a plus

It's not yet a startup ready country, things are changing, but it'll take time


while true, this doesn't tell you the whole story. insurance, taxes and pension are calculated way differently from the US. Also prices for those 3 are way different.


> Market rate in Amsterdam is pretty low compared to the US salaries you see all over the internet.

Developer market rate in pretty much every country in the world (except maybe Switzerland and Norway) is pretty low compared to the US. Just saying.


US salaries where? I'm guessing Silicon Valley salaries are not comparable to Midwestern salaries. The Netherlands also has good healthcare.


I searched for US in general, but I can imagine SV salaries cause the national average to increase a lot. Then again, from my experience, most Dev who want to move to the US want to move to SV or NYC, partially because of the salaries and forget to think about the details. Especially the younger ones.


This blog post was quite famous: http://blogs.perl.org/users/bookingemployee/2012/03/truth-ab...

Also booking employers refused to let their YAPC conference talks being recorded. https://web.archive.org/web/20111116162105/http://blogs.perl...


I think this needs to be said: there is literally nothing wrong with using PERL as an implementation language. You might dislike PERL, but simply using it is not a red flag.


Agree. Ditto not having drunk the Kool-aid on automated testing, as long as you have a viable alternative to achieve the same end (although I will admit that I find the idea of great monitoring and automated rollbacks a bit stressful on the face of it; you could mitigate that with good discipline around releases though).


You instrument your application so you discover failures very quickly. If you do this right, you pretty much get the reporting people want from business intelligence applications, and use that as your core monitoring metric.

It's a lot less stressful if something goes wrong, because you can go to a previous release in a couple of minutes.


I wanted to point that out as well. Especially since the OP is familiar with Ruby it's really not a thing to get wound up about.

Compared to Python and Ruby, Perl might be getting a little long in the tooth but there's probably stuff that's less of a hassle to in Perl than in any of its decendants.

Certainly no red flag.


Did you ask about the tests and the deployment process? While the answers are certainly not good, I respect the recruiter for even knowing about it. Most I've talked to would have no idea.


I live in Amsterdam do not work for booking but constantly discuss them in IT circles. Recently I heard of a guy who spend 0.5 year working on the calendar control that you can see on the main page. Every fucking day he tried to adjust the control to optimise the booking rate. That must be very boring job. Another ex-booker, back-end developer told that he has the PTSD after working with their Perl code base - it was a joke of course but I am pretty sure that it contained traces of truth. However, booking offers great benefits - the amazing office in the centre of Amsterdam - there are multiple of them - but I am referring to the one on Rembrandt square - very good salary, especially if you are a high skilled migrant and have 30% rule, subsiudized meals.


Designing good controls for the web is really hard. Spend 10 minutes testing any set of well known components, and you will find multiple bugs (especially if you know how to exercise the parts that are hard to get right).

Virtually every calendar control for booking a date range sucks. Airlines, Airbnb, hotels, whatever.

Having someone work full time on making an intuitive calendar control makes sense to me, and I personally have spent months on single components, and we are just a tiny company...


I understand that it was more like everyday A/B testing of the calendar adjustment because booking seems to be very data-driven - developers work on teams that are assigned to the specific area of the web-site, or even the specific target groups(honey mooners, business traveller, etc.) and try new features/adjustments by using A/B testing.


What is the 30% rule?


foreign (IT) workers pay a max of 30% income tax the first 10 years they work/live in The Netherlands


Not quite... the first 30% of your salary is tax-free:

https://www.belastingdienst.nl/wps/wcm/connect/bldcontenten/...


Not actually foreign, you just have to have lived more than 150 kilometers away (straight line) from Dutch borders for at least 2 years before your employment begins.


I heard of 8 years. In 5 years you can optionally apply for Dutch citizenship and if it's approved 30% rule is gone.


It used to be 10 years but was reduced to 8 a few years ago.

You keep the 30% rule after you apply for citizenship though. It even applies to native residents who haven't lived in NL for more than 10 or 20 years.


I saw new job postings from Booking quite frequently in 2013/14 when I was first applying for jobs in Europe. Figured they were growing very quickly and applied for a few but never got a reply from them. And reading this thread and your post today, I'm glad I didn't.

I'd be interested to know how your buddy's doing there. Seems like they still post a lot on job websites, and their growth isn't exactly mindboggling, so it would seem they have really high turnover and/or trouble filling positions to begin with.


They contacted me to see if I was interested in interviewing some months ago. I rejected cause I didn't intend to move to Amsterdam, and I asked why they were contacting me as I had no Perl experience at all. He said they have more and more java/python lately.


Anecdotally, I’ve recently applied for a full-stack position on their website and got a rejection email a couple of hours later. Maybe because I don’t have Perl on my resume?


Perl is a bad language suddenly? Pushing to production is a bad practice?


> Perl is a bad language suddenly?

Not suddenly, but when Centos 5 released in 2007 with 5.8.8 (from 2006), and Centos 6 in 2011 with 5.10.1 (2009). That froze the language environment for a lot of people and they couldn't benefit from the new features. Then they would publish posts explaining how to do things that 5.12 onwards had better solutions for, and new devs would get stuck in a whirlpool of trash.

Those versions worked fine with '1998 perl' (the year the codebase started & also the last time best practices were checked). Newer versions of perl are way better, but for a lot of devs, that 7 year period of weird perl + the halo around it (search for 'perl hit counter') is what they used to get their impression of perl.


No and yes.

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