Wednesday, May 16, 2007


So, I'm booking trains and hotels for a glorious summer jaunt to Montreal and Quebec City
-- a vacation that will re-create my Frenglish pod's 1976 outing (yes, "Frenglish pod." Don't ask.).

Our lodging choice for Quebec City, based on something in between a glance at and a study of TripAdvisor.com, is the Hotel Champlain in Vieux Quebec (the old city). TripAdvisor offers a price-comparison feature that calls up Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity and such, and based on that I started booking the room through Travelocity.

I was about to hit the final confirmation button when a little detail in the hotel's address stopped me:
Hotel Champlain
115 rue Ste-Anne
Vieux Quebec, AB G1R3X6
Now, I've studied Canadian postal abbreviations a fair amount (don't get me started on the demise of the lovely PQ), and I know that AB is the prairie province of Alberta. Nevada's geometry writ large. No place for a Frenglish pod. Based on the other context clues, not the least of which is Rue Ste-Anne, I was 99 percent sure that the hotel is in PQ (pardonnez-moi -- QC), and that indeed there is no burg of Vieux Quebec in Alberta, but then again Michigan has its Frankenmuth and California has its Solvang and I wanted that extra percentage point, so I wrote to Travelocity.

I'm 99 percent sure this is just an error on your site, but I made a reservation at the Hotel Champlain in Quebec City, but then at some point it starts being identified as being in Vieux Quebec, AB, which would mean the very different province of Alberta. It *is* QC, right?
Later in the afternoon, the reply came:
Thank you for writing to Travelocity.

We reviewed your reservation with the trip id xxxxxxxx and see that the hotel reservation you have booked is located in Vieux Quebec, AB . and not QC.

To modify or cancel the reservation, we request you to contact our customer service center at the toll free number 888-872-8356 and one of our agent will certainly help you with the same.

Your cooperation and patience are appreciated.
By "reviewed," I assume they mean "glanced at," and so I called that toll-free number and got a very nice young man who essentially repeated that sort of boilerplate several times until I finally convinced him he didn't understand the issue I was raising. He then put me on hold so long that I was eventually cut off. (Travelocity's hold recording, by the way, isn't Muzak or "Your business is important to us," but rather a longish series of conversations in which an annoying male voice and an annoying female voice take turns playing the doofus role in solving various travel-booking conundrums. I was assured several times that there's normally no need to cancel a car-rental reservation if it turns out you don't want the car.)

While on hold, I also wrote back:
There's just no way this hotel is in Alberta. Despite the AB, your site also says:

>In the center of old Quebec with views of Chateau Frontenac, Hotel
>Champlain is approximately half a mile from St. Paul Street and the
>old port and 10 miles Quebec Airport. Rue du Tresor, Chateau Frontenac/
>Terrace Dufferin, and the Notre Dame Cathedral are roughly 200 meters
>from the hotel. The parliament buildings are half a mile away and the
>cruise terminal is a mile away.

Le Chateau Frontenac is a prominent landmark in Quebec City, which is in Quebec, not Alberta. Everything else about this hotel, including countless other Web sites, points to QC. I believe this is simply an error on the site.
The man on the phone did give me a phone number for the hotel, so I called it. "Bonjour, Hotel Champlain?" Ah, oui. Madame found my story tres amusant.

And then another reply from Travelocity:
Thank you for writing to Travelocity.

Please note per the details the address saved is as stated below.

Hotel Champlain
115 rue Ste-Anne
Vieux Quebec, AB G1R3X6

Bill, if this is the hotel you are looking for we request you to write back to call our 24 hour customer care number and our agent will guide you further.

Le Champlain Hotel
115 Rue Sainte-Anne, Quebec City, Quebec G1R 3X6, Canada

We appreciate the apportunity to serve your travel needs.
I have no idea what all that means, but I'm pretty sure I have a good reporting candidate for the Pasadena Star-News.

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