May 04, 2006
Taj needs to sort out its booking system
We (Krithi, Jaagruthi and I) were planning on a brief 2-3 day break away from Bangalore around the end of May, after my PGSEM quarter ends.
After evaluating a lot of options (Chikamagalur, Mysore, Coorg etc.), we ruled them out for various reasons. I am not particularly keen to (or confident of) drive a few 100 km to those places. Except for Mysore, the rest aren't directly accessible by train. Jaagruthi's lack of exposure to hotel food, and the absence of cooking facilities at any of the resorts we inquired with, led us to eliminate those places as options. But we were willing to compromise reasonably on the last issue, by just giving her things like idlis, chapaatis etc. which she eats without much fuss and without the need for any extravagant side dishes, like sambar, sabji etc.
We then wondered about if we could go to some place just outside Bangalore rather than 100-200 km away. We wondered if the Taj Group of hotels would have some resort on the outskirts of Bangalore. I'd say it was purely by chance that we noticed a Kuteeram listed in Bangalore. We'd heard of the other names, but had never heard of Kuteeram. Some web searches then followed, which confirmed that it was a nice weekend getaway.
When we called the resort, after confirming the tariff rates etc., we were told that they also had a 2 days & 2 nights package for Rs. 8,000 (inclusive of tax, 3 meals per day and a few other frills thrown in), even though it wasn't listed on the website. In order to book, I had to apparently fax/email my credit card details (both sides). I was obviously not going to do anything of that nature, regardless of the reputation of the institution. So I asked for an alternative and I was told that I could do the booking at any Taj hotel. I decided to make the booking at Taj Residency, along Mahatma Gandhi Road.
I was directed to the accounts section when I indicated at the front desk that I was there to do a booking and make a payment. The accounts section chaps told me that I could only do a booking through the website or their customer care system. This, despite the executive at Kuteeram telling me that I could make the booking at any Taj hotel. In addition, I had to bring them a confirmation token which they'd use to do the billing. The customer care number turned out to be a 1800 toll-free number, accessible only from BSNL phones. My mobile service provider didn't support phone calls to that number. Oddly enough, neither did Taj's phone system, since they [obviously] had a Tata Indicom phone network. So I had to go to a public call office, which didn't allow me to make a toll-free call either!
I ended up calling up Krithi, asking her to try and do the booking from home since we have a BSNL connection. Krithi called up around fifteen minutes later, telling me that the customer care agent didn't accept the booking since it wasn't there in the system. Effectively, I was back to square one!
I went back to the accounts section and told them my sob story. Thankfully, the officer there made a few phone calls and got the booking done for me without me needing to go through the experience yet again. I didn't even need to use my credit card, paying by cheque, which I prefer.
The morals of the story for Indian Hotels/Taj Group/Tata Sons
- Make sure your toll-free number is accessible from within your own premises. Not all phone networks allow calls to be made to those toll-free numbers. If that means providing an alternate number, perhaps even non toll-free, do so!
- Make sure your website, customer care system, booking system and your resorts are well integrated with each other. If the website had displayed the package, I'd never have bothered going to Taj Residency to do the booking in the first place.
I'll do a write-up about our experience there once we return!