It looks so convenient: Nowadays nobody has to leave the house to book a family holiday. The next trip is just a few cell phone clicks away. At least that's what the portals that abound on the Internet promise. However, they also set up plenty of traps into which the inexperienced consumer should fall. Here are the most annoying tricks - and tips on how to avoid disappointment.
You know that from Google: the best offers are at the top of the list of hits. Anyone who believes that about travel portals has only themselves to blame. At the top it is extremely rare who has the best offer. But often simply who pays the brokerage portal the highest commission. Or even simpler: who paid for the placement.
Stiftung Warentest complains again and again about the well-known portal Booking.com: hotels that want to be at the top of the list “sorted by: Booking.com recommends” have to pay the portal higher commissions. For this they get an additional “thumb” in the travel description. Other portals are no different.
Tip: If you don't want to be fooled, you can sort the hit list again, for example by price or guest rating. And visit at least one second price comparison portal.
Sales television invented it: the counter that runs along and says how many rheumatism blankets or wrinkle creams have already been sold. In this way, the viewer is enticed not to hesitate, but to quickly secure another one. Flight portals and hotel reservation platforms use the same tactics.
"Only two rooms available" is a popular saying. The customer should believe that he has to hurry. An ARD television team has proven that this is often a ruse. The reporters simply called the hotel - and could have booked dozens of rooms there without hesitation. The booking websites then made the excuse that the availability information only referred to their site.
Tip: Take your time when deciding.
Only today 47 percent cheaper. You have to hit it. But better not without comparing. The supposed discount promise is one of the most popular tricks of the portals. A fake: Because nowhere is it written which other offer the discount applies to.
In such cases, consumer advocates recommend: It is best to compare the offer with other hotels and with the hotel's website.
The button is very unobtrusively called "Check free places" or even more simply "To book". If you click on it, you will easily experience a blue miracle. Suddenly the promised price increases or there are only more expensive rooms. The portal operators justify this with the fact that the tour operators are turning the price screw at such short notice.
However, Stiftung Warentest accuses the travel portals of cheating on the prices themselves. Because it's true: once you've decided on an offer, you usually want it - if necessary a little more expensive.
Who hasn't experienced that? You can finally find a suitable trip that also remains within reasonable limits in terms of price. But then, during the last booking step on the Internet, another item is added: the payment fee.
Actually, the seller must offer at least one fee-free payment method; but then a completely unknown credit card is often given or, as with Fluege.de, the in-house Mastercard Gold. For all other payment methods, a substantial fee is charged. 30 euros are not uncommon.
The solution: Compare prices including payment fees and then book where the cheapest overall package is offered.
In the case of flight-only bookings, there is hardly any commission to be earned for the brokerage portals. Some therefore hold themselves harmless with additional sales, for example an insurance policy. Particularly perfidious: If the buyer opts out of the insurance, a bright red window with the warning "Caution - not recommended!" will pop up.
Anyone who hesitates has not only acquired unwanted insurance, but also a subscription. Because the contract is always extended by one year if it is not terminated in writing in good time. And who would have thought? From the second year, the subscription becomes significantly more expensive.
Tip: If you have accidentally booked such an insurance subscription, it is best to contact the Hamburg Consumer Advice Center. She explains how to get out of the subscription.
This is undoubtedly one of the greatest advantages of internet portals: Before booking, you can read how others have rated the trip or the hotel you are considering after their vacation. But here, too, tricks have been used for a long time. Hotels that want to look better can easily buy a positive booking comment from agencies like Fivestar Marketing from 20 euros or three Tripadvisor recommendations for 29.95 euros.
Tip: Look at ratings like Günther Jauch's public question - such answers can sometimes be wrong.
If you book a holiday home with a tour operator instead of a private person, you have a great advantage: instead of tenancy law, the much more consumer-friendly German travel contract law applies to you.
With Internet providers, however, it is important to take a close look, as determined by Stiftung Warentest. According to the fine print, Dutch law applies to bookings made with Booking.com. And anyone who wants to sue the private room broker Airbnb for damages has to do so in Ireland.
The verdict of the product tester is clear: "Consumers cannot be expected to do this in the event of damage." Tip: If in doubt, switch to a provider with German place of jurisdiction. Or you go straight to the travel agency - they have to point out such special features to their customers without being asked.