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Last Minute.com as many of you may know is a website that allows you to book a variety of late offers from a range of hotels, flights, holidays, entertainment etc.. that may have otherwise have gone unbooked… but just how good are they? Do they really present “value for money” for the consumer?
Last minute.com was founded by Martha Fox and Brent Hoberman about 2 years ago. Amidst much hype and anticipation Last Minute decided to float and go public around March 2000 with shares worth 380p, now plummeted to an all time low of 73p! With falling profits they have managed to “double their quarterly loss to £15.4 million” in 2000. So what went wrong, why is the company not able to sustain its profits? The deals were not good enough, profit margins too tight, they were not enough companies wishing to give them a cut..and quite frankly the “last minute” deals were not exciting enough to entice people to come back all the time, neither were they the cheapest*. Something had to be done so well known holiday company “Thomas Cook” came to the rescue.
The association with Thomas Cook to Last Minutes website is soon to have a link to Thomas Cook’s website allowing customers to book holidays 6 weeks in advance (not a last minute type thing), there are also plans to offer theatre and cinema booking facilities at the site.
I have been using Last Minute.com website since Sept.1999 yet had never booked any services through them primarily as I found them over-priced for my needs and requirements. Eg. Offers such as 4 star Hotel at London Hilton for £150 for 1 night etc. They claim to have some “unbeatable bargains” available at the Last minute so I decided to put Last Minute to the test.
I had already secured a cheap flight to Milan via one of the budget priced airlines, however I had no accommodation, after surfing a few websites and feeling zapped at the extraordinary hotel prices in Milan I decided to give Last Minute a try.
Upon visiting the website it looked pretty, pink and cheerful with a choice of Flights, Hotels, holidays etc displayed on left hand panel. I chose Hotels. This brings you to a drop down menu allowing you to make your selections (eg. B&B under £50, Over £50 in UK, Italy etc) I selected “Italy” it then displayed me a list of all the latest offers on hotels in Italy. I chose a hotel I liked. At this point you can check for room availability by inputting your arrival and departure dates.
Fortunately the dates I required were available offering me a choice of “single, double, or triple rooms” After making a selection of type of room, select the quantity of rooms. At this point you are sent to next screen informing you of the total price. Once you are satisfied you can add this product to your basket. Last minute were able to give me a price of 240,000IL per day at this hotel. Before I proceeded any further I decided to check out the Hotels official website as I found the information provided by Last Minute rather limited and vague. To my surprise I was offered a choice of double rooms: standard, moderate or superior. The price for a superior room was considerably more. I went back to Last minute and booked this offer, although I had no idea what type of double room I was being offered.
If you are a registered User at Last minute you simply proceed to checkout (I had registered ages ago and had forgotten my details, so I decided to proceed to unregistered Users. Registering is very simple all it asks is for your e-mail address and a password. On completion of the order I was sent confirmation via e-mail with a booking reference.
Other features~ Price Pledge After making the booking I noticed Last Minute.com have a “Price Pledge” which promises to refund the difference if you find the same hotel, flight, holiday etc cheaper anywhere else.
Then guess what, yep, I’d found the same hotel available for the same dates cheaper it was 220,000IL per day (this works out to approx. £10 cheaper per day, current rate 2900IL=£1)
Online Chat~ can chat live to Last minute to gain help. I tried this and it was hopeless. You enter a chat name and are greeted by a representative lets call her “Martha” . I decided to ask them about the Price Pledge and none of them knew anything about the Price Pledge. After spending 40 minutes desperately trying to make the person at the other end of this Chat understand that Last Minute does have a Price Pledge guarantee.. I gave up. NOTE: I later found out that the Chat is not operated by Last Minute staff but via a call centre they use to handle traffic..so that explains why they didnt know anything at all about Last Minute.com!
Following my futile attempts on getting any information from Chat team I decided to phone Last Minute, ah success! I got through to a very helpful person who simply asked me to fax over the proof of the same hotel being offered cheaper elsewhere. Last minute checked out the details of the other travel agent and called me saying it was ok but they would be able to refund the difference in vouchers, not cash. This is because my payment was to be debited by hotel directly not Last Minute, so I cant complain.
Finally there is Subscription to Last Minute’s Newsletter, but a word of warning don’t bother subscribing to this. I asked to subscribe in Nov. 99 and nothing happened- no newsletter, so I sent them a few e-mails and finally after 3 months I started to receive the newsletter from Feb.2000. I had enough of this newsletter so I decided to unsubscribe 6 months ago..and guess what..? yep, that’s right I cant unsubscribe I have been receiving the newsletter till this day.
Overall, it’s a good site to use for ideas and inspiration, they do offer some deals at cheap prices but not all. May be more targeted at disposable incomes and you may end up paying for something as its being offered to you and it may not be what "you" actually want. The tie up with Thomas Cook should enable Last Minute to cut their losses and make more wider range to services available to the consumer.
Remember, if you see it cheaper elsewhere then tell them and remember to “haggle”. Be careful when booking hotels outside Uk as the information is limited and its hard to know sometimes what you are actually paying for.. Well I’m flying out within 12 hours and hope this hotel I booked in Milan will be ok..we’ll soon find out.. ciao!
latest: 13 march 2001 Back survived! Hotel ok...hotel opinion to follow..
I know exactly what you mean about the newsletter - I have had the same problem myself!
jedi_billy 26.04.2001 14:03
Thanks for the good info, I need some drastically cheap flights to Thailand, now I have a better picture about looking around. As for my op on potential entrepreneurs you read - I didn't know it existed, I entered that op under suggestion ages ago and I guess they've given it a heading for me - BARGAIN, making a difference
paddywak 31.03.2001 08:57
Good op CH. You can't get their newsletter & I'm plagued by it. I get regular mail from them & have asked repeatedly for it to be stopped as I never subscribed in the first place. Maybe they got us mixed up & I'm getting your mail .. LOL ...Tom