What you don’t see is sometimes what you get when booking stuff online, writes Simon Walker

PRESSING YOUR BUTTONS: Satisfaction is just a fingertip away in the modern world of algorithmic wish fulfillment.The modern artform of booking stuff online comes with its ups and downs.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

Particularly now as we become beholden to the mighty algorithms which sense our desiresand manage our search results accordingly.

How many of us, for example,are familiar with the price range of airplane tickets narrowing the more we search for the same thing.

How the number of seats on a particular plane on a particular day to a particular place seemto decline at an anxiety-inducing rate the longer we search online, and not incognito, herding us towards a purchase.

And then how our Facebook feedsbecome peppered with new offerings next dayfrom similar travel vendors to almost exactly the same locations for prices that didn’t seem there the day before, under a different Google sign-in.

Big data has us by the short and curlies and by lord, something’s starting to shake.

The other day, for us, it was our resolve, as we sort to book accommodation for a sombre event that required some urgent mobilisation. It had to be done online because, lord knows, or maybe it was the algorithm (same thing really), you can’t talk to anyone in person these days.

Notthe real estate agent we were trying tobook through anyhow. They kept pointing us to the website as we spoke to them by phone. And when that failed, they started emailing screen shots of the websiteshowing availability of properties, even though they knew where we wanted to stay and the availability, because we were talking to them directly, by phone. Old school.

But therein lay the next fascinating level of booking accommodation these days –themodern trend of,wherever possible, not talking to you. Probably because then they might have to tell you stuff.

That was Friday. So we went online and did the business and then sent the person an email Saturday. And that’s when they told usby email thatthe accommodation we’d booked –on the riverwith a peaceful and serene view–had scaffolding out the front which would remain there for the duration of our stay. It didn’t seem so peaceful and serene anymore.

So we rangto expressWFT which was futile on two levels: one,they only do stuff online; and two,thereal estate agent was closed Saturday and Sunday.

Now I mentioned a sombre event earlier, but it hadn’t supposed to be booking accommodation. It was about booking accommodation for a funeral. And we needed it in place now, not Monday.

But here we still had Saturday and Sunday to angst out, with no word from our real estate agentbecause they were offline, as theyexplainedby email, on Saturday.

So we went back online and hustlednew accommodation banking ona refundlater, with no guarantee at that stage, andwere successful, although thealgorithm had us on the edge second time around too because it already knew we werelooking.

Talk about getting buried in unnecessary detail.

SIMON WALKER: That’s Life archive