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Is Fareharbor Evil?

Why You Should Switch from Fareharbor?

#FFH

I know some of you reading this are going to be like nope, never, not going to happen, I love them. In fact I met a lot of you at Arival and it amazes me the loyalty some people have to Fareharbor. Then I realize I was one of them for years, but I also know you are running a business like me and what you think is good for you now, may not be good for you tomorrow. I’m going to first break it down for you about why we made the switch after many loyal years to FH and then go in to what the future may hold.

Why we switched?

Well, in fact it wasn’t us who drove that decision, but rather Fareharbor. Yeah, just stay with me for a minute and I’ll explain. The story begins at Starbucks: I was out getting my afternoon fix when all of a sudden our operations managers started texting and calling me. They were freaking out because they couldn’t log into Fareharbor to do anything and calling me to see if I was having the same problem. I checked on my phone only to find an error message, LOGIN FAILED User has been deactivated. I told my managers that it must be an issue, call Fareharbor and see what is going on. Good news for us, we didn’t have to call them, a phone line we hadn’t used in years started ringing from Fareharbor. The rep explained to us that we violated some term and condition (I think it was Terms of Use 1.2.7.35million, but don’t quote me on that) and that they had to suspend our account. This was news to us and after explaining to no avail we finally were forced to begin to threaten them. We used a variety of reasons and eventually they unlocked our account, but only to suspend it again a short time later when a new manager came in and said they had new rules and had to suspend us again. This happened over and over, it wasn’t until I accused them of making up policies and acting like Comcast that they gave us enough time to dump out all our data and existing reservations to be able to survive without their system(as a side note according to LinkedIn the FH rep was coming off a job at Comcast….).  It was a brutal several days in which we couldn’t manage our tours or guides and keep in mind we operate in more than a dozen cities. It eventually took us nearly a month to get fully migrated and train nearly 100 tour guides on a new system.

 What we did wrong?

Well, I’m not sure if we actually violated some rule because like most of you, we didn’t read the terms and conditions years ago when we started using Fareharbor. However, I will confirm that we did what they said we did. After years and years of allowing our customers to pay the 6% fee and begging and begging any FH employee who would listen that we needed a wait list feature, we decided to cheat on them and run an A/B test with another booking system for some of our cities. We didn’t even think this was a problem and in fact we would have told them, but we heard how vicious their sales reps are and we didn’t want to have to deal with them calling us everyday like they do some of you guys. Especially because at the time we hadn’t decided if we would even switch. So, we just tested out a system and in fact we didn’t even disconnect any API connections from FH at first. We just manually transferred bookings from FH to our new system, but it was causing us some major issues, so we finally decided to pull the API’s on certain locations. This we learned was the beginning of the end for us and we are pretty sure it was when we pulled the Expedia API that they alerted Fareharbor to the change of platforms. So, Fareharbor just suspended our account with no notice, no phone call, and no visit(mind you we are about 5 mins down the street from them in Denver), they just said we violated the rule that we can’t have two booking systems on one site.

This revelation was news to us because when we originally switched to Fareharbor they were well aware that we operated two booking systems on one site. We used Zozi(R.I.P.) for half our operations and Fareharbor for the other half. I know a lot of you are like that is crazy, but back in those years booking systems were abruptly shutting down and we wanted to hedge our bets. So, we had to dig out emails from 6 or 7 years ago to prove that we couldn’t have violated a rule since they agreed to allow us to operate two systems from the beginning. In the end we ultimately decided to switch and because we were forced to make the decision quicker than others, we were only able to test out the single system. So, imagine how surprised we were when we learned that not all API integrations are created equally. We quickly found out that the new systems API’s were glitchy and that for some connections we weren’t going to be able to link to our FH products, so years and years of great reviews on a product went down the drain. Imagine if you were doing 75% of your bookings through OTA’s? Would that kill you? Or make you stronger?

Well what happened to you won’t happen to me. Right?

I hope not, and I thought we were a one off situation until I heard the Catalina Food Tour operator ask about her suspension and I realized our stories need to be told. Now, what happens if you are one of those that have them build your website and they decide to suspend you for some reason like they saw you at Arival talking to Peek? Will your customers see a 404 page when they go to your site? I read a quote post Arival from Max, CEO FH, and he said they are operating as a mature company and they play nice with the other big boys. I guess what mature means is that they have evolved from the startup culture that was happy and friendly to one that means business. The other thing that he said is that they play nice with other large OTA’s but is that just because they have the similar size and leverage? I’ve heard smaller players tell me that FH is wanting exclusive deals if you want an API connection to FH. What is going to happen when they have 10 or 15 of those exclusive deals, will they grow faster and faster? What happens when they turn into Comcast and you have no other options? Sure there will always be others available, but would you choose dial up over Comcast? No, even though they are one of the most hated companies in America, people still use them and complain there are no other options.

Imagine a future where you have your website and booking system with FH and they come to you and say the convenience fee is now 18%, sign this agreement for the next 60 months. You say no and customers instantly see a 404 error. Can you survive 3 months of no business while you build a new website? So, I encourage you consider your booking system wisely because what all of you do today defines our future. I personally feel our future is better with choices and not this 800lbs Gorilla walking around waiting to crush everything we’ve worked hard to build. Let’s not forget this industry was built by experiences and that while we don’t have as much leverage now, moving our business to a smaller player can serve us well in the long term.

Uncorrupt Plug:

If you are happy with Fareharbor features, but believe in survival of the tour operator, I urge you to look at Checkfront, XOLA, Peek, Bookeo(If you don’t need support, I think Alan and I might be their only users), or Flybook.

Tour on people and If you share, tag #FFH

***Update****

Several people have reached out to us to share their stories. If you had something happen like what happened to us. Lets connect! Email Me