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JLMoran

Celebrity's website is a celebration of dark patterns

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No, I'm not talking about the background images used or some weird decision to use a blue-and-evergreen tartan plaid. I'm talking about the ways that Celebrity's site really bends over backward to screw you up while trying to do any kind of action that brings you in a direction they don't want you to go. Like what?

How about if you're doing a mock booking and just want to exit out? Here a couple of images showing the popup you get when you decide to exit the booking flow.

image.thumb.png.748e85bdfc0f6a517a2f67f13d88a36f.png        image.thumb.png.0c6443ce13c5886e7036f43d7be7d8e0.png

I went back in to the same booking after exiting, pretending I changed my mind and I wanted to book anyway and then decided to exit after all. The "Exit Booking" button that was on the bottom is now on the top, while the bottom white button has become "Continue Booking" -- which was a link at the bottom on the first screen! They are banking on you remembering "I clicked the white button last time, that's how I exit" and just clicking that without reading it. Which causes you to end up stuck and trying to leave over and over until you finally take the time to read it. Especially because if you keep going back, you find that the buttons don't always change positions in the same way. Sometimes you go there and the first exit screen you see is the second one I pasted, and then when you go back a few days later it's back to the first one. Or they swap the buttons around again so that "Continue Booking" becomes the blue button on top.

This is an example of what's come to be called a dark pattern, a way to get people visiting a web site to become stuck and feeling forced through a purchase flow; or making it impossible for them to do things like find how to get in touch with customer service, or unsubscribe from some product you don't want delivered every month any more. Amazon is infamous for this, as are a number of retailer sites these days. But Celebrity's site is turning out to be a horrible textbook example of this, too.

The one that really gets my goat? This:

image.thumb.png.d2f92f4ed02b450fa58e99dfc7f001f3.png

This is a recent change, and one that it took me almost a week to catch on to. See, for the longest time the left panel has been the option for NRD, while the right panel is the Refundable Deposit option. This even looks like it should still be that, what with that "+$200 USD* for Refundable Deposit" under the button, right?

Nope! You are still selecting NRD booking if you click that big blue button. First giveaway, which I should have caught on to do but didn't because, hey, I'm just doing a mock booking and I'm in a rush, and not really looking at anything besides the Starting From number in big bold text and the word Refundable (hmm, is that really different from someone just looking to book and move to the next thing in their list?)... is the fact that those two dollar amounts are not actually $200 apart. They're $280 apart.

Second thing I should have been wary of is... Take a close look at that "+$200 USD" line of text. Notice anything odd about it?

 

 

 

 

Like the fact it's underlined? Oh, you didn't see it because it kind of blends in with the water and is really thin? Yeah, me neither.

 

 

That's right. That's not just informational text. It's a link.

If you want a refundable deposit, you have to go and click that, not the big obvious button above it. Just to get the offer of 2 perks, but without the "Save $200" part. And who is going to think to do that when they see what they think is a good deal on that bump-out balcony, and the thing that everyone knows you click to go on to the next step in any web shopping experience is a button, and what's right there but a big blue button?

This is a dark pattern to keep you on the NRD booking track. And I missed it, multiple times. I read about this crap all the time because I'm in web development and, well, I need to know what competitors to my employer are doing and what are the latest trends in web design, and ohmygodisthisstuffdisgustingIfeeldirtyjustreadingabout it!! And I still missed it.

Only reason I finally figured it out is because I took a screen shot of the final booking review screen before making payment, and sent it to my TA... who promptly emailed back to point out that my screen shot had a line referencing an NRD perk discount. That I saw but that never registered. Because the primitive lizard part of my brain was just seeing "GOOD NUMBER!! SAVE MONEY!! GET PERKS NOW, MEATBAG!! BIG BUTTON RIGHT THERE CLICK CLICK CLICK!!!"

 

Royal's site does stuff like this, too, but it's not as bluntly deceptive, at least not in all the same spots. I've seen the same BS when trying to exit a booking, where the buttons change position every few times. But at least when you want a refundable booking, they just make you go all the way to the last step before you see the checkbox to get the refundable price. (unless they changed that, too?)

Watch out for stuff like this. Otherwise you're going to call your TA a bunch of times thinking you've found a good chance to save some money, and instead walk away really annoyed and disappointed.

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