Early this month, some astute travelers noticed that Expedia was selling hotel rooms at two Hiltons in Japan for the fire-sale price of less than $4 per night. What began as a simple error in the conversion of yen into U.S. dollars quickly snowballed into a public relations nightmare for Expedia.

"There was a technical problem," said Linda Bain, vice president of communication for Hilton International. "We just started a new agreement [with Expedia to sell these properties] and these hotels had just gone live."

Word of the error on the rooms in Tokyo and Osaka spread like wildfire through Internet travel boards such as FlyerTalk.com. Its first post about the deal came at 6 a.m. Nov. 5 and travelers promptly began reserving rooms at the hotels (rooms that I found selling online at http://www.hilton.com for about $160 a night last week).

By the time Expedia corrected the error 24 hours later, the damage was done. Neither Expedia nor Hilton would comment on the number of rooms that were booked at the low prices.

In fact, Expedia isn't saying much beyond a public statement acknowledging the error. Requests for interviews with Expedia executives were declined.

Get the full story the Los Angeles Times