Hotel Best Rates Guarantee promise is often a hoax
Hotel companies want you to stop shopping around. So why bother going to trivago.com, to agoda.com, to booking.com, to hotels.com, to expedia.com, to orbitz.com, to otel.com, to priceline.com, or to americanexpress.com and the many more available channels? Hotels don’t want you to compare rates, especially if you are a loyal member of their hotel group loyalty program, such as the World of Hyatt, Marriott Rewards, Hilton Honors, Starwood Preferred Guest, and IHG Rewards Club, among others.
As a matter of fact, hotel companies will threaten you NOT to book through what they say are “third party channels,” because if you do, your stay will mean zero points and zero status nights in the hotel loyalty programs. In order to reach an elite status with a hotel or airline, one needs to be loyal. Don’t make the mistake of being loyal to a brand and then booking through your travel agent, your meeting organizer, or one of the many known booking channels. You will never earn any status points that way, because your nights won’t count. So again, we ask, why bother even signing up for a hotel loyalty program?
Here is what hotel companies are advertising on their websites.
- The Lowest Rates Are on Hyatt.com
- Get Our Lowest Price, All The Time, When You Book on Marriott.com
- IHG – Choose from our great brands. Best Price Guarantee. Book direct now!
- We guarantee you always get the lowest price when you reserve a room through an official Hiltonbooking channel
- Best Rate Guarantee* If you find a lower qualified rate** within 24 hours of booking, we’ll match it – and give you a 20% discount or 2,000 Starpoints®
Sounds good, right? But not really. Here is the catch.
The following is a typical response you will get when shopping on a third-party website and find a sometimes significantly better rate.
First, the hotel doesn’t want you to book anything on the third-party website. What the hotel wants you to do is to fill out a lengthy form and ask for the “best rate guarantee.”
After you submit this form, it takes 24 hours for a response. If you’re at an airport trying to book a hotel for the same night, obviously, this “guarantee” will never work.
For a future stay, you most likely will get this response:
HYATT: “I am excited to hear of your desire to stay with us and your interest in our Best Rate Guarantee program. After researching, I was unable to validate your submission based on the Expedia screenshot that represents a “Private Sale Price of 59%, including a $100 Resort credit” which is a membership-only price package thus making it an invalid for the Hyatt Best Rate Guarantee. As indicated, the guest went to expedia.com and signed into the site, thus opening up the member pricing options.”
This means if you use a booking website, you are always asked to establish a sign-in. There is no cost to do so and no membership – it’s simply a username and a password. BUT, once you do this, then hotel companies consider you to be a “member” of that travel booking club, and there goes the option to use the hotel’s best rate guarantee.
In many cases, once you go back to the third-party website a day after the hotel has “investigated” and turned your claim down, you won’t be able to get that special deal anymore, because it has already been sold out.
Sometimes it pays, however, to be more firm instead of accepting this unfriendly hotel response. In the case of a Starwood Hotels and Resorts reservation, a claim to bring a nightly rate down from $280 to $89.44 plus receive a 20% additional bonus was honored, only after being threatened with a bad review on trip advisor, a filing with small claims court, and a letter to the editor.
This was the initial response by STARWOOD:
Thank you for your interest in the Starwood’s Hotels & Resorts Best Rate Guarantee program. It is always a pleasure hearing from our Gold members. I hope my email finds you well.
Please be advised that as per my understanding, I have processed the claim for a Premium room as originally booked. However, I request you to please mention the room type on which you want to get your claim processed in the New Starwood Room Type section in the future.
I have reviewed the rates for The Westin Las Vegas Hotel & Spa for the dates of your claim on our website and found a rate of $257.04 USD plus taxes and fees per night which is lower than the rate of $280.78 USD plus taxes and fees per night found on hotels.com. Since the rate is lower on our website, I am not able to approve your claim. To find the complete details of the Best Rate Guarantee program, please refer to our published terms and conditions.
So what happened here? Starwood looked at a higher room category on otel.com, the competing site. The claim was clearly for the lowest category, since the category names did not match on otel.com and westin.com, but this seems to be just another way to deny claims.
Here is the second response to this claim after it was first denied:
Thank you for your email regarding your Best Rate Guarantee claim for The Westin Las Vegas Hotel, Casino & Spa. I appreciate the opportunity to address your email.
After reviewing the claim, I show a room type was not listed on the competing website or our hotel website, and our associate processed the claim for the room type listed on the reservation.
Please know I have processed the claim once again; only this time I have processed it for the standard room at the hotel. Your claim has been processed for the traditional room.
I am pleased to advise your claim is approved. I was unable to locate availability for a Traditional room on our website, though I was able to locate availability on otel.com, which allows me to offer you the approved rate of 89.44 USD, plus tax and amenity fee, per night, and an additional 20% off the rate as requested.
My advice: Cancel the booking altogether and select an independent hotel that doesn’t play games with loyal customers. Travel agencies and tour operators should avoid brand hotels to not upset clients with a loyalty program or put pressure on those hotel companies to treat travel agents, tour operators, and meeting planners fairly.