Sunday, September 12, 2010

The "Best Rate Guarantee" Sham

It Is A Hoax

Rant Warning!

A few weeks back I was surfing for a good room rate for a business meeting in Los Angeles. I came across an amazing rate at the downtown Sheraton hotel using Kayak. The rate was much better than the rate Starwood was quoting on their website, so I clicked the best rate guarantee and made a claim.

All the major hotel chains say that they protect anyone booking on their websites from missing out on a better rate somewhere else. They all say if you book on their websites and then within so many hours find a better rate, they will will verify the rate and honor the lower rate plus give you something in the way of a gift certificate or something to reward you for your loyalty. To have a valid claim the rate you find must be transparent (i.e. it cannot be a through Hotwire or Priceline - where the name of the hotel is disclosed only after your purchase is made), and it must be available to anyone (i.e. it can't require a special membership at AAA or Costco for example).

The guarantee sounds good.

It isn't.

The catch is two-fold, first you must book your room at the chains site (at the higher rate). This allows you to initiate your claim. Second, the chain must verify that they can "match" the rate when they (finally) get around to checking. Of course if the lower rate has evaporated - you are stuck with the higher room rate.

So even though I copied proof of the lower rate as a pdf and forwarded it with my claim, 48 hours later when Starwood "verified" the rate, it was (of course) gone.

Claim Denied! I'm stuck with the higher rate.

So I cancelled my Starwood reservation and booked a new reservation using Hotwire. Actually, Hotwire came through again netting me an even better rate at a better hotel (the Westin.)

Today it happened again, but this time it was with Hilton. The Anaheim Hilton advertised its lowest pre-paid rate at $89 per nght (which is in itself a good rate), but the same room was $73.84 using

Hilton requires that a claim be filed either on-line or by phone with a representative. I thought well since last time I did it online and got burned, this time I'd try a real live human being. 

I then spent 25 minutes on the phone with a very nice reservationist at Hilton's call center in Dallas. He was baffled how to process the claim, but with the help of his supervisor we muddled through.

Again I had to make a reservation with Hilton (which I did - at a higher refundable rate), then the call taker verified the lower rate on-line and commented "Wow! That is good rate!". I figured since the Hilton staffer saw the proof, it would be readily verified. 

No so!

I was organizing the trip for a large group, so in the meantime I notified the other travelers to book rooms at easyclick while I waited for Hilton to verify my claim. Luckily they all went ahead and booked at the bargain rate.

About midnight I got an e-mail from one LaTeasa Brumfeld telling me that (despite me having someone at Hilton verify my "great rate"), now 10 hours later, since she could not match the rate with, my claim was being rejected. So once again my efforts were rewarded with the chain offering me nothing but the higher room rate.

Of course when I went back, the rate at had indeed jumped to the $89.

So I am two for two. And what exactly has Roadboy learned?

When you see a good rate, pounce! Don't bother telling the hotel chains anything! The "Best Rate Guarantee" is merely the sham (tool) the hotel chains use to have us road warrier's rat out deep discounters and police the net for them.

Roadboy's Travels © 2010

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