How Hotels Decide Who Gets Your Room
In the summer travel season, when many of us hit the road with families in tow, it is often difficult to find a low cost room in a desirable destination. And during these tough economic times, who isn’t looking to pay the least for the most? Online travel sites like Priceline, Travelocity, and Expedia used to be the best place to get a bargain, but over time, more niche online services have opened, and these companies have also developed businesses as volume buyers of rooms which they resell to other discount travel services, like American Express.
Although the site on which you, as a consumer, book your reservation may maintain a profile about you, that information may not always be passed on with the booking to a third party, not even the hotel.
Recently, I decided to book a room at a Marriott for web-only rate of $199 for four nights, and then prepaid for it through the American Express Travel Services website. Although I am an American Express Platinum cardholder, and a Marriott Rewards member, none of that information passed on to the hotel with my reservation. American Express had reserved my room from Travelocity, who had originally purchased a block of rooms from Marriott at a discounted price of $169. For handling the web order, American Express made $30 on the web transaction.
When we arrived at the hotel at 2AM after a seven-hour journey, there was no room at the inn. The hotel acknowledged having taken the reservation, but said they were oversold, so they had chosen us for the loser lottery. Because there were no rooms anywhere to make good on our reservation, thanks to an influx of CBS employees in town to prep for the AT&T National golf tournament, we spent an hour in the lobby with both American Express (on a cell phone) and Marriott’s night clerk, and her supervisor, trying to understand how our prepaid, confirmed reservation could be the one they chose not to honor.
From that early morning hour of nightmarish pain, I discerned these three simple insights that you, Mr. or Ms. Summer Traveler, need to know for a smooth summer sojourn, especially if you plan to book your trip online.Continued on the next page