In keeping with my theme of how to protect the ones we love, I wanted to share a recent experience. I typically write about home environmental issues but this is about protecting yourself financially when planning a trip.
Don’t Be Mislead By On Line Reservation Sites
Ever try to book a hotel reservation on line? Years ago when you wanted to make a reservation, you called the hotel directly, the 800# for the hotel company or your travel agent. Today it’s far more confusing with many listings of hotels on the Internet and many services claiming to offer the best deal to book your room. Last May I searched the Internet for a Marriott Courtyard near Westchester, PA. I was attending a training class and needed one overnight stay. I went on-line for the hotel phone # and called directly since I had several questions. When I searched for the hotel many hotels popped up in Philly and Exton, PA, and many listings, making this simple task very confusing. I tried to carefully look for the Marriott name in the URL, which is the search name or store sign that would lead me to the correct place. It was late, 6pm already and a person answered, quickly put me on hold, and then my call was rolled over to a reservation center. I thought perhaps the hotel was too busy to take my call and automatically connected me to the Marriott reservation center. The agent answered the phone “Reservations, can I help you?” I told her I wanted to book the Marriott Courtyard in Westchester, PA and asked if this was Marriott. She replied, “I can book your Marriott room for you.” Then I was told she had a Marriott in Exton, PA and could go ahead and book it. I told her I saw a Fairfield Inn by Marriott listed in Exton but I only wanted a Courtyard by Marriott.
I asked a few questions regarding the distance to my meeting etc. and then told her I may wait and book it after dinner. It was late, I was debating to leave very early in the morning or drive the 2 ½ hours that night. I still wanted to have dinner with my kids and then I would decide if I still had the strength, I was exhausted. The agent became aggressive and explained there must be something going on in the area because there were only 3 rooms left. I should really book the room now. It all went down hill from there.
The reservation agent was not Marriott Worldwide reservations but Hotels.com. The bait and switch.
- The agent was persuasive and pushed me into making the reservation making me feel I may not get a room and I should book it now. There were in fact many rooms available that night.
- Although the room was being booked after 6pm and I called 1 ½ hours later to cancel, it was considered non-refundable since any reservation cancelled after 6pm would be charged.
- When the email confirmation showed up on my cell phone it was a Fairfield Inn by Marriott not a Marriott Courtyard.
I did go ahead and have dinner with my kids and realized as I was driving up the highway, I was too tired. I pulled over and called the Fairfield Inn of Exton, PA direct. The hotel explained that it was booked by a 3rd party reservation company and they couldn’t do anything about it. They are charged by Hotel.com and can’t refund the money. When I contacted Hotel.com they directed me to an email address where I could send my complaint. Hotels.com responded by telling me it was cancelled after 6pm and I would have to contact the hotel to have my money refunded. Each of them pointed a finger at the other.
After almost an entire year, I forwarded this NY Times article to both Hotel.com and the hotel management company where my room was booked. The hotel manager called to apologize giving me a refund on my credit card for the one night stay plus tax and offered me 20,000 points on my Marriott rewards program. Hotels.com did nothing. I am now aware that the third-party booking sites often give consumers confusing and inadequate
information about rates and restrictions. It may not be fraud, but it’s absolutely consumer deception. In the future when you book reservations be sure you know who you are talking to and it’s always safer to book with the hotel company directly.
May Every Step You Take Be Healthy!