The not-so-entitled traveler — sometime deep discounts limit great service

by Janice Hough on July 17, 2013

HiltonNewYorkU.S.A_FP
Admittedly, many of my posts complain about travel suppliers. Certainly airlines, hotels and rental car companies could all use some work on their customer service.

On the other hand, there is also a group I refer to as “entitled travelers.” They demand five-star service at all times, even when they’re paying one-star prices.

This example isn’t one of my clients, but came from researching hotels in New York City. While I have favorite properties and our agency has a paid review service we can use, this traveler wanted a relatively moderately priced property in midtown Manhattan during an expensive week. While I don’t always rely on TripAdvisor, I use it sometimes as a secondary source to get a general idea of recent reviews.

In this case, the hotel had middle-of-the-road reviews, but one really bad one —

“First of all, I called in advance to let them know that I’ll be there at 7 a.m. on my check-in date. When I got there at 9 a.m., I’ve been told that my room wasn’t ready and then I had to leave my luggage in storage for the amount of 1$ each! Really? I’ve been called at 2 p.m., to let me know that my room was ready. What’s the point to call me at 2 p.m. when the check in time was at 3 p.m.? Then, they refused to add my Hilton Honnor (sic) Membership numbers because they were saying that since I booked with Priceline my stay wasn’t applicable. My room was small, really dark and decorated in a hiddeous (sic) art deco style… If I have an advise (sic) to give, don’t stay…”

So okay, this traveler wasn’t happy. But, she started out unhappy that her room wasn’t ready at 9 a.m. when she arrived. Unfortunately, that can be an issue at any hotel at any price. If a hotel is full, checkout is usually around noon. If someone has paid for the night before, no property is going to kick them out at 7 a.m. so the room can be ready for an early arriving guest.

Additionally, on some days hotels don’t have many departures, so that limits the number of potential room openings. Plus, housekeeping staffs can be busy with current guests. In this case, the hotel had the room ready an hour before the promised check-in time — they made an effort. (The $1 a bag luggage storage fee seemed silly, but was overall trivial.)

As to the no Hilton points issue, that is part of contract when booking with Priceline. Airline tickets usually don’t get miles (in fact, Priceline specifically says on its site, “‘Name Your Own Price’ reservations will not qualify for frequent flier miles”) and hotel stays don’t get points. Priceline rooms are often deeply discounted, and Priceline itself keeps a big chunk of that, so the hotel doesn’t get much revenue. The same is true for other “opaque” sites — “opaque” meaning a traveler doesn’t know what hotel or airline they are booking at a discount price until they pay.

Similarly, regarding getting a small, dark room — what’s a hotel to do? If they have full price or corporate-rate reservations from travelers who have chosen their hotel specifically, and some of the deeply discounted Priceline type bookings, it’s not rocket science to figure which ones they will prioritize.

Personally, I’ve also heard complaints of not being able to get the requested bedding (king/two doubles) with opaque sites, along with complaints about views, noise, etc.

On the other hand, I’m not saying these sites can’t be a great deal, especially when price is the number one factor. I’ve suggested that clients who are really price sensitive give them a shot, especially if they really don’t care about the room.

I’ve known people who have been quite happy with their deeply discounted stays. Hotel clerks usually try to be helpful, so if a room’s available, they’ll generally allow early check-in. On the other hand, if only a few rooms are available early, and again, there is a frequent guest, someone booked through a preferred travel agent or a traveler paying a regular rate will get priority.

Sometimes discount site travelers get very nice rooms, but not always. And then there’s the whole “nonrefundable” issue. But that’s a different post.

My rule of thumb: If it really is a question of somewhere to sleep, with no special requests, then booking a generic room at the cheapest rate possible might be the best solution. If not, consider booking direct or through a travel agent. It still won’t guarantee an upgrade or early check-in. But it will improve your odds.

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  • sue

    I would completely disregard that review if I read it on TripAdvisor and I’d imagine most savvy travelers would as well. Even if I booked with the hotel directly (and I usually do) I never assume I can get an early checkin, which sets the tone to make me pleasantly surprised when I can. I once arrived in Chicago at 9am and when I got to my hotel at 9:30, I really just asked if I could drop off my bags. The desk agent checked and told me I could check in then – great!! That really set a nice tone.

    On the flip side I arrived at an Doubletree Hotel in Florida once where I got there at about 2:05, and I just wasn’t thinking, and I asked to check in. I knew it was early and I was okay with waiting, but I didn’t ask the question that way. The desk agent swooped right in with “Well, check in isn’t until 3pm, but let me look to see if anything is ready.” After some clucking, she found a room, but she managed to tell me three more times that she was allowing me to check in early. She also managed to present my free bottle of water (as a Hilton Honors member) as some big grand gesture. All in all, it managed to set a pretty annoying tone for the beginning of that vacation…

  • DCTA

    JH’s point here is not that this is a bad review that you should ignore, but rather that there are people who feel themselves entitled to special treatment.

  • MeanMeosh

    What always amuses me are the stories on Chris’s site where people booked rooms for special occasions – birthdays, anniversaries, honeymoons, etc. – through Priceline or Hotwire, and then complain about the substandard service or room they received and expect a refund. I always tell friends, trying to impress your significant other by showing how good you are at being cheap usually isn’t a winner.

    Personally, I’ve never received poor service or an obviously bad room even when booking through Hotwire or Priceline, although as you note, perspective is everything. I only use Hotwire when I need a bed for a night, so quite frankly, I could care less about the view of the dumpster given the rate I’m paying!

  • pauletteb

    Janice noted that this review was the only really bad one and then used it to support her story about self-entitled travelers. Sue merely extrapolated by pointing out that she (and most savvy travelers) would ignore this type of review. Both points are valid; no need for snark.

  • James Penrose

    The complainer seems to be a few bricks shy of a hod or just whiny.

    However, regardless of the price I pay for a room (and the hotel has the choice of whether to participate in opaque sites or not…an unsold room is zero revenue), I do expect a minimal level of service consistent with the level of quality of the place I am staying.

    I only use such booking sites if I know the hotels in that area well or if there is a tightly defined geographic location so you don’t get stuck in West Bunwhacker next to a hog rendering plant and spend more on cab fare to get things done then you saved on the hotel rate. (Happened to me once in Ft. Lauderdale minus the rendering plant but I was the one who used the site. Good hotel, lousy location which is why they had rooms available. The free alligators during happy hour were a nice touch though.)

  • Traveler

    The only nugget of information in that review is that the hotel charges a $1 per bag fee to hold bags (at least for difficult customers). I travel frequently and read TripAdvisor reviews. I completely ignore the ratings given and use the content of the comments to make a decision. I ignore all review written in marketing speak and all negative reviews that complain about decor or some other unbelievably superficial aspect.

  • Randy

    Most people don’t realize that when you book on Priceline, you’re not guaranteed bedding for more than 2 room occupants. This leads to a lot of complaints even though they make it very clear during the booking process.

    About not getting points, this is probably in the fine print, but I’ve never noticed. Yeah, I’d be bummed out about this, but I’d get over it quickly if the savings were significant enough. I need a 20%+ discount to make Priceline worth my while — otherwise, I’ll pay the difference to know what I’m getting and to have the ability to cancel my ressie if needed.

    As for the small dark room, I often read about this on the Priceline help forum http://www.hoteldealsrevealed.com but I think most of it is anecdotal. You bought on an opaque site and got a crappy room ==> must be Priceline. Who knows for sure if its true.

    Good article. I’ve seen many reviews similar to this on TA. Like someone else said, most savvy travellers would disregard the negative review as them having an ax to grind.

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