Thanks a lot, Hotwire! I’m stuck with the worst room in the house

By | April 12th, 2010

Here’s a phrase you hear a lot in my line of work: You get what you pay for.

Helene Goldberg thought she’s found a bargain on a hotel room at a Country Inns & Suites property in Phoenix last month. But there was a catch.

I’ll let her explain:

When I arrived, I was told that when you book through Hotwire, you can only get a smoking room and one bed.

First of all, my husband and I don’t smoke and would hate to stay in a smoking room. The girl at the desk then said that she had two rooms to show us. When we got to the room, it was under a stairwell, it was dark and deary with one double bed and extremely small.

We told her that it was unacceptable and would not stay there. She then gave us the key to the other room, which turned out to be next door and was exactly the same as the first room she showed us.

Mind you, it was 2:30 in the afternoon and people had not checked in yet. We told her that the second room was unacceptable. She told us that those were the only two rooms available.

Hotwire told her the room was nonrefundable. What now?

We have a couple of issues here. Let’s start with the hotel employee’s statement that Hotwire only books smoking rooms. Although Hotwire can only guarantee a non-smoking room if the property itself is smoke-free, it doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be stuck in a smoking room. So she was wrong about that.


The second matter is the room selection. We know that hotels sometimes reserve the worst rooms for guests who book their accommodations through discount Web sites, and that appears to be happening here. But we can’t be sure. Maybe the hotel was booked solid with a wedding party, and these were indeed the only two available rooms. I wouldn’t be so quick to assume Country Inns & Suites was punishing Goldberg for booking through Hotwire.

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Hotwire shouldn’t have thrown the book in her face. Instead, it should have worked with her to make sure she had an acceptable room. Although there are no specific terms that would guarantee this, the site implies she would be taken care of in this kind of situation. (“Our hotel partners will do their best to make your stay as comfortable as possible.”)

I contacted Hotwire on Goldberg’s behalf. Here’s what it had to say:

As an opaque booking provider, we’re able to provide customers with substantial discounts by helping our partners fill unsold rooms. By the nature of that model, guests booking through Hotwire will be provided with a room that can comfortably accommodate the number of guests specified, and will also be “run-of-house”. That means the specific type of room will be determined based upon availability at check-in.

Whenever possible, we do request that a non-smoking room be provided for our customers. Our partners are also very good about accommodating special requests from guests when they can. However, there are rare cases where the only room available on a particular night could be a smoking room. For customers looking to avoid smoking rooms entirely, they should keep an eye on the amenities list for each property. We provide a notation for properties that don’t allow smoking. By selecting one of those, you’re guaranteed to get a non-smoking room.



  • Jason from Best Western

    As a hotel front desk associate, I would like for everyone to know that dealing with third-party websites are a pain.  Although hotwire claims that they will give the guest what they want based on availability, when the initial reservation comes through, it is more often than not as a smoking room whether or not we have non-smoking rooms left.  The reservations come through automatically through the net and the room type is already selected by the time we receive it. 
    I’ve had it happen on many occasions where we will be sold out and have no rooms to move the guest to.  Hotwire has a tendency to blame the hotel; however, it is the hotel that tries to remedy the issue with Hotwire refusing to assist the property to assist the guest.  Just a few weeks ago, I had an issue on a Friday night.  The guest called Hotwire who then called me.  She said that she would not be able to assist me as it was not her department and that I would need to contact their property help desk, which is only open on weekdays. 
    My advice to travellers is to always call and confirm the room type with the hotel as soon as you know where you will be staying.   Make sure that the room type is correct and this will allow the hotel to show off their customer service skills at the beginning.
    Another word of advice…don’t always trust these third-party websites.  The hotel only gets a percentage of the profit made while the websites make things more challenging.  Cut out the middle man, I say!  And if you have a particular hotel you like, call them directly.  Chances are you are paying the same amount on these sites than if you would deal with the hotel directly. 
    Thanks for reading and have safe travels!

  • Nono

    I have NEVER seen the hotels offer the same rate to guests as they can get on opaque sites. Just the way it is. I have tried to negotiate with hotels that I have gotten several times on Hotwire or PL and they never want to budge. SO…while I am elite level at several brands, when I need a throw away night…IE an overnight at an airport, etc…where i have no real concern for the type of bed….it works well. I will however do evertyting I can to choose Hotwire and get a non smoking property.

  • traveler

    Doesn’t matter how much a percentage the hotel is making…it’s better than letting the room sit empty. It sits empty because the prices are so high to start with that people can’t afford to book them, so cutting out the middle man isn’t even a possibility.

  • yikesbarb

    You get no such choices or advance research opportunities with hotwire, Barbie. You have obviously never heard of an opaque system nor used hotwire before, yet you tell the OP that she is inexperienced.

  • yikesbarb

    Barbie barbie barbie:
    you get no such choices or research opportunities with hotwire. you’ve obviously never heard of an opaque system or used hotwire before, barbie. And then you try to tell the OP that she has no experience with traveling!
    As for the smoking, yea. You can more easily play the game as a smoker because you can go outside and smoke. We oxygen breathers have our breathing rights infrigned upon by limited service hotels and by rude smokers all the time!