One question remains after trying — and failing — to mediate Gregory Bergman’s case with Hotwire: Why do we keep falling for it?
Why do we continue to book anonymous hotels that may or may not meet our expectations?
I don’t know. But I’d like to hear your theories.
First, Bergman’s story. It’s a familiar one to readers of this site. He used Hotwire to book a room for eight days in early June in Portsmouth, NH. He’s used the site many times before, but this time, he wanted more of a sure thing.
“As I am traveling with my wife and newborn girl from the Bay Area, I wanted the hotel to be above-standard,” he says.
Bergman knows the hotels in Portsmouth pretty well, and figured that by choosing a “3.5 star” property, he’d be in good shape. He believed only two hotels rated about three stars, and he was comfortable staying in both of those with his family.
He figured wrong.
I was dumbfounded to find at the moment of “revelation” we would be staying at the local Best Western.
I immediately called customer service and explained that as a loyal Hotwire customer, I understood the process and usually expect to be pleasantly surprised or mildly disappointed.
In this case, though, a 3.5 star rating for the Portsmouth Best Western — a 70s decor holdout — was an egregious error.
Bergman asked for a refund. Hotwire refused.
An argument ensued.
I noted their own rating on the “names revealed” side rated the Best Western “plus” sister hotel six miles away as a three-star. But he explained they used Orbitz, Travelocity and their own customers for ratings.
When I noted the Orbitz site had one customer complaining of bedbugs, he questioned the legitimacy of the reviewer. I asked to speak to a manager, who listened and then also denied me any refund.
As an experienced Hotwire user, Bergman should have known of the risks of booking through the site. I would have happily explained those to him or referred him to the numerous other articles I’ve written about star confusion.
But in the end I decided to contact Hotwire about his grievance because of his circumstances. Traveling with an infant can be extra stressful, and what’s the harm in asking?
I should have known better.
Here’s Hotwire’s response:
We researched the Best Western Plus Wynwood Portsmouth (and our system) further, and the 3.5-star rating that was given to this hotel is accurate. In fact, we last benchmarked this property on 5/26, so the star rating is indeed up to date.
I recognize that Mr. Bergman is familiar with the area and I’m sorry to hear that he feels this hotel is below a 3.5-star rating. However, it should be noted that this hotel is well rated by TripAdvisor customers at 4-stars, and is recommended by 82% of Hotwire customers who have completed a post-stay survey.
In terms of his input on the other local Best Western hotel having a 3-star rating, it’s worth noting that quality and, in turn, star ratings can vary across specific properties within a hotel chain. So unfortunately, Mr. Bergman might be using information that isn’t entirely reliable in this case.