Priceline tells a half-truth, then tap dances around it

By | October 3rd, 2016

Olivier Coispeau booked a one-night stay on Priceline.com at the Holiday Inn Garden Court A1 Sandy-Bedford, near Cambridge, England. But when he and his family arrived at the hotel, they were in for a surprise.

“After check-in, we realized the hotel is just a no-name motel, and even though I booked a double room with a sofa bed, we got a twin room with no sofa bed. This is a scam and a fraud.”

Coispeau’s case raises questions about the reliability of information provided by third-party travel sites like Priceline. If you reserve a room at the Holiday Inn, is it reasonable to expect that the hotel is actually a Holiday Inn?

Coispeau tells us the hotel was run-down and did not meet his expectations. He isn’t alone in that opinion, either. Traveler reviews for the hotel property on TripAdvisor are appropriately titled “Awful Room,” “At Least The Sheets Were Clean,” and “Don’t Bother Unless It’s Absolutely Necessary To Stay Here.”

Coispeau explains the horrible hotel experience ruined his time in Cambridge, and he wanted answers. He started by calling Priceline, which told him he had to speak with its sister company, Booking.com.

After being bounced between the two companies, Booking.com finally told him the following:

The property was once named “Holiday Inn Garden Court Sandy” and the name has been changed to “Garden Court Sandy.” The policies, physical structure, and room types have not changed. Our current contacts for the property associate with the QNHgroup, which manage Holiday Inn hotels.
Booking.com and Priceline do not establish relationships with certain brands. Each contract is individually created and managed directly with the accommodation management. The information provided on Booking.com and Priceline.com is provided by the accommodation directly. Booking.com and Priceline do not take responsibility for this information.

In case none of this makes sense: The hotel used to be a Holiday Inn, but no longer is. Booking.com, however, maintains that the property contacts do, in fact, manage Holiday Inn hotels, so therefore, there is no misrepresentation about the brand of hotel Coispeau stayed at.

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Except that it’s not a Holiday Inn.

The hotel is independently owned, as stated right on the hotel website.

As Booking.com tells us, the property is managed by QN Hotels group, which manages Holiday Inn hotels.

But not exclusively.

QN Hotels group manages six hotels, of which two are Holiday Inns, two are Ramadas, and two have no brand affiliation.

So it is misleading for Booking.com to represent that the hotel off the A1 roundabout in Sandy is a Holiday Inn by virtue of being managed by a group that happens to also manage Holiday Inns. By that logic, couldn’t it just as easily be a Ramada?

Instead, it’s Holiday Inn’s poor cousin. I didn’t say that — that’s another glowing review on TripAdvisor.

I wrote to IHG Europe, the international corporation that owns the Holiday Inn brand, which confirmed that Coispeau is correct to doubt the hotel’s ownership. The spokesperson wrote:

“The hotel was formerly a Holiday Inn property, but was removed from the brand portfolio on February 29th this year. Unfortunately, not all price comparison sites removed the Holiday Inn flag from their listings. We have been in contact with them and they are in the process of rectifying this.”

Since we reached out to the company representatives, both Priceline and Booking.com have updated their listings to correctly display the hotel’s independent ownership.

So, don’t bother staying here, unless it’s absolutely necessary. A quick tiptoe around TripAdvisor and other online review sites indicate this place has seen better days.

And don’t bother using an online travel agency, unless you must. And if you must — do your homework first. Find out what other hotel guests say, before committing your hard-earned money.

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Speaking of money, Booking.com offered Coispeau a 50 percent refund of what he paid for the room. Not in recognition of any misrepresentation, but because Coispeau was disappointed in the level of customer service he received, which is not representative of the brand.

Which brand? Never mind.

Should Coispeau have received a full refund for his stay at the Garden Court Sandy?

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