Choice Hotels – another worthless rate guarantee?

Dave Olsen thought he might have a valid claim under Choice Hotels’ best rate guarantee. Apparently, he thought wrong.

“I know you’ve written posts about the best rate guarantees,” he adds. “I know you’re opposed to them. But I wanted to share my situation.”

Slight correction: I’m only opposed to best rate guarantees when they don’t work as advertised.

But is this one of those cases?

Olsen found and reserved a $94 per night at the Clarion Victoria Hotel and Suites in Panama City, Panama, recently. But he wasn’t done shopping. He then clicked on Travelocity, where he found a $79 room rate at the same hotel for the same night.

The rooms were identical — or so he thought.

Fortunately, Choice offers a best-rate guarantee. has the best Internet rates guaranteed – we’re unbeatable.

Simply book your room here on and if you find a lower published rate for the same hotel and accommodations for the same dates at any other qualified online source, we will match that rate plus give you a free night for that stay.

Ah, but as they say, some restrictions apply. Here’s the fine print. (This link opens as an annoying pop-up.)

So Olsen filed a claim. To its credit, Choice Hotels, which owns the Clarion brand, responded promptly.

Thank you for your interest in participating in our Best Internet Rate Guarantee program.

The Best Internet Rate Guarantee program terms & conditions state that the rate located on a competing website must match the rate terms/restrictions that you made at The competing website information you submitted requires prepayment. The reservation you made at is a pay when you stay at the hotel.

The reservation policy must be the same on the competing website as the reservation you made at

If you have additional questions please see our terms & conditions page.

Sure enough, buried mouse print, you’ll find that the guarantee applies to reservations made for the “same hotel, dates, room type, type of currency and length of stay and is based on single or double occupancy with the same rate terms/restrictions (including but not limited to, advance purchase requirements; pre-payment and deposit requirements; and cancellation and change policies).”

But wait! Was the Travelocity rate really nonrefundable? Olsen phoned Choice hotels and argued that it wasn’t.

“I explained that the Travelocity site is not a prepayment in that they allow you to cancel, just like the Choice Hotels site,” he says. “But he insisted that their requirement for a credit card was different than the Choice Hotels requirement of a credit card. Amazing.”

Olsen didn’t take no for an answer.

I printed out the page and have a copy. But Choice explained the issue is not that they didn’t see the lower rate — he did — but that the rules were different.

I’m frustrated, just like others who have contacted you in the past.

If your readers think that Choice is correct, I’ll accept that. If your readers agree that this is just a bunch of nonsense to avoid giving me a free night, then I think further action should be considered.

Choice has already turned down Olsen on a technicality. Personally, I think Olsen has already wasted $15 of his time, and probably the $94 he’d get for his “free” room (ahh, I cringe to write those words “free” but I’ll get over it).

Also, why shop for a better rate after you’ve made a reservation? As my late journalism professor would say, down that road lies madness.

But I’ve agreed to put this to a vote, and if enough people vote to reopen this case, I will.

Does Dave Olsen have a valid claim under Choice Hotels' best rate guarantee?

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Why won’t United Airlines honor its fare guarantee?

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Chuck Barnes tries to invoke United Airlines’ low fare guarantee. But it doesn’t quite work the way he hoped it would. Is he out of luck?

Question: I made a reservation on United’s website from Tampa to San Francisco for a total price of $180. After completing the reservation I looked up the same itinerary on Orbitz. Much to my surprise, it was $10 less than the price I had just paid on

United offers a low-fare guarantee. I read the low fare guarantee page to confirm that it covered my fare discrepancy and then I called the United reservations number. The agent I spoke with was polite, but insisted that I had to find the lower fare online at only — Orbitz did not qualify.
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A shabby vacation rental and a missing refund

When Carol Swartz tries to check in to a condo in New Hampshire, she finds the unit in a state of disrepair. Now the site through which she booked the rental is refusing a refund, despite a written guarantee. Can it do that?

Question: We just had a frustrating experience with HomeAway and I need your help. I recently rented a condo in Laconia, New Hampshire, that we found through the site. It was advertised as a “luxury” condo, and we paid a total of $1,886, which included $49 for HomeAway’s “Carefree Guarantee Rental” program.

When we arrived at the condo, we found the exterior was in a sad state of disrepair. We did not even feel safe climbing the stairs to find our unit. The unit was clean but shabby and clearly not luxurious.
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Is this enough compensation? Priceline refunds me $1 for overpriced hotel

Sometimes a best-price guarantee just isn’t worth the trouble. That’s what Lynne Fukumoto thought after trying to make a claim on a Priceline “Name Your Own Price” hotel room recently.

“I ended up with a room at the Ala Moana Hotel for $120 a night,” she says.

That’s the Ala Moana Hotel – Honolulu, a nice little property in Waikiki, and part of the terrific Outrigger Hotel chain, for your reference.

“I had never heard of this hotel and went to its website where rooms were advertised for $119 per night,” she says.
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The Travel Troubleshooter: Maybe the price guarantee isn’t all-inclusive?

Question: I am writing to complain about poor service I received in connection with Travelocity’s price guarantee. We recently returned from an 11-night trip to Cancun, Mexico. Our package, which included airfare and accommodations at the Valentin Imperial Maya all-inclusive resort, cost $4,615.

About a week before we left, I found the exact same package on Travelocity for $1,170 less. I filled out a form on its site and followed up several times by email. I sent screenshots as proof. Each time they responded they claimed to have not received the proof. Finally, I posted the proof to a website to be sure they could see it.

Last night, I called Travelocity and was told they would get back to me in a few hours by phone. They did not. I have always been happy with Travelocity’s service — until now. Why is this such a problem? Travelocity has a guarantee. Is it asking too much for them to honor it? — Steven Estrella, Fort Washington, Pa.

Answer: You qualified for Travelocity’s price guarantee, which promises a $50 coupon and up to $500 back if you find a “qualifying” lower rate up until the day before you check in. Travelocity should have processed your claim — or at least responded to it — promptly.
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Smoked out of my hotel room

Question: My wife and I checked into the Marriott Grand Flora in Rome on a reward stay. (I’m a Platinum Elite member of Marriott’s rewards program, which means I’ve stayed in its hotels more than 75 nights a year.)

One of the benefits is that my room type is guaranteed. My wife and I are both affected by cigarette smoke, and the ability to guarantee non-smoking rooms is welcome.

When we checked in, the front desk clerk waxed on about how we had received an upgraded room, but was in retrospect unclear about whether it was a non-smoking room.

The next day, we both felt sick; although there was no obvious smell of smoke, we looked around and finally noticed an ashtray tucked away on a table.

I immediately requested a room transfer. At first we were told the hotel was full. Eventually, after speaking with a manager, we were given a different room, but were told that we had to vacate our room as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, I did not pack everything.

After discovering the problem, I asked the hotel staff to let us back into our previous room. This request was refused, and repeated requests to the housekeeping staff to search the old room did not find anything left behind.

Several items of clothing (including a good portion of my socks and underwear) were left behind. Because we had been assigned to a smoking room in error, I asked the hotel to make good on the Room Benefits Guarantee for elite Marriott members. I was planning to use the money from the guarantee to purchase clothing so I wouldn’t have to do laundry in the bathroom sink on my vacation.

Marriott has refused to honor the guarantee, even though I escalated the complaint to the hotel manager and Marriott customer care back in the States. Is there anything you can do? — Matthew Gast, San Francisco

Answer: I feel for you. I just spent two days in a “non-smoking” room that happened to be next to a room occupied by a chain smoker. I smell like the Marlboro Man.

If Marriott guarantees a particular room type, and backs up that promise in its contract, I don’t understand why it’s stonewalling you. This is no way to treat a guest, let alone a frequent guest.
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