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.

ChoiceHotels.com has the best Internet rates guaranteed – we’re unbeatable.

Simply book your room here on ChoiceHotels.com 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 www.choicehotels.com. The competing website information you submitted requires prepayment. The reservation you made at www.choicehotels.com 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 www.choicehotels.com.

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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The rate error story that got away — in a big way

Pavel IgnatovShutterstock
Pavel IgnatovShutterstock
Anyone who reads this site probably knows my position on rate errors, which is to say I think it’s wrong to take advantage of someone else’s mistake, even if it’s made by a big travel company.

So you can imagine how dismayed I was when I got a call from Howard Steinberg, who owns several Budget car rental franchises in the United States. Not only had one of his customers exploited a rate error, he says, but I had helped the traveler do it.

How’s that?

Well, to get up to speed on this story, here’s the Q&A column that started it all. It involved a reader named Brandon Chase who had received a mysterious phone call from Budget’s auditing department, notifying him of a billing error. Budget re-charged his credit card $85, apparently not giving him a discount it had promised.
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They showed her the net rate and now she wants it

Eleanore Brouhard knows a secret.

When she checked out of her hotel, it revealed the “net” rate it was charging her online travel agency — a number far lower than the one she was quoted. Now she wants the hotel to honor the lower price for her.

I get requests like hers with some regularity, and I normally tell them they’re out of luck. If you bought hotel rooms in large blocks, you might qualify for a low rate, but not as a single traveler. But lately, I’ve had second thoughts about that response, and I’m thinking of mediating one of these cases. Maybe you can help me figure this out.
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Are energy fees about to make a comeback?

Do you have the power? / Photo by ykanazawa1999 - Flickr
The Oyster Bay Beach Resort is a highrise hotel in St. Martin that promises guests white sand beaches, “breathtaking” views of the Caribbean and a “paradise found.”

But Jack Permadi says he found more than that when he stayed at the property recently. Permadi, who had traveled to the island from North Royalton, Ohio, for vacation, says the hotel asked him to pay extra for something that’s normally included in the price of a stay.
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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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Case dismissed: Charged $183 for four hours on my rental car

Phillip Barszczowski’s Hertz car, which he booked through Priceline, cost $122. Not bad for a four-day rental in Wyoming, considering what rates have been doing lately.

But when Barszczowski told the agent he’d have the car back by noon on the fourth day, she had some bad news: His reservation lasted only until 8 a.m., and the four extra hours would more than double the price of his car, to $305.

Priceline’s reservation said he had until 1:30 p.m. The Hertz agent didn’t care. “She told me Priceline does this all the time and they get you a great deal and then make up for it later,” he says.
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Hotel reservation agent: “I feel very guilty about lying”

Mary is an in-house reservation agent for an upscale, full-service hotel in a major American city. I’m not using her last name for reasons that will become obvious in a moment.

Mary has a lot on her mind. People who call her hotel to reserve a room are getting ripped off, and she wants to come clean about it. Here’s our interview, which was conducted by phone this morning.

Tell me about what you do.

I work in the in-house reservations department of [a hotel]. When people call the hotel to book a room, they’re put through to me.

What do they say when they’re connected to your department?

Normally, they ask for the best room rate.

And what do you tell them?

I give them what we call the “bar” rate — it stands for “best available rate.”

Is it?

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