Answer: If you were offered a $199 a night rate, you should get it.
A review of the email correspondence between you and Hilton — which I’m sparing my readers because of its length — shows you repeatedly asking the hotel to fix the rate error, and hotel representatives repeatedly refused your request.
Answer: If you book a rate that you know is an error, then you shouldn’t expect the hotel to honor the price. But $28 per night wasn’t an obvious “fat finger” rate, and the fact that Westin confirmed it certainly didn’t help.
If the hotel had offered rooms at $0, then this would be a different story. Actually, it wouldn’t be a story at all. If a business mistakenly prices something at a rate no reasonable customer believes is valid, it shouldn’t be required to honor that price. But you can find hotel rooms at $28 a night.
Question: I hope you can help me persuade Marriott to live up to its commitment. My wife and I are being relocated to the Washington area for her work. I found a room at the Residence Inn at Dulles Airport with a two-bedroom unit for $149 per night.
Because we would be staying for about three months, I called Marriott’s reservations line to see if I could negotiate a better rate. I was told to call the hotel directly, and a representative there offered a rate of $116 per night, which I accepted.
I didn’t hear anything from the hotel for almost two weeks, so I called Residence Inn to confirm my reservation. That’s when a representative told me the person to whom I spoke wasn’t authorized to offer a lower rate. I was told they were not going to honor their commitment to me and the best rate they could offer was $149 a night — take it or leave it.
Now, with less than two weeks until we leave our current home, I’m stuck in the position of having to find housing again. I am terribly disappointed in Marriott, which owns Residence Inn. Do you have any suggestions on how to get them to live up to their commitments? — Michael Tushan, Aliso Viejo, Calif.
Answer: The Residence Inn should have honored the rate it offered by phone. It should have sent you a confirmation immediately instead of making you wait almost two weeks. And the words “take it or leave it” shouldn’t be part of anyone’s vocabulary in the hospitality business.
When someone offers you a rate by phone, ask for it in writing. If the Residence Inn didn’t follow up with an immediate confirmation — either by email or snail mail — you should have called back as soon as possible. No news is usually bad news.
I don’t understand Residence Inn’s rationale for letting someone answer the phone that wasn’t allowed to offer a lower rate. But if they are going to negotiate with you, they should honor their rate, whether they’re “authorized” or not.
I think a brief, polite letter to Marriott might have yielded a better response than the ultimatum you got. You could have started at its Web site. Here’s the address.
If that didn’t work, I would have appealed your case to an executive. Tim Sheldon, the executive vice president for brand management at Marriott’s extended stay properties, would have been my first choice. Email addresses at Marriott are firstname.lastname@example.org.
But with just two weeks before your move, I understand you couldn’t wait around for a response. Contacting me under these circumstances was the right thing. I got in touch with Marriott, which called you and offered to split the difference between the published rate and the one you were erroneously offered.
Here’s more evidence that hotel rates may be about to fall off a proverbial cliff. Earlier this week, experts predicted some modest rate declines. But after Wall Street’s meltdown, it became a more significant downturn. Now there’s evidence that the trajectory was already set long ago.
Here are average daily room rates from last summer, according to our friends at Travelocity.
Now, the idea with any business is to increase rates over time. But that’s not what happened last summer …
Rates in these cities were off by anywhere from $2 to $5 a night. That’s the wrong direction.
Let’s go to the tape. Here’s Travelocity’s Genevieve Shaw Brown:
Hotel average daily rates in many cities have remained relatively flat year-over-year and in some instances decreased. Travelers are able to find value in their hotel stays and keep a vacation within reach. The hotel stay is typically the most expensive part of any trip, so a discount on your room can offset other costs, whether it’s an increase in airfare or higher gas prices.
From where I’m sitting, I see hotel rates heading south in a pretty dramatic way.
For the sake of the hardworking men and women in the lodging industry, I hope I’m wrong. For the sake of the travelers who have been priced out of an affordable vacation for the last four years, I hope I’m right.