RATING

Attention hotel guests! Sometimes, those star ratings lie

For David Pollard, the “aha” moment came after he booked a hotel room in Los Angeles through Hotwire.

Hotwire and its competitor, Priceline, offer what are called “opaque” rooms, which is to say you don’t find out the name or exact location of the property until after you’ve made a non-refundable reservation. Instead, you’re given the hotel’s anonymous star rating. And the hotel he’d booked, the Crowne Plaza Los Angeles Airport, had four stars.
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What makes you happiest? Your TV — and here’s why

Traj4/Shutterstock
Traj4/Shutterstock
Jessica Beeman paid $779 for her 50-inch TV, a purchase she was pleased with, until one day “it just stopped” working. And then she wasn’t.

“We didn’t do anything to it,” she says. “It won’t turn on. The red power button light blinks over and over.”

At the time, I had no idea how rare her complaint was — and how fleeting. I asked her to send me the documentation on the busted household appliance. But within hours, Beeman reported back.

“They fixed it,” she told me. “All for free.”
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Hey, that’s no four-star hotel!

Question: I recently booked a hotel in Prague through Expedia. While perusing the hotels online, I saw an advertisement for an unpublished rate hotel. I clicked the advertisement and was presented with three four-star hotels from which to choose.
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“The only thing missing is a blindfold and a cigarette”

That’s one of the more memorable quotes from this year’s Zagat airline survey, which picked the best carriers in the historically customer-hostile airline industry.

Here are a few other accolades, as cited by Zagat:

“At least they haven’t killed me yet.”

“My bags get better service, but they pay extra.”

“The only difference between economy and business classes is a shrimp on your salad.”

“Unwelcome aboard!”

Oh, you can’t make this stuff up.

I hesitate to mention the winners, because a reasonable observer might look at this list and see only degrees of losers. But here you go, anyway.
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Is my hotel’s lost star a lost cause?

Question: My fiance and I are going to Melbourne, Australia, to celebrate his six-month, “all clear” from cancer. I booked a four-star hotel on Priceline.com for our first two nights and when they revealed the hotel, it was actually a three-star on the hotel’s own Web site.

I called Priceline’s customer service immediately after booking to protest, but Priceline’s agents passed the buck back and forth for more than 30 minutes before telling me they could do nothing, and I would get an email in three to five business days. Thanks for nothing.

Not only have I not received a response after a week, but when I called again yesterday, they promised a resolution by 8 p.m. yesterday, and still nothing. I am looking for a refund and will never use Priceline again. Thanks so much for any help you can provide. — Stephanie Farrow, Charleston, S.C.

Answer: If the hotel considers itself a three-star, I can’t think of any reason for Priceline to contradict it.

Except, maybe to upgrade its price category and charge you a little more.
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Hotwire’s half-star mistake

airport hiltonQuestion: I’ve used Hotwire.com many times, and have been happy with it. I’m also a former airline employee and seasoned traveler, so I am not ignorant of the travel industry. But I’m having some trouble with Hotwire’s star ratings, and could use a little help from you.

I am driving to Chicago for a convention in a couple of weeks. After confirming the area I wanted to stay in, I checked the star ratings to make a choice in hotels.

The only hotel I did not want to stay in was the Hilton at the airport. Hotwire shows the Hilton rated 3-1/2 stars, so I chose a 4-star option in the area.

Needless to say, the hotel I got was the Hilton O’Hare. Hotwire informed me that it had just changed the rating for that particular hotel to four stars last week and would not change my reservation per their rules. I tried to explain that they still have Hiltons listed as 3-1/2 stars, but to no avail. The hotel Web site lists the AAA hotel rating at three diamonds. The customer service rep said he does make exceptions but would not in this case. What should I do? — Debbie Burk, Eagan, Minn.

Answer: If you asked for a 4-star hotel, then Hotwire shouldn’t have given you a room at the Hilton. The representative you spoke with should have changed your hotel immediately instead of arguing with you about an “exception.”
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