No ‘super’ savings on my Las Vegas strip hotel

vegas babyQuestion: I hope you can help me with a Hotwire Hotel reservation. I booked a three-star “Las Vegas Strip — South Area Hotel” on Hotwire recently. I got a room at Hooters Casino Hotel for $47 per night, plus taxes and fees.

There are two problems with the result. First, it’s not on the Las Vegas Strip; it’s more than half a mile away. And second, it’s listed as a “Super Savings” rate, which Hotwire classifies as “more than 30 percent off retail price.” But most websites have the normal price at about $45 to $50 per night. Where’s the “super” savings?

I understand Hotwire reservations are final, and have used them successfully in the past. However, I feel this reservation is not fair. Hotwire won’t refund the reservation. Please help me. — Jerome Garcia, Albuquerque, NM

Answer: You’re right, Hotwire’s terms are restrictive. But there’s a tradeoff: In exchange for not knowing the exact name and location of the hotel, and giving up your right to a refund, you’re supposed to get a deep discount at a brand-name hotel.

Hotwire fell short of that. Its rates weren’t the lowest, even though it promises they will be. But its guarantee, which you can find on its site, only says if you find a lower rate for an identical booking, it will “pay you the difference between the rates.”

But a full refund? There’s no mention of that.

The other issue is the location of your hotel. Hotwire is pretty clear about what it considers in the “Las Vegas Strip” area, and your resort was there. But it wasn’t on the Strip, and unless you read the fine print carefully and click on the map, you could easily assume you’ll be staying on the Strip until the very end of the booking process, when the name of your property is finally revealed.

Most customers don’t bother to check their Hotwire rate against other published prices, and they shrug when their hotel isn’t exactly where it’s supposed to be — after all, they got a deal, right?

But your grievance highlights one of the persistent problems with so-called “opaque” sites, which is that like their amorphous products, their promises are long on rhetoric and short on specifics. Often, you can find a good deal through one of these sites, but not always.

I contacted Hotwire and it refunded your purchase.

Do opaque travel websites promise more than they deliver?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Monica Lynn Kennedy

    I rarely side with the hotels, but in this case, the area in which his hotel was potentially located was list on a map that he never bothered to look at. I pulled the area up on the map and it is clearly labeled as east of I-15 to Audrie St, and between 592 and 594 north/south. He also needs to understand “The Strip” doesn’t just refer to one road, but rather an area.

  • TonyA_says

    Those who play with hot usually get burned.

  • sirwired

    If you don’t look at the map showing what the area description covers, then I don’t know why you should be surprised when it’s located a bit away from where you expected.

    And the “retail price” likely refers to the rack rate, not “whatever rate happens to be available today.”

  • Asiansm Dan

    A relatively cheap lesson. I keep 100 miles away from Opaque sites.

  • EdB

    Yeah. And that would probably still be within the “Las Vegas Strip — South Area Hotel” area. *grin*

  • http://www.eyeonannapolis.net/ John Frenaye

    Wait, how many nights? The OP actually stayed at Hooters…correct? So because he did not do his homework or check out the website he was searching, he gets a free Las Vegas vacation? Sign me up!

  • http://phoenixjustice.blogspot.com/ Phoenix Justice

    If I want to gamble, I go to a casino or buy a lottery ticket. I don’t use one of these “opaque” sites. Just too much risk for so little, if any, gain.

  • Daisiemae

    I would never book a room without knowing the exact hotel I was booking. I’d check out reviews and I’d verify the location first.

    I also think paying in advance is foolish. If you get there and there’s a problem with the hotel, they already have your money. I have arrived at a property, looked at it, and left. That’s more of a problem if you’ve already paid in full and it’s non-refundable.

  • naoma

    Why would you want to stay so far from the Strip — where everything is happening?

  • SoBeSparky

    Some people who are “passing through” really don’t care much exactly where they stay, while others going to a trip destination want more specificity.

    So these opaque sites have their utility when the property is going to be a sleeping room. But when you are staying multiple nights, why would you spin the roulette wheel? Most chains have deals, and some opaque sites have property descriptions which, when entered into Google, pinpoint the exact property.

    Not so long ago, it used to be tedious to compare prices. Today, a few smart web searches will yield great results.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Okay, where’s Raven to say exactly what I’m thinking? Where’s the snark, bro?

  • http://twitter.com/alangore_sedona Alan Gore

    The problem is that Hotwire is an opaque site, with the hotel not specifically identified, so there is nothing to look up. When Hotwire gives “The Strip” as a location, you expect it to be Las vegas Boulevard.

  • Stephen0118

    That’s the problem, naoma. Opaque sites don’t tell you the name of the hotel until the end. In this case, the OP was looking for a good deal on the price of the hotel, relying on Hotwire’s interpretation as to what the Strip was.
    I’ll have to agree with SoBeSparky. I have a few hotels on the Strip that I like, so when I want to go there, I’ll always check out their websites for any deals. I’ve gotten lots of good deals.

  • KarlaKatz

    The OP should remember: “One usually receives exactly for which one has paid”. Hotwire is quite explicit about the area THEY consider to be “the strip”. There is no ambiguity about their map. If being directly on The Strip is so important, then the OP should have gone to individual hotels’ websites for booking information, rates, etc. Besides, I’ve often received huge discounts, just by calling individual hotel managers directly.

  • Kairho

    Nope. The location shown is “The Strip – South area” and the map, outlining the area, is quite clear. In this case, the hotel was well within the area stated and only 1500 feet or so from Las Vegas Blvd.

  • http://upgrd.com/roadmoretraveled MeanMeosh

    Opaque sites do have utility, IF you know their limitations. I have gotten some terrific deals, but I only use sites like Hotwire if I just need a room for a night and don’t care about the place, or at a super high demand time (like New Year’s Eve) and normal channels yield nothing or at exhorbitant prices. Where people get burned is when they have specific requirements on where they want to be or are traveling for a special occasion, but try to go el cheapo by using an opaque site. When you try to cheap out on something like your anniversary, you usually get what you pay for. Although you do get the added bonus of the evil eye from your significant other. The other danger with opaque site is you can get hit with a property that charges “resort” fees, which makes your el cheapo rate not seem all that cheap after all.

    What I find really odd is why you would even bother with an opaque site in Vegas, unless you’re looking for a room on a weekend or a holiday. If it’s a regular weekday stay, you can easily book a room at a casino on the Strip for way less than $47 a night direct on the casino’s website, and you won’t have to deal with a non-refundable rate to boot. Using an opaque site is also an open invitation to get whacked with “resort” fees that have become all the rage in Vegas these days.

  • bodega3

    He got a room for $47 a night in Vegas on an opaque site, then writes to Chris and complains about ‘the savings’, plus location and gets his money back? What is wrong with this picture?

  • JenniferFinger

    I won’t use an opaque site. I don’t want to take the chances that using them makes you take, because they’re nonrefundable. I don’t think the cheapness of the fare is worth the extra risk.

  • Cybrsk8r

    I have a problem with Hotwire on this one. It’s not that the hotel was not where the OP thought it was, but that Hotwire’s 30% off was pretty close to 0% off.

    This is why I never use Hotwire. With Hotwire, you’re not comparing apples to apples. You’re not even comparing apples to oranges. With Hotwire, you’re comparing apples to some mystery fruit inside a locked refrigerator.

  • http://thestockhome.com/ Josh S

    Is Hotwire’s 30% discount a discount from the ‘rack rate’ or a discount from the ‘real rate that actual people actually pay’?

    This is the reason I hate “huge discounts” on opaque sites — they tend to be huge discounts from the rack rate, which is what everyone is offering, including the property itself. If the rack rate is $80 for a room at the Hooters Casino Hotel, then the guy did indeed get a >30% discount. Nevermind that this is the same discount that the property offers through travel agents, to AAA members, to people from out of state, and to people who pay with cash or credit cards (ie everybody).

  • $25394585

    I take in Monica your a lawyer.

  • $25394585

    I would never use any of these sites. I think your better off using hotel coupon books you find on the side of the road and do a drive by and book after your shown the room.

  • $25394585

    Well said. I don’t trust anyone and so far have not been burned when we go on vacation.

  • $25394585

    Nothing at all is wrong with this picture. They (opaque sites) rarely are up front.

  • EdB

    “I have a problem with Hotwire on this one. It’s not that the hotel was not where the OP thought it was, but that Hotwire’s 30% off was pretty close to 0% off.”

    Ahhh… But that’s where the wording of Hotwire’s offer gets you. As the story says, “more than 30 percent off retail price.” So what is retail price? Probably regular rack rate which would have to be over about $67 if my math is right. Got to watch that wording. :)

  • dourdan

    first off I have walked from MGM (the closet place on the Strip with access to the monorail) to Hooters, it’s not that far. I can see why hotwire considered it to be “on the strip”.

    and as for the price. has he been to Vegas before? 47 per night is an AMAZING price. I don;t think he deserved a refund at all.

  • y_p_w

    I had a look. The area (Las Vegas Strip – South Area – map B) includes MGM and Tropicana but not Hooter’s. The “East of Strip” – map D includes Hooter’s.

  • y_p_w

    They do have a map, and I noticed that Hooter’s is just outside of this map and is in another map area. However, they do have clear maps. I think Aria is the only property on their map that isn’t technically on The Strip, but it’s really close and really nice.

  • y_p_w

    If you’re rated at some casinos you can get even better deals. I barely gamble but I have played a little at some Caeser’s Enterprise casinos. I can get $30/night rooms and even free rooms at some hotels.

  • y_p_w

    I don’t know if maybe Hotwire changed the definition of “Las Vegas Strip – South Area”, but I don’t see Hooter’s there. It’s in the “East of the Strip” map that I looked at.

  • Tincanrider

    Look, read, analyze, and you will get what you pay for… but there is no such thing as a free lunch

  • dis-gruntle

    I will never again use an opaque site for a hotel. First you get cheated by “star creep” where hotels get more stars than they rationally deserve. But worst of all, these hotels are allowed to charge “resort fees” and “energy charges”. So you can get (in theory) a 4* hotel for $25 and pay $100 in fees.

  • y_p_w

    I looked at the map for “The Strip – South”. I don’t know if they changed it recently, but I don’t see Hooter’s. I see Tropicana and MGM Grand, but Hooter’s appears to be in the “East of Strip” map that I saw.

  • Sam Petersen

    Hooters is not a half mile off the Strip. It’s right next door to the Tropicana, and across the Street from the MGM Grand. It’s not a “high” end hotel, it’s about on par with the Excalibur when it comes to it’s rooms. Granted they didn’t give the savings promised, but we also don’t know when the OP is trying to stay, because the price does flucuate from weekend to weekend here depending on what’s going on.

  • Sam Petersen

    It’s not so far away from the Strip. It’s right across Tropicana from the MGM Grand which is the start of the monorail. So you have EASY access to every hotel on the Strip from there. I live here in Vegas, you can leave the front door of Hooters and be on Las Vegas Blvd in less than five minutes walking.

  • EdB

    Actually, I think they did give the savings as promised. They said 30% off “retail” rates. So the question that has to be answered is what is retail rate? If it is standard rack rate, that would require it to be anything over about $65. Most of the rooms I have been to in Vegas show rack rates of $100+ so because of the wording, I believe he did get the savings. However, I believe the word is the way it is to deceive the customer.

  • Cherity

    I think Chris should have let the OP eat that rate. Sounds to me like it wasn’t that the hotel wasn’t on the “strip” per se, but that they searched the hotel’s website AFTER booking with Hotwire.com and realized they didn’t get a deal at all.

    As a travel agent, I first check to see what the TA rate is. If they offer none or it’s pretty much the same rate as shown on the hotel’s website, I’ll search other resources. With that being said, I’ve used Priceline.com before when I was trying to score a good deal at the Encore Las Vegas. Encore’s website had king rooms for $699/ni. Priceline had the same room for $135 AND I didn’t have to pay up front but at checkout. I know, sounds too good to be true. I was just fortunate enough to search at the right time because shortly thereafter all the rooms at that rate were gone. Only in instances like this would I used an opaque travel website.

  • kierah

    How could he search a hotel’s website if he doesn’t have the name of the hotel prior to the booking? In your case, you knew the hotel you were searching for so you could compare.

  • Cherity

    How hard is it to search to find the going rates at hotels prior to booking with these opaque OTAs? Even a simple google search can pretty much pinpoint a property’s location. Sounds like he simply didn’t like the fact that he didn’t get the savings he expected when he found out which hotel he got.

  • PatBgood

    Next time use a travel agent to find a good hotel.(psst..the property pays them..not you )

  • PatBgood

    Resort “fees” are ridiculous …just an add on separate from the rate…
    I tried to get the “resort fee” knocked off but they would not budge…uh…probably it was hal price already . But I just do not like “resort fees “.

  • Philip Brown

    As CONSUMERS, we “vote” every day with our dollars & also have a voice in the social medias. I would recommend that people “raise their voices” to condemn Hotwire (and others) over such unethical practices; I use FB, when I feel a company has “let me down”. You would be surprised how often you get an apology & empathy – within hours of your posting…
    Philip C. Brown

  • TmM

    Opaque sites are like the old game show “Let’s Make a Deal” You may not know what’s behind the curtain but if you’re willing to take a chance, it could be a donkey or a car.

  • IDoNotBowToCommies

    I have one myself that just cropped up using Southwest Vacations. On the website, they state that the Tropicana (no resort fee), but on the documents it says there’s a $19.99 resort fee. That will be fun to fight, getting ready for battle tomorrow.

  • Jami Whitehead

    Everyone wants to stay at the hottest strip properties but
    some Strip rooms cost hundreds of dollars a night. We got a GREAT deal at
    Bellagio through this site
    http://www.golasvegas.myvegasbusiness.com/

    It cost 50% less than their listed rate , was a
    great Vegas Vacation at a beautiful property