Traveling has always come with complications. Our By The Way Concierge column will take your travel dilemmas to the experts to help you navigate the new normal. Want to see your question answered? Submit it here.
I’ve had hotels dupe me before (a pool featured on the website that wasn’t built yet, for example) but have never experienced a rate bait-and-switch after booking.
For due diligence, I reached out to your Vegas hotel, the Sahara, and a spokesperson told me it was “an extremely unusual booking engine error” that affected a handful of customers. Allegedly, it offered wronged customers the opportunity to rebook at a rate lower than the one available to the public. Hopefully you get a follow-up from the hotel beyond the error message.
But to rule out a scam, I asked hotel industry insiders for their take on the situation. Some of the big online travel advisers declined interviews, but most of the people I did reach agreed that it seemed like a hotel error and not foul play.
David Melkonian, founder of the luxury hotel booking site Comperk, chalked up the mistake to an inexperienced employee. Yes, hotels and some booking websites might give you the impression of a lower rate by hiding taxes and fees (i.e., the resort fee) until the checkout page, but to increase the price after you confirm is not an industry practice.
Another trend he’s noticed is hotels advertising lower member rates that you can’t redeem unless you sign up for a free account with the brand, so you could see a price bump at checkout if you decline to register.
Tim Hentschel, CEO and co-founder of HotelPlanner, says the majority of hotels globally honor the rates you booked, but there are no guarantees. Unlike airlines, which are regulated by the Transportation Department, there’s no agency regulating hotels. Hotels can cancel or choose to not honor your reservation, which Ben Schlappig writes about on his blog, One Mile at a Time.
Hentschel has heard of a few post-booking price-bump tricks — just not ones like your situation. He’s had guests report hotels pressuring them to cancel the reservation they made with a third-party site and rebook with the hotel directly, sometimes at a higher rate. They may also claim the third-party site made a mistake with the listing. By doing so, the hotel avoids paying commission to the third party.
Hentschel has also heard of hotels (usually in major cities, such as Vegas) charging a higher rate upon check-in because of a surge in demand when a big event is in town or if the customer shows up with a pet or additional guest.
To avoid those situations, Hentschel encourages customers to book prepaid rates to lock in their reservations and to show up to check-in with their confirmation handy. If you still get burned, ask to speak to the manager, contact corporate customer service, take the situation to social media, file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau or warn others in a review.
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