The not-so-entitled traveler — sometime deep discounts limit great service


Admittedly, many of my posts complain about travel suppliers. Certainly airlines, hotels and rental car companies could all use some work on their customer service.

On the other hand, there is also a group I refer to as “entitled travelers.” They demand five-star service at all times, even when they’re paying one-star prices.

This example isn’t one of my clients, but came from researching hotels in New York City. While I have favorite properties and our agency has a paid review service we can use, this traveler wanted a relatively moderately priced property in midtown Manhattan during an expensive week. While I don’t always rely on TripAdvisor, I use it sometimes as a secondary source to get a general idea of recent reviews.

In this case, the hotel had middle-of-the-road reviews, but one really bad one —

“First of all, I called in advance to let them know that I’ll be there at 7 a.m. on my check-in date. When I got there at 9 a.m., I’ve been told that my room wasn’t ready and then I had to leave my luggage in storage for the amount of 1$ each! Really? I’ve been called at 2 p.m., to let me know that my room was ready. What’s the point to call me at 2 p.m. when the check in time was at 3 p.m.? Then, they refused to add my Hilton Honnor (sic) Membership numbers because they were saying that since I booked with Priceline my stay wasn’t applicable. My room was small, really dark and decorated in a hiddeous (sic) art deco style… If I have an advise (sic) to give, don’t stay…”

So okay, this traveler wasn’t happy. But, she started out unhappy that her room wasn’t ready at 9 a.m. when she arrived. Unfortunately, that can be an issue at any hotel at any price. If a hotel is full, checkout is usually around noon. If someone has paid for the night before, no property is going to kick them out at 7 a.m. so the room can be ready for an early arriving guest.

Additionally, on some days hotels don’t have many departures, so that limits the number of potential room openings. Plus, housekeeping staffs can be busy with current guests. In this case, the hotel had the room ready an hour before the promised check-in time — they made an effort. (The $1 a bag luggage storage fee seemed silly, but was overall trivial.)

As to the no Hilton points issue, that is part of contract when booking with Priceline. Airline tickets usually don’t get miles (in fact, Priceline specifically says on its site, “‘Name Your Own Price’ reservations will not qualify for frequent flier miles”) and hotel stays don’t get points. Priceline rooms are often deeply discounted, and Priceline itself keeps a big chunk of that, so the hotel doesn’t get much revenue. The same is true for other “opaque” sites — “opaque” meaning a traveler doesn’t know what hotel or airline they are booking at a discount price until they pay.

Similarly, regarding getting a small, dark room — what’s a hotel to do? If they have full price or corporate-rate reservations from travelers who have chosen their hotel specifically, and some of the deeply discounted Priceline type bookings, it’s not rocket science to figure which ones they will prioritize.

Personally, I’ve also heard complaints of not being able to get the requested bedding (king/two doubles) with opaque sites, along with complaints about views, noise, etc.

On the other hand, I’m not saying these sites can’t be a great deal, especially when price is the number one factor. I’ve suggested that clients who are really price sensitive give them a shot, especially if they really don’t care about the room.

I’ve known people who have been quite happy with their deeply discounted stays. Hotel clerks usually try to be helpful, so if a room’s available, they’ll generally allow early check-in. On the other hand, if only a few rooms are available early, and again, there is a frequent guest, someone booked through a preferred travel agent or a traveler paying a regular rate will get priority.

Sometimes discount site travelers get very nice rooms, but not always. And then there’s the whole “nonrefundable” issue. But that’s a different post.

My rule of thumb: If it really is a question of somewhere to sleep, with no special requests, then booking a generic room at the cheapest rate possible might be the best solution. If not, consider booking direct or through a travel agent. It still won’t guarantee an upgrade or early check-in. But it will improve your odds.