Whine Wednesdays: Best Rate Guarantees With Unclear Rules And Phony Approval Process

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Almost every Hotel chain these days has a Best Rate Guarantee where they advertise or suggest that customers always get the cheapest rates on the chains own website which in reality is rarely the case.

WW SPG BRG

The rules for these Best Rate Guarantees (BRG) changes all the time depending on the chain and it can be very challenging to actually get a lower rate approved due to complicated rules.

Rewards for finding a lower rate vary by chain and range from 1 free night (IHG), 25% off the lowest rate you find (Marriott) to 2000 Starpoints per BRG (Starwood).

Often the difference in Rate is small in which case I prefer Starwood’s option of adding 2000 starpoints in lieu of the 20% further rebate they offer as alternative. Especially when it’s on a brief 1-2 night stay. 2000 points provide a significantly higher value that it can be achieved with 20% rebate in most options as I value 2000 Starpoints at about 50$ (I always purchase the maximum allowed number of Starpoints every year if there is an interesting promotion).

But are the hotel chains really honest in their claims that their own website offers the cheapest rate? And what happens when you actually file a claim?

For one, don’t believe for a moment that is true because there are almost always lower rates available than the hotel websites offer. You will almost always find better deals through consolidators or on websites such as Amoma, Ctrip or HotelsClick. The savings per night can be significant and obviously even more so the longer you stay.

So once you find a lower rate you expect it that the hotel chains match it, right? Well, better read the fine print because you will find sometimes complicated parameters which website are acceptable in the first place.

Websites that do not confirm your booking instantly for example are excluded from BRGs. This would be acceptable if this would be 100% true but SPG and also Hyatt universally flag websites because ‘some’ bookings are not immediately confirmed. I recently had a run in with SPG in regards to a BRG I filed for the aloft Bangkok Sukhumvit 11 which I found for 2,200 THB including tax on HappyRooms.com compared to 2,800 THB plus tax on spg.com. Starwood’s Best Rate Guarantee Team denied the price match and points award because (according to them) HappyRooms doesn’t confirm instantly. I refuted this claim and included my correspondence with HappyRooms as evidence that prepaid rates are indeed immediately confirmed.

Not deterred by this I forwarded the matter to the Executive Customer Relations Team in Connecticut because it really bugs me that claims are being denied under false pretenses. Here is their reply:

Thank you very much for your email.

I can certainly understand your frustration when as a valued SPG member you can see these cheaper rates online. That is the exact reason we created the Best Rate Guarantee program. I will make sure the BRG team is aware of your chat with Happyrooms.com and will surely follow up with them.

On the other hand, I have gone ahead requested for 2,000 Starpoints to be posted in your account. Please allow up to 15 days for these to show in your balance.

Best Regards,

Marc C, CONSUMER AFFAIRS EXECUTIVE DIVISION

Let’s see if anything improves but I doubt that the hotels will give in due to single complaints like this unless it’s a real storm of complaints. That being said SPG is one of the better chains because both John and myself had good success in the past of getting BRG’s approved. Even if I get denied I don’t have a problem with it if it’s due to an oversight of myself for not claiming according to the rules. In this case the BRG team made something up which I was able to disprove and they still wouldn’t budge. Eventually I cancelled the aloft since I found a very low rate (2220 THB SPG Member Rate) at the Sheraton Royal Orchid which has proper SPG Platinum treatment and a decent Club Lounge. I thanked Marc from Consumer Affairs for his attention in the matter and for making things right after all.

Conclusion

The hotel chains really follow some very borderline advertisement strategy here because of course they know that the properties sell very cheap to certain consolidators and websites that in turn offer very low prices to their customers. Way lower than the direct sales channels.

BRG with certain chains such as IHG became a complete farce and the entire program is pretty much useless nowadays because the processing at their service center in the Philippines lacks any integrity. Hyatt also went down the drain due to their ridiculous restrictions in sites. Hilton is very fair because even if they take a bit longer sometimes they recognize that the compared rate might not be available due to this and still honor your claim.

To me, a guarantee isn’t a guarantee if the lower rates are there but you weasel your way out of matching them due to made up excuses which are largely inaccurate as the case with HappyRooms shows.

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