In today’s edition of Whine Wednesday we reflect on a problem that happens mostly when you book hotel rooms through a secondary source such as an online booking engine: The description doesn’t fit the room type and service offered.
In some cases, elementary items or services are only partially available or completely missing which requires the customer to negotiate with the hotel how to rectify the situation.
This issue is well known from booking holidays through tour operators who use catalogues or brochures to advertise their hotel portfolio in typical vacation destinations such as the Mediterranean, Mexico or North Africa.
Hotel descriptions are designed when the hotel contract is being formulated and all services the hotelier offers at his property are taken into account. Sometimes certain facilities and services will be unavailable at the last minute which creates a problem for certain types of advertisement such as traditional print media. Online providers should be able to change this information at any given time providing the hotel notifies them of the fact.
When talking about online providers I mean the likes of Orbitz, Expedia, Venere, hotels.com etc who provide realtime inventory access and market large number of hotel rooms every day.
I recently had a similar case when booking an independent hotel in Taipei at the airport. Usually I always use the Novotel there but that one was sold out on my desired date so I had to go for an independent hotel, namely the Orchard Park (see their Tripadvisor page here).
The price was right and the hotel description promising so I had no problem booking a non chain hotel. Remember to always check Tripadvisor before booking such hotels to prevent bad surprises!
Orbitz offered various types of rooms, from a simple Deluxe Room up to Executive Room with Breakfast. You can see in the screenshot how it would look like when I pull up a date for this week.
On this particular date the difference is only 5 USD. Earlier this month when I booked it the difference was ~ 17$ and just to be careful I also included a breakfast option for a few $ more. I found that Orbitz usually offers a decent variety of packages and that it often pays off to include the breakfast when offered at a small surcharge.
I looked up the hotels website (access here) to see what the Executive Room actually includes and found that it also comes with Lounge access. Fair enough I thought since I will be arriving about 6pm this might be useful.
If you wonder what the problem is… well, the hotel has no lounge! And from what the staff was saying it actually never had one. I find that more than misleading because the description Executive Floor VIP Lounge is quite clear. While I would have never expected a full blown club lounge such as provided by the chain hotels, at least some evening snacks and alcoholic beverages should have been included.
I talked to the manager who was very apologetic and negotiated a dinner at the restaurant and some beverages instead. For the next morning I had already booked the breakfast package so no loss there.
The Orchard Park was a perfectly fine hotel, in fact I was quite surprised about how nice it was in terms of the building and the friendly staff. Especially for the price or 70$ which is half of what the Novotel charges. I’d expect a bit more honest advertisement though because claiming to have a ‘VIP Lounge’ when there is in fact no such facility is a bit borderline.
You can only do so much research in advance and if there is a real discrepancy then it’s up to your own negotiating skills. For a one night stay, finding a remedy is often easier to deal with the hotel itself even though it’s prepaid through a third party provider such as Orbitz.
If you have a longer stay and there are clear discrepancies or problems with the hotel quality you should contact the front desk first and if no solution can be provided then turn to the provider where you booked the hotel or the tour operator such as Thomas Cook, or TUI /Thomson should you have booked it as a package or through a travel agency.