Four Reasons Not To Book Your Hotel Room Through A Third-Party Site

You won’t get the best deal booking your hotel room through third-party sites like Expedia or Travelocity, according to an anonymous hospitality industry insider. Inside, four excellent reasons to book directly with a hotel to guarantee the best rooms at the best prices.

Lower Prices: Most hotels have a lowest price guarantee and are willing to match third-party sites, even it means undercutting their best published rates. They’d rather get the money from you than pay out a commission.

Better Compensation: If you pay a third-party site, they’re the ones you need to ask for a refund. If you pay the hotel directly, they’re able to offer a refund by way of apology. “Higher-end hotels will often do whatever it takes to make a guest happy before they check out, including comping nights or the entire stay, if the complaint is egregious enough. You don’t want to prevent them from being able to do that for you.”

More Flexibility: Booking through a third-party means sacrificing your ability to easily change plans. Your dates are set by contract and that’s that. If you book directly with a hotel, they’ll usually let you cancel up to 24 hours in advance. They may even let you rejigger your travel plans during your stay without charging a penalty.

Better Rooms: Booking through third-party sites can land you in the rooms that regular patrons don’t want. That means the smoking room at the far end of the hall away from the elevator. “My hotel doesn’t maliciously put third-party internet guests into our smallest rooms, but when occupancy climbs, we’re forced into it. Perhaps you won’t receive the best rooms if you book directly, but at least you won’t be earmarked during the arrivals process for the less desirable rooms.”

Why Third Party Reservation Websites Are For Chumps [The Night Auditor]
(Photo: claytron)

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  1. Roclawzi says:

    But wait, this flies in the face of everything we’ve been told to believe: Adding another middleman to a transaction actually saves money. Right? AMIRIGHT?

    • jamar0303 says:

      @Roclawzi: Mysteriously enough, it sometimes does. Case in point- Hong Kong. Rakuten Travel gave me lower rates than the hotel by some 30-odd percent. And the hotel had no rate-matching policy, so it was a no-brainer.

    • Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

      @Roclawzi: “Con-sume-erist NEGOTIATOR!”

      (cue Ben in the consumerist van….)

      • Osagasu says:

        @verucalise:

        I think I need an adult.

        But yeah, I only go with travel sites when I’m only staying a place a day or two, otherwise I’d rather go through the hotel for nothing other than the last reason in the article, even if I do end up paying more.

  2. dlynch says:

    i don’t know – i’m staying in an omni tonight for $63 instead of their “best internet rate” of $179 – i think i’m happy being a chump for now.

    • JediJohn82 says:

      @dlynch: I guess I am a chump too…got our hotels using Priceline’s name your own price for our honeymoon for $35 and $40 a night when they were normally like $149 and $169 a night, respectively. Oh, and we got to stay on the preferred members floor (one of the upper floors where you have to put your room key into the elevator to even access the floor, and included with a free breakfast bar) just by signing up for their free rewards club and emailing the hotel directly to add the rewards number to our reservation.

      • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

        @JediJohn82: Priceline’s different than Expedia — Priceline is like the Big Lots where they’re dumping extra inventory, and there are great bargains to be had if you’re willing to abide by Priceline’s terms. Expedia is just a much better way to search all hotels in the area at once; the prices are not “bargain basement.”

        • ElizabethD says:

          @Eyebrows McGee:

          That’s very interesting. I was also going to post here defending Priceline. A few years ago I went to a week-long convention in Indianapolis. Through Priceline I got a roundtrip airline ticket and a week at the Courtyard Marriott (in a very nice double room with good TV). I actually didn’t use the air ticket at all, as I was getting there another way. Even with the roundtrip airline ticket from the East Coast (yes, total cost of airfare plus room), my Courtyard Marriott room was nearly half the cost than if I’d reserved the hotel room directly with Marriott. That’s when I became a Priceline fan.

    • _catlike_ says:

      @dlynch: Yes, I feel your pain as I’ve lain in the king-sized bed of a newly-renovated Hilton twice in a recent month for the oppressive cost of $60 through Priceline. Granted, I’ve found the key to getting the best rates is to do this in cities with a number of large hotels and to book the day you arrive.

  3. doobes says:

    Yea, you can have them do to me what Hotels.com and Best Western did me. Reserved a room at the Best Western on The Katy Freeway in Houston for the duration of the Offshore Technology Conference in early May (which admittedly is a busy time for hotels). I’m late getting to the hotel (around 7:30 p.m.) and the clerk tells me my reservation has been “canceled” call Hotel.com. Evidently they got the opportunity to rent the room at a higher rate.

    I call Hotels.com and they tell me that they can’t provide room for the night, but can provide room for the next two nights. All at the same amount I was going to pay for 3 days at the Best Western. They do make a modicum of effort to help me get a reservation at a “non-member” hotel that night. I voice a formal complaint, but it’s late and I’m tired so I consent.

    Returning home this I send Hotels.com an e-mail detailing the whole thing indicating I want the $130 I paid for the first nights hotel refunded as I had contracted and prepaid for three nights and got two for the same price. Of course they fail to respond. I file a charge back with the credit card and lo and behold 20 minutes later I get an e-mail from Hotels.com offering to reimburse me if I recall the charge back.

    Last time I did business with either Best Western or Hotels.com

    chris

    • Davan says:

      @doobes: I still dont understand why chargebacks are effective threats. Simply send you to collections and ruin your credit, thats what my ex-employer used to do.

      • Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

        @Davan: I think it depends on the merchant agreements… what company wants to lose a major CC like Mastercard or Visa services for being a dick company? “We only accept American Express or Discover, sorry.”

        (I could be VERY wrong… please correct me if I am!!)

        And I’ve done 2 chargebacks for improper billing- Both times the company, who first refused to fix their error, called up and changed their tunes within 1 week. Maybe your employer was just THAT dick company who wasn’t willing to work with their customers?

      • theblackdog says:

        @Davan: Usually chargebacks work in the favor of the customer so the business is out the money, plus if a credit card company notices a business has had a lot of chargebacks against them they will cancel the merchant account with that business, so then they lose the ability to accept any of those credit cards

      • mac-phisto says:

        @Davan: depending on the situation, your ex-employer could be violating the law. in chris’s example, the chargeback is successful b/c he paid for a service that wasn’t rendered.

        if your ex-employer is suing people for money that isn’t due to him, he is in violation of the FCRA & FACTA & can be counter-sued for at least $1000/violation (plus actual losses of individuals who can prove their credit was adversely affected).

        of course, if he’s owed the money, he’s perfectly within his rights to do what you suggest.

        • lauy says:

          @mac-phisto: I went back and read through and could not figure out who the “Chris” is you are referring to, but…

          In Doobes’s story, his chargeback would likely not have been successful if his agreement with Hotels.com indicated he had to check in by a certain time or his room would be forfeited and he would still be charged. That is why I never use the third party sites. Charge you in advance, too many terms and conditions NOT in the consumer’s favor, etc. I’d rather pay a bit more have a little piece of mind if something were to happen. I am a bit of a fatalist like that :)

          • mac-phisto says:

            @lauy: chris = doobes. if you look at the bottom of his post, he signed “chris”.

            i was commenting more on the practices of your ex-employer though & not so much on the chris “doobes” story.

            anyway, i don’t use travel sites either, but i’ve found that the travel industry as a whole frequently has t&c that are very anti-consumer.

            my anecdote for the day:
            i remember my father once reserving a room at a hotel with a credit card, asked for late check-in, called when we were about 3 hours out & had them charge us for the room b/c we were expected at 9pm & weren’t getting in until 11:30pm. still, they gave away our room & charged my dad for it b/c their t&c allow them to do it.

            we got a room somewhere else & my dad got his money back, but my point is the piece of mind you’re referring to is often an illusion.

            • lauy says:

              @mac-phisto: You are absolutely right – T&E is pretty un-consumer friendly. Going directly to the hotel is not always fool proof, as your story well illustrates, I just really can’t stand all the BS that the third party sites put into their T&C. The one time I used one, Orbitz, for a flight, was disasterous. I booked my flight 2 months in advance. I called the airline to confirm the night before departure. They had no record of my reservation, and claimed my flight never existed (not just the reservation, but the flight itself). I called Orbitz and raised hell as to why I was never notified. I was stuck paying more to get on a new flight and Orbitz could care less. I’ll never use one of those services again.

        • Davan says:

          @mac-phisto: Well I guess the situation is important. I can see a chargeback for an improperly billed fee or something being valid, if you can prove it. In my specific case, it was an online computer retailer, and people threatened to chargeback when we wouldnt allow them to return their computer or whatever it was they bought. We always simply said, go ahead and do a chargeback, when you hear from collections let us know if you want to fix it then. It always shut em up, I never heard of someone going through with it after that.

          Obviously, if you send someone to collections and they dont even owe the money, that is a completely different barrel of monkeys. But in the above case, where he sends a chargeback, he agreed to the modification to the agreement in order to get a room. Whether or not a judge would side with him if it went further is not really whats important here. I just am surprised that companies seem to be so eager to buckle at the threat of a chargeback.

      • jamar0303 says:

        @Davan: And be subsequently dropped by Visa/MC/AmEx?

        • Davan says:

          @jamar0303: *shrug* never happened to us, I dont know the truth or conditions behind this statement myself. I seriously doubt that hotels.com is in a position where visa or amex is threatening to drop them at any second, if just “One more irate customer dares to send a chargeback!! To the moon!!”

          • jamar0303 says:

            @Davan: So how many of your customers are AmEx users? From what I’ve heard they only issue chargebacks for a darn good reason- attempts to circumvent this mechanism usually end badly.

    • lauy says:

      @doobes:

      “I file a charge back with the credit card and lo and behold 20 minutes later I get an e-mail from Hotels.com offering to reimburse me if I recall the charge back.”

      20 minutes after the chargeback? Are you sure about that? If anything it was a complete coincidence, and more likely simply the threat of a chargeback. A merchant would NEVER receive notification from their merchant bank within 20 minutes of a chargeback being filed. It takes several days for the merchant bank to receive a chargeback from the consumer’s bank.

    • CafeSilver says:

      @doobes: Each Best Western is independently owned and operated. Best Western hotels are not “franchises” in the typical sense. Best Western International is actually a non-profit organization. Don’t let one jackass hotelier prevent you from enjoying a stay at another Best Western. I manage a Best Western in New York and it annoys the crap out of me what other hotels will do to their guests. We would never do anything like this but we get calls all the time with people telling us they’re going to be “late” and to not cancel their room. When we ask how late they are going to be they say like five or six that night. That isn’t late and we would never give a hotel reservation away when it has been guaranteed (booked with a credit card hold or paid in full).

  4. SgtBeavis says:

    I booked my hotel in Mumbai, India through the hotel’s website. It was by far the best price. My room was less than 5000INR ($100) a night but the same room was $170 on Expedia.

    I have found that for extended stays, you can sometimes get the best price by simply calling the hotel directly and negotiating.

  5. bombledmonk says:

    It’s hit and miss. Sometimes you can get a better rate with .com middlemen, but from what I’ve found it is generally hard to get a great price on the internet in general whether it be hotels.com or the hotel’s own website. They don’t want to marginalized the perception of the “class” that they are in by offering anything out in the open that’s cheaper or much cheaper than they post out in the open.

    The one way that you do get a good rate on these websites is when you package hotels and flights together. I went and found a hotel alone for 7 nights and the rate listed on priceline.com was over $1400. Using the same hotel and adding plane tickets from Fargo to Seattle the Total of tickets and hotel rooms was $1384. The plane tickets alone were ~$600rt for the dates I wanted.

    • bombledmonk says:

      @bombledmonk:
      I forgot to add, The 1384 included week long car rental too.

    • CaptCaveman says:

      I agree with booking the flight and hotel at the same time. But sometimes it’s hard to do that.
      For example. I want to take a vacation to Disney World.
      Problem is: if I book at one of the big travel sites my travel time will be about 7 hours (flying out of Des Moines, IA). But I have the choice of almost every hotel in the area. But there is an airline that only flies out of Des Moines to Vegas and Florida with non-stop flights. So my travel goes down to about 3 hours and I arrive in Orlando at 7pm vs almost midnight.
      But the airline with the direct flights doesn’t do business with the big travel sites and doesn’t have an agreement with the hotel that I want to stay at (the Double Tree).

      The moral of the story: Living in Iowa sucks.

  6. DarklingLena says:

    I work in the hotel industry and I don’t recommend booking with these sites either.

    It is so difficult for someone to change anything on one of these reservations simply because it’s pre-paid for. This means if you call a hotel to change the arrival on a room you got through travelocity, the hotel can’t change it because travelocity is already paid for the room on this night. THEN you get to deal with an unhappy guest who has to deal with god knows who on a 1-800 number that may or may not be helpful!

    Also, when booking a room third party, if the hotel is sold out that night guess who’s at the bottom of the barrel? YOU. This is why I recommend signing up for every free rewards program hotels offer. If they see you’re a member they are less likely to downgrade your hotel room.

    Always call the hotel directly first and see if you can’t negociate a rate through the reservation desk. Most of the time they are more than happy to give discounted rates because it gets more rooms sold and no comission to worry about.

    • logicbox says:

      @DarklingLena: I work in the car rental industry and everything you just said also applies. Just FYI for everyone out there nay-saying the article and giving examples of when it HAS worked for you. In my experience people lose out more often than succeed with these third party sites.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Many times, the third party sites offer discounts when booking airfare and hotel together. Expedia even offers a good insurance that refunds you your trip cost if you need to cancel it. I’ve never had a problem booking with them.

  8. bohemian says:

    There is a big difference between Expedia,Travelocity,Hotels.com and Priceline and Hotwire.

    The former generally don’t have better prices than some of the hotel site bargains. Hotwire & Priceline are the deep discount excess room sellers. Your going to get a dirt cheap rate at Hotwire or Priceline but you give up some flexibility in the process. I wouldn’t use Hotwire or Priceline if your booking a high demand location or date. You might end up in a crappy room.

    We had great success using Hotwire for a slow weekend in Chicago at a 4 star hotel that caters to business guests. We were able to get a room with a view and the room itself was perfect. Trying to do that during the week when there is a big conference probably would have resulted in fewer options.

    I either go with the hotel and trying to get them to discount the room or go with Hotwire or Priceline if it is a situation where we can be more flexible.

    • humphrmi says:

      @bohemian: Yeah, agreed, including Priceline doesn’t really work, because once you’ve gotten a firm, agreed price from Priceline, you’ve already booked and there’s no longer an option to negotiate a lower price with the hotel directly. And it’s not like you can call the hotel directly and say “Hey, I was going to bid $99 for this $299 room, and I’m sure you would have accepted it, so how’s about just giving me the room for $99?”

    • mythago says:

      @bohemian: It definitely depends on what you want. My spouse and I got a dirt-cheap price on a super pricey hotel in Vegas because the room faced a construction crane – we didn’t care about the view because we just needed a place to stay overnight (and really, views? in Vegas?).

  9. wyleeguy says:

    I agree with this article for BestWestern.com I’ve never had a problem with them when I book directly through them and they also have a really good rewards program.

    However, when I can’t stay at BestWestern or want a cheaper rate I use priceline. Ignore the commercials start at insanely low price. I rented a full size car for a weekend for $25 out the door for next month! Last Summer I got two rooms for 3 days in Atlanta over the weekend for only $100 a night for both rooms at a HILTON. However, I only use priceline when I don’t need flexibility and am going for a rock bottom deal.

    For International Travel, break out Babelfish… A lot of times countries have Tourist websites in the local language with hotel websites in the local language with MUCH MUCH MUCH lower prices then what are advertised on the English site. So once I have the lower price, I call them and book the reservation and mention that price and they have always given it to me at that price. A couple of years ago I got a 5br penthouse with washer/dryer in Budapest for $300 a week!

    • jamar0303 says:

      @wyleeguy: For the Asia area in particular, Rakuten Travel is a good place to start. The nice thing is they make it easy for you- the deals on the EN version of the site are just as good as the ones on the JP vesion.

    • outsdr says:

      @wyleeguy: The prices at bestwestern.com are required to be the same rates that are available if you call the hotel directly.

  10. laserjobs says:

    Well I for one use coupons on places like expedia. I have a room booked for $2/night in Vegas for 4 nights plus it comes with a $50 pre-paid visa. So I make $42 just for booking.

    I also use Priceline and Hotwire extensivly

  11. dddoistutter says:

    Same thing is often true with airfare…I just bought some tickets from San Jose, CA to Portland, and it ended up being far cheaper getting tickets directly from Alaska rather than using any of the “booking agent websites”. Those sites always looked better…until I got to the checkout screen and had the privilege of paying a $100+ “taxes and other fees” charge on each ticket.

    I looked for about an hour, and Alaska Airlines’ price ended up being the cheapest by about $80.

  12. weave says:

    A few horror stores

    1. Booked a hotel in Brooklyn via Travelocity. Spent a few nights there. Went to check out and they attempted to charge me. I said it was prepaid, showed the printout, they said not according to travelocity. The hotel manager tried calling Travelocity and was put on hold for over half hour. My flight time was getting near, I finally had to charge it then fight with both companies later, each saying it was the other’s responsibility to refund me.

    2. Booked two seats to fly on 9/14/01 via Expedia. That was the first day after 9/11 that flights were allowed again but all the airline’s planes were in the wrong places, so almost all flights were canceled. US Air said I had to deal with Expedia, expedia was backed up — understandable. They said I’d get my refund in a few weeks, then it was a few months, then finally I got a refund for ONE ticket, not two. I tried calling them again, they said they showed a refund. I said it was only for one of two tickets. I finally disputed the charge. My credit card company at first denied it saying I already got a refund. After trying to explain I bought two tickets, they finally put it through again, then denied it again saying Expedia told them I got a paper ticket (a lie, it was an e-ticket) and I had to send them it to get a refund. I gave up. Yeah, I know, but my aggravation level was through the roof.

    3. I got a free night at a nice hotel when booking a flight through British Air a few months ago. I printed out the voucher I was given, arrived at the hotel, they had no record of my reservation. Fortunately they had a room and took my voucher and said they’d work it out with the travel agent. Props to the Barcelo Hotel in Oxford for handling that one with class.

    *EVERYTHING* is more complicated when a third party is involved.

    • dddoistutter says:

      @weave: 4. My wife and I took her parents to Hawaii a few years back, booking the tickets very early through Expedia. Six months after we purchase the tickets, the airline cancels a connecting flight. Expedia contacts us and tells us that they would rather issue a refund than take time to get our tickets reissued with a valid connection. The problem: if we purchase tickets now (six months later), they will be ~$1,500 more than the price we originally paid.

      Eventually, my wife and I call the airline directly to change the flights to make them work (which eventually culminates in going to the airport in person, a horrific experience), then contact Expedia to ask them to please, please stop “helping”. Unfortunately, Expedia refuses to stop being our “agent”, and after the change is made, their system still doesn’t detect that we now have a valid flight. Consequently, every two weeks or so leading up to the flight, we receive an e-mail from Expedia telling us that the flight has been canceled, necessitating the obligatory phone calls to Expedia (“please leave us alone”) and the airline (“are the arrangements we made still valid?”).

      We did end up getting the flight we wanted, but Expedia made it MUCH more difficult than it should have been.

    • karmaghost says:

      @weave: not exactly a horror story, but:

      5. Booked through a 3rd party site and on our very last night at the hotel, an overworked, faulty A/C unit in the ceiling started leaking like crazy all over the place, getting everything soaked and making a fast, annoying dripping sound. This was at about 1am and we had to be up at 7am to catch a flight, so we threw some towels around and dealt with it. We didn’t want to have to move all of our stuff into another room so late. The next morning while checking out, I mentioned the problem to the guy at the desk. He told me there was nothing he could do because we had prepaid with the 3rd party site and we didn’t have anything extra on our bill that he could take off to compensate us.

  13. 420greg says:

    Here in Central Florida, near Disney there is a 7% resort tax that you do not pay when you book thru the online companies.

    So if the hotel has a better price on their web site, make sure it beats the National sites by at least 7% just so you break even.

  14. Chocotanya says:

    I have found that here in Canada, Travelocity and Expedia will have rates that appear nearly identical to the hotel itself, but the travel sites’ rates are listed in Canadian dollars which is a savings of around 20%.

  15. sonneillon says:

    Hotels are high on the fixed costs low on the variable costs. Any room left open is money that is lost. With high fixed cost businesses it’s much easier to negotiate. It costs a lot of start up money for a hotel so you can haggle with them. Any business where they have a high cost to build and they are just out the money if they don’t have you is likely to make a deal.

  16. balthisar says:

    My company exclusively books through American Express. They also have the lowest rate guarantee. I usually also get exceptional treatment. I guess the difference is they’re a real travel agency, and it’s not a prepaid deal.

    • egoods says:

      @balthisar: Well, in this case the benefits might outweigh the cons. If they use Amex as there big company card then they have an insane amount of points built up and probably use those. Also, I’ve noticed customer service with Amex’s travel section is great, they tend to bend over backwards for the customer, at least that’s my experience.

    • wyleeguy says:

      @balthisar:

      My problem with Amex travel is their service fee is higher then the rewards I would earn using them…

    • abz_zeus says:

      @balthisar:

      Amex is also the credit card. if there is a problem, Amex travel talks to amex card who talks to hotel corporate. If a large hulk of your business’s business guest are using amex that’s a hunk of change……

      You don’t p off that level of business

    • balthisar says:

      @balthisar: Actually, you’re all wrong. Our company credit card is Citi Visa. It’s only the travel arrangements that we make through Amex.

  17. lizk says:

    I guess this is one of those “YMMV” things, because I’ve booked through third-party sites for years and have never had one iota of a problem.

    I also want to note that just booking through a third-party *is not* always paying in advance. It’s just like making a credit card reservation with a guaranteed rate. We just booked a trip (flight + hotel) to Vegas on a third-party site, and only the plane ticket was paid for–the hotel reservation requires a credit card at check-in, because it has not been paid for.

    If you name your own price, you’re going to be really limited in terms of your cancellation and upgrade options–usually. We booked through Priceline once and ended up getting trapped at home in a blizzard, and Priceline simply called the hotel and canceled the reservation. Simple as that.

    I just don’t see any of these nasty things happening when we book through third-party sites. Oh, and I’ve NEVER been able to get a hotel to match prices on these sites.

  18. HawkWolf says:

    every time I’ve used Hotels.com or Travelocity or something, they’ve screwed up somehow and only had me for one night and I woke up the next day to a confused other patron trying to get into my room.

    • TrixieB says:

      @HawkWolf: That would be the fault of the hotel NOT the third party site. When you book a room via Expedia, Travelocity, etc. the hotel receives a fax confirming the booking. The person on the receiving end (the hotel) then must input the reservation into the reservation system. That’s where your reservations are getting screwed up, the hotel employee is inputting the reservation incorrectly.

      You should always call the hotel after booking a 3rd party res to make sure they received notice of your reservation & to make sure the details are correct.

    • Corporate_guy says:

      @HawkWolf: Why kind of hotel checks guests into a room if the person in that room has not checked out?

  19. Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

    I always use these sites to search hotels and search rates, and then go right to the hotel’s site to book. (Do it for airlines, too.)

    Sometimes their package deals are good, though, where you get airfare/hotel/car all at once.

    • dronnac says:

      @Eyebrows McGee:
      Ditto, but instead of using Expedia and co., I just rely on Kayak.com as a meta search engine it saves me time and then reach out to the Hotel/Airline directly.

      • edwardso says:

        @dronnac: I do the same thing. The last two hotels and flights I booked were found through kayak and purchased directly from the hotel/airline since they were the cheapest

        • novacthall says:

          @edwardso: Dittos on Kayak. Since it meta-searches the comparison sites and the host vendor’s site as well, I feel pretty confident that I get the best bang for my buck.

          Even still, whenever a price seems too good to be true, I’ll usually call the vendor directly and ask them if they’ll match the rate. More often than not, they do agree to do so.

  20. DeafChick says:

    It’s YMMV thing. First thing is to compare hotel site and third-party site. I did this when I was going to LA and hotels.com offered me a better deal.

  21. heart.shaped.rock says:

    I use priceline and haven’t had any bad deals. I was hooked when I once needed to book a last-minute room in Seattle during SeaFair weekend. I am a Marriott frequent-stay member, so when all the hotels in the Bellevue area I wanted were sold out on hotels.com, travelocity, and even the hotel websites, I called Marriot to see if they could hook me up. All they had to offer was a studio suite at a Residence Inn in Bellevue for the low, low, price of $279.00.

    Desperate, I hopped on Priceline, never having used it before. I entered the area I wanted to stay and a price of $99.00, which was rejected. I changed the price to $109 and VOILA! I got a room. And guess what??? It was a studio suite at the SAME Residence Inn in Bellevue that Marriott wanted to charge me $279 for!

    I’m now a Priceline junkie.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I have worked in the industry for 10 years: from 5 star to 2 star. I hate having to deal with Travelocity, Hotels, Carson W, Expedia, and Apple. They pay for the room with a pre-paid cc. This is an immediate cost to the hotel with a merchant fee. They charge a high commission: customer pays $69 we charge them $52. If there is a billing or cancellation problem the toll free number takes forever. It makes us look bad and aggravates the guest. If you want a cheap room call the hotel yourself: the cheapest rates are for per diem people govt, military, or extended stay.

  23. Caveat says:

    Sometimes to get the best deal you have to think outside the box (meaning outside the country). Instead of going to the traditional American sites such as Travelocity, you can go to mobissimo.com which lists international web booking sites such as venere.com. I suspect that hotels often offer rooms at a lower price to international clients possibly because they know that such clients may not be able to afford the higher prices. (That is why we end up paying more for prescriptions than residents of most other countries-the drug companies “know” that we are willing to pay the highest prices.) Although I have never had problems, I take the following precautions when booking with anybody these days:
    1. I make sure I know the cancellation policy and any extra fees.
    2. I never book with my regular credit card number. I generate Citi Card virtual numbers that are good for one time only and expire withing a month.
    3. After a few hours of booking I call the hotel, get the name of the clerk, and make sure he or she can confirm the reservation in the hotel system.
    4. I print out a copy of the reservation, write down the name of the clerk, time and date, and take it with me when I check in to make sure nobody can deny the existence of my reservation.

  24. p322401 says:

    When i went to Blizzcon in Anaheim back in October, i REALLY wanted to stay at the Hilton because it is literary ten feet from the convention center.

    The cheapest room was $260 A NIGHT!!!

    i went to hotwire at the advice of other people going to the show and got the Hilton at $75 a night!

    Granted hotwire doesn’t tell you what hotel your staying at until after you pay them, and no refunds. So in the end it was a crap shoot and i made out like a bandit, sitting at the pool talking to other people they were shocked i payed so little.

  25. diesel54 says:

    I was about to book a hotel through expedia because of the better deal. After seeing this I looked and found out that Starwood hotels (includes Westin and others) will price match and give an extra 10% off. Thanks for the info consumerist.

  26. Hawkins says:

    I like hotels.com, but I’m probably not going to use them again, after my experience: large luxury hotel, water main broke, NO WATER. No adjustment to the rate possible, since hotels.com had bought the rooms (instead of ME).

  27. ChainsawFacelift says:

    Always book with the hotel! The way the economy is, there is a good chance you can haggle down to a good rate, rooms need to be sold! If they offer AARP or AAA rates, government discounts, group rates, anything else, just ask and more times than not they will give you an excellent deal, most of the time they don’t even check to see if you really are a member.

    Expedia and the like have extremely difficult cancellation processes and it is true, you may very well get a crappy room, possible a type you specifically didn’t request. You may have put you want a queen, non smoking, but it might come through to us as 2 doubles, smoking, and we ( I work at a hotel ) have no idea until you step foot in the room. It’s not worth saving 2 or 3 bucks.

  28. Crazytree says:

    I’ve had problem #4 multiple times… and with nice hotels too.

  29. FuryOfFirestorm says:

    I tried to book a hotel without Priceline and Will Shatner broke my kneecaps and shot my dog!

  30. egoods says:

    I’ve always used Orbitz to see what flights/hotels are available. Then, I go direct to the airline and hotel and get it from them. There rates are always a bit better (even if it’s $10 that’s 10 freaken bucks) and I’ve seen first hand that you get better rooms. I was heading to a meeting in Chicago and my friend booked his room on Orbitz and I booked mine direct. Not only was mine 20 a night cheaper but I got a room upgrade when I asked and they stuck him in a basic room, even after he asked.

  31. thrid001 says:

    Hotwire at a Hyatt in Pittsburgh by the airport for $29. Chicago Drake Hotel for $79 for a Friday and Saturday in September. The article needs to realize these are third party sites as well. You also need to realize what you are doing when booking. If it is short notice and there is vacancy you will get a deal to fill the room. You also need to explore if you are looking at a business or leisure hotel, and what days you are going. The web site does not have the flexibility a hotel manager does. Call directly and see what they might do for you.

    • Jason Rose says:

      @thrid001:

      Hotwire is an “opaque” site, this is totally different. The hotels provide sites like these allotments, they don’t have contracts like they must have with Expedia, Orbitz, etc.

      The hotels only use sites like Hotwire to sell distressed inventory that will otherwise go unsold. So yes, although they are “third party” sites, they are not a true third party net rate reseller.

  32. ReverendBrown says:

    My hotel loved direct business. Of course, we were also hurting for any business. We had a discount for nearly anything you could think of, someone just had to ask for it. Internet booking was generally 20% higher than if you called or walked in off the street. Best thing to do, as ever, is to compare before commitment.

  33. CmdX says:

    I’ve never had a problem with Hotwire. If you do a search for a hotel room and then find a price you like do a google search for the star number and city. There are websites out there that will list what hotel your result (probably) is.

    I stayed at the Austin Omni for under half the total cost it would be at the omni site.

    Their airline ‘some airline at some time during the day’ feature is a bit too scary for me. Considering how long it takes to get through security nowadays I don’t want to end up on a 6AM flight.

  34. missdona says:

    From a frequent-guest perspective, everyone knows that you don’t earn points from Priceline/Hotwire stays. Sometimes it’s done, but generally it’s in the policy to exclude those stays. Also, Priceline/Hotwire will not guarantee smoking preference, they put in request, but there’s no guarantees.

    And this what we get for paying like 25% of the rack rate.

  35. BustangBetty says:

    I have only ever booked through Kayak.com which is awesome at finding great deals even if we don’t book through them. They search sites like expedia, travelocity, hotels.com and you get a break down of where the better rates are. Last summer we took a trip throughout the USA and parts of Canada and I solely used Kayak for all my searches. We only got stuck with one crappy room during the whole trip and I asked the manager on duty at the time if we could have a non smoking floor due to my allergies and it was fixed.

    Thanks for the advice but I have never had any problems booking through a 3rd party sites before and until that time, I will continue to book through them.

  36. Minneapolis Red Sox says:

    Just a note on the second point – I’m the manager for a tour company in Chicago and we run into this from time to time, where someone is requesting a refund, but we can’t issue it on the spot.

    Basically, we aren’t paid until we submit the paperwork and even then it’s subject to the third party’s fees, so we would take a loss if we issued an immediate refund and were paid later. I imagine the same rules are in play for the hotels as well.

    I always feel bad because you want to fix the problem on the spot, but booking through the third party site ties our hands on it.

  37. amberite says:

    Save yourself money by spending a few hours looking. My friends regard me as a travel wiz; here are some of my tactics. I don’t usually book hotels online, but when I do, I do it the same way I buy plane flights, which is as follows:

    Open a zillion tabs in Firefox. Get to one travel site in each of them, run the same search in all of them.

    This has been made easier by SideStep, which will run some of these searches for you. Sidestep.com is a search engine search engine (I know there’s a technical term for that, but I don’t remember what it is.) It pulls results from individual airline webpages and from some (not all) agent sites, and when you buy, you click through to the page of the people you’re buying it from. I’m not sure exactly where they get their revenue, but hey, it works.

    Different travel sites are more or less trustworthy each year: like, Hotwire used to be good but I haven’t seen anything worthwhile through them in ages; I’ve never seen anything worth a damn from Expedia; Cheaptickets.com has turned up the best fare once; Priceline and Orbitz are usually the most reliable tries right now, but that could change any time! Travelocity used to be cool, but frequently does a bait-and-switch, offering cheap seats on a plane and then offering a higher price when you click through. Travel.yahoo.com is operated by Travelocity, and does the same tactic, but also sometimes has results that Travelocity doesn’t have.

    So it’s worth checking out all of them. AND it’s worth checking back again and again. Sometimes reloading the search, or doing it the next day, turns up a ticket that wasn’t available before.

    If you find a deal on, say, an Alaska flight on Priceline, check the Alaska site too. I’d say about four times out of five, the agent quote is lower, but that one stray time you get a great deal is worth the five minutes.

    I’ve shaved $50-$200 off flight prices through this extensive process. It’s definitely worth the effort.

  38. penuspenuspenus says:

    Ok, this article is so YMMV that I’m surprised you guys even bothered with it. I work for two large chain hotels and well, here we go:

    Lower Prices: This is very YMMV. Many times the prices on these 3rd party sites are simply the lowest possible, set by the sales manager to booster online reviews PLUS fill rooms. Also, front desk hosts generally have a price point they can go to, and at some places that is only 10-15% off the rack rate. A manager generally is the only one who can go beyond that price.

    Better Compensation:
    Uhh… again, YMMV. A hotel manager can decide to comp a separate night if they really want to. The LAST thing the hotel wants you to do is to go back to the site and blast them with a nasty review. Sure, to get a refund you will have to talk to the site, but the manager can and generally will comp your next night if they feel it is warranted.

    More Flexibility:
    Ok, the contract is simply a piece of paper faxed to the hotel saying so and so is coming to the hotel at a certain date. Barring any special event, I cannot see why the hotel wouldn’t let you move the date. Sure, some places will be asses about this, but the two hotels I work for will work with you. It’s not worth the negative review and headache to correct the reservation. Also, generally the sites have a policy that as long as there is more than 24 hours prior to the stay, the reservation can be changed through them (with approval from the hotel).

    Better Rooms:
    ……YMMV. Both hotels I work at consider online 3rd party bookings as potential reviews. The LAST thing they want to do is piss off the guest with a shitty room. The guest feels good about the rate they received, the last thing they want to see is a shitty room to knock them back down to reality. Great price + stellar room = Awesome review. Great price + shitty room = Shitty review. See where this is going?

  39. MikeVx says:

    I’m inclined to agree with the person who said join the various hotel customer programs. I’ve done that for all the hotels that I stay at with anything resembling regularity (any chain I’ve hit twice in the last five years). I do this primarily for the ease of on-line reservations, log in, pick a rate and book it, the customer information is filled in from the program records. At some hotels, there are benefits for members. Some provide free internet to members, some will upgrade you to a better class of room if they find they can sell your reserved type to someone else and you had the last of that type. I’ll admit to guessing on this one, but I can’t think of any other explanation for occasionally finding myself in a better room than I booked.

    When I visit a Wyndham hotel, not any of the owned chains but Wyndham on the side of the building type, I’ll find a can of Coke in an ice bucket and a chocolate chip cookie waiting. At some Crowne Plaza hotels I get free internet when it is normally charged.

    And referencing the situation of a hotel selling your still-occupied room to someone else, I actually had that happen to me once. Interestingly enough, it was at the Wyndham O’Hare in Rosemont Illinois. I was reading a book at the end of the day when I hear a click and an older couple walked into my room. We all went down to the front desk, they got another room, and I had my inoperative key card reactivated. I can’t be sure if I actually avoided a problem on this one, but back in the days of metal door keys I was at a hotel for an event. This hotel had a reputation for stupidity. Based on things I’d heard, I made them give me all four room keys when I checked in, making it impossible for the hotel to double-book the room. I heard many complaints of exactly that over the weekend.

    I’ve never attempted third-party sites. I can usually find a reasonable rate lurking in the depths of the web site of any given chain.

  40. Chris Torres says:

    I work at a certain type of hotel chain and I’m not sure about other hotels, but we have had nothing but trouble with people that come in with third-party prices that are just so very wrong.

    Let me tell you how my hotel works. When you get a room with us, it’s for a full 7 days. No less. Let’s say a regular week’s rent with us is $300. Well, some idiot will come in with an Expedia statement and claim that they’re paying for only two days for $150/night. Third party sites just divide our rates by the number of nights the guest is actually staying for.

    You will not believe just how FURIOUS most people get when they find out they’re getting a much better length of stay for their money and will blame us for something we (at least the staff on-site) has absolutely no control over, then expect spectacular five-star service from a 2 star efficiency hotel. I mean, our staff is very friendly and helpful to the best of our abilities(sometimes even beyond), but we can’t provide some of the stuff they expect.

    Regardless of which method you decide to take, PLEASE call the hotel you wish to stay at and talk to an actual human being to get your rates. Not only will you find out how much your length of stay will cost, but the receptionist can inform you on your rooms and possible discounts so you can know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.

    • howtragic says:

      @Chris Torres:

      I could see how this could be frustrating, however, this is an issue between the hotel and the third party booking site. The customer has every right to be irritated by this. It’s a nice idea to call the hotel, but that simply is not the way people operate anymore. We’re used to doing this online, which means the hotel should be used to it too, and make any and all adjustments necessary to reflect REALITY.

      PS – People are rightly confused by all this. Yes, from a hotel employee’s perspective, all this stuff is OBVIOUS, but for non hotel employees, the complete opposite is true. People typically look for the best deal – END OF STORY. The problem is that the hotel, on its face, does NOT offer the best deal – the third party travel site does.

      Thus, IMO, this is a problem with the hotel, and not the customer. If you cannot fill your rooms or make a profit without the the third party site, then you have no place to complain. Clearly, you are incapable of running a business without these sites.

      So, either know how to run a business without these sites, OR shut up – there is no middle ground. The customer should expect the same service no matter what.

  41. Anonymous says:

    Being in the car rental business I can also say WE HATE THESE SIGHTS! As an example carrentals.com charges the rental operator 24% and $10.00-$11.00 per rental right off the top. Always call direct when you rent a car. You will save. Expedia and no better. They even charge a no show fee to the hotel and rental operation if you don’t show. Lesson learned, call direct and save!

  42. princesswildflower says:

    My husband and I had a nightmare booking through BA Holidays for flights and hotels for our wedding and honeymoon in Miami. In addition to numerous other problems, we were given the worst rooms in each of the three hotels in which we stayed despite our having booked with BA’s ‘Prestige’ group, meant to be their luxury arm.

    The manager at the last hotel we stayed in, Cheeca Lodge in Islamorada (where we’d stayed at least three times that year) finally upgraded us to the room that we’d been promised and waived the $350 extra per night that they wanted to charge us (!) after consulting with BA Holidays. She also told us to always book directly with the hotel because the third party operators DO give you the worst rooms. Trust, this is not something you want to figure out on your honeymoon – we’d only had this problem once before when booking through Expedia so didn’t expect the same thing from BA Holidays Prestige packages.

    Suffice it to say that we complained about each hotel and BA Holidays refunded about half of the cost of the honeymoon following a letter-writing campaign that I’m still somewhat p’d off at concluding before taking them to court.

    Moral for us – we’ll check the third party sites and then book directly with the hotel.

  43. runchadrun says:

    I have found that the third-party sites can give you a decent price if you want a pay-in-advance, no-refund rate. I also discovered (the hard way) that the third-party sites don’t always earn you loyalty points. This happened on a hotels.com booking at a Best Western where I was paying slightly less than the standard rate but didn’t get the points because of it.

    But if you want a traditional booking, you don’t generally get discounts like AAA or AARP through the third parties, only through the hotel’s or chain’s web site.

  44. walterk says:

    I have had great success with Hotwire.com. If you do your research prior to clicking the ‘submit’ button on your reservation, then you should feel that you are getting a good room at a good value. Typically Hotwire.com and Hotels.com utilize the same star ratings and city/region classifications. Therefore, you will be able to determine the few hotels that you have a chance of getting.

    I have had two great experiences with Hotwire. The first was a 4 star room in the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland that my husband and I snagged for $89 a night. The second great deal was a night at the Mellenium Hilton in NYC for $180 a night on a Saturday (this hotel’s regular rate is typically over $300 per night). I have recently booked a a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico for February and have snagged a 4 star resort for $180 a night (the price for this chic hotel/resort is consistently over $300 a night).

    Although, my research has shown that I can get stellar hotel prices through Hotwire.com. It is quite a different story for airfare. I found booking through the airline website directly has yielded the best deals.

  45. Jason Merrell says:

    Middle man here. Travel agent for 18 years, and my family’s owned an agency since 1979.

    I usually beat the pants off of hotel website rates, especially on the higher end.

    Further, if you book with the hotel directly and something goes awry, you have very little leverage.

    If one of my clients gets screwed, they have an advocate: Me. Further, the consortium my agency belongs to has serious weight.

    Please use an experienced travel agent. You won’t regret it.

    • howtragic says:

      @Jason Merrell:

      Sounds nice, but I remember using travel agents before Orbitz, etc. You guys completely screwed YOURSELVES because you would always tell us the shortest flight first, and then the cheapest one only if we BEGGED you to. Personally, I could never tell who much you weren’t telling me. I could never tell if you really got me the best deal, because obviously you didn’t care.

      I just remember one time needing a flight from (I think) LA to Anchorage and the first price the agent quoted me was like $2000. I then asked her if that was the cheapest flight they had – oh, no, wait, here’s one for $500. Huh? This is why I don’t care that travel agents are out of business – they were all horrible about getting you the best deal.

      • Jason Merrell says:

        @howtragic: Any of our agents who acted that way wouldn’t have any clients left, assuming we didn’t fire them first.

        I will say that sometimes the cheapest flight is not the shortest flight, and vice-versa. So if you ask for one and expect the other, you may need to clarify.

        We survived 9/11 and we’ll survive this economy by doing what we always do: the best job possible for our clients.

  46. 3drage says:

    You know, there is quite a bit of greed here on the hotel owner’s part. Why don’t they list the prices low in the first place? I remember putting in a reservation at the hotel directly one time, only to find it almost $800 cheaper through a 3rd party. I canceled the reservation (They didn’t even offer to beat the price). I have to say from my personal experience this entry is bunk.

  47. wiretapstudios says:

    Like others have said, I always use Expedia (or wherever) to check prices in the area, find a hotel I want, and then contact them directly. The list up above leaves out the main point about why you should do it…because when you have a problem it is dealt with by a hotel. With Expedia, when they didn’t send my reservation to the hotel I paid for, the hotel had no more rooms left and have no way to compensate me. I also have noticed a lot lately that major chains are VERY happy to have business and go out of their way to give you a good experience and fix any problems there might be.

  48. Anonymous says:

    For business I used to book hotels through Travelocity, but no more. After twice receiving a check-out receipt from 2 different hotels that was at least $50 LESS than what Travelocity had charged, and haggling with Travelocity for a refund, it’s just not worth it. The refund took 4 weeks to show on my credit card. I find the third party customer service to be well below direct hotels.

  49. howtragic says:

    I just have to say, if I am paying $80 for a five star hotel that normally costs $250, then I really don’t care if I get the “best room”. I guess I assume that that’s part of the deal.

    Hotels, airlines and car rental places just need to always have the lowest price if they are so bothered by third party booking sites. The reason I use these sites is because they are pretty much ALWAYS cheaper than booking direct. Not only are they always cheaper, they also bring up more option at better rates.

    Air France, for example, will not show you a connecting flight from Paris to Prague unless it is on a “partner” airline. Travelocity, will, however which almost always means a better deal.

  50. darkryd says:

    Not surprising. You rarely even get substantially better deals on flights through 3rd party sites anymore, either.

  51. Chairman-Meow says:

    I deal with airlines & hotels directly rather than go through 3rd party sites. I’ve always found them to have the same or better fares. Same goes for rental cars too.

  52. atcdoug says:

    I booked a 2 br family suite, for 2 adults and 2 teens, for 9 days, in Punta Cana, DR, with Expedia, only to arrive to find out we had a single room with a king size bed. The hotel desk showed me where Expedia had only booked me for a single room. The hotel was filled up and said they only way they could do anything, was if I cancelled my existing reservation and booked directly through the hotel. It took me 5 hours and $130.00 in roaming charges just to get Expedia to cancel my reservations so I could get something. I called Expedia, explained it was $1.99 a minute in roaming charges. They would say “I understand, it just be 3 minutes”. Over and over I would say, “just cancel my rsvp”. They tried to come up with alternatives and I would explain that the hotel could not do anything until I cancel my rsvp through Expedia. Meanwhile my wife and kids are standing around with our luggage waiting. My wife is hysterical and my kids just want to go home. After some very harsh words they finally agreed to cancel my rsvp. It took over 4 hours waiting and 66 minutes of phone time to get Expedia to do something as simply as canceling a rsvp. We left home for the airport at 430am. Arrived in Punta Cana at 2pm. Arrived at the hotel at 3pm. Did not get into our rooms until 7pm. All of the family suites were full and we ended up have to get 2 rooms 6 doors apart. So now I’m back at home. I get my cell phone bill and call Expedia. I ask them for reimbursement of the $131.00 for the phone charges, and $208.00 for the difference of the additional room and the Family suite, for a total of $340.00. This is a very little amount considering the trauma my family and I went through that day and what I would have saved if I never used Expedia. They offered me $100 credit for my next Expedia purchase. I told the guy that I would never-ever use Expedia again and a $500 credit wouldn’t change my mind. I only wanted a check for $340.00. That was peanuts considering the rooms cost $3900 for 9 days. And had I not had the funds to pay the $3900.00, while waiting for Expedia to refund the money for my rsvp through them, we would have been totally screwed. I have filed a complaint with the BBB and I may file with small claims court if this is not resolved. I figure their legal fees will probably exceed my hotel costs and cause them some pain like they caused me.