Holiday Inn Manager: If You Book Through Priceline, You're A "Bad Customer"

Discount travel websites can provide amazing discounts, but can also make you a second-class consumer of sorts–particularly in hotels. Jesse learned this the hard way when he booked a stay at a Holiday Inn in a major American city. He tells Consumerist that he reserved his room through Priceline, and called the hotel to make sure that his reservation would include two double beds for the four people traveling. He checked in to find a single queen bed in the room. His mistake? According to the hotel manager, being a “bad customer” who booked through a third-party site.

He writes:

My wife and two of her friends were going to visit some friends in the San Francisco area so we decided to book a room in the city. I booked a room at the Holiday Inn Hotel [in a major city] well in advance of our trip (a month) and contacted the hotel directly RIGHT after I had made the booking. I informed the reservations desk of my reservation, which they found fine. I informed them that I had four adults and wanted to make sure I could have two doubles rather than one queen or king. The reservation person confirmed this with me and everything seemed fine. Fast forward to the vacation. I check in around 6pm (3 hours after the checkin time) without incident. I didn’t triple check for any changes as the staff was dealing with a large tour group and wedding party checking in. I got up to the room to find a single queen bed.

I went back down to front desk and tried to have it sorted out. The front desk said that they couldn’t move us, as they were completely booked. I asked to speak to a manager about it. The long and short of it is that since I had booked through a 3rd party (which Holiday Inn agrees to book to) that I could only make requests and not actual “Guaranteed” bookings. He proceeding to stick to his guns and to semantics and ignore that I had made the bookings and follow up phone call well in advance and the front desk neglected to inform me that I was basically wishing upon a star to get the my requests. Holiday Inn bumps your reservation for other guests that book directly through them. So if you make a booking for a King through Orbitz or Priceline don’t expect anything other than the smallest room. The manager so graciously gave me a rollup to sleep on while the three other people had to share the queen bed.

No offer other than a rollup to try and accommodate. I asked for comped or discounted parking (35 dollars a night). Nope, couldn’t do that. Breakfast voucher nope. I was the bad customer (his words) that booked through priceline instead of holiday inn. I believe it inexcusable that the only other offer he presented was that I cancel and get a refund and try to rebook somewhere else. (7pm on a Saturday.)

I think it’s important to let other consumers know that Holiday Inn’s position with 3rd party bookings is that you can be bumped without notice for a customer who booked through them.

My experience with booking a four-person room through Priceline was flawless, but it was also a few years ago. Have your third-party bookings worked well, or been full of insults and extreme closeness on too-small beds?


Edit Your Comment

  1. kiltman says:

    I have not had any problems getting two beds when booking through priceline. Even a nice Marriott in Baltimore for a bachelor party!

    • sleze69 says:

      I am a Marriott Platinum member and am love everything about Marriott except their horrible internet connections. That said, some of their hotels do not guarantee the room arrangement (Springhill Suites comes to mind).

      I bet this Holiday Inn has the same policy.

  2. Terek Kincaid says:

    I’m not sure how much you saved with Priceline, but when I book hotels, I look through for a list of cheap rooms. Then I go to the individual hotel’s site when I actually want to book: the price I find is *ALWAYS* as cheap or even cheaper than the price. And, when I need to deal with something, there’s no 3rd party in the way. If Priceline is saving you 10-20%, more power to you, but I’ve found those sites (Expedia, Oribtz, etc) never really end up that much cheaper for all the problems they can cause.

    • MrEvil says:

      Ditto on that. The savings isn’t worth the headaches should things go to hell just like what happened with the OP.

      It’s especially true now that I have a AAA membership. The discounts I get from AAA are as good and sometimes better than a third party site can offer, without all the headaches that comes with booking via an intermediate.

    • misterfweem says:

      Exactly. We typically will look up the prices at then we’ll call the hotel in question and say, “Hey, this is the deal we found on the Internet. Can you match it?” About half the time, they match it. The other half, they actually offer a better price.

    • Chmeeee says:

      Priceline can’t really be compared to Orbitz, Travelocity, etc. You’re not saving another 10%, you’re saving something like 50%. I booked the Hilton in Baltimore Inner Harbor for $100/night for three rooms, two nights. The Hilton website had the same rooms going for $230, so I saved $800+.

      And no, I’ve never had problems like this using Priceline/Hotwire, and I’ve used them 10+ times.

  3. Rawkus says:

    When did this website get all weak, and distractive. You make everything you say so general… Why can’t you say what store it is? Putting stuff in public is what you are supposed to do. Instead it’s saying a bad situation, but not why we or this customer is in the situation. There isn’t any referals to failed or held up laws that should have protected us about this or issues. By voting for a canidate that is just all “pro business” you allow the corporations do have no restrictions.

    • Rawkus says:

      There is no real issues anymore. Where are the FCC insights? There is no independent reporting. It’s all just links to other places. The people you would hope to not sell out don’t want to give up their nice new york apt.

      • dreamfish says:

        Two comments later and I still have no idea what you’re talking about.

        • bennilynn says:

          He means that the site largely relies on tips through e-mail and picking up stories from other news resources (such as regular media and places like Reddit) for their content. Also, lately, they’ve been largely redacting information about the businesses involved, which makes it sort of pointless to call them out if nobody knows who they are and sort of weakens the position of The Consumerist as a consumer advocacy site.

          Now, the first part I don’t have a problem with, this being a blog and not a real place for hardcore investigative reporting. They simply don’t have the manpower, the money, or the time to go chasing stories down. Relying on tip offs and picking things up from social media and the newswires is fine.

          I do think it’s kind of ridiculous that they are being forced to cut all the meat out of their stories. It’s most likely for legal reasons (fear of libel?), especially since they’re now associated with Consumer Reports. Regardless of the reason, they do come off as a lot more wishy-washy these days, which is unfortunate.

      • Rawkus says:

        There was more effort with the Cash for Gold thing…. What happened to the Consumer protection part of the government that is being started? I heard that doctor from harvard began to “design” it. Why is this not the one website anywhere that covers that thing like a cheap suit. I wouldn’t mind even a little made for internet movie about whats going on with it from the beginning.

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      You make absolutely no sense.

      • facted says:

        Agreed. Your post reads like one of those bing commercials.

        Anyway, I think what you might be trying to say is that consumerist has become too many whiny stories from people without any a) action or b) advice. Rather than reply with “Oh, I used priceline once and it was great”, the editor could quote priceline’s actually policy:

        “If you use our Name Your Own Price® hotel service rooms are guaranteed to accommodate up to two adults. We can only say for certain that the room we book for you is guaranteed for double occupancy, but you may get one king, one queen, two queen, one double, two doubles, two twin beds or any combination of the above. Once your hotel room is reserved, you may contact the hotel to request specific bedding. Special requests are at the discretion of the hotel and subject to availability. Keep in mind that if available, there may be an extra charge payable directly to the hotel. Your confirmed hotels phone number is listed on your itinerary page located on our website.

        If you choose to select your hotel and the room/bed type through our Published Price option, we make every effort to get you the room you request, however as is standard hotel industry practice, room types cannot be guaranteed. We reserve your selected room type at the time of booking. The hotel assigns rooms based on their availability at check-in.”

        While I agree that Holiday Inn should have given the OP a double room if that’s what he was told upon calling, priceline’s policy clearly states that it’s completely up to Holiday Inn.

    • dwasifar says:

      People, the reason this guy’s comment doesn’t make sense is that it’s blog spam. It’s not a real comment. It’s a bot. If Consumerist’s comments included web links on the author’s name, this one would be a link to a fly-by-night site selling Viagra or gray market electronics or bogus weight loss plans.

      In two years my own blog has attracted almost 15,000 such “comments,” so trust me, I’ve learned to recognize them. Most of them are automatically filtered out, but inevitably a few slip through. That’s what happened here.

      • Shadowman615 says:

        Ahhh. It looks like many of the sentences could be relevant to actual articles on the consumerist. I wonder if it gets strung together by taking sentences from actual comments. If so, LOL at what it came up with — it’s like a list of “Why s ths n cnsmrst” type complaints from the comments bingo card!

      • Rawkus says:

        No, I’m a real person. I just didn’t care about the details of what I was trying to say, and regardless of your comments it appears that a few people understood what I was trying to say. In the short few words I said you were able to take in a lot of information. I skipped many of your long replies….

        • gc3160thtuk says you got your humor in my sarcasm and you say you got your sarcasm in my humor says:

          I counter that with a when did this site become so less restrictive about whom they let join and comment on here. I remember when I joined a few years ago I had to register and then audition a few comments before I was allowed membership to post pretty freely. And then I made a stupid joke one day and I was silenced for a good amount of time until I was able to appeal and get my commenting privileges restored. And yet I now currently see regular amounts of inane bullshit such as this that add nothing to the discussion and yet are posted freely without consequences. /end rant

  4. AndyfromIL says:

    Priceline tells you it only guarantees a 2 person room, you take your chances bringing more people.

    I wouldn’t risk a family trip, so I just use it for “date” outings to the city with my wife. We almost always get whatever we want and hotels have always been friendly, except one in Monterey CA where they had a BS resort fee and parking fees nowhere near the downtown.

    Priceline has saved us a lot of money on inner city 4 star hotels, when we would have stayed in the suburbs otherwise to get those prices.’

    • ElizabethD says:

      I’d agree with you if the OP hadn’t done due diligence by calling the hotel’s reservations number himself after booking through Priceline.

      • AustinTXProgrammer says:

        The OP was rolling the dice when he booked. Priceline doesn’t do refunds, and the hotel never had to accommodate him.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          “I’d agree with you if the OP hadn’t done due diligence by calling the hotel’s reservations number himself after booking through Priceline. “

          I guess it bears repeating.

          • Purr says:

            Repeat that all you want, it does not change the fact that the guarantee is for two people, not four. “An effort to accommodate” is not a guarantee. The price you pay on Priceline is for a two-person room. Period. A Priceline customer is required to acknowledge this fact when making the purchase on the website.

            That being said, I use Priceline a lot for three people, and haven’t had a major problem yet. We do wholeheartedly feel like we get substandard rooms on weekends because of the price we pay, but we pay only a small percentage of the rack rate.

            • Conformist138 says:

              I think the point is that once the hotel confirmed the two-bed room, they were in effect giving him a guarantee. Basically he booked with a site that gives leeway to the hotel, he called the hotel and they said they would give him what he wanted (they have the choice to not do so means they also have the choice to promise it, the policy doesn’t forbid them from making guarantees on their own)–then later called him a bad customer for expecting them to follow through. The hotel is on the hook for not giving the disclaimer that they were still reserving their right to bump him. Pretty much, they failed to phrase this as a “maybe” and instead let him proceed under the impression that they were going to fulfill his request for sure.

              Yes, Priceline only guarentees a room for two, but that hotels CAN accomodate more if they wish means the hotel should be careful about promises they make directly to the customer. This is probably a fail of the front desk to realize either that he booked through a third party or not realizing that a third party reservation would be bumped. The OP should have noted the Priceline policy, but he did call the hotel to get their personal guarantee and that should have been enough to settle the matter.

              Plus, calling someone a “bad customer” for using an entirely legit method of using their services is just unprofessional and will not be likely to inspire the OP to book with them again, either directly or through a third party.

    • bendee says:


    • bendee says:

      Exactly, they only guarantee one bed room in the room, large enough for 2 people. If you want to save money with an opaque reservation for four, guaranteed, either book two priceline rooms or book through Hotwire/Travelocity’s Top Secret Hotels. They will likely cost a little more, but you know you get a 4-person room and it’s easier to figure out the hotel you will receive.

  5. Scuba Steve says:

    He’s probably lying when he says that only “bad customers” get shafted on rooms. I’ve booked through 2 major mariott hotels in Atlanta, and each time requested the double. It’s always a request, never a guarantee. Whether booking through third party sites or not.

    Really though it just depends on the hotel on what they’ll do. Most likely he did have rooms available, just didn’t want to give them to you.

    My advice would be to call priceline, not afterwards, but immediately. If they wont help, then you’re out of luck.

    • ekthesi says:

      Yeah, sounds like a convenient excuse to me; I booked, through one of the discount sites, a room at a Westin in Toronto and ended up with one of the best rooms in the place short of the VIP suites.

    • Ephraim says:

      Priceline won’t help. He’s guaranteed a room with one bed. That’s all. And that’s what he got. Priceline doesn’t ask how many people and in their policies states it’s for two.

    • ElizabethD says:

      When an airline canceled one leg of a flight my son was taking the Sunday after Thanksgiving, causing him to miss a connection if he took a later flight, we rebooked directly through another airline. Then in the aftermath, Priceline (their rep was very sympathetic on the phone, although he made it clear the dispute was between us and the airline) backed me up when I disputed the charges by the original carrier with Amex. We got our refund. (Yay, Amex.) Also: SAVE ALL EMAILS between you, the discount ticket/hotel 3rd-party site, and the actual vendor (airline, hotel).

    • Trireme32 says:

      There seems to be a general sentiment out there that hotels are never completely sold out (i.e. a “head in every bed”), but this does happen. A hotel is not going to keep a room, or a number of rooms, aside when it can make revenue off of them. Hotels don’t make as high a profit as you might think, and there is always a pressure to get the “perfect sell,” which is having every room rented out, without having to walk a reservation to a different hotel. I sincerely doubt that this hotel had rooms available that they were unwilling to give to this guest.

      • Kishi says:

        Having worked at a hotel, I never understand why customers assume we’re just hiding rooms away to keep them from being unhappy. I worked in a busy hotel, we wanted to sell every room. Why the hell would we turn down your $130?

  6. tedyc03 says:

    I once had a hotel put me and my wife into a room with two double beds instead of the king I asked for. When I complained, they apologized and offered us a free stay our next time through. They also told us that many times the websites do not communicate room preferences to them, and that had I called the hotel they would have made arrangements; as it was, the hotel was sold out for the night which is why they couldn’t move us.

    I guess two doubles was better than one queen for four people, though.

    • dilbert69 says:

      Two doubles is awesome! You can have sex in one and go to sleep in the other, and no one has to sleep in the wet spot.

  7. mocena says:

    I booked through Priceline for a trip with one of my friends and called the hotel to ask if we could have two beds. The lady there said that because it was Priceline, it doesn’t guarantee anything but how many people the room will fit, we get what we get. My friend was cool with sharing a bed, and we did end up getting a King instead of a couple Doubles, but MAN, the room was beautiful for the price. It seems to me that if the OP had either a) read the guidelines on Priceline to begin with and b) not assumed that one regular hotel room would fit four people (which lots of hotels frown upon), he might be in better shape.

    • Alessar says:

      He didn’t assume. He called Holiday Inn and they confirmed they would give him what he needed. When he showed up they basically laughed and said they were kidding before.

      • Beeker26 says:

        You missed the part about the place being full due to a convention. I’m betting they would normally have been able to accommodate his request if they weren’t fully booked. But because they were, and they are under no obligation to fulfill his request, he got whatever they had available. Yeah it kinda sucks, but it’s one of the caveats of dealing with Priceline.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          So because other people booked later, it’s totally okay to reneg on your convictions?

          If you call and they say you will get 2 beds, then you fucking better get two beds. I don’t care if after the phonecall a wedding booked with you. You tell the wedding that room is booked.

          It’s not hard, but hotels don’t seem to care.

          • Beeker26 says:

            Sorry, but when you deal with Priceline it doesn’t work that way, even if you think it should. You are not *guaranteed* anything other than the room and at least one bed. Period. And while it would have been nice for them to honor the request as the OP was told (or at least be told that they will try their best but there are no guarantees), they are under no obligation to do so especially when faced with other guests that are paying more for guaranteed accommodations. I’m sure you can understand how they must come first.

            If you need to make sure you get specific accommodations then cough up the extra dough and don’t use Priceline.

            • Putaro says:

              Then the hotel should have called him back and said “We’re sorry, but we cannot give you the room you requested. Sorry for the inconvenience, but the contract with Priceline only requires us to give you a room for 2 adults and we had more bookings and can’t keep our promise now”

              When someone tells you “You’re going to get X” then they need to deliver on that or, at the very least, give you a notification when things change. The OP was not assuming that he could get this through Priceline, he asked the hotel directly. They had the opportunity to say “Sorry, you can’t request that because you booked through Priceline” instead they said “Oh, no problem. Of course you can have that”. If he had known that it wasn’t possible, he could have booked a second room, or whatever.

  8. tailspin says:

    the hotel had every right to put the customer in the room he got. when you book through a discount third-party site, one of the reasons your rate is so cheap is that you can’t control what you get except a room that will fit the # of people you booked it for. it’s like when you book a cruise and want a certain type of cabin — you can pay a bit more and choose your cabin, or pay the lower rate and not know what you’re going to get. if i have more than 2 people in a room, i’d rather pay a bit more and know that we’re getting what we need.

    if the hotel employee on the phone truly did guarantee a room with 2 double beds (guarantee… not “yes, i’m confirming that i can see you requested it”), then the hotel should have at least comped them a breakfast or something.

    • dreamfish says:

      What are the rules when it comes to booking directly with a hotel (or chain website). If you book a particular type of room, is that then a guarantee or still only a ‘request’?

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      I admit it’s been a while since college, but can a single queen-size bed really accommodate four people? The OP didn’t mention any other available sleeping surfaces in the room, and they did book for four.

      • DarthCoven says:

        OP stated that they gave him a roll-away to sleep on and the other three shared the queen.

        • JulesNoctambule says:

          I noticed the offer but didn’t see that he gave it the okay, but then again I haven’t found my glasses yet, either, so I could be missing all kinds of things.

    • theycallmeGinger says:

      It’s been my experience that many hotels do not allow more than 2 people to a room, whether they strictly enforce it or not. So, I went to the Holiday Inn (San Francisco) website to check and it did not allow me to select 4 people and 1 room. I’m sure that when the OP called, some hotel employee just waved it off and said OK. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to honor it when they have nothing available. Policy is a great backup excuse.

  9. sirwired says:

    This is a risk you take with Priceline. I expect that if you read the booking agreement (which they prominently display prior to checkout) you will find that room type and smoking preference are probably not guaranteed.

  10. Benny Gesserit says:

    We’ve booked through Expedia many, many times and never had even a moment’s distress. (Although Expedia’s fare from the “cut to the bone” discounter like Priceline.)

    Arranged rates have always been honored and pre-paid rooms have always been just that.

    It sounds like the manager simply resents people not paying the rack rate (and would opt out of Priceline if the chain would let him.)

  11. dumpsterj says:

    “My wife and two of her friends” , skrew it share the queen

  12. ElizabethD says:

    Wow, that sucks. I had a great experience with Priceline when I booked for a convention in Indianapolis five years ago — nice room at the Marriott Courtyard for five nights. No problems, and it was a huge convention (umm, Star Wars, heh heh) so everything within miles was sold out.

    Sorry to hear this.

    And for those who say they can find cheaper than Priceline — maybe that’s true for hotel bookings alone, but if you book flight + hotel through Priceline you can do very well. My cost for RT flight from the Northeast to Indy and back, PLUS the hotel room, was less than the cost of booking only the hotel room through Marriott. I’m a fan.

  13. Ephraim says:

    1. Priceline books 1 room, they don’t guarantee anything other than one bed for two people.
    2. Hotels don’t have to give you their best room…. Priceline is a great way to sell the least desirable rooms. That’s part of the risks you accept when buying a room opaquely. Check out how many people have been burned on TripAdvisor by using Priceline opaque purchases. This isn’t new. Frankly, it doesn’t even belong on the Consumerist. Caveat emptor.
    3. You get all the hotel amenities that are included for ALL guests, if breakfast isn’t included in all rates… you don’t get it.
    4. If you don’t read Priceline’s contract… this is what you get.

  14. NeverLetMeDown says:

    He wasn’t “bumped,” he just didn’t get a request filled that wasn’t guaranteed. Priceline explicitly says that they can’t guarantee room type, and it’s not at all surprising that a hotel would, if there’s a shortage of a particular type of room, allocate those rooms to those paying higher prices.

    That being said, the rep on the phone should have been clear that he/she had entered the request for a 2 doubles room, but it wasn’t guaranteed.

  15. larrycl says:

    Was the manager a knucklehead for calling the person a ‘bad customer’? Absolutely.
    Was the manager correct in saying that Priceline room requests are just that, requests? Yes he was. This is not just the case with Holiday Inn; it’s the case with all hotel chains that work with Priceline (and Hotwire, a similar opaque service).

    That’s one of the tradeoffs in using these opaque services: You are guaranteed a room, but that’s it. Anything else (king vs double beds, connecting rooms, etc) are just requests and are not guaranteed.

    That’s why I never use these services for family trips when I have specific parameters I need to meet. If it’s just me on a business trip & I need a bed, that’s one thing. But if I specifically need two double beds or connecting rooms, I can’t take the risk.

  16. Larraque eats babies says:

    Stay Stupid. Stay at a holiday inn express.

  17. kunfushuss says:

    I have booked through priceline many times and have had no problems. I do worry about it though, especially for flights. I fear I am always going to be the first one bumped, so I just get my tickets printed out as soon as I reasonably can and get to the airport early. Never any problems though.

    I think that a real issue is that the hotel can choose whether or not to allow bookings through priceline,, etc. If they choose to get the extra business that way, they should treat the guests the same. Their only alternative should be to not take reservations through that site.

  18. humphrmi says:

    Actually, from experience, Holiday Inn fills bed & room requests (when different bed and room configurations are available at the same rate) on a first-come, first-served basis, even for guests who book through their own website.

    So it probably had more with him showing up at 6:00 PM on a busy day.

    I’m Priority Club Gold, and even I have t show up at 3 or 4 if I want a specific room configuration.

  19. angelmvm says:

    I’m torn. Yes, Priceline only promises room for 2 people. I too never use it if I’m gonna need more than one bed.

    That said.. I am tired of being treated like a second class citizen for using an opaque service. YOUR HOTEL SOLD THOSE ROOMS. It’s not like the OP stole them from the Holiday Inn… he bought them through a service that your hotel chooses to utilize.

    And ONE rollaway? Not even 2? I would certainly complain in writing to the hotel and it’s district manager. Not because only a queen bed was available but because 1. I was not told.. from the first call to your property that I could not guarantee a bed configuration and 2. I was treated rudely at the front desk.

    • zweifel says:

      My sentiments exactly. We’ve gotten poor treatment at a Hyatt for booking through a “third party site”. I understand the limitations of what Priceline’s guaranteeing – you’re still making money off the rooms, right?

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        I think it all comes down to the fact that you are technically Priceline’s customer and not the hotels. Priceline’s goal is to maximize low prices by buying rooms in bulk for a low price and passing the savings on to the customers. The hotel’s goal is to meet the minimal contractual obligations between them and Priceline.

        The person staying the night is just a commodity that’s essentially traded between the online booking sites and hotels.

      • FranktasticVoyage says:

        You make LESS money.
        Let’s flip the situation, if you paid full fare, wouldn’t YOU expect to get better service?

        • Noadi says:

          They make LESS money vs NO money. If hotels would rather they have rooms go empty they can choose to not do business with Priceline and similar services. They should not be treating people badly because of it.

    • hmac0167 says:

      Before you get mad about 2 roll-a-ways you must consider the fire code. Many times this request CANNOT be fulfilled because it is strictly against fire code.

  20. hmac0167 says:

    You cannot get a discount, especially at the percentages that Priceline offers, without compromise. I work at a hotel and we shuffle opaque customers around all the time. I assure you that this is common practice. Opaque sites are a market for hotels to sell DISTRESSED inventory. You don’t go to the outlets to find new merchandise at a markdown, thus you don’t go to Priceline to get exactly what you want for next to nothing.

    As a hotelier we always want to make sure that we accommodate our guests that have paid high rates and those that booked through our website (the commissions on the third parties are 25%+, and the third party contract includes rate parity clauses, meaning we can’t charge more for the same room on our website). Just think of the customer that had paid FULL price and not gotten the request for a double queen.

    You don’t get punished for booking on Priceline or opaque sites, you get compromised because there are others that have paid more for a room that night whose needs are paramount to opaque customers. After all, they paid for that level of service.

    FYI double queen rooms are always in demand, always. A lot of time they are more expensive and assigned a specific room type. If you need a double queen room, pay for one, because someone else will and your request will get bumped for the paying customer.

    Also it is important to note the tidbit about the large tour group and wedding party at check in. The average wedding is around 18k. Was the wedding also happening at the hotel? Did the wedding have a large room block? Assuming yes to both or one of those questions = NO DOUBLE QUEEN BED for the $69 opaque paying customer who is demanding and complaining about his unfulfilled request, when there is a Father-of-the-Bride on property currently writing out an 18k check for his baby’s big day and wants a double queen for his brother-in-law from Albuquerque. Oh btw, the wedding has brought in 20+ other rooms. The tour group also wins out, because they brought in a large group of people and might also have catering or meetings planned at the hotel, resulting in even more than just room revenue.

    In short: If a hotel is sold out, or close to full and you got a steal on a room (through any channel), you will be compromised. Your requests will be treated as such, a request, not a purchased commodity.

    • hmac0167 says:

      And to address the title of the post, If You Book Through Priceline, You’re A “Bad Customer”.

      If you book through Priceline (opaque) and COMPLAIN, you are an annoyingly cheap and whiny customer, which then means you are a bad customer because nothing makes you happy and you want something for free. You got a BIG, HUGE discount on the room type you agreed to, so STFU. When you start complaining and demanding more, in any context, that makes you a customer impossible to service, which then means you are a bad customer.

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      I hope I never have the misfortune of staying where you work, because I don’t like being treated poorly for saving money.

      • hmac0167 says:

        You don’t get treated poorly. You get what you paid for. Our rooms are great and the service is outstanding, we are top ranked in our city.

        The reality is that hotel inventory is a shuffle, because pricing varies. Guests requests are accommodated accordingly to their guarantee and the level of service for which the purchased.

        Opaque rooms are usually last sell and distressed. I am just telling you how the industry works, not my hotel.

      • NeverLetMeDown says:

        You’re not being treated “poorly,” you’re being treated appropriately. Does the fact that you’re coming through Priceline mean the hotel can be rude to you? No. Does it mean that you’re primarily interested in price, with no brand loyalty? Yes. After all, you didn’t even know which hotel you were booking when you paid for your stay! Given these circumstances, it’s 100% reasonable for the hotel, when trying to allocate a scarce resource, to prioritize its more valuable customers.

      • Ephraim says:

        I’m sorry, that’s not being treated poorly. You paid for a room. Doesn’t guarantee you a view. Doesn’t guarantee you two beds. Just a room and a bed. That’s not poor at all. If you wanted the room with the view that isn’t near the elevator that has two beds…. then pay and reserve that.

      • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

        You wouldn’t be treated poorly for saving money. You would be receiving the level of service you paid for. It’s like paying for a Kia and expecting Honda reliability then being pissed when you don’t get it. You don’t get to pay for a lower level of service and get the same thing that people paid more for. This isn’t communism, it’s capitalism. People are allowed to pay more money to get better service

        You get what you pay for, and Priceline explicitly states to its customers that they are only being guaranteed a 2 person room.

  21. Endgame says:

    Sounds Hot to Me, I hope you got to sleep in the Queen Bed. ;)

    But seriously, if you we the person paying full price, why should that person have a crappier room then the person paying half price.

    I know it sucks but, that’t life!!!

  22. Sparty999 says:

    I am a Hilton Honors member with quite a bit of clout, if I got bumped for a priceline customer, I’d be pissed. If I have loyalty to a company, I want the best experience… if you decide to jump around to the lowest bidder, you get what you get.

    • Nick1693 says:

      Let’s say the Priceline customer booked first and the hotel is overbooked. You then get bumped.
      You’d be pissed because you got bumped for the customer who booked first?

      • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

        I would be if I were willing to pay more for the room and were a loyal customer who would be guaranteed to return. I have a friend who travels and stays in Hiltons monthly or more often. I can guarantee that if she were bumped for a Priceline customer, she would take her entire company’s business elsewhere since she is in high level management.

        I have a feeling Hilton feels the same way. They would bump the Priceline customer well before someone who was a loyal and frequent customer.

  23. jrwn says:

    When I worked at Doubletree I never knew where someone was booked from, unless it was a large party/convention/business meeting. Personally, I never cared, nor did my boss. He said as long as we are able to get a baseline payment to cover the room, he wanted the customer to happy with the price.

  24. wonderkitty now has two dogs says:

    Signing up for hotel rewards programs has encouraged me to book through the direct site. The ONLY time I wouldn’t is when I’m getting a four-star room in Atlanta for $65 instead of $200. I call this “pricelining” and do it when I’m going to be staying a hotel chain I normally wouldn’t, such as InterContinental or Westin. I’m very pleased with most Marriott chains, with the exception of The Fairfield Inn line. I also have rewards with Holiday Inn and Best Western. The third party hassle just isn’t worth it.

  25. anime_runs_my_life says:

    Wow..sounds like the guy was bitter that he didn’t get the full price on the room that the OP got for the cheapest price. The question is, did he specify for two beds before he got the room on priceline or hoped that he’d get them if he called and asked nicely after he booked the room. If the latter, I think he’s kind of SOL. I’ve never used Priceline as I don’t like the idea of finding out about the price until after I “purchase”. I like seeing my pricing up front, so maybe he can’t get a room with two beds.

    If this is the case, then he needs to start booking elsewhere so he can get the room/beds he wants.

  26. Microxot says:

    Marriott did that to me when I booked through Orbits.

  27. Mark says:

    I’ve been put in a ‘ghetto’ sometimes when using Priceline. A wing of the hotel more rundown than the rest. No morning paper. Beat up furniture. Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Philly always did this. Others have too.

    I accept that they see me as a second class customer because I used a discounter. One they elected to use and one they set their rates with.

    When I am treated like that it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy for the hotel because I do not spend any money at their bars, restaurants or shops.

    • snarkymarcy says:

      Exactly. The hotels have elected to participate in these programs. If they want to be assholes about it, they can always let the rooms sit empty.

  28. RobofNYC says:

    When I stayed several nights at a Holiday Inn while on vacation, i was not credited to my rewards program because I booked through Priceline.

    In the future I will determine if the discount matches the loss of credits to the rewards program.

    • larrycl says:

      That’s my experience as well and a good thing to mention:
      When I’ve used Priceline, Hotwire, Roomsaver, and even Expedia, I haven’t gotten my frequent-stay points from the hotel chain.

  29. dunnowhat says:

    Like a couple commenters have pointed out, Priceline’s Terms and Conditions specify that only two people are guaranteed in a room. He should try Hotwire next time, where he can select the number of people in the room.

    I found this out the hard way in Rome. I booked a room through Priceline for three of us and the owner/manager flipped out about fire regulations.

  30. stint7 says:

    It’s true.

  31. Hollihocks says:

    I just don’t understand why people book through 3rd party sites. I mean maybe you can save money with Priceline occasionally, but you gamble.

    Airlines and hotels are never going to be undercut by Expedia or Orbitz. Like many have said, if there’s a problem with anything – the hotel or airline is off the hook even though it’s with them – you have to go through the pains of your 3rd party.

    The best trick is to find the hotel you want and call their LOCAL number. Often times they have lower “local” rates or deals.

  32. xamarshahx says:

    lot of hotels do this, they treat you like crap, i’m like why are you on those sites if you don’t want to offer a cheaper rate?????

  33. Snowball2 says:

    I don’t think you can indict all of Holiday Inn or Priceline for what sounded like an individual manager’s, albeit poor, response. However, this does point to how important it is to read the fine print when making your booking thru any service. Room type or configuration is NOT guaranteed on many hotel booking sites (not to mention the risk you take when pre-paying for a room). If you have a situation where your needs are not flexible, then you need to book in such a way that guarantees your accommodation. The best way to do that is with the hotel directly. You may even have more bargaining power than you think, given the economy (hotels have been especially hard hit) and how many services offer hotel rooms. Do your research on pricing, special offers and ask the hotel if you can get that price.

  34. kathygnome says:

    I suspect this isn’t about third party sites, but about Priceline. I love Priceline and highly recommend using them along with and similar sites where people post what price and hotel they received to make you a smart shopper. But Priceline is what it is and that’s a way for hotels to liquidate rooms that they can’t otherwise sell. There are no guarantees of a specific hotel or type of room beyond what is listed–you will get a hotel of a certain quality for 2 persons within a certain geographical area.

    Of course you’re not a primary customer of the hotel, that’s the whole point! We used them for a trip last spring and stayed in some of the most wonderful hotels we’ve ever been in for less than Motel 6. But we had one hotel where we had a very specific location and facilities requirement and for that, we booked directly because Priceline couldn’t guarantee those things.

  35. dwasifar says:

    Am I the only one that thinks the hotel might have been reacting not only to the cheap Priceline booking but also to the cheapskate four-people-in-two-doubles plan? I mean, seriously, who would do that? They look like either a) a bunch of swingers, or b) world-class skinflints, and neither one is going to make you popular with the hotel.

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      This. There’s savings, and then there’s a point where you can’t afford to travel. If you have to cram 4 people into a double room, you either are the cheapest of the cheap, or you can’t afford to be taking the trip.

  36. curmudgeon5 says:

    Priceline does warn you about this when you book, that your requests for things like type of bed are just requests, not guarantees.

  37. yessongs says:

    Complain to Shatner, and maybe he will pilot the Enterprise over there and slam a couple of photon torpedoes into the hotel.

  38. Jonwain says:

    I work at a hotel. Nothing is guaranteed but that a room will be available, regardless of the booking method. All bed types, room configurations, smoking/nonsmoking, floors, near/far from door/elevator, etc. are just requests…no hotels guarantee them. The only request that most hotels will guarantee is an accessible room. Everything else is first come, first served. The original poster may not be a bad customer, but he certainly is a bad consumer…

  39. ssevern says:

    That’s just how Priceline works when you bid on rooms. They don’t guarantee a room type.

  40. Joe_lovz_buying says:

    This is why I look for the lowest rate one one of the discount sights then Immediately call the hotel and directly negotiate the same rate.

  41. FranktasticVoyage says:

    I like when people try to save a few bucks and complain that they don’t get the same service as those who paid more.

    Priceline and the like are fine, but seriously, do you not think there are tradeoffs for getting a lower price? Do you really think a hotel should appreciate a customer who nets them less money than someone who pays full price?

  42. Geekybiker says:

    I had a similar experience when I went to Sandals once. There were some issues with the room and we wanted moved. They refused to do anything for us because we had booked at a large discount. Does anyone pay full price at these places? They are constantly running 40-60% off sales.

  43. Argy says:

    I worked front desk at a Howard Johnson one recent summer. OP’s story doesn’t surprise me at all. When our computer system would receive bookings from Priceline, Orbitz, etc., they would automatically go in as smoking rooms. If we had extra rooms at check-in, we could accommodate them and switch but otherwise they were out of luck. The people who booked through the hotel website had the option to indicate what type of room they wanted, whereas the third-party sites don’t guarantee anything. We had to honor our own hotel site’s terms and conditions first.

  44. speechteach says:

    Seems like the OP had a verbal contract with the hotel directly, regardless of Pricelines 2 person policy. If the hotel wants to stick to Pricelines policy, it should make it employees who answer the phones aware of it. If they are not, it’s a contract for that reservation.

    I’d suggest the OP executive email carpet bomb HInn. Here are the emails:;;;;;;;;

  45. kityglitr says:

    I work at a major chain hotel and while I think the manager in this situation did the exact WRONG thing by the customer, this perfectly illustrates one of the biggest problems with the industry. I am going to assume this hotel was a franchise. A franchise pays their corporate masters a fee every year just to be in business w/ the corporate logo. The franchise also has to pay for any and everything inside their hotel that the corporation decides must be a certain way. Everything you see, including the towels, televisions, even the breakfast you eat is determined by corporate. Same thing with advertising and booking. So, when a person calls the hotel directly and makes a reservation, that hotel is getting 100% of that guests money as payment for the room. If the room is booked through a corporate reservation line or online, the franchise has to pay a percentage back to corporate for their trouble. Last in line are the 3rd party booking agencies, like travel agents and companies like Priceline, Expedia, and When a guest books through a 3rd party site, the hotel has to pay the site a commission, which often means the hotel will jack up the price it offers to these sites to compensate.
    The problem here is that this information does not matter when it comes to the customer. As a franchisee, the hotel has entered into an agreement and they have to stand by it. No matter if they feel corporate or 3rd party bookers are undermining them or saddling them with too many fees, you DON’T TELL THE GUEST! Your job is to make their stay at your hotel as pleasant as possible so they will want to come back in the future! At my hotel, we make it a point to try and let guests know they can book directly with us. If I see someone booked on Expedia, sometimes I’ll even let them know they can try and haggle w/ a hotel to get better rates! It behooves an informed consumer to look online, and also call the hotel directly to price shop. You’d be surprised at what kinds of deals a hotel will give you these days.
    Anyway… that’s my 2 cents.

  46. yurei avalon says:

    This sounds like typical Holiday Inn corporate BS, that apparently happens at all locations, not just the one I work at. I personally will not stay at one ever again, period since I’ve worked there. They are just run that badly.

  47. moonunit says:

    That’s a bummer, not getting exactly what you want, but Priceline is the “leftovers” from the hotel, that’s why they’re cheap. We use Priceline extensively, but only when we don’t mind what room type or exact hotel we’ll get. We’ve gotten some tremendous deals that way (but flexibility is key!)

    One marketing thing that the hotels have not apparently considered, with a few exceptions: if you treat a Priceline customer extremely well, instead of like a cheapskate, they may just develop the brand loyalty you wanted them to have in the first place.

    The Kimpton chain has earned our business in this way — we ended up in one with a roll of the Priceline dice, and now we often look to book direct through them when we have the option, even over saving money with Priceline. They were incredibly gracious and everyone treated us like VIPs even though we were lowly Priceline bookers. We also recommend the chain to our less thrify friends, I might add!

  48. yaj says:

    I use Hotwire to book rooms for our quarterly meetings, and always wind up at the same Sheraton, and always end up, without fail, in either a room for a Handicapped person, a room next to the elevator, or a room next to the vending/ice machine area (7 out of the last 7 times)

    When I inquire if there is another room available, the answer is always no.

    Since I save around 30% over their standard rack rate I don’t complain too much, as it’s 2 nights every 3 months, and I look like a hero getting a room for considerably less then my fellow Regional Managers staying at the same hotel (albeit in a quieter room).

    Sometimes you just have to compromise…

  49. moonunit says:

    That’s a bummer, not getting exactly what you want, but Priceline is the “leftovers” from the hotel, that’s why they’re cheap. We use Priceline extensively, but only when we don’t mind what room type or exact hotel we’ll get. We’ve gotten some tremendous deals that way (but flexibility is key!)

    One marketing thing that the hotels have not apparently considered, with a few exceptions: if you treat a Priceline customer extremely well, instead of like a cheapskate, they may just develop the brand loyalty you wanted them to have in the first place.

    The Kimpton chain has earned our business in this way — we ended up in one with a roll of the Priceline dice, and now we often look to book direct through them when we have the option, even over saving money with Priceline. They were incredibly gracious and everyone treated us like VIPs even though we were lowly Priceline bookers. We also recommend the chain to our less thrify friends, I might add!

  50. kennedar says:

    I worked in hotels for 4 years throughout university and then a summer in Europe and this manager is absolutly correct. SOP for every hotel I have ever worked at is that guests booked through the hotel get the best rooms, everyone else gets whatever they get. When booking through Priceline in particular, there is no promise that you will get anything you request. I learned my lesson and only book through hotel websites now, where I have always gotten a much better price than expedia or travelocity or Sorry, but when you are only concerned about cost, this is what you get.

  51. Broke_Daddy says:

    You need to go higher up, and complain to Holiday Inn International. I had a problem with a General Manager at one of the Holiday Inn hotels.
    I found the site on the web and lodged a complaint. The idiot GM called me and then threatened that he’d do absolutely nothing now since calling the Home Office generated a charge to the hotel in question. I just reported that call to them as a follow up and I was quickly reimbursed for the night we spent there.
    Since I was taken care of, I still book there when I can.

  52. sopmodm14 says:

    i never knew that being a paying guest makes you a bad customer

    or perhaps its a bad hotel and bad management that is paired with priceline

    i would’ve given a discounted upgrade (win-win). i’d bet the writer wouldn’t have written to consumerist but instead sung laurels about holiday inn and their service

  53. matt314159 says:

    I’ve found it to be par for the course to be treated as 3rd class titanic passengers for booking online. It’s come down to smoking/non-smoking rooms, too, which is terrible with asthma. Most of the time, i’ve found that if I’m polite, they’re gracious enough to “go out of their way” to accommodate me, but then I’m usually sternly lectured to make sure to book on *their* website next time. Yeah, because I want to pay 3x the price of my hotel room. Thanks, but no thanks.

  54. clammyclams says:

    My mother just stayed at a hotel in the Upper Peninsula of MIchigan. She wanted to book through Priceline ($40 a night), but Priceline couldn’t guarantee a “pet-friendly” room. So she called the hotel directly, and they offered to book her a pet-friendly room at the Priceline rate. This made my mom happy, her dog happy, and the hotel happy because they apparently pay a fee to Priceline for every room booked through them. Lesson learned – never hurts to ask, you could bypass the third party entirely. Not sure if this would work in more urban areas, though…

  55. Trireme32 says:

    I have been in hotel management for nearly 10 years now, and have managed everything from economy to 4-star hotels in various cities around the country. At each hotel that I have managed, the policy is the same – guests who book their reservations directly through the hotel (direct call, national reservations line, website, etc.) are guaranteed a specific room type based on the availability when they make the reservation. Third-party guests are given the room type that they requested if it is available.
    When you book a room through a third-party site, that company’s system does not audit the hotel’s system to determine availability. You might be booking a 2 double-bed, nonsmoking room when the hotel has been sold out of that room type for days. It is unfortunate, and we don’t like having to put you in a room that does not suit you, but it is how it works none-the-less.

  56. foodfeed says:

    tell the manager you’re going to rearrange the furniture to accommodate your needs… sometimes this gets them to switch it up out of fear that they will need to pay a maid with muscles.

  57. Elphaba says:

    Whenever I book through priceline I get a room with NO view, like a room looking out onto a wall, but really who cares about that. The room has always been satisfactory. If I want to ensure a view, like when I stayed on the beach, I book through that hotel.

  58. Destron says:

    When I was traveling recently with a friend, I booked directly through the Holiday Inn website, and arrived there to find there was a convention in town and they had given my room away and put me in a smaller room with a smaller bed. I was pissed. I requested a refund and they refused. So I left, called the CC company and charged back that room, and found another room on the far side of town that met my accommodations. Will never use Holiday Inn again, and I travel a lot.

  59. jaysapathy says:

    So, let’s break this down to its very basic parts:

    If two customers go into a store, and one is looking at clearance shoes while the other is looking at a similar set full priced, does one customer get better service than the other just because of the price of the shoe?

    That’s what I’m hearing from the hotel employees, and I’ve got to say, it’s enough to make me just stop staying at some of these places altogether. I don’t think the hotel should be aware how much you paid; you’re paying to stay with them, and deserve the same level of service regardless of cost. Anything less is utter tripe, and if these hotel employees were treated the same way, they’d freak out just as bad.

    I agree with the above poster, carpet bomb the executives. You were in the right on this one.

  60. COTC says:

    I travel extensively & always used Priceline to book my rooms. I tried where ever possible to book no less than 4 star accommodations. I would say 90% of the time I was treated like a second class customer. I have had around a dozen hotel managers tell me that I get what ever room they decide to give regardless of my requests. I will quote more than one hotel manager “because the nice rooms were for paying customers”. This is after following the same procedures as the person in this article. Call the next day after a reservation to reserve a king bed, only to get the smallest rooms in the hotel, more often than not the rooms seemed to be the neglected rooms in terms of upkeep, and maintenance. Some recent experiences for me:
    4* in Chicago the shower didn’t work at all, and a bit of a mold problem on the bathroom ceiling. (after much complaining the hotel manger made this right)
    4* Dallas supposedly the entire hotel had recently been renovated, I was given a room that had not been renovated, and was absolutely disgusting. A complaint to the manger and I get the nice room comment from him.
    4* New York – There was actually a moldy substance on the shower head, the shower tub would not drain, the toilet constantly ran, the mirror was cracked. After one full night in the room and hours of complaints the hotel finally moved me to a room that looked as if it was from a different hotel.

    I stopped using priceline because of these experiences. I will gladly pay 2x the priceline price to get treated like an actual customer and not some vagrant that asking for a handout from the hotel.

  61. maevealleine says:

    This managers behavior was reprehensible, however….

    When shopping for deals online, no matter if a hotel or airline, I will find the price online and then call the place i’m booking with to make the reservation. that way i’ve eliminated the middle man AND get the good price.

    That hotel manager chose a very poor defense when dealing with the fact that they screwed up. What a jerky.

  62. snarkymarcy says:

    Maybe it is a California thing. Same thing happened to us at a Westin near LAX. The first room was dirty and had leftover salad greens decaying in the unplugged refrigerator… The other room didn’t have their Heavenly Bed linens (we had been staying at Westins exclusively at the time, and we had grown accustomed to what seemed to be their standard accommodations in New Jersey and Florida.) The second room was also a “handicap accessible” room with a big shower that flooded the entire bathroom while you showered.

    We were there for a week. It took several days of complaining to the front desk, who basically told us the same thing as the article, in so many words. (You booked a “discount” room, and people like you don’t use our services like valet, restaurants, room service, etc. They were very plain about letting us know that we weren’t deserving of their best service.) We had a frequent guest card, and we called corporate. After a few days of calling, we got upgraded to a lovely suite upstairs, still being told that we didn’t deserve it, as we had booked on Priceline.

  63. nopirates says:

    ok, i have read through every comment in this thread….

    as a business traveler, i stay in hotels 3 or 4 nights a week, almost always as a full-priced customer or on a negotiated rate between my company and the hotel chain. i am astounded that people seem to be surprised that they are not given equal treatment when they have booked through a service like priceline or hotwire. you, as a customer, have chosen to take a substantially discounted rate and in return have gotten a room that may have otherwise been unsold. regular or full-priced customers get first pick ALWAYS. this is good business. to expect every wish of yours to be accommodated is unreasonable (however, expecting to be treated politely is ALWAYS reasonable.)

    it is clear when using a discounter that you should not expect to get more than you pay for. when i need nothing more than a bed for a night, i will use priceline or hotwire and i expect nothing other than a room in return.

  64. CapitalC says:

    I’ve used Priceline for dozens of trips to varying hotel chains in cities across North America and not once have I ever been treated any different than if I’d paid full-price for the stay.

    On two occasions I’ve booked a room for a colleague and myself and found that they had us booked into a room with a single king bed, but both times the hotel staff were more than accommodating in changing the room to two doubles for us.

  65. artseesdiner says:

    Yes, the above mentioned is indeed a truth. I recently had a nightmare situation with Hudson Hotel, a Morgan Group i Manhattan. I was told by the 20-something, (poorly trained hospitality representative, obviously they no longer teach that customer satisfaction means something) that Priceline is not the way to go. We were given a horrible room at first. Fortunately we were able to upgrade after a horrendous night and my calling at 6am after literally not sleeping the entire night! But, the hotel rep, informed me that I was unwise to utilize Priceline. Furthermore, she let me know that they were fulfilling legally what it meant by “double occupancy!” Let me just say, a bruised knee later, (that is how small the bathroom was) and a sleepless night, it was not double occupancy by any stretch of the imagination. When I reported to Priceline that the Hudson group was discouraging their patrons from utilizing Priceline, I was suprised to find that it did not bother them that they were losing a frequent customer. In truth, to get 60% off a room, that is suppose to be a bargain price reduction, only to find it is a janitor closet, well, you fill in the rest…It is not what it should be. Now, in defense of Priceline and the many other establishments that we have “named our own price” for, we have had some amazing locations. Like the Royalton in Manhattan, also the Morgan Group. Question is, are you a gambler?