Hotel reservation agent: “I feel very guilty about lying”

Mary is an in-house reservation agent for an upscale, full-service hotel in a major American city. I’m not using her last name for reasons that will become obvious in a moment.

Mary has a lot on her mind. People who call her hotel to reserve a room are getting ripped off, and she wants to come clean about it. Here’s our interview, which was conducted by phone this morning.

Tell me about what you do.

I work in the in-house reservations department of [a hotel]. When people call the hotel to book a room, they’re put through to me.

What do they say when they’re connected to your department?

Normally, they ask for the best room rate.

And what do you tell them?

I give them what we call the “bar” rate — it stands for “best available rate.”

Is it?

No.

Why not?

I could offer a lower rate, but my revenue manager won’t let me.

Can you give me an example?

Sure. This weekend, the “bar” rate for a standard room is $200 per night. Our website has a $130 rate for a winter special. We could offer that when you call, but we’re not allowed to — unless a guest asks for it.

And do they know to ask for it?

No. From my experience, hotel guests think they’re more savvy than they actually are.

What if you offer the lowest rate without being prompted?

I’m severely reprimanded. Our revenue manager listens to our conversations.

So what’s the magic word?

They should ask for the very lowest rate. Not just the lowest rate – the very lowest rate.

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Anything else?

You should say you have lots of memberships [like AAA or AARP] so that if you qualify for a negotiated discount, I can volunteer it.

OK. So you quote me a rate, and I think it’s a little high. I’m about to hang up. How do you stop me?

I can offer a better rate, but still not the very lowest rate. Usually, people are happy with that, and they’ll book the room.

And if that doesn’t work?

I’ll tell you that we have many citywide conventions and that availability is limited. Even if it isn’t true. Again, that’s something we are instructed to say.

You’re told to lie?

Yes. I feel very guilty about lying. I also feel guilty when I don’t offer the lowest rate.

But many hotels have best-rate guarantees. Couldn’t I make a claim if I found a better rate elsewhere?

Our hotel has a best-rate guarantee, but we make it so hard to file a claim, and people rarely do. It’s better to do your homework before you book a room.

(Photo: allen jael ee/Flickr Creative Commons)


Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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