I found a better price. Now I want a free night at the InterContinental

Arun Rao tried to take advantage of a “Best Price Guarantee” for a two-day stay at an InterContinental Hotel. He wanted a free night at the hotel offered by the guarantee. But was he entitled to one?

Many travel companies offer Best Price Guarantees, which are acknowledgments that online travel websites frequently offer hotel rooms and other amenities at lower rates than the companies themselves do. Best Price Guarantees allow consumers who book at the companies’ prices to claim the lower rates or other special deals – but only if they satisfy the terms and conditions of the guarantees. Since Rao didn’t satisfy them, he doesn’t qualify for InterContinental’s Best Price Guarantee — and our advocates can’t help him get it.

We can warn our readers that it’s important to read the fine print in the terms and conditions of any company offering a Best Price Guarantee and make sure to be in compliance with those terms and conditions before trying to claim the Guarantee.

Rao made a reservation for two nights at the InterContinental The Clement Monterey in Monterey, Calif., for $219 per night. He called its reservations number to confirm that this was the best deal available for the two nights. The Intercontinental agreed that this was the best rate the hotel could offer Rao, and he authorized a charge of $496 to his credit card.

The following day he found the same room available on Priceline for $197 per night. He called the InterContinental to request the Best Price Guarantee of a free first night and a second night at the lower rate. The hotel’s agent instructed Rao to fill out Intercontinental’s online claim form to request the Best Price Guarantee. Rao promptly completed and submitted the form.

He then found the same room for $188 per night on Priceline (not in a Name Your Own Price offer) and made another claim. The next day, he found the same room for a lower rate and again claimed the Guarantee.

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When Rao checked in at the Intercontinental, he told the front desk staff about the price differentials he had found. The Intercontinental’s staff assured Rao that its corporate office would honor the guarantee. They also offered Rao a price of $199 per night for his two days, but he declined the offer. According to Rao, he was “worried that [the] corporate department would misuse that information and deny the free one-night stay.”

But Rao never received the Guarantee nor heard from anyone at InterContinental Hotels Group regarding his claim. He contacted InterContinental Hotels Group and learned that all communication concerning the Guarantee is by email. He received the following response:

We have reviewed our records, the Best Price Guarantee mailbox, and manually searched for all claims filed under your name and email address and we are unable to locate any email or claim form in reference to confirmation number [redacted].

In addition, our records show that the confirmation number provided was booked by contacting one of our Central Reservations Offices. …

We appreciate your interest in filing for the program; however, at present we will be unable to extend the free night and rate match to this reservation.

Rao contacted InterContinental Hotels Group three more times to request the claim. He also complained about the InterContinental’s website. The third time, a senior case manager responded:

We understand that you viewed a rate on the third-party website which prompted you to file for the Best Price Guarantee. At the same time please know that we also have Terms and Conditions to adhere with.

Please be advised that one of the requirements of the Guarantee is that the claim must be received within the first 24 hours after the booking was created, and at least 24 hours prior to the standard check in time at the IHG hotel being claimed for. Since we are unable to locate claim forms with your email address within the above claim period, we will be unable to extend the Guarantee to this particular claim.

Furthermore, we have checked the IHG website and claim form and found no issues currently affecting either one.

Rao turned to our advocacy team for assistance in getting the Best Price Guarantee. He submitted screenshots of his reservation and the lower rates he had found on Priceline. (Executive contact information for InterContinental Hotels Group is available on our website.)

Unfortunately for Rao, his attempts to claim the Best Price Guarantee from InterContinental Hotels Group were unsuccessful because he was not in compliance with the Guarantee’s terms and conditions, which require satisfaction of all of the following:

  • Matching Rooms. The Guarantee is available only for the exact same room type and same view. …
  • Matching Terms. All terms of the comparison room reservation, including, but not limited to pre-payment, deposit, number of guests, or other requirements must be equal in all respects to the terms found on an IHG website for your claim to be valid.
  • Matching Prices. For multi-night stays, the Guarantee compares the average nightly room price and the average nightly total room cost for your valid room booking with those found on a non-IHG website. …
  • Matching Prices – Price Variance. The nightly room price and the nightly total room cost (for one night stays) or the average nightly room price and the average nightly total room cost (for multi-night stays) must each be lower than the IHG room price and the IHG total room cost, respectively, by at least 1% or $1 USD (or the equivalent in the hotel’s currency) (whichever is higher). Coupons or vouchers may not be utilized to lower published room prices for the purposes of making a claim. The Guarantee does not include extra fees such as extra person charges.
  • Comparison Prices Must Be Available to the General Public. The Best Price Guarantee applies only to prices both advertised and available to the general public on a non-IHG website at the time of verification.
  • Packages Comparison. The Guarantee applies to comparing exactly the same packages or inclusive prices with the same included items.

Our advocate noted that the screenshot of the lower price that Rao had submitted to us was dated later than 24 hours after the date of his reservation email, and that the room type in Rao’s screenshot (two double beds and a mobility accessible tub) was not the same as the one in his reservation (one traditional king-size bed; nonsmoking).

Since the lower prices Rao found were for rooms of different types and amenities than the one he reserved on InterContinental’s website, he doesn’t qualify for its Best Price Guarantee. However, The InterContinental offered Rao 5,000 IHG Rewards Club Points as a gesture of goodwill.

Rao refused to accept it:

They have offered me 5,000 points as compensation. The Monterey InterContinental room is [worth] more than 60,000 points per night, so 5k is meaningless. I have not accepted anything from them.

Should InterContinental Hotels Group offer Rao a larger gesture of goodwill?

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Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

  • Steve Rabin

    Unfortunately, these things are always dicey. The T&Cs are always slanted in favor of the hotel chain.

  • Mel65

    Pretty sure it’s been preached on here time and time again: when you find a product or service you want at a price point you’re willing to pay–stop looking. That is just a recipe for headache, frustration, and eventual resentment.

  • Mark

    IHG’s Best Price Guarantee is very, very hard to claim under. In addition to the limitations you set out, they will only honour reservations for the lowest priced room – so, for example, if you were to reserve a slightly more expensive room with a view, they will not honour a best price guarantee claim for the same room category, etc.

    I feel for Rao – but I do think the property actually tried to do the best they could for him – they didn’t have to offer to match the rate on check-in, but they did, and kudos to them for doing so.

  • finance_tony

    Why would a “gesture of goodwill” even need to be considered when someone is so clearly in the wrong? Under what possible principle could you even ask the question?

  • eBob

    I have never understood this compulsion that some people have to continue shopping for something that they have already purchased.

  • Chris_In_NC

    Woah… Rao is being greedy, extremely greedy

    It took until the end of the article to get to the crux of the issue : “Our advocate noted that the screenshot of the lower price that Rao had submitted to us was dated later than 24 hours after the date of his reservation email, and that the room type in Rao’s screenshot (two double beds and a mobility accessible tub) was not the same as the one in his reservation (one traditional king-size bed; nonsmoking).”

    I can see the 24 hours being waived by corporate. The room type is the problem, and where any sympathy by me for Rao vaporized. A two double bed room is VERY different from a king-sized bed. The counter offer of $199 per night was very generous, and Rao should have taken it and called it a day.

    Now, he is upset about a 5000 point gesture of good will, which he doesn’t deserve in the first place? Just wow.

  • SirWired

    Gee, I would have taken the 5,000 points. Screenshots taken too late, for a room that’s a different type, with different amenities, totally takes it out of the price guarantee; this isn’t even a technicality.

    If you want to shop around, the best time to do it is BEFORE you buy, and then just book there. Price Guarantees are nice, but you should be prepared for what will be a hassle, at best, or a failure at worst.

  • Jeff W.

    I agree. A room with the a king-sized bed is almost always priced higher than that of two double beds. In fact, many hotels consider it an upgrade if you book a double and they give you a king. (unless your sleeping arrangements really call for a double, in which case it is not much of an upgrade :-) )

  • LeeAnneClark

    Wow. This guy sure spent an awful lot of time searching for minor price differences. I mean really – the price differentials were not that big, and it was only for two nights. How many hours did he spend searching for lower prices after he already bought the rooms? Didn’t he have more worthwhile things to do?

    As others have mentioned in here – once you’ve bought something, why bother continuing to shop? Prices change – sometimes they go up, sometimes down. But you bought it at the price you paid, so clearly it worth that amount to you at the time. Why torture yourself seeing that others might have gotten it for less? Life’s too short!

  • SirWired

    Sounds to me he didn’t care about the price difference so much as the free night ICH offers if you successfully file a claim.

  • Annie M

    Not apples to apples, not within 24 hours – while these guarantees are always slanted to the company side, this guy really blew it.

  • Bill___A

    When I want to find a hotel room, I look at the various hotels and rates. I select a hotel based upon various factors, including the price, look at the terms and conditions, and book it. I just about never get a prepaid room, so if I am able to find a better price and can change it within the window that I’m allowed, I do so. However, if I was unhappy with the price, I wouldn’t book the hotel room in the first place, unless I had to for some other reason.

    Those price match guarantees are very specific for how they apply, so generally I don’t bother with them unless I am certain I would be successful. He should have accepted the lower price from them when he checked in.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yeah, you’re probably right. Trying to game the system.

  • Michael__K

    A two double bed room is VERY different from a king-sized bed.

    Yeah, on their own website, the room with two double beds actually costs about $10 more…. So he found a better price on a room that is supposed to be more expensive….

    Regardless, he deserved a timely response one way or the other. Instead, they denied receiving any of his submissions, and claimed he needed to use email, even though the instructions specifically reference the online claim form he says he used — three times.

  • Noah Kimmel

    I agree that I buy when I am comfortable…but I understand the urge to try to save as much as you can. The challenge is in trying to game the system.

    If it was same room type on same website, then yea, by all means ask for something. But when it is different room, outside of the terms, and offered 2 different goodwill getstures that aren’t enough, you are just greedy…

  • KanExplore

    There are plenty of gamers in this space whose Plan A is to work the reservations systems to get great deals from Best Rate Guarantees. I don’t know if this is one or not, but they say if you’re willing to put up with some hassles and know the rules, it can be a successful way to get free or steeply discounted lodging. Also in the lodging area, many rates are refundable, so it often pays to lock in something acceptable to you, but then keep looking for something better.

  • jsn55

    If you want to play games like BRG, you must be willing to read all the fine print of the offer and understand it.

  • disqus_wK5MCy17IP

    It sounds like they told him that they couldn’t locate a claim form filled out with his email address. Forms usually generate an email to an inbox and they reply from there. From the responding agent’s point of view, they receive an email. Nowhere in the correspondence that was provided does it say they weren’t honoring the request because it was a claim form and not email.

  • joycexyz

    I guess it’s the principle of “If you can be annoying enough…”

  • Michael__K

    It’s awfully strange that they can’t find even one of his three submissions then….. Email address is a required field and must be entered twice. First Name and Last Name are required fields too.

  • Bill

    I try to game the system too, but the difference is, when it doesn’t work, I don’t cry foul. And, I don’t expect an advocate to help me game the system.

  • pauletteb

    My dad’s widow spends hours online looking for a cheaper price, and has never saved more than a few bucks. My time is worth more than that.

  • disqus_wK5MCy17IP

    It says they couldn’t located a form submitted with that confirmation number or within the deadline. Not finding any form submission at all is the interpretation of the author.

  • Michael__K

    False. IHG didn’t mention the deadline at all. Just the confirmation number. And this is to justify why they didn’t respond at all to the 3 claims. So if (let’s say) he mis-typed the confirmation number or missed the deadline, then they don’t even owe him the courtesy of a response to his claims?

  • disqus_wK5MCy17IP

    False, they did refer to the claim period.

    Since we are unable to locate claim forms with your email address within the above claim period, we will be unable to extend the Guarantee to this particular claim.

  • kanehi

    Just because a room is of a lesser price don’t automatically assume it’s the same type.

  • Michael__K

    They don’t call it a “claim period” in the terms & conditions. Regardless, if they believe he didn’t satisfy all the criteria, is it appropriate to refuse to acknowledge that the claims exist, nevermind provide a courtesy of a response with a clear explanation as to what was specifically deficient?

  • disqus_wK5MCy17IP

    False again. The language of “claim period” came from their own reply. It is a reference to the 24 hours in which the LW had to submit a claim.

    I haven’t submitted a claim, so I’m not sure what expectations they give if a claim is submitted outside the 24 hours. If there is language stating there may not be a reply for invalid submissions, I wouldn’t turn down a lower rate offered at the front desk.

    I assume that you’ve read the terms of the offer which states that it’s for booking made directly on their website. And that both the article and the response from the hotel state that the LW’s reservation was made over the phone. Removing the late submission and different room type, this guest never had a valid claim due to the method of reservation.

  • Michael__K

    They don’t admit receiving any of the claims after 24 hours. They don’t admit or deny receiving any claim whatsoever.
    Do you assume that the hotel’s employees know anything about the expectations or terms of their employer’s offer? Why would they confirm an online rate over the phone and then tell the customer to submit a claim online if this is not allowed?
    And where do you believe this alleged language stating there may not be a reply for invalid submissions exists? If you test the form, it has no validation, even for an obviously bogus confirmation number, and submitting the form produces a page which establishes the following expectations:

    Thank you for submitting your Best Price Guarantee claim
    Your Customer Care form has been sent. Please allow 24 hours for us to review and respond to your concern.

  • disqus_wK5MCy17IP

    He didn’t really submit a claim, he used a web form. He booked over the phone, and used the form after the deadline, neither of which constitute a valid claim. What do they owe him because after the fact he says he didn’t receive a reply? He declined a rate discount and he declined points. He’s gotten his response. I’d be willing to be he did receive something via email as well and is just neglecting to mention it wasn’t the response he wanted, so it’s no response.

  • Michael__K

    “He didn’t really submit a claim, he used a web form.”

    How else precisely does does one submit a claim? And why does the landing page after using this web form say “Thank You for submitting your Best Price Guarantee claim”?

    “He booked over the phone…

    According to the OP he made a reservation and *then* called to confirm it was the best rate. Was something about the original reservation changed when he called? Is your assumption that the phone agent did not know the Best Price Guarantee rules ?

    “… and used the form after the deadline, neither of which constitute a valid claim.”

    How do you know this? Where does IHG acknowledge that anything was received after the deadline? Where do they claim that nothing was received before the deadline with a different confirmation number?

    “I’d be willing to be he did receive something via email as well and is just neglecting to mention it wasn’t the response he wanted

    If he received a response via email within the promised 24 hour response timeframe, then why would he not have had a response by the time that he checked in? Why would he ask the front desk staff about his claim and reject the offer of $20 off his room rate if he had received a clear and accurate response to his claim explaining why it wasn’t eligible?

  • Shirley G

    This Intercontinental is the worst. Even before my stay, they were nasty and obnoxious and HQ was even worse. DO NOT STAY AT INTERCONTINENTALs. I changed my res. to the Monterey Plaza Hotel which is in a far better area and so much nicer. And they were very responsive and polite. Do not reward bad behavior!

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