Priceline tells a half-truth, then tap dances around it

By | October 3rd, 2016

Olivier Coispeau booked a one-night stay on Priceline.com at the Holiday Inn Garden Court A1 Sandy-Bedford, near Cambridge, England. But when he and his family arrived at the hotel, they were in for a surprise.

“After check-in, we realized the hotel is just a no-name motel, and even though I booked a double room with a sofa bed, we got a twin room with no sofa bed. This is a scam and a fraud.”

Coispeau’s case raises questions about the reliability of information provided by third-party travel sites like Priceline. If you reserve a room at the Holiday Inn, is it reasonable to expect that the hotel is actually a Holiday Inn?

Coispeau tells us the hotel was run-down and did not meet his expectations. He isn’t alone in that opinion, either. Traveler reviews for the hotel property on TripAdvisor are appropriately titled “Awful Room,” “At Least The Sheets Were Clean,” and “Don’t Bother Unless It’s Absolutely Necessary To Stay Here.”

Coispeau explains the horrible hotel experience ruined his time in Cambridge, and he wanted answers. He started by calling Priceline, which told him he had to speak with its sister company, Booking.com.

After being bounced between the two companies, Booking.com finally told him the following:

The property was once named “Holiday Inn Garden Court Sandy” and the name has been changed to “Garden Court Sandy.” The policies, physical structure, and room types have not changed. Our current contacts for the property associate with the QNHgroup, which manage Holiday Inn hotels.
Booking.com and Priceline do not establish relationships with certain brands. Each contract is individually created and managed directly with the accommodation management. The information provided on Booking.com and Priceline.com is provided by the accommodation directly. Booking.com and Priceline do not take responsibility for this information.

In case none of this makes sense: The hotel used to be a Holiday Inn, but no longer is. Booking.com, however, maintains that the property contacts do, in fact, manage Holiday Inn hotels, so therefore, there is no misrepresentation about the brand of hotel Coispeau stayed at.

Related story:   Help, my hotel just turned into a Comfort Inn - now what?

Except that it’s not a Holiday Inn.

The hotel is independently owned, as stated right on the hotel website.

As Booking.com tells us, the property is managed by QN Hotels group, which manages Holiday Inn hotels.

But not exclusively.

QN Hotels group manages six hotels, of which two are Holiday Inns, two are Ramadas, and two have no brand affiliation.

So it is misleading for Booking.com to represent that the hotel off the A1 roundabout in Sandy is a Holiday Inn by virtue of being managed by a group that happens to also manage Holiday Inns. By that logic, couldn’t it just as easily be a Ramada?

Instead, it’s Holiday Inn’s poor cousin. I didn’t say that — that’s another glowing review on TripAdvisor.

I wrote to IHG Europe, the international corporation that owns the Holiday Inn brand, which confirmed that Coispeau is correct to doubt the hotel’s ownership. The spokesperson wrote:

“The hotel was formerly a Holiday Inn property, but was removed from the brand portfolio on February 29th this year. Unfortunately, not all price comparison sites removed the Holiday Inn flag from their listings. We have been in contact with them and they are in the process of rectifying this.”

Since we reached out to the company representatives, both Priceline and Booking.com have updated their listings to correctly display the hotel’s independent ownership.

So, don’t bother staying here, unless it’s absolutely necessary. A quick tiptoe around TripAdvisor and other online review sites indicate this place has seen better days.

And don’t bother using an online travel agency, unless you must. And if you must — do your homework first. Find out what other hotel guests say, before committing your hard-earned money.

Related story:   The Travel Troubleshooter: Priceline promised to refund my package

Speaking of money, Booking.com offered Coispeau a 50 percent refund of what he paid for the room. Not in recognition of any misrepresentation, but because Coispeau was disappointed in the level of customer service he received, which is not representative of the brand.

Which brand? Never mind.

Should Coispeau have received a full refund for his stay at the Garden Court Sandy?

View Results

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  • Jeff W.

    I vote no as a 50% refund is an acceptable resolution. A one-night stay at a hotel should not have ruined the Cambridge experience.

  • DChamp56

    When I heard “The property was once named “Holiday Inn Garden Court Sandy” and the name has been changed to “Garden Court Sandy.” I would have said “My money used to be green, but now I use pink Monopoly Money, so you should be happy with that”.

  • Pat

    I would not normally vote yes but this time I did vote yes. This was a total misrepresentation by Priceline and the owners of the hotel. The reason it is probably not a Holiday Inn anymore is because it does not meet the standards required to be a Holiday Inn. Holiday Inn probably pulled the franchise because of the poor condition.

  • AAGK

    Complete misrepresentation. How could they deny that with a straight face? While Holiday Inn could’ve been more proactive, it dropped this property for a reason. People book brands they feel comfortable with and companies love that. QHN/booking/Priceline are at fault and owe this man something. Do these OTA’s not even verify what they sell? Someone could call their Airbnb listing a Hilton property so there must be a process. I guess it’s just a really bad one?

  • Travelnut

    I missed that it was only one night, but still… They had a family large enough to require a double bed and a sofa bed, and they got a twin bed and no sofa bed? Which person got the twin bed? Everyone else slept on the floor? Yeah, they deserve a full refund, at a minimum.

    ETA: Very nice picture :) but what does it have to do with the story? LOL.

  • greg watson

    If they stayed there overnight, where did everyone sleep ? I voted yes, but I would have liked a little more information.

  • Peter Varhol

    Why, why, and why yet again do people insist on booking, especially (supposedly) chain hotels through a third party? If you book this through Holiday Inn, you probably would have gotten the same price, except of course that it’s not a Holiday Inn. And most chain hotel websites offer a “lowest price guarantee.” Seriously folks, you’re setting yourself up for potential aggravation every time you think you’re getting a “deal” on a third party site.

  • If Coispeau wants to be mean, now that this has been accepted by everyone in here as a travel industry service standard, he could tell Holiday Inn about the misrepresentations of its brand being perpetrated by those two fake travel agents. Let Holiday’s legal team take care of the problem.

  • Annie M

    The guy still stayed at the hotel. He needs to pay something.But I think he should have received 75% back. He not only didn’t get the hotel he thought he was getting but he didn’t get the room he thought he was getting. Many times when a hotel removes their name from a property it’s because the property is not up to their standards.

    But if this was ever a reason to stop doing business with these OTA’s and book directly through the hotels website, this is it. It just shows you cannot trust the OTA’s.

  • MF

    I like your way of thinking! Of course someone visiting the Elliott.org site could just forward the story to Holiday Inn corporate. Anyone, anyone???

  • MF

    We lack some info on what time of day (or night) the guest checked in to this English ‘Hotel California’, availability of other nearby properties, etc. We lack info on communication with the front desk or manager, but I will assume that management refused to ‘walk’ the guest to an appropriate room with the requisite amenities (if indeed a bed is an amenity) at another property. Therefore, the innkeeper & OTA defrauded the guest by misrepresenting the property in the most basic ways – number & type of beds. Why give these lowlifes anything???

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    This is why I don’t use Priceline and other similar opaque sites. How much savings did the OP actually saved? How about the frustrations? anxiety? the time to contact Pricelinebooking.com after the stay? What is the true savings that the OP actually saved.

    My recommendation is to book a room directly with the hotel website…at least you know the name of the hotel upfront and etc.

  • disqus_wK5MCy17IP

    We also don’t know when the reservation was made. Was it prior to the Holiday Inn brand being removed from the hotel in February? I’m not familiar with Priceline specifically, but I know other online booking sites state that room type/number of beds is not guaranteed, only that there will be enough beds for the guests on the reservation. In the case or some I believe you can’t actually book for more than 4 guests.

  • Pegtoo

    Bueller?

  • joycexyz

    Absolutely right! Penny wise, pound foolish.

  • rothsteg

    Since when is fraud (advertising a hotel as being a “name brand” when it is not an acceptable business practice.

  • The Original Joe S

    YEAH! HA HA HA HA!

  • DepartureLevel

    Yes, he should get a full refund as should every other “victim” of Priceline and Booking.com. I’m sick of these “hotels” or whatever “brand names” they are hiding behind getting away with fraud and deception and then using Priceline etc to make it look legitimate or vice versus. TripAdvisor is your friend. Use it and then book DIRECTLY with hotels that satisfy you. 99% of small, large, medium hotel properties have their own website and if you research carefully you will also find that most of them charge the same exact rates as the Pricelines, Booking.com, etc.

  • Carchar

    If I were to know Olivier Coispeau, I’d expect him to look like that. ;)

  • cscasi

    Was that on the hotel’s sign over the door when he checked in with his family? As was mentioned above, perhaps the changeover (no longer being a part of the Holiday In chain) took place after he made his original reservation.
    Was what he requested guaranteed on his booking receipt? Did he discuss this with hotel management when he checked in? What was management’s response? Could he have been offered another room had he asked? The article does not indicate that he did. It appears he decided to take this matter up later on.
    Since he stayed there, I feel that he should have to pay. How much? I would say that depends on what his booking receipt shows. If he was not guaranteed what he asked for, then he should pay for it all. If he was guaranteed a certain arrangement and did not receive that, management should have returned his money and let him go elsewhere or at least given him a reduction if he chose to stay there.

  • JewelEyed

    TripAdvisor is demonstrably not your friend based on previous pieces on this site, but do your research for sure.

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