Like a lot of companies, Best Western offers customers who book rooms directly through their website a “Best Rate Guarantee.” That’s good for the company, because they save the cost of commissions to third party booking sites. And it’s good for travelers, because they can rest assured they’ve found the best rate for their hotel room.
At least that’s how it’s supposed to work. But not for Hazel Valenzuela. She booked a room in Hong Kong on Best Western’s website, but then subsequently found a slightly better rate at another website. So she submitted a rate match request for the roughly $5 a night lower rate.
Then the fun began. At first Best Western told her they couldn’t find the rate she submitted, citing their terms and conditions:
If you review the Terms and Conditions on the sixth line you will see that: ‘The competing rate must be publicly viewable and bookable via the internet at the time the claim is reviewed by a Best Western Customer Care Specialist.
A viewable rate means that the general public can view the rate on the website. A bookable rate means that the rate is available and can be reserved online.’
We were unable to view the rate you had noted on the site; you may find the complete Terms and Conditions on our website.
So she looked again, and sure enough the rate she found was still there. And still available for booking. So she resubmitted. This time there was another excuse for not honoring the guarantee.
We have processed your Low Rate Guarantee Claim. Unfortunately we regret to inform you that the claim has been denied for the following reasons: Through Best Western you booked a superior twin room with mountain view, the rate you saw on getaroom and listed in your low rate guarantee form is for a double or twin deluxe room with harbour view which is not the same room type you booked on Bestwestern.com.
The terms and conditions of the Low Rate Guarantee program state: The competing rate must be for the same hotel, dates, length of stay, currency, number of guests and similar room type.
But our intrepid traveler was still not giving up. She responded with screenshots demonstrating that the room type was indeed identical.
This time Best Western responded that they had found the matching room type on the competitor’s site, and that in fact the rate they found was slightly lower than the one Valenzuela actually found.
Happy ending, right?
Even though they’d found a slightly lower rate, her claim was denied because it was not an exact match for the one she submitted. They found a rate of HK$338.65 ($43.64) versus the HK$338.77 ($43.65) rate that Valenzuela had found. A difference of about a penny U.S.
That last denial included an ironic apology.
“We are not trying to make this difficult for our valuable guests to find the lowest rate, but we do have very strict rules to follow,” a representative said.
And so we see a good consumer policy turned around by an employee who apparently was not given any discretion to apply rules in a way that achieves that policy’s intent, making customers happy and confident in the Best Western brand. Valenzuela might have found a company official more willing to bend the rules by using the Best Western corporate contacts at our advocacy site.
Our advocacy team contacted Best Western for clarification on how its rate guarantee is applied. The company didn’t directly answer our questions, but asked us to share the details of Valenzuela’s case. Valenzuela didn’t want the case advocated, so we had to let this one go.