Case dismissed: A suburban spat over a Hotwire hotel room

Here’s a relatively common problem with a so-called “opaque” booking site — with a relatively common resolution.

Unfortunately, it’s the wrong resolution, as far as Phillip McKeough is concerned. He recently booked a Hotwire room in Grand Rapids, Mich. Or thought he had.

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Hotwire’s system is not like other online travel agencies. You get to select the room category and location, but don’t find out which hotel you’re staying at until after you’ve made the purchase. When McKeough selected his hotel, he was given a room at a property in Walker, Mich., a suburb about seven miles away from Grand Rapids.

“I believe there has been some sort of mistake,” he told me. “The brand of hotel and price are all fine, but I can’t use a room in Walker. I would like a refund or credit to use in the actually city I need to stay in.”

I agreed that Walker wasn’t Grand Rapids, and asked him to send a polite email to Hotwire, asking it to reassign him to a hotel in the city.

McKeough did some more digging, and found another problem.

It turns out the Holiday Inn Express, the property he was staying at, had room rates on its own website that were only $2.36 a night more than the Hotwire rate. Why jump through all the hoops just to save a few bucks? (Hotwire guarantees rates are up to 60 percent off published prices. I guess the operative word is “up to.”)

He called Hotwire to see if he could sort it out. He asked to speak with a supervisor.

I thought I would have a good argument when I looked on Holiday Inn Express’ website and found that their standard rate was only $2.36 more than my Hotwire price.

The supervisor actually had the gall to tell me I was getting a deal. I was also surprised when she told me that the distance they quoted me was a straight line, rather than driving distance. I really thought I’d get her with the standard “Don’t you want me to be a happy customer?”

I guess not.

It was like talking to a robot. She just kept repeating that the details were in the fine print and there was nothing they could do because of their contract with Holiday Inn Express. I asked “what about your contract with the customer? I just want a hotel in Grand Rapids for a fair price.”

She told me that they never promised me a hotel in Grand Rapids.

I was disappointed by that response, so I contacted Hotwire on his behalf. Here’s the answer I got.

The Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites- Walker, MI does properly qualify under the area details provided by our site map for the Grand Rapids area. The possible location for a hotel within this selection is marked with a shaded overlay on our map. That specific area covers parts of Grand Rapids, as well as the neighboring towns of Walker and Wyoming.

[Note — I’ve posted that map above.]

Both of these border towns are clearly marked on the standard view of our map. By selecting hotel results within this area, Mr. McKeough was receiving properties that could fall into any of those three towns.

That’s also why the labels for those results are noted as “Grand Rapids Area Hotel”. I’ve attached a mark-up of our map as a reference in case it might be helpful. (To note, area B. is Grand Rapids, C. is Grand Rapids East, and E. is Grand Rapids South – Wyoming).

In terms of the distance range provided for this area, the 0.7 – 5.2 miles is also accurate. My assumption again would be that the customer is using a distance measure based on traveling through streets from the map’s pin to the hotel location. In reality, these distances are provided on our site as a radius from the map pin. So the 5.2 miles represents a straight line from the map pin to the farthest corner of the area that was selected.

There are many factors that contribute to the size and shape of the areas we use for each of our destinations. Those factors can include things like the number of hotels available, the distribution of those hotels, and opaque protection for our suppliers (in return for providing discounted rates). As a general rule, the smaller the city, the larger the geographic area that each selection will cover on the map.

We’ve contacted Mr. McKeough to share the details of how our maps and areas work, as well as how and when to take those details into account if you have specific needs associated with your booking. We’ll also log his user case into our system to help inform future considerations when updating our site.

Separately, a Hotwire representative called McKeough and told him there was “nothing” they could do about the $2 savings.

So there you have it. Not only was the hotel in the right place, but Hotwire beat Holiday Inn’s published rate.

While Hotwire may be technically right, I think this is the wrong way to do business. McKeough will never click on Hotwire again, because he feels duped by the site. And for what? Saving $2 so he could stay in the suburbs? Come on.

I guess the real question is: In a case like this, should an “opaque” site bend its rules to make a customer happy — or stick it to ’em?

75 thoughts on “Case dismissed: A suburban spat over a Hotwire hotel room

  1. Which is why I do not use opaque booking sites. I want to know where my hotel is and what I am getting. The savings (especially in this case) do not outweigh the risks.

  2. My questions is if that map of the Grand Rapids “area” was posted on the website, so he could see that there was a possibility to be sent to Walker. If so, he has no room to grumble, especially since he used an opaque site. If he had a specific type of hotel in mind in a specific area, he should just book through the hotel. He learned a hard lesson here, but other than a little bit of bad service, HotWire did exactly what it’s terms dictated.

    1. On the left side of the screen you can click on the area map and see all of the areas. When you click on a price in, you get a page about the hotel that includes a map of the area the hotel is in. I’m not sympathetic in this case at all. Also, I assume the OP is from a small town, since they consider 7 miles such a major commute for Grand Rapids.

      I’ve never gotten a good deal with I’ve had good results on hotels with Priceline, but every time I have looked carefully at the options in Hotwire, I could beat it without going opaque. Maybe it’s just me and others have great success, but don’t ever book these opaque sites without first researching what systems like Expedia have to offer. Also, there are sites that list the hotels people have gotten; it’s worth it to be sure what they call 4 star is what you would call 4 star.

      1. “Also, I assume the OP is from a small town, since they consider 7 miles such a major commute for Grand Rapids.”

        That would be a poor assumption.

        In many major cities, 7 miles can be a nightmare to cross. This person may not have a car or be renting one, meaning that they have to find another mode of transportation.

        There are all sorts of possibilities here.

        1. although i agree with the other parts of the post, you are certainly correct in the 7 miles assessment. here in NYC, that’s quite a trek. in some parts, that’s even another state.

  3. I had a similar problem with notepad once where they actually booked me in a hotel that was technically outside the grey area. I called them on it and after ahbout half hour I won.

    The heart of the problem goes back to elementary school and how many people are just very poor with geography and knowing what is close and what isn’t.

  4. These “opaque” sites should offer a distance toggle and use something like a Google Maps integration so that customers enter their desired location and then a distance radius from said location. Then that way these situations should never happen.

    1. They wouldn’t do that.  These websites work by grouping together hotels in a basic geographic location, but it only works for Hotwire or Priceline if they can piece together a variety of hotels of the same type.  If one was able to narrow it down that much, it can be possible to isolate one or two target hotels, and the hotels won’t allow it.  The maps are drawn to make it harder to isolate single hotels.  If there’s only one or two 3-star hotels within 2 miles of a desired location, that’s not going to be acceptable to the seller or the reseller.

      I can’t complain about using Priceline.  I got a rate that was half of the hotel’s online discount rate, and it was only a couple of miles from where I was going.

  5. Again and again, people are surprised at sub-standard results from the opaque sites. As this user learned, $2 isn’t worth it! Pick your own hotel after doing even cursory price comparisons on non-opaque sites and stick with it. Then you know exactly what you’re getting. 

  6. The location of the Holiday Inn Express appears to be within the shaded area of the map.

    I love opaque sites, but I do my homework first and compare standard rates in the area along with other websites where people post their results.

    I have gotten some real deals and steals over the years, very few duds.

    What terms did Hotwire not live up to?

  7. I have used Hotwire for many years. when I look on their site, I always uncheck the areas I do not want, to avoid this issue. Also, whenever I look at sites like Hotwire or Priceline I also go to a site like Expedia to see what hotels are in the area and what their rates are. Due diligence is a key phrase.

  8. This is why I don’t use Hotwire and it’s ilk. Also, the reason the “customer service agent” just kept repeating herself is that she was probably in a call center in India using a script. 

  9. It seems that Hotwire performed exactly as advertised. I don’t see the problem. I always wonder why people complain when a third-party site doesn’t the same service as booking directly with a certain company. If your goal is to save a couple of bucks you will get what is provided. If you want to stay in a certain location make sure you book a hotel in that area. 

    I don’t think that bending the rules at least in this case would make much sense from a business point of view.

  10. Did hotwire provide a hotel in the area indicated by their map? Yes. Did they provide a cheaper rate than the OP could have gotten on his own? Yes. That is the most you should expect from them. If you want a hotel in a much more narrowly defined geographic area, go to Expedia or whatever.

  11. Cant find any fault with Hotwire here. It’s a relatively simple site to work, and the customer was clearly shown the possibilities of where he could be staying. Could they have gone the “extra mile” and offered him an alternative, perhaps…but if one wants customer service, using a opaque website isn’t exactly the way to get it…

  12. Thing is, when you help us out by publishing these experiences, it’s not only the “wronged” person who will never click on a site again, it’s many of us too…..

    1. Who was “wronged”? The OP got a hotel in the area he bid on.

      I don’t think he understood the site and/or did his homework ahead of time.

    2. Thisperson was not wronged, this person was an inexperienced shopper who failed at entering the necessary criteria

      1. I think that’s why Mbods put “wronged” in quotation marks. The OP may not have been wronged according to Hotwire’s terms.

        I agree – let’s rephrase it. How about, “Thing is, when you help us out by publishing these experiences, it’s not only the person with the bad experience who will never click on a site again, it’s many of us too….”?

        I’m sure that in some small percentage of cases, Hotwire and its ilk occasionally do produce a deal of 50% off or so. Probably most often when it’s right before travel time and occupancy is way, way down. As noted in this posting, though, sometimes those grand savings add up to a couple of bucks a day, max. In exchange for which, you give up any right to pick the hotel, to verify its amenities (internet? breakfast?), to know how far you’ll be from your location, or anything else. You give up any chance at mileage/rewards programs. You run the risk (as has been well documented) of getting the crappiest room in the hotel because they’d rather you booked directly with them.

        I suppose if you’re traveling on a really, really tight budget where $5 can make the difference between overdrawing your bank account or going over your credit limit, Hotwire et al. might be worth it. I’m far from rich but I made a decision years ago to book directly. I might not have gotten the absolute cheapest deal in the world, but I’ve never paid what I consider an unfair price, either.

  13. I voted no.. Why?  As an earlier post of Chris’ indicated– I do think there’s some value in the notion of uniformity; that is treating all customers the same and not waiving the rule for customer X, but not for customer Y…

    I do think that unless there’s been a clear case of rules or policy violation, or an extreme case to the contrary, it really should be that all customers be treated and held to the same standard..

    While I don’t like all policies, especially those that I may view as a negative to me.. but I’d be even more upset to hear that my request for a waiver or the like was denied, when someone got approved for basically the same thing.. To me that smacks of bias and inconsistency. If you’re going to hold me to XYZ rules, then I’d expect everyone be held to the same XYZ rules..

    In this case, I don’t see that Hotwire did anything wrong.  yes, it may not be in Grand Rapid proper- as defined as within the city’s legal boundaries, but I do think that it is in the GR *area* and it appears the the customer was informed of this at the beginning via hotwire’s map..

    As to the rate– again, there was never a guarantee of how much.. Sure the 60% sounds good– and it may apply to some rates, but as is common across nearly all industries, it’s just that.. a range.. it may be less than 60%.. Is $2.36 a savings?  yes it is.. is it alot? No.. but then again, if my grocery store overcharged me $2.36 on my total, I’d be darn sure I brought it to their attention.. so it’s all relative..  Did Hotwire save him money?  yes, they did.. I don’t see it as hotwire’s fault that in his case it was ‘only’ $2.36.

    Also what’s not clear is if the customer did any ADVANCE homework by checking with the property directly to see what rates he could obtain directly from the property versus using a 3rd party agent..  just from the sounds of it, it appears he did his price comparison checking AFTER the fact.

    1. If I understand you correctly, that’s a “yes” vote in this case (“Did Hotwire do the right thing?”). And I think I agree with you.

    2. then why did you vote NO? the question was “Did Hotwire do the right thing?”  so you said, no, Hotwire did NOT do the right thing. and yet your argument here was that Hotwire was correct. did you mistype or misvote?

  14. He used hotwire, he got what he paid for. If you’re not willing to take this kind of risk, do not use the site.

  15. While I may disagree with hotwire, the problem is that if you bend the rules for one then where do you draw the line for others. I am currently looking at hotwire for a hotel, and I also look at priceline, just noticed that hotwire increased the price of the 2.5 star by $9.00, so will now bid on priceline. I really dont like hotwire, but have had good luck with priceline when bidding.

  16. Here again we have an OP that wants to change the terms of the agreement.  Hotwire met their terms of the agreement and it was clear that the hotel could be in a broad area beyond the city limits.  As noted in other post “due diligence is a key phrase”.  Review the terms, review the locations and brand of product (when possible) and know what your are paying for.  As for Hotwire, I have used them over the years and find them to comply with their offers.  Sometimes I have gotten great deals other not so much.  However, I don’t hold Hotwire responsible for the less than perfect deals I got “I picked my nubmers and took my chances”.

  17. We had a similar problem with Hotwire about a year ago in San Jose, Costa Rica.  The deserted hotel we pulled up to was off a busy highway way out of the city.  After lots of negotiations (and I mean lots) we prevailed and got a credit which we subsequently used towards car rentals.  In contrast, Priceline is much fairer.  We booked an opaque hotel in Paris a few months ago and the Priceline price was actually more than the Tryp Hotels price (a very rare happening).  They were very honorable and refunded us the entire difference which factored in their fees as well as the higher cost.
    Rosanne Skopp, West Orange NJ 

  18. Part of the problem is a misunderstanding of how these sites work.  Hotwire and priceline are not discounters.  They are consolidators.  Hotels, airlines, etc run statistical models as to the predicted occupency.  Exess inventory is sold to third parties such a hotwire at a wholesale rate.  Hotwire then resells it to you.  There is no guarantee that the hotel won’t lower its prices in the interim.

    Booking with an opaque site is a gamble. Sometimes get a great deal, sometimes not.  Unless you are prepared to accept that fact, opaque sites will leave you disappointed.

  19. I use priceline when i don’t have a specific area i need to stay in then i use to see if i can figure out the hotel. I have received the hotel i thought I would about 80% of the time but have always been happy. That being said i use it for Europe and these citieshave all had a public transportation system that as long as your near a station it does not really matter where you stay

  20. Hotwire seems to have the maps and the documentation to show that the hotel was within the area selected.  McKeough (and I suspect some other readers) are using their definition of what the boundaries should be.  Since Hotwire discloses this on a map, this isn’t hotwire’s fault.  Their business model can’t be bent to fit everyone else’s idea of a business model.

    To a great many people, this distance wouldn’t matter at all.  McKeough’s mistake was using Hotwire in the first place.  Location was important to him and instead he tried to go for savings and saved a paltry $2.

    People need to get their priorities straight and not use hotwire or priceline when they should be using another site where they can pick the property.

    Another “waste of time” issue.

  21. If you don’t check the map to see what “Grand Rapids Area” includes, then I don’t see how HotWire could be at fault there.

    As far as the price goes… they don’t promise you’ll get a killer deal; if he thought it was a fair price when he bid, why does it become unfair just because HI will come close to it on their own?

    (FYI, the forums at have hotels listings for many (though not all)  Priceline and Hotwire map areas.  You simply match the star rating and amenities to the list, and you can often figure out which hotel is which.  I got a good rate at an FLL Hyatt Place from Hotwire that way.)

  22. I used to use opaque sites, but not for a long time. Add me to the long list of people who think it’s too risky. Better customer service would probably increase their volume.

  23. I never understand how people can buy something they don’t know what it is just to save some bucks (Of course, in some countries some people are also too stupid enough to marry a person they don’t know). My logic behind it is very clear, they hide the merchandise because they cannot sell its discovered.
    I never pay a room until I see it by my on eyes on place, not even on Internet.
    May be you can use those site for research or to be inform of the trend of the prices but don’t make a reservation without knowing where it is, and, specially the actual extra-ordinary circumstance like : construction, recent hurricane, recent tsunami, social unrest…

    1. While I generally avoid the opaque sites because of situations like this, I don’t think they’re automatically a bad deal. The primary issue is that the opaque sites aren’t clear about location.

      Last weekend some friends and I stayed at a hotel in downtown Chicago in three rooms. We stayed at that particular hotel because one friend had booked his room there through one of the opaque sites and got a rate of $120 a night; I had to pay $206 a night through the hotel itself (since I couldn’t take a chance on an opaque site and getting assigned a different hotel…I was annoyed at my friend for not coordinating things better, but that’s not the site’s fault). The hotel and room were just fine.

      1. If I understand well, someone must be sacrificed to find out what hotel would be assigned. Even in case of good turn out (nice Hotel, great prices) the next person who reserve cannot be sure it will be the same hotel. Too much wheel-spinning for me…
        Your experience have a good ending and you are in the same hotel, do you still the save opinion if you end up in different hotels with 20 20 minutes drive apart?

        1. To be clear, the reason we ended up in the same hotel was that only one of us reserved a room through the opaque site; we booked the other two specifically at the same hotel because we didn’t want to risk being at different hotels. So I agree with you that opaque sites are not a good choice if people are booking rooms separately and want to end up at the same place. I just meant that it wasn’t the site’s fault that one of our friends used it to book his room, and then the rest of us were forced to stay at the same place.

          I think that opaque sites are fine if you don’t care what the exact location of the hotel is.

  24. As someone who has used Hotwire frequently, I know to look at their maps carefully and to make the worst case assumptions about the ultimate location (they typically gerrymander their map regions to just barely include peripheral properties).

    In this particular example, the Holiday Inn Express property is exactly on the boundary they’ve drawn.  I can see how someone new to the game could find it confusing and deceptive.  They do show the map on the bottom of the page where you click “Book Now”, but an inexperienced user might not scroll down and study it.  It might be a good idea if they added a mandatory checkbox that forces the user to acknowledge that they’ve looked at the map(s) and are willing to live with a result anywhere in the selected region(s).

  25. I don’t know what it was when he signed up but I went there today and it said ‘Grand Rapids AREA Hotel’ it did not say Grand Rapids city hotel – but the use of the word ‘area’ is a red flag in travel.  You want to stay at Disney World and you get a message that says Disney World ‘area.’  Is that hotel on property or is it in the ‘area.’  Same thing with Times Square – you want to stay on Times Square on New Years Eve with a view of the ball drop or times square area? Which one gets you a view?   If, as Hotwire states, their ‘deal’ is in the area, then the OP got scammed because HE did not pay attention. 

    As for their ‘savings,’  Hotwire is a joke. They sell you a $66 hotel room for $63.  They split their commission in half and rebate it to you as discount – its not brain surgery. . .

  26. Do I understand Hotwire to say that the distance measurement is “as the crow flies” and not calculated on driving distance?  That could be a BIG difference in a downtown area with one-way streets, or even in the suburbs, where one might have to travel over secondary roads to get from point A to point B.  At any rate, as we say, “You buy your ticket and you take your chances.”  Notwithstanding my question, Hotwire delivered what it was supposed to.  What’s the beef??

  27. Using Hotwires logic; your Disneyland Vacation may be in South Central Los Angeles or LAX Airport.
    When rating a hotel the old real estate law still applies; location, location, location.  If you gamble that away, you’ve lost all control of your reservation.  Tough lesson not to use opaque booking schemes.

    1. After reading the comments; I want to make my position more clear.

      There is nothing wrong with using 3rd party booking systems. You can often get the best deal by locking yourself into a non-refundable date versus the flexibility of booking direct.

      On the other hand, I will never recommend booking a hotel that witholds it’s name and location.

      I had the same experience when my company used Priceline for a meeting in Manhattan…I was booked in a Long Island motel with no means to public transportation.  They suggested I rent a car…hence lose lots of money and time.  In the end I realized it was cheaper to eat the cost of the room, book another hotel in Manhatten myself, and save the time and money of a rental car and New York parking.

      1. If you got a Long Island motel from Priceline,  whoever booked your hotel did not understand the geographic zones Priceline uses. There are 13 bidding zones in Manhattan, none cross into Long Island.

    2. On Hotwire, you can actually narrow a Disneyland stay down to hotels in Anaheim-Disneyland South or North areas if you wish. No risk of getting LAX or South Central.

    3. All depends.  Homework shouldn’t be optional.

      The maps for the areas around Disneyland are very tight.  The area is hotel dense (with a lot targeting Disneyland visitors), and a small area can represent a lot of lodging options.  If you really wanted Disneyland, you’re not going to be more than 5 miles away if you pick the two closest Hotwire areas.  Driving also isn’t a problem; I’ve been there many times, and getting around by car seems to be the only option.  Now that might not hold for Grand Rapids, but I’ve never been there.

  28. With the ease of booking hotel rooms directly online, I cannot see why anyone would want to use any 3rd party to book a room.  You can book directly, compare rates and get exactly what you want in a specific location.

    1. I use an opaque booking site when I have a pretty good idea of what hotel I am going to receive, can get it for a substantial discount off the published rate and can live with a non-refundable/non-changeable reservation…that’s when I use Priceline and/or Hotwire.

  29. Frankly, the OP is probably getting a better deal staying in Walker than in GR proper.  I live in Grand Rapids and aside from a few (expensive!) hotels right downtown, I would guess all the major hotel locations are technically not in the city, but instead right off the major highways in other suburbs.  Unless he wants to spend big money for one of the luxury hotels right downtown, the suburbs are his best option.  And it’s not like we are a huge city, driving time from Walker to downtown GR is 15 minutes at most.  I drive into work from a suburb that’s 13 miles out and it only takes me 20 minutes. And that’s in “rush hour.”

    Although, I’d be annoyed by the only $2 savings too.  He should have looked  around at prices a little before jumping right on Hotwire.  They’re clearly not always that great a deal!

  30. Buyer beware. The maps were on the site. He could just as well have checked the rates on hotels in the selected area. And the hotels that Hotwire offers on its non-opaque listings sometimes give a clue as to what hotel you may end up at.

    I have used Hotwire from time to time; simetimes I have saved a lot of money and other times I have not saved much at all, but I have always done my homework first and I have always received a fair rate on a clean room. When you use Hotwire or Priceline you roll the dice, although you rarely lose money; you may just not win very much.

    I voted no. If Hotwire bent the rules for everyone who didn’t get a killer deal, how would they stay in business? Sounds like Mr. McKeough didn’t pay close enough attention. That’s not Hotwire’s fault.

  31. Anyone who uses these sites deserves what they get.  When you really want a deal, this is not the way to do it.  

    1. I disagree. If you understand the concept and can agree to the terms it is a fantastic way to stay in some very nice hotels at a fraction of the cost.

        1. He was offered a hotel in a particular area at a price he accepted and the terms he accepted.

          This hotel is generally well over $100 based on a sampling of random dates. If he got it for the $60’s that is a good deal. If the hotel offered it on their website for a few dollars more, that could be a one off type of deal.

          I have used Hotwire and Priceline literally 100’s of times over the years, and have never been screwed. Yes, some deals are btter than others, but I do my homework and have a general idea of what I’m getting into.

  32. I don’t see the problem other than user error.

    If you need to stay in a particular spot, don’t use an opaque consolidator.

  33. Rule number one with opaque bookings: Do your homework. Know the lowest rate you can get by booking directly, then don’t bid or buy any opaque discount that’s less than 30% off.

  34. The customer is always right, espcially when we are speaking about a couple of dollars! 
    As many have already mentioned, I always book directly with hotels for this reason too, even if it is a little dearer. I prefer to know what I am getting and to not be treated as a second class (ie cheap) citizen.

  35. i’m confused that nearly every comment here is in favor of Hotwire, but the poll results show Hotwire “losing” by double the votes.  do the people who think that Hotwire was wrong and didn’t do the right thing just not comment?
    and p.s. the OP got what he paid for. why should Hotwire bend the rules for him?

    1. I think Chris may have changed the last sentence of his article.  The way it read originally he had a question that basically asked it Hotwire was wrong/the OP was right. BUT the question attached to the poll is the opposite.  So if you answered the question in his article you would say no, while your answer the poll would be yes.

        1. but in looking at the last sentence and the poll question, Wrona is right. they are saying 2 different things. i think some–actually, many–people didn’t read the poll question carefully, and answered your last question in the article.  the results are probably skewed.
          just an FYI.

  36. I am so tired of whiners who use opaque sites and then complain about the outcome.  People it’s rolling the dice to a certain extent, and sometimes you don’t get what you want.  If that’s not acceptable then book yourself on hotel web sites!

    1. Yes, it’s rolling the dice to a certain extent…but that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable for the site to give you a room that doesn’t meet the description you agreed to. In this case, the customer was disputing the location of the hotel and arguing that it was not within the area he agreed to stay when he bought the room. It appears that in this case, the site may have been technically right.

      If the hotel had been clearly outside of the area shown in the map before he purchased the room, then the site would have been wrong and he’d be entitled to a refund.

  37. It seems that most Travel Troubleshooter cases involve these blind sites.  Why do people keep falling for their scams?  Book direct with the carrier/car/hotel comapny so there is straight line responsibility between the customer and supplier.   

    1. Do you work for a travel company? Sounds like it to me, because these sites do not have the most complaints and they are not scams. They are legit businesses. The failiure of the customer to properly know how to use sites like this are not the company’s fault. The fault lies with the consumer.

      1. Part of the problem, Grey, is that while Hotwire, Priceline, etc. are legitimate businesses, they offer a business model that is not always clearly disclosed. Savvy travelers, as you imply, know how to pick up on key phrases that help produce satisfactory outcomes. Novice travelers and people who are not necessarily used to online booking sites that require you to click in multiple places to get the full terms and conditions (like seeing how big an “area” is) are not a good fit for opaque sites.

        The problem is that opaque sites nonetheless advertise themselves on television and elsewhere as being simple and easy to use – thus trying to attract the very customers who are least equipped to use these sites. From the comments above, it’s clear that savvy travelers use all sorts of tricks to help narrow down what hotels might be the one offered – tricks the average user won’t know. They’re the ones most likely to get stuck with a technically-correct but largely unusable option.

        For reference I decided to check Hotwire availability for “New Orleans” (which, of course, it converts to “New Orleans Area” with no disclosure to the user that the search area may be larger than the city). Granted, far down in a box about three screen-scrolls down, there was the option to limit the search to particular “parts” of the New Orleans area – which a novice user might never see. In the results I got back, there were hotels offered as far away as Bridge City (a good 40 minute drive from downtown) and Laplace (ditto). And yes, if you know to click on certain links, you can see maps of these areas, and if there’s sufficient detail, you might realize you were more than half an hour away from the center of everything.

        But that’s not a good way to do business with novice travelers, and if you market a service like this to beginners, then you’re clearly trying to benefit from user ignorance.

        1. Narrowing it down to a single map area wasn’t the problem the Mr. McKeough had. He specifically narrowed his search to Hotwire’s map area B for the Grand Rapids area.  His problem was with the upside down “L” shape which is about 7.5 miles long in a North-South direction, and within a mile of either US-131 or I-96.

          If the hotel was within the map area, he should have no complaints.  I really doubt that 7 miles away is that much of an issue given that it’s going to be close to a freeway.

  38. When a fool thinks that they are smarter than anyone else and things that they are getting a great deal booking on Hotwire or Priceline, they deserve what they get.

  39. I’d like to change my vote. Seven miles from Grand Rapids is not like 7 miles from Miami Beach.  Although I still don’t recommend giving up location control, in this case, I think the complaint is just silly.

  40. I had a similar experience in a Hong Kong booking. I requested a hotel near the international airport. I was assigned a hotel in Hong Kong 20 miles away. I called the agency, however, and the agent rectified the situation although he told me several times that it was against the rules. 

  41. Hotwire’s customer service is really bad. They sold me in a
    past a motel room with stained sheets and carpet and no soap/shampoo in the
    bathroom as a three star hotel. Even after hotel manager authorized refund it
    took me hours on the phone with hotwire to get my money back as they didn’t
    want to let it go back to my credit card so they could keep commissions. Ever
    since I don’t click on but use priceline all the time when I need
    inexpensive and reliable accommodation. Priceline’s customer service is much
    more superior and if you’re lucky you can score really good deals. One time I
    did have an issue with priceline booking, but after one brief phone call I
    received refund with apologies for confusion. And technically priceline didn’t
    even have to cancel my booking because I was the one who made an honest

    1. They didn’t actually provide you with the motel room, although a 3-star experience clearly isn’t a motel.  I have used opaque sites where a 3-star hotel meant detached buildings, and even one where the property had no hallways.

      If there were stained sheets and a dirty carpet, you probably should have asked for another room.  If toiletries weren’t provided by the place as a standard feature, then you probably have a valid complaint. I frankly don’t know of many motels (Motel 6 is the only one that stands out) that don’t provide those basics.

    2. Star ratings are a joke as most people have no clue as to what they mean. They have more to do with what amenities a hotel offers, not how clean they are or how well treated you are.

      That being said, a three star property should offer soap and shampoo as most properties of ANY star class do.

      If your “motel” was a part of a nationally recognized chain, they should live up to the chain’s standard of cleanliness and service.

  42. This is why I research the hotel and make sure the address or area given is the same hotel I want to stay in.

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