Liar, liar! 28 percent of hotel guests admit they stretched the truth for a discount

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By Christopher Elliott

If you’ve ever fudged a few facts to get a hotel discount, you’re not alone. Almost 3 in 10 hotel guests admit they stretched the truth to save a few bucks, according to a new survey.

Asked if they’d ever lied to secure a discount, 28 percent said “yes.” A majority — 72 percent — said they’d never misstated a few facts in order to save money.

The survey of more than 800 travelers was conducted last week by readers of this site, Consumer Traveler and members of the Consumer Travel Alliance.

Although the number of hotel guests who say they’ve lied may seem high, it mirrors similar surveys conducted in the past. (I’ve dealt with the subject of guest honesty in previous columns, including this memorable story.)

Of course, not everyone can agree on a definition of lying.

Tom Vickers admits he’s claimed a AAA discount, even when his membership is out of date. Is that lying? Technically, yes. But it’s something a lot of guests — including me — have done a time or two.

“My logic is that utilizing this rate hurts neither the hotel or AAA,” he says. “No money changes hands between them because of my stay. Most of the time, the discount rate is accepted without a requirement to show a card.”

Stretching the truth for hotel discounts

(My excuse is that I intended to renew my AAA membership, which I inevitably do, despite my occasional complaint.)

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Most respondents said they’d never play fast and loose with the facts to get a better price.

“No,” says Tom Logue. “Never have, never plan to. I don’t think you can justify unethical behavior by saying everyone is doing it. Normally if the rates are too high I will just pick another place.”

Lying can have a ripple effect through the supply chain. Travel agent and frequent Consumer Traveler contributor Janice Hough remembers one client who asked for a negotiated, non-commissionable hotel rate in Dallas.

“Got a big discount,” she says. “And did me out of commission on all his future Texas trips.” (Related: The 6 biggest lies consumers tell a business.)

Some guests eventually come clean about their transgressions. Anne Stratton recalls asking for a hotel rate for state employees and getting a $25-a-night price — a steal. And while she was a state employee, it wasn’t of the state she was visiting.

Hotel guests’ deceptive tactics and justifications

She admitted her omission when she checked in. “They really were pleasant about it,” she says. She was also allowed to keep the room. (Here’s how to find the best hotel at the lowest rate.)

What could be worse than that? Being caught.

“I worry about the embarrassment,” says Rick Cricow. “That’s silly, I know, but it’s just me. Plus, if caught, I worry that I would then have to pay the rack rate, or try to go elsewhere. It just doesn’t seem worth the hassle.”

There’s one final justification that hotel guests use when they lie about their their status: Hotels lie, too.

The lies can range from quoting a low base rate but then adding a mandatory “resort fee” to lying about their location (“walking distance to the beach” or “ski in/ski out”) or amenities.

And if a hotel can lie to us, then why can’t we lie back?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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