Why won’t InterContinental Hotels honor its “best” price guarantee?

A $275-a-night rate at an all-suites hotel on Times Square is not a bad deal. But $255 is an even better deal, and Joan Kozon thinks InterContinental Hotels should honor it.

Why? Because it has a “best price” guarantee that says it will. And she filled out the form and furnished proof of the better rate.

But InterContinental Hotels said “no.”

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance. Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

Kozon’s complaint, sadly, is to be found in my Case Dismissed folder – a place where good grievances go to die. I’m writing about it more as a cautionary tale to those of you who think “best price” guarantees are worth anything.

Here’s what happened to Kozon: She found the $275 rate on the IHG.com site for Candlewood Suites Times Square (Candlewood is one of IHG’s brands). Then she went to Trivago and found the lower rate on Expedia.

(May I just add a little note? Sometimes, when you’ve made a reservation like this, you should resist the temptation to give in to buyer’s remorse. You’re better off not knowing how much cheaper the room is on another site.)

“I submitted their required claim form within 24 hours of booking my reservation,” she says. “When I found a lower rate, I actually booked a reservation on the same day — for only one night — with Expedia, just in case I needed proof of the lower rate.”

Ah, but that’s not how it works. In order for the BRG to be successfully invoked, the person at the other end of the claim has to be able to pull up the price.

“When they checked, they couldn’t find the rate on Trivago,” she says. “The rate on Expedia was higher.”

Her existing Expedia reservation didn’t count because it was only for one night. She planned to stay in New York a week.

“None of these excuses hold any water,” says Kozon. “I was not required to actually book the lower price reservation, but now they are using that as an excuse as to why they won’t honor the hotel’s price guarantee.”

Here’s IHG’s response:

First of all, we would like to extend our apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused you. We certainly recognize your view regarding this matter and we understand where you are coming from.

On your initial response, you are aware that rates change. Comparing the average nightly rate of 1 night and 7 nights will definitely have an impact. Please be informed that the rates that you are claiming on www.expedia.com is higher than your reservation.

Thank you for your understanding. Should you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact us via e-mail.

I reviewed all the correspondence between Kozon and IHG and thought there might be a way to quietly fix this. After all, I have a longstanding relationship with the hotel chain and in the end, we’re talking about $20 here. What’s $20 between friends?

IHG did not respond to me. It sent her another rejection email.

The bottom line is, IHG is correct. It can make whatever rules it wants and it can interpret them any way it wants. Does Kozon understand the ins and outs of hotel pricing? She does not.

Should she have to? No.

And please don’t call it a best price “guarantee.” It’s more of a best price gimmick with these rules.

For those of you out there who think booking first and then finding a lower rate later is a good way of shopping for hotel rooms, please talk to Joan Kozon first. She’ll tell you about her experience trying to get InterContinental Hotels and the Candlewood Suites Times Square to honor its price guarantee.

But first, there’s a hotel rate reservation she has to cancel …

Should InterContinental have honored Joan Kozon's claim?

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80 thoughts on “Why won’t InterContinental Hotels honor its “best” price guarantee?

  1. apples and oranges…you can’t compare an one-night rate to a seven-night rate because rates can fluctuate throughout the reservation period. Over the 20+ years, I have been booking hotel rooms, I have booked rooms where the daily rate were different for some days or even every day of my reservation. Sometimes, I have two reservations instead of one reservation because it was cheaper to book one night at one rate and twothreeetc nights at another rate (this has been common for me when the AAA rate isn’t available one night of my stay).

    If the OP had a screenshot of the Expedia webpage showing that the daily rate was $ 255 OVER the exact seven nights then I think that InterContinental should have honored Joan Kozon’s claim but she doesn’t. When I need to have “proof”, I do screen shots…I save the webpage as a XPS document; a .jpeg and/or .bmp file; efax file format, etc…it is a little bit overboard but I want to make sure that I have one copy of the screen. I can’t tell you how many that these screen shots helped me to prove my caseclaimpointetc.

    Why didn’t she booked the reservation on Expedia when she allegedly found the $ 255 daily rate for the seven nights and cancel the reservation that she made at IHG? She could have saved $ 140…what was the point in trying to reduce the rate at IHG instead of just cancelling it and getting the rate at Expedia?

    1. I figured it out why the LW didn’t want to cancel the IHG reservation and booked the entire stay at Expedia:

      “If you find a lower room price that also has a lower total room cost (including taxes and fees) for a one-night stay, or a lower average nightly room price that also has a lower average total room cost (including all taxes and fees) for a multi-night stay, on a non-IHG website within 24 hours after booking on an IHG website for the same stay, we will provide you with the first night’s room price at the IHG hotel free and match the lower average nightly room price found for your entire stay for the rest of the nights of your stay after verification of the lower average nightly room price and lower average total room cost (including taxes and fees).”

      In other words, the LW wanted one night FREE.

      1. Thats a very good point, its not just $20 difference, it’s a $200+ discount on the length of stay, that’s a significant difference.

      2. This just proves she was a scammer. The terms clearly spell out that the lower rate has to match up with your length of stay.

    2. It’s not apples and oranges to compare the rate on day #1 on Expedia versus the rate on day #1 through IHG’s website. The implication of the guarantee is that another website’s rates won’t be lower.

      But according to the fine print of the rules, even “a screenshot of the Expedia webpage showing that the daily rate was $255 OVER the exact seven nights” would be worthless. If at the arbitrary moment in time that IHG chooses to verify the customer’s claim they are unable to find the lower rate, then according to their rules they get to deny the claim, regardless of any screenshots or reservations proving that the lower rate existed. And the rules give them other outs as well.

      1. Why didn’t the LW cancelled her IHG reservation and made a reservation at Expedia and saved $ 120 ($ 20 x 6 nights) or $ 140 ($ 20 x 7 nights)? Because she wanted the FREE NIGHT!

        If she really wanted the FREE NIGHT why didn’t she booked the seven nights at Expedia that is proof in itself…it was made after the IHG reservation and within 24 hours. IF IHG decline her claim, she will at least saved $ 120 to $ 140 which is better than nothing.

        In regards to the screenshot, it could be worthless or it could be quite valuable in a shame campaign that Chris Elliott could do by showing that IHG won’t honor a price guarantee on the same room with the same terms and etc.

        But on the other hand, LW could have made a mistake and the overall rate at Expedia was actually higher than IHG.

        1. You answered your own question — the free night is more valuable than the $20 per night.

          Expedia and IHG both have Best Rate Guarantees.

          In theory, if the guarantees were worth what they imply, the rates should always match. If they don’t match, you should be able to get $50 from Expedia or a free night from IHG.

          In practice, the guarantees are worthless in my experience. I haven’t submitted a claim with IHG, but I tried with another chain with an almost identical policy, and I can personally attest that screenshots and even duplicate identical reservations are worthless. It seems they wait as long as it takes for rates to converge before they attempt to “verify” the claim.

        2. Also, we don’t even know if Expedia was cheaper. We know it was cheaper for one night .It was probably more for the other six nights.

          1. Remember, Expedia has a Best Price Guarantee too.

            If these guarantees really worked as one would expect, and if, as you claim, Expedia was really cheaper only on day #1, but more expensive for the other 6 nights, then that could be even more beneficial for the guest.

            Split the stay into 2 reservations. Score on IHG’s guarantee for day #1 and score on Expedia’s guarantee for the rest of the stay.

  2. “After all, I have a longstanding relationship with the hotel chain and in the end, we’re talking about $20 here. What’s $20 between friends?”

    You need to be more transparent about exactly what ‘relationship’ you have with IHG

    Also, if you hold any sort of status with IHG you should be transparent about that, too. After all, aren’t you the guy that rails against joining any sort of airline or hotel loyalty program?

  3. Okay, on this one, I’ll write something ARW would do: It’s a bit fishy. Apparently, she read the rules. That’s why she knew the 24-hour rule. Then how did she miss the rest of the rules that state the room type and reservation has to be exactly the same?
    And Chris, you are not paying attention to the rules, either. It’s not just $20, but they would give the first night free. So $275(first night)+$20x5nights=$375 was at the stake. That’s not something to do to your friend!
    Probably the problem is that compensation is too generous and has a lot of room for abuse. The hotel has to be very strict on this one.

    1. 100,000+

      I agree…my speculations are that 1) she was trying to scam the hotel by using the one night rate; 2) she didn’t have enough credit on her credit card(s) to make two reservations and/or 3) she was ignorant and thought that IHG will accept an one-night reservation rate instead of seven nights.

      It seems like she read the rules since she knew the 24-hour rule which was in the following sentence:

      “If you find a lower room price that also has a lower total room cost (including taxes and fees) for a one-night stay, or a lower average nightly room price that also has a lower average total room cost (including all taxes and fees) for a multi-night stay, on a non-IHG website within 24 hours after booking on an IHG website for the same stay, we will provide you with the first night’s room price at the IHG hotel free and match the lower average nightly room price found for your entire stay for the rest of the nights of your stay after verification of the lower average nightly room price and lower average total room cost (including taxes and fees).”

      Again, I must refer to my speculations about this case unless the LW can provide a screen shot of the Expedia rate for sixseven nights being lower than the IHG rates.

        1. But, the hotels should probably be shamed into honoring these so-called best rate guarantees. Doesn’t it state that the hotel has to be able to pull up the same rate but they won’t be able to pull up the rate because hotel rates change as the hotel begins to fill up or the closer you get to check-in? Thus, the hotels can put this prominent signage on their website because they will never have to honor it.

          1. How can you expect a hotel to verify a particular moment in the past? There is no instant verification and without verification people could just photo shop or modify a document and make the “it changed by the time you verified” claim. What would happen is eventually the guarantees would just vanish, so let’s all be grown ups and just recognize that those guarantees are nothing more than a marketing gimmick, the same as the busty hot girl in the beer commercials and advertising is a gimmick.

          2. Yes, but they don’t actually say the beer comes with the “hot girl” in the ad. Many places DO say you get a low price guarantee, which never ever seems to work out. So, one is decoration and one is a lie.

          3. Perhaps one of the TAs can answer this. I believe that airline historical data can be accessed via a GDS. Is there anything comparable for hotel room rates?

    2. how did she miss the rest of the rules that state the room type and reservation has to be exactly the same

      I don’t think she is missing that at all.

      Per the rules, she didn’t even need to make any reservation on Expedia at all. That was something she did above and beyond the rules, to document the fact that she found a lower per-night rate on Expedia. You could argue she should have made that reservation differently, but this is already an exercise outside the scope of the rules.

      Of course, these price match guarantees are useless. According to the rules, it wouldn’t matter if her Expedia reservation was identical. Only the rate at the arbitrary moment in time that Intercontinental chooses to verify the claim matters. And even then, per the rules, they can restrict, revoke, or change the terms of the guarantee at any moment without a reason and without notice.

      1. Michael_K, the overall rule for the price guarantee is simple…it must be exactly the same for everything. She made an one night reservation at Expedia which is not the same as the sixseven night reservation that she made at IHG. The rules states that a multiple night reservation must be lower than a multiple night reservation…you can’t compare a single night reservation rate against a reservation for multiple nights.

        She should have done the following:

        1) take a screen shot of the rate on the Expedia website showing that the sixseven-night rate was lower than the rate that she booked on IHG…how else could she prove that the rate was available.

        2) make a reservation (especially if the rate is refundable) on the Expedia website which would have proven that she had a lower rate.

        1. You ignore the rules, which are designed to make a perfectly apples-to-apples claim virtually impossible to succeed.

          I’ve done (1) and (2) — not with IHG, but with another chain with a virtually identical guarantee — and it didn’t matter. All that matters is the rate at the moment the chain chooses to “verify” the claim.

          1. Yes, unless the rate is the same when the hotel checks it, they’ll deny the claim regardless of any other evidence. That makes this “guarantee” shaky at best.

          2. I understand the point what matters is the rate at the moment when the hotel chooses to “verify” the claim. I can’t speak for IHG or any other hotel chain but it is my guess that they are looking for “standard” prices not a special price.

            For example, it is possible for an online booking site to lower their prices for an hour, a few hours, a day or etc. as a “loss leader” to build their business, drive future business, etc.

          3. my guess that they are looking for “standard” prices not a special price.

            Is a refundable rate a special price?

            In the case of IHG, the T&C’s specifically state you have to book the ‘lowest available price… using the “Best Available Rate Search”‘

            If, for example, there is a refundable rate, a non-refundable rate, and a rate with breakfast, then the guarantee only applies to the lowest of those rates, i.e. the non-refundable rate.

            These guarantees are full of holes…

        2. My problem with a best rate guarantee is that hotels construe them based upon the letter of the agreement, not its spirit. For example, if you find a better room on Expedia for a cheaper price you will be unable to invoke the guarantee.

          That hardly seems consistent with the idea that you can have confidence that booking directly with the travel provider will always yield the best publicly available rate.

          Anecdotally, throughout Flyertalk, innumerable experienced travelers have been unable to to take advantage of a Best Rate guarantee.

      2. I can imagine it would be very difficult to get the hotel to acknowledge the rate you found. I understand that’s why the LW actually booked to absolutely document the rate she found. But in this particular case, the hotel’s claim that it coudn’t find the lower rate sounds very credible to me. As a matter of fact, I am almost certain that the rate the hotel found in Expedia was different from $255, if not $275, because, as per BPG T&C 6c, for rate comparison of a multiple-night stay, the hotel uses an average rate over the 7 nights, which included a weekend whereas her rate was based on a single night, possibly a weekday. We all know that room rates fluctuate over the course of a weekend or a holiday. For example, Expedia (and IHG) quoted me $132 on average for 7 nights and $122 for the first night (weekday) for the same room type in this Candlewood. So this comparison is not fair and that’s all the hotel is saying.

        Extrapolation of her case (1 night vs. 7 nights) is that a guest will ALWAYS get one night free if room rates fluctuate during a multiple-night stay because there is always a lower room rate than the average. Of course, the hotel won’t allow this kind of matching.

        Again, I agree that it would be very difficult to have a hotel to honor a claim and I wouldn’t bother myself to make such a claim (why don’t you just make a reservation when you found a lower rate and cancel the other?), yet I wouldn’t call this policy a gimmick. People who make claims will keep the hotel vigilant about price discrepancies, thus I will less likely get scooped when I make a reservation in a hotel’s website.

        1. It’s credible that IHG couldn’t replicate the lower Expedia rate at the moment it chose to try, and it’s no less credible that Expedia was in fact cheaper overall when the guest made her reservations.

          Remember that Expedia has a Best Price Guarantee too.

          If these guarantees weren’t gimmicks, and if, as you believe, Expedia offered a lower price only on day #1, and a higher price on days #2 through #7, then the guest could have split her reservation into two stays and scored on both guarantees.

          Of course I’ve concluded from firsthand experience that these guarantees are mostly gimmicks. I guess some people will refuse to accept that short of having their own firsthand experiences.

  4. should they have honored it- no. BUT should “someone” eliminate the whole “best price guarantee”– yes. it’s stupid and it NEVER works.

    every site that offers a “best price guarantee” requires a pint of blood and your first born child to get them to actually honor it.

    so i don’t blame the hotel or the op– i blame that over used phrase.

  5. “And please don’t call it a best price “guarantee.” It’s more of a best price gimmick with these rules.”

    I read the rules of their best price guarantee at wwwihgcom/hotels/us/en/customer-care/lowest-internet-rate-terms-conditions and it seems to be straight forward. The bottom line is that needs to be an apple to apple comparison…not apples to road apples or apples to oranges. You can’t get a room in the basement of a hotel from a Priceline bidding and use that rate against the penthouse suite on the top floor. You can’t compare the weekend rates to the weekday rates. You can’t compare a non-refundable rate to a refundable rate. It needs to be apple to apple especially given the compensation that IHG pays out.

    What wasn’t disclosed in the article is that the LW was going for a FREE NIGHT in addition to the $ 20 per night reduction, I don’t know if it was intentional left out or another example of poor researchinvestigationetc…of course, Chris will claim that the FREE NIGHT is an irrelevant fact in this case and/or I am distorting the truth by bringing it up and etc.

  6. Like ArizonaRoadWarrior I wonder why the LW did not make the reservation at Expedia to prove that the rate for the entire length of her stay was lower than that offered on the IC website. It does seem like she was definitely trying to game the system and it did not work for her.

  7. If she had evidence of a comparable length stay (1 week to 1 week) she’d have a stronger position.

    I disagree with the assertion that the property can make any rules it wants and interpret them any way it wants too. She’d have a case in small claims court, and at the cost differential the hotel chain is likely to just settle, instead of convincing a judge or jury that its guarantee isn’t a guarantee. No business want’s to be called out in court that its “guarantees” are a sham and fraud.

  8. Everyone should know better. If you insist on nickeling and diming your way around for $20 you get what you deserve which is nothing. The numbers people who create these byzantine pricing structures are paid to do it. They wouldn’t be there if they actually worked in the customers favor.

  9. I think the hotel was being disingenuous to play the “one night is different from several nights” card — yes, the total price is different, but they still charge by each night’s rate. It’s not like they average the price out over the stay and charge you that way. She should have gotten the lower price for the one night, at least, since it was available.

    But I’m not the least bit surprised that the hotel couldn’t find the same price, even if they only looked at that one night. I recently had to rent a car and decided to do a little investigating on the best price I could get. I had a desktop, a laptop, and a cellphone all searching Priceline at the same time for a week-long rental of a minivan. Surprise, surprise, surprise, I got three totally different quotes for the same agency, the same location, and all the same terms. I’m talking a variation in price from $308 to $479 (all fees included in all the prices). That’s a huge difference in pricing. Then I got different prices on the same device when I cleared the cookies and history, but it wasn’t always a better price.

    Trying to use a website to secure a best price guarantee would be tricky at best: even with a screen cap anyone with some photo manipulation skills could tweak it. Don’t know what else you’d use to prove it, but it’s not exactly tamper-proof.

    1. The rules for the IHG’s price guarantee is clear…the reservation must for the same time frame; the same room (i.e. King with a sofa bed and a city view); etc.

      You can’t use the rate for one-night from another site and expect IHG to 1) give you one night FREE (please remember that part of the IHG’s price guarantee is one night free and that was really what the LW wanted…not a reduction of $ 20 since the one free night has a greater value than the $ 20 rate reduction) and 2) lower the rates on the other 5/6 nights.

      Pricing is dynamic not static. It could be possible to find a lower rate for one night out of a several night reservation…for example, it is very common that rates for weekends are usually lower than weekday rates since most hotel rooms are booked by business travelers and hotels drop their rates to attract tourists and locals.

      It must be a seven-night rate from Expedia for the exact dates in order to compare the rates against IHG…that is the only way to be fair. As I have commented earlier, I have stayed at hotels where I had two or more rates during my reservation.

      1. Form over substance. Book your trip as multiple stays, Get the BRG on the day(s) in question. Merge the reservations at check-in so you don’t have to check in and out of the rook.

          1. Granted, I only book chains, but I have never had issue getting reservations linked to avoid that.

          2. I know from the hotel perspective it’s gaming the system, but honestly, I don’t feel even the slightest bit of an ethical issue. The reason is that the hotel possesses unilateral pricing power. It’s a take it or leave it proposition.

            I’m happy to book a hotel room from Thursday to Monday to get the weekend rate, then book Monday to Tuesday separately at the higher weekday rate. When I arrive at the front desk I ask that the reservations be linked.

            It reminds me of when I ordered some clothes online. Second one free of equal of lesser value. The prices were say $100, $80, $60, and $40. When I put them in the shopping cart together it charged me for the $100 and $80 items or a total of $180. . So I made two separate orders. One order for $100 and $80 (charge of $100) the other for $60 and $40 (charge of $60) for a total charge of $160 or $20 less.

  10. I’m sitting in the hotel room writing this that I just experienced this same situation. I had booked a refundable rate at the Hilton garden inn, and when I looked up the hotel address as we were about to leave for the hotel, I noticed that the room rates were now $20 less per night. But I would have had to cancel the reservation the day before (24 hour cancellation policy, not same day cancellation) in order to re-book at the new rate. Oh well, only $40 total, lesson learned. When we got to the hotel, my husband mentioned the difference in price. The desk clerk said he could cancel the reservation and try to book again but he would rather upgrade our room and give us breakfast coupons for both mornings (breakfast runs $10.95 per morning per person). Done. We are in a great room and breakfast was quite good this morning. And, guess what? We will definitely stay here again when we come back to this area.

    1. I think that travelers need to understand that most pricing in the travel industry are dynamic not static.

      If a hotel has a lot of inventory, they will lower their rates to fill the rooms or ‘sell’ these rooms to those opaque booking sites like Priceline, etc.

      In the past several years, I have rented cars for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in advance (i.e. 2 to 4 months out). Rates were high but I booked a car to insure that we had one…most of the time, I rebooked the car at a much lower when the car rental companies lowered their rates as these holidays were approaching so that they can rent out their entire fleet (or more cars).

      1. I routinely do this for vacation rental cars — book it when we plan the vacation, and monitor closely as we get closer… occasionally it works, but not always.

        1. Rental car rates change like the stock market. I do this, too, for clients and for my own rentals. Last spring I had rates drop twice in one day and went up the next day.

    2. Now THIS is how to please your customers and ensure that they: 1) come back and 2) tell everyone the good story! The front desk people need to be empowered to solve problems on the spot and create good will for the hotel.

  11. After reading the previous article on price guarantees and then this one I have have to wonder why people insist on searching for a better price ‘after’ they buy something? IMHO it would make a little more sense to do the price shopping before you commit your money. In cases where someone is trying to game the system, they deserve nothing.

    1. She probably did price shop before she made a reservation.

      People who use OTA’s will generally check the OTA first before they make a direct booking with a hotel.

      Booking with the hotel and invoking their guarantee (if it worked as implied) to get a free night, would be a better deal than getting the lower price at the OTA.

      Her mistake was believing that the best price guarantee works as implied.

        1. I disagree. Invoking a publicly advertised promotion is not “gaming the system.” No one forced the hotel to advertise and offer this guarantee.

  12. This one plainly falls into the customer-side scam box (at least as Chris defines scam).

    She knew very well that she got a rate because she reserved for 7 days. Presumably she knew the guarantee wasn’t, “if you can find the room for one day at a better rate than 7 days, we’ll give you the rate for 7 days.” A best, she’s entitled to a discount on the one day she found a better rate for. Chris shouldn’t have tried to help her, a scammer if we’ve ever seen one.

  13. Joan was “surfing the internet”, Why did she buy so quickly? Surf first complain later. Oh, she is complaining later. What she needs to understand that the price of a 1 night stay against a 7 night stay is not normally the same per night price. As a matter of fact, I would believe (without researching) that there were 3 different prices in the one week total, so she has no case at all for price match guarantee. Sorry Joan.

  14. I have tried to take advantage of these best rate “guarantees” with two other chains (and no, I don’t think that makes me a “scammer”, just a thoughtful consumer). In both cases they were apples to apples comparisons and in both cases they were denied. In one, because the customer service rep couldn’t find the same rate online nearly a day later. In the second case, the rep told me that the rooms were actually different (although their descriptions online, at both sites, were exactly the same), because the room that I booked, according to her records, also had a microwave oven in it (by the way, when I checked in, it didn’t).

    My takeaway from all of this? These guarantees are worthless marketing gimmicks (lies) offered in their quest to keep your business on the corporate websites rather than with competitors.

    Another thing to keep in mind that often the competing websites have added fees and charges that don’t appear until the final booking screen.

    Not to go over old ground, but why don’t all websites just give you the “all-in” prices (for a room, a flight, a car), instead of prices before taxes, fees, resort fees, parking fees (at hotels where driving is pretty much the only way to get there), etc.

    I think that if a hotel decided to behave regarding price guarantees in the same way Nordstrom does regarding returns (i.e. very flexible and customer-oriented), the increased business and customer goodwill they would receive would vastly outweigh the costs of such a program.

    1. “I think that if a hotel decided to behave regarding price guarantees in the same way Nordstrom does regarding returns (i.e. very flexible and customer-oriented), the increased business and customer goodwill they would receive would vastly outweigh the costs of such a program.”

      It isn’t fair to compare a tangible product (i.e. shoes, clothing, etc.) to a perishable intangible product (i.e. an airline flight). In the case of Nordstrom, they can resell a pair of shoes that were returned. It is hard for a hotel to resell a room after the night has expired.

      In regards to goodwill, loyalty, increased business, etc. is BS…sorry but most travelers make their bookings based upon one thing and one thing only…PRICE…who has the lowest farerateetc. Why do you think that there are several websites that searches for the lowest faresratesetc?

      The travel providers know this…that is why customer service is poor because most travelers are NOT willing to pay for it. Most travel providers will work with an elite member of their frequent flyerguestrenter program because of their repeat business and its volume. But for the traveler that takes a few trips a year, most travel providers don’t care if that person comes back.

      It is my speculation that several of the LWs that have written to Chris over the years to complain about a travel provider have used that travel provider after their badpoor experience with them because they had the lowest priceratefareetc.

      1. Well, you have decided that it is unfair to compare customer service standards for tangible versus intangible products. I don’t really agree – it seems to be an artificial distinction. There are plenty of products that Nordstroms accepts which are “perishable” to use your term, just consider the impact of seasons and fashion on returns of soft goods. And one could argue that with the high occupancy rates for popular hotels and load factors on many air routes, there is very limited perishability – if one cancelled a reservation, it could be easily resold (often at a higher price).

        I have found that over the years, many people who argue for poor customer service, and use the excuse of low price, don’t really understand marketing strategy and product segmentation. If people are only motivated by the lowest costs for hotel rooms, how does one explain the large number of high-end hotels with excellent service, high price, and high occupancy rates.

        When one considers the huge cost to provide travel services (to build a hotel, buy a plane, a fleet of cars, the costs of staffing, insurance, systems, and administration), the cost of providing good customer service is almost negligible. For every “scammer” out there, there are a good many travelers who would be stunned and overjoyed (and quite loyal) to be offered a little bit of thoughtfulness, kindness, or to ‘treat others as we wish them to treat us’. While this has happened only rarely to me over the years, I certainly remember the instances.

        I can only wonder why, with a blogger who focusses on resolving problems and acts as a customer service advocate, there are so many commenters who regularly argue for worse service, weasel-worded agreements, nit-picking, and almost always blaming the OP’er. As far as I’m concerned, these are many of the reasons why travel has gotten to the tragic state it is in today – it has been completely commoditized. Most employees are powerless robots, and customer service departments are just form letter producers.

        1. Alas, I am forced to partially agree with ARW. Nordstron has numerous distribution outlets for returns including Nordstrom Rack as well as Marshall’s and the like. A hotel room or a airline is truly perishable after the event has occurred.

          As I mentioned in a previous post, I think ARW is completely wrong about lodging purchases so I won’t repeat myself.

          As far as customer service, or its lack, there are no negligle costs. If it cost 1 billion to buy a plane, spending 1M on customer service is still 1M off the bottom line. It’s all about ROI. Companies will spend money on customer service is their customers give them a competitive advantage.

          The profitability of Spirit and Allegiant suggest that customer service is not important to air travels when compared to cheaper seats. And I agree, its exactly why travel sucks royally. We choose cheap over service and the airlines give us exactly what we asked for…Spirit airlines.

      2. I have to disagree. The evidence is robust that air travelers book on price. There is even an economic principle to describe the phenomenon, commoditization. Hotels and hotel rooms aren’t nearly as uniform as coach airline seats. Additionally unlike airline seats, location matters.

        If I am flying to the SF Bay area, there are exactly three likely airports. By contrast, if I am staying in San Francisco, there are innumerable options.
        So no, I do not believe, absent some strong evidence that people only shop on price when it comes to hotel rooms. That’s obviously a factor, but there are so many other factors which are relevant that it would be imprudent to make such an assertion

  15. It is beyond the pale of reason and justice for anyone to believe that a customer is not entitled to redress when a hotel uses a false or illusionary guarantee to induce the customer to book a room. Just because corporate lies and false advertising gimmicks have become common place does not render them ethical or legal. If I were the injured party, I would file a law suit in small claims court and recover the $20 and my $25 filing fee. But, it would cost the hotel thousands of dollars in attorneys fees. The small claims court would interpret the wording of the guarantee in a light most favorable to the consumer, since the wording was chosen by the hotel to induce the booking. If thousands of people did this in one year, the hotels would either stop the false advertising or honor the guarantee.

    1. Most times you try that, the company gets the case kicked up to the next higher court (unless prohibited by the local jurisdiction) where their attorney will most likely win (and you can’t afford an attorney for something so small, nor would most take the case). Then they go after you for all their fees as well. In the end, you lose…..big.

      1. I don’t know what state you’re from but in 40 years as a lawyer, I’ve never heard of a state with small claim’s courts allowing “bumping up” to a higher court. (the courts have a maximum damage amount that varies from state to state $500-$2500).

        1. California permits that. The losing defendant has the ability to appeal to the regular (Superior) court. Happened to me. I sued a deadbeat client in small claims and prevailed. She appeared to the Superior Court where I also prevailed.

          1. Same with California. The defendant can appeal to the Superior Court. I don’t know how that affects the jurisdictional limits which are between $5,000 to $7,500 in small claims last I checked.

          2. Texas doesn’t allow modification of the original complaint, you can append it, but you can’t up the damages with the increased jurisdictional limits. Since small claims courts are not trials of record, the appeal too county court is a new trial. Texas small claims limit is $10,000

          3. Some states have courts with a low maximum claim for damages ($ 5000-10000) which they call small claims courts but are not the type of small claims courts to which I’m referring. The “small claims’ courts to which I’m referring prohibit a complaint from being filed by an attorney on your behalf. You must file “pro se” for yourself. An individual defendant may appear without or without an attorney but a corporate defendant MUST be represented by an attorney. That’s why even if you lose, it costs a big bad predatory corporation a lot more money to defend the case than to do the right thing. It only costs you about $25 filing fees and mailing costs of the summons. These “small claims” courts are sometimes called “pro se” courts.

          4. In Texas small claims courts a corporation may be represented by an attorney or by an officer of the corporation.

          5. In California, a corporation cannot be represented by an attorney in small claims court unless the attorney is employed by the company in a capacity in which his job is not primarily related to practicing law. A partnership or LLC may be represented by an attorney is the attorney is a partner or member of the entity.

          6. Having done exactly one case in Texas, I know its an entirely different paradigm. Question:Must you specific damages in the complaint? In California you can plea “damages according to proof”

          7. You must specify damages in small claims court. Understand though that in Texas “Small claims” court is an adoption or subdivision of the Justice of the Peace Court (JP Court) that meets certain requirements mainly in that the parties are Pro Se, and in which case the rules of civil procedure are greatly simplified. When parties employ attorneys for “small claims” matters the case is heard in the ordinary JP court. The JP court is “sitting” as a small claims court.

            In courts of general jurisdiction (county and up) you may plead “general damages” for compensatory damages that are direct. Special (consequential), exemplary (punitive), and nominal damages must be specifically pleaded. You must also specify in your pleadings if seeing specific performance, of a non monetary recovery.

            You can not “generally” collect punitive damages, or sue for specific performance in small claims or JP court.

          8. Appealing a decision is not the same as bumping it up (the legal term is removal) If a hotel cheats me out of $20 I’ll gladly pay and extra $25 in filing and mail serivice of prosess fees and force them to spend $1000 + on legal fees and triple that if they defend. It would take too many legal bills of $4000 and the hotel would stop the phony ads or pay the $20.

  16. This is not the first time I’ve heard about IHG’s refusal to honor their guarantee. It’s practically impossible to prove the lower rate unless IHG looks at exactly what the OP saw 2 minutes after. 24 hours, a week, a month later and rates will have changed. Seems to me that IHG needs to re-frame the rules for this guarantee to avoid such bad PR.

  17. Have had the same experience. It looks like Chris should take up this deceitful advertising practise and get it banned. That would be more useful to the travelling community as a whole, rather than fight individual cases.

  18. Why would you call it gaming? It is the hotel that offered the 1 night free. The OP did not ask for it. When you do your taxes, don’t you take advantage of all the tax breaks, or would you call it gaming, and forego it?

  19. It is usually better NOT to take the Hotel’s Best Price Guarantee. I too found out the hard way,not to fall for their scam.

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