I found a better price. Now I want a free night at the InterContinental

Arun Rao tried to take advantage of a “Best Price Guarantee” for a two-day stay at an InterContinental Hotel. He wanted a free night at the hotel offered by the guarantee. But was he entitled to one?

Many travel companies offer Best Price Guarantees, which are acknowledgments that online travel websites frequently offer hotel rooms and other amenities at lower rates than the companies themselves do. Best Price Guarantees allow consumers who book at the companies’ prices to claim the lower rates or other special deals – but only if they satisfy the terms and conditions of the guarantees. Since Rao didn’t satisfy them, he doesn’t qualify for InterContinental’s Best Price Guarantee — and our advocates can’t help him get it.

We can warn our readers that it’s important to read the fine print in the terms and conditions of any company offering a Best Price Guarantee and make sure to be in compliance with those terms and conditions before trying to claim the Guarantee.

Rao made a reservation for two nights at the InterContinental The Clement Monterey in Monterey, Calif., for $219 per night. He called its reservations number to confirm that this was the best deal available for the two nights. The Intercontinental agreed that this was the best rate the hotel could offer Rao, and he authorized a charge of $496 to his credit card.

The following day he found the same room available on Priceline for $197 per night. He called the InterContinental to request the Best Price Guarantee of a free first night and a second night at the lower rate. The hotel’s agent instructed Rao to fill out Intercontinental’s online claim form to request the Best Price Guarantee. Rao promptly completed and submitted the form.

He then found the same room for $188 per night on Priceline (not in a Name Your Own Price offer) and made another claim. The next day, he found the same room for a lower rate and again claimed the Guarantee.

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When Rao checked in at the Intercontinental, he told the front desk staff about the price differentials he had found. The Intercontinental’s staff assured Rao that its corporate office would honor the guarantee. They also offered Rao a price of $199 per night for his two days, but he declined the offer. According to Rao, he was “worried that [the] corporate department would misuse that information and deny the free one-night stay.”

But Rao never received the Guarantee nor heard from anyone at InterContinental Hotels Group regarding his claim. He contacted InterContinental Hotels Group and learned that all communication concerning the Guarantee is by email. He received the following response:

We have reviewed our records, the Best Price Guarantee mailbox, and manually searched for all claims filed under your name and email address and we are unable to locate any email or claim form in reference to confirmation number [redacted].

In addition, our records show that the confirmation number provided was booked by contacting one of our Central Reservations Offices. …

We appreciate your interest in filing for the program; however, at present we will be unable to extend the free night and rate match to this reservation.

Rao contacted InterContinental Hotels Group three more times to request the claim. He also complained about the InterContinental’s website. The third time, a senior case manager responded:

We understand that you viewed a rate on the third-party website which prompted you to file for the Best Price Guarantee. At the same time please know that we also have Terms and Conditions to adhere with.

Please be advised that one of the requirements of the Guarantee is that the claim must be received within the first 24 hours after the booking was created, and at least 24 hours prior to the standard check in time at the IHG hotel being claimed for. Since we are unable to locate claim forms with your email address within the above claim period, we will be unable to extend the Guarantee to this particular claim.

Furthermore, we have checked the IHG website and claim form and found no issues currently affecting either one.

Rao turned to our advocacy team for assistance in getting the Best Price Guarantee. He submitted screenshots of his reservation and the lower rates he had found on Priceline. (Executive contact information for InterContinental Hotels Group is available on our website.)

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Unfortunately for Rao, his attempts to claim the Best Price Guarantee from InterContinental Hotels Group were unsuccessful because he was not in compliance with the Guarantee’s terms and conditions, which require satisfaction of all of the following:

  • Matching Rooms. The Guarantee is available only for the exact same room type and same view. …
  • Matching Terms. All terms of the comparison room reservation, including, but not limited to pre-payment, deposit, number of guests, or other requirements must be equal in all respects to the terms found on an IHG website for your claim to be valid.
  • Matching Prices. For multi-night stays, the Guarantee compares the average nightly room price and the average nightly total room cost for your valid room booking with those found on a non-IHG website. …
  • Matching Prices – Price Variance. The nightly room price and the nightly total room cost (for one night stays) or the average nightly room price and the average nightly total room cost (for multi-night stays) must each be lower than the IHG room price and the IHG total room cost, respectively, by at least 1% or $1 USD (or the equivalent in the hotel’s currency) (whichever is higher). Coupons or vouchers may not be utilized to lower published room prices for the purposes of making a claim. The Guarantee does not include extra fees such as extra person charges.
  • Comparison Prices Must Be Available to the General Public. The Best Price Guarantee applies only to prices both advertised and available to the general public on a non-IHG website at the time of verification.
  • Packages Comparison. The Guarantee applies to comparing exactly the same packages or inclusive prices with the same included items.
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Our advocate noted that the screenshot of the lower price that Rao had submitted to us was dated later than 24 hours after the date of his reservation email, and that the room type in Rao’s screenshot (two double beds and a mobility accessible tub) was not the same as the one in his reservation (one traditional king-size bed; nonsmoking).

Since the lower prices Rao found were for rooms of different types and amenities than the one he reserved on InterContinental’s website, he doesn’t qualify for its Best Price Guarantee. However, The InterContinental offered Rao 5,000 IHG Rewards Club Points as a gesture of goodwill.

Rao refused to accept it:

They have offered me 5,000 points as compensation. The Monterey InterContinental room is [worth] more than 60,000 points per night, so 5k is meaningless. I have not accepted anything from them.

Should InterContinental Hotels Group offer Rao a larger gesture of goodwill?

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Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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