They showed her the net rate and now she wants it

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By Christopher Elliott

Eleanore Brouhard knows a secret.

When she checked out of her hotel, it revealed the “net” rate it was charging her online travel agency — a number far lower than the one she was quoted. Now she wants the hotel to honor the lower price for her.

My advocacy team and I get requests like hers with some regularity, and I normally tell them they’re out of luck. Purchasing hotel rooms in bulk can secure lower rates, but individual travelers may not qualify. But lately, I’ve had second thoughts about that response, and I’m thinking of mediating one of these cases. Maybe you can help me figure this out.

Hidden hotel rates

Back to Brouhard’s case: She found a room at the Wyndham Dallas Suites – Park Central for the nights of Oct. 11 through 14 via a link on the AARP site. The transaction was handled through Expedia.

“When I checked out I was given an itemized receipt for $329, which was lower than Expedia had quoted,” she says.

When she asked about the lower rate, a representative assured her that was the correct price. It’s difficult to envision a disagreement over a room’s lower price, suggesting it was a short conversation.

But it wasn’t quite right.

When my Visa bill arrived, I was charged a total of $416 for the three nights, a difference of $86.

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I called Expedia and was told the hotel made a mistake giving me the receipt and that this was the “net rate,” which I never should have seen.

Well, I did see it and it says nothing about net rates. I asked for a refund and a supervisor offered me a $50 Expedia coupon, which I declined because I will not be doing further business with Expedia.

I would like a refund of the difference and also I feel that people should be warned that such a thing can happen. AARP offers this link as a means for senior citizens to get good travel rates and I feel that this did not happen here.

Hmm. Didn’t Brouhard agree to the $416 rate? Wasn’t that “good” enough for her at the time?

The ethics of online hotel bookings

The fact is, many businesses have wholesale and retail rates, and it’s generally understood that the way they make money is by marking up the product. Expedia bought thousands of rooms from Wyndham, and then resold them to guests like Brouhard to make a profit. (Here’s our guide to finding the best hotels.)

Still, the hotel gave her a folio with a lower number, and when she asked about the rate, a representative told her it was correct. Shouldn’t a business be required to honor a price it quotes?

From my perspective, Brouhard’s motives matter. Had she found out about the Wyndham rate error on FlyerTalk or via one of the Boarding Area blogs, and booked a few rooms for her and her friends, knowing full well that this was a rate error, I would have sent her my polite form rejection letter. (Booking a “fat-finger” fare when you know better is stealing — no two ways about it.)

But Brouhard found the rate through AARP. She likely thought the association had secured a better discount when she saw the final hotel rate. And a hotel representative verified the rate, too, when she checked out.

I’m thinking about asking Wyndham and Expedia to consider honoring the lower price.

Should I mediate Eleanore Brouhard's case with Expedia?

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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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