Farid Currimbhoy can’t figure out why the price of his Dollar rental just tripled. Our advocates help him with the car rental math. “Dollar raised my rate from $105 to $431 — but why?”
In early June, room rates at the five-star Plaza Hotel start at about $725 a night. So when Mania Baghdadi found a $119 rate through Booking.com, she pounced on it.
And who wouldn’t? The Plaza, which is managed by Fairmont, is one of Manhattan’s top hotels. A $119 rate is a steal.
And you can probably guess what’s coming next, right?
“A room at the Plaza Hotel for $119 a night? Where do I book?”
Tony Levy and his family are big fans of Riu Hotels & Resorts, a Spanish chain of all-inclusive properties with locations in the Caribbean and Mexico.
“Was he overcharged at his Puerto Vallarta hotel?”
Dave Olsen thought he might have a valid claim under Choice Hotels’ best rate guarantee. Apparently, he thought wrong.
“I know you’ve written posts about the best rate guarantees,” he adds. “I know you’re opposed to them. But I wanted to share my situation.”
Slight correction: I’m only opposed to best rate guarantees when they don’t work as advertised.
But is this one of those cases?
Olsen found and reserved a $94 per night at the Clarion Victoria Hotel and Suites in Panama City, Panama, recently. But he wasn’t done shopping. He then clicked on Travelocity, where he found a $79 room rate at the same hotel for the same night.
The rooms were identical — or so he thought.
Fortunately, Choice offers a best-rate guarantee.
ChoiceHotels.com has the best Internet rates guaranteed – we’re unbeatable.
Simply book your room here on ChoiceHotels.com and if you find a lower published rate for the same hotel and accommodations for the same dates at any other qualified online source, we will match that rate plus give you a free night for that stay.
Ah, but as they say, some restrictions apply. Here’s the fine print. (This link opens as an annoying pop-up.)
So Olsen filed a claim. To its credit, Choice Hotels, which owns the Clarion brand, responded promptly.
Thank you for your interest in participating in our Best Internet Rate Guarantee program.
The Best Internet Rate Guarantee program terms & conditions state that the rate located on a competing website must match the rate terms/restrictions that you made at www.choicehotels.com. The competing website information you submitted requires prepayment. The reservation you made at www.choicehotels.com is a pay when you stay at the hotel.
The reservation policy must be the same on the competing website as the reservation you made at www.choicehotels.com.
If you have additional questions please see our terms & conditions page.
Sure enough, buried mouse print, you’ll find that the guarantee applies to reservations made for the “same hotel, dates, room type, type of currency and length of stay and is based on single or double occupancy with the same rate terms/restrictions (including but not limited to, advance purchase requirements; pre-payment and deposit requirements; and cancellation and change policies).”
But wait! Was the Travelocity rate really nonrefundable? Olsen phoned Choice hotels and argued that it wasn’t.
“I explained that the Travelocity site is not a prepayment in that they allow you to cancel, just like the Choice Hotels site,” he says. “But he insisted that their requirement for a credit card was different than the Choice Hotels requirement of a credit card. Amazing.”
Olsen didn’t take no for an answer.
I printed out the page and have a copy. But Choice explained the issue is not that they didn’t see the lower rate — he did — but that the rules were different.
I’m frustrated, just like others who have contacted you in the past.
If your readers think that Choice is correct, I’ll accept that. If your readers agree that this is just a bunch of nonsense to avoid giving me a free night, then I think further action should be considered.
Choice has already turned down Olsen on a technicality. Personally, I think Olsen has already wasted $15 of his time, and probably the $94 he’d get for his “free” room (ahh, I cringe to write those words “free” but I’ll get over it).
Also, why shop for a better rate after you’ve made a reservation? As my late journalism professor would say, down that road lies madness.
But I’ve agreed to put this to a vote, and if enough people vote to reopen this case, I will.
Anyone who reads this site probably knows my position on rate errors, which is to say I think it’s wrong to take advantage of someone else’s mistake, even if it’s made by a big travel company.
So you can imagine how dismayed I was when I got a call from Howard Steinberg, who owns several Budget car rental franchises in the United States. Not only had one of his customers exploited a rate error, he says, but I had helped the traveler do it.
Well, to get up to speed on this story, here’s the Q&A column that started it all. It involved a reader named Brandon Chase who had received a mysterious phone call from Budget’s auditing department, notifying him of a billing error. Budget re-charged his credit card $85, apparently not giving him a discount it had promised.
“The rate error story that got away — in a big way”