Dear Hotel Guests,
Today we present you with a lesson on third party reservation booking sites. Third party sites are companies like Expedia, Hotels.com, Priceline, and Hotwire. Third party sites aren’t always as benevolent as you may think. Third party sites can be a wily nemesis of a hotel.
Know what site you are actually visiting before entering any credit card information. I cannot stress this enough. These sites are often designed to look like the hotel’s official site. Dozens of times, guests believe they have only been to the hotel’s official site, when the reservation in reality is third party. Don’t give just any “legitimate enough” looking website your info.
What this ultimately means is that you don’t know who is receiving your credit card data. A few weeks after leaving your card number willy nilly, you see charges for 450 gallons of squirrel food charged to your Visa, this may be your contender. (Not to blame the third party hotel booking sites, they don’t stoop that low, but as a result of not keeping track of your credit card number.)
Many of these sites take a pre-payment, while many hotels don’t. On multiple occasions, guests upon arrival think that they have just guaranteed a room, when they’ve already paid. Be sure you are aware of this before you make your reservation. It’s their money, and they want it NOW!
Cancellation policies may differ. Especially if you have prepaid, this is very important. The third party site may have a shorter window in which you can cancel, and you might not receive a full refund. At the hotel directly, we may be able to cancel a room within the cancellation window.
The hotels cannot vouch for the customer service you may or may not receive through these sites. We are not the same entity. If they make mistakes on their end, which they do time and time again, we have to fix it, even if it can’t be repaired. We have taken the brunt for mistakes that were out of our hands, even whilst secretly cursing the Roaming Gnome.
Information on third party sites may not be accurate or up to date. You don’t want to book a room and show up with your fluff ball Princess Fifi, only to find out she isn’t allowed! The hotels aren’t always responsible for maintaining information on these sites. I’ve had people yell at me because the “official website” says there is a pool outside, when we never had said swimming hole. If you have any questions about anything that is vital to your stay, please call the hotel directly. Ask the person you speak to if they work on site at the hotel.
The rates might be the same as the hotel’s posted rates! This means going through all the effort to pay the same rate, or even sometimes more once service charges are incorporated. Only some sites offer discounts for club memberships such as AAA or AARP, or military and travel agents.
Do your homework before booking anything. Just because it’s a “discount site” doesn’t mean the hotel offers discounted rates to them. Call the hotel directly or visit their official website to determine base price to research around. Find out service charges, taxes, parking, valet, and anything that may contribute to your total bill. Ask what types of discounts are offered.
Once this information is established, if you see the rates are lower on the third party sites then you can book accordingly. If you’re lucky, hotels may even price match that rate. Some discount sites really do offer hotels deals. Some hotels may not offer a low rate to the sites, as they regardless earn only a percentage of what you pay.
Well guests, we hope that you may have picked up a gem of knowledge here today. With that our lesson concludes.
Friendly Neighborhood Desk Clerk