“Best Rate Guarantees” Judged Misleading and Unscrupulous – Part 2

Please read Part 1 if you missed it.

The gist, if you don’t have time to read it right now, is that a U.S. District Judge has ruled that “Best Rate Guarantees” as promoted by hotel chains and online booking sites are “unscrupulously misleading advertisements made for commercial gain” and are “not in the public’s best interest.”

Despite this ruling, based on the facts of the case presented to her, the Judge also ruled that, legally, there isn’t much she can do to prevent the guarantees from being made. And so it is that we as travelers continue to see best rate guarantees on numerous hotel and online booking sites.

Though these guarantees are, in effect, deceptive marketing practices it does happen that the hotels actually do honor them sometimes. To give yourself a better chance of receiving the guaranteed benefit, fellow travelers suggest the following approaches:

 I have always phoned the BRG line rather than emailed, so as I can press my case if necessary, and to ensure rates dont magically change between my email and their response. ~tangey1

In the end though perserverence can pay off. … take a screen shot of absolutely EVERY page of the transaction process on the competing website. And I mean EVERY page. … if you kick up a big enough stink they will allow a cancellation of the original reservation via IHG – even if it was ‘non cancellable’ and within the BRG timeframe. ~rferguson

According to Business Traveller members, some hotels are better than others when it comes to making good on the promises.

Starwood and Hilton in particular always seem to honor their commitment. ~AlDanberg

I’ve had pretty much 100% success with Starwood’s guarantee. It’s still not the “best-rate guarantee” they claim as there are plenty of non-qualifying but cheaper rates available elsewhere, but it does work within the constraints they publish. ~MKB1964

Notably, and very interestingly, the hotels that reportedly are more honorable with their guarantees are those that offer less in the way of benefit. This would seem to be counterintuitive, but suggests different tactics being deployed by different hotel chains.

Knowing full well that, because they have set the lowest prices that can be advertised online, the hotels will rarely be required to award the guaranteed benefit, some have elected to offer the guarantee as a customer retention tool while others use it more as a customer attraction tool.

The hotels that offers a small payout but that are relatively generous in terms of awarding the benefit when pressed are focused on customer retention. They know they rarely would have to award the benefit based on the terms and conditions of the offer, but they choose to award it anyway. The benefit is small, so no big skin off their back to award it, and their customer service agents get to “reward” the few customers who make a claim.

Others,  like IHG, offer a more lucrative payout so as to brand themselves as more generous, but are much more strict when it comes to actually awarding the benefit. Of course, this is based on anecdotal evidence from one small group of travelers, but the IHG strategy seems to be to gain the goodwill and publicity that comes from offering a more generous guarantee, and bet that not very many customers will ever try to claim the benefit and even fewer will make a big stink about it when they are denied.

Finally, some travelers suggest avoiding the guarantees entirely and instead use alternative methods to get the best service and room rates.

To get the best service I feel it’s always best to stay in a boutique or family hotel where they might recognise you and look after you during your stay. ~SimonS1

you can call the hotel and they might give another rate depending on occupancy. ~TimFitzgeraldTC

With all of this in mind, what’s your take on hotel best rate guarantees? Have you had success claiming the benefits and, if so, with which chain(s)? Will this understanding of the true nature of the guarantees change the way you book hotels?

Read the Business Traveller thread in its entirety: IHG “Best Price Guarantee”…is it a farce??

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  1. I tried once with Starwood, and received a polite email two days later informing me that “it appeared the rates had changed” since I sent in my claim, and they were unable to award the compensation. I was disappointed, but not really surprised.

    I’m not convinced that it was denied through affirmative dishonesty; just the clever way they structured the system. When they don’t investigate for two days (it took me about 6 minutes to find the better rate prior to booking with Starwood), the third-party site where I found the better rate (only by a few bucks) had time to change its rate. I don’t know exactly where the third-party rates come from, but if it was tied to availability then my booking direct with Starwood was likely a factor in the rate rising. I’m assuming that this is why the “investigation” takes a while; give it time to adjust.

  2. I used to have pretty good luck with IHG, but been a wile since I had one approved. best one ever was the Intercon Century City for a massive suite. Turned out the hotel is actually a dive and in need of some serious work, but the room was well over 1K for the night.

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