I booked an eleventh hour – more like 11:30 PM – hotel room in Nashville last night but when I arrived at the property at midnight, they had no reservation. Worse, they were full, and had been for hours.
The pissing contest between the night manager at the hotel and the hotels.com agent I phoned lasted only long enough for me to realize I was the only one getting spattered.
Both parties were, to some degree, at fault. The hotel failed to let hotels.com know when the space they had previously communicated was later sold, and hotels.com failed to check with the hotel even though their online booking system said it was doing so. Nor did hotels.com do anything when they found they were unable to deliver the reservation they sold me.
Ultimately, Hotels.com promised to send my credit card a full refund “in five to seven working days” and the night manager made a call to a nearby place on my behalf but, like the refund, it wasn’t gonna be that night.
So, after putting my suitcase back in the rental car, I drove to a well lit parking lot and made a regular, not discounted, late night reservation with a real live person at Hilton’s service for the closest place along my planned drive to Huntsville Alabama, in Huntsville Alabama. Ninety minutes later, I was there. Bed, at 2 AM, felt great.
In the future, I’ll use hotels.com like I use Google, to find out what might be interesting. But then I’ll check with the property to see if they actually have something and how much they want. And if I then decide to go back through hotels.com for the actual booking, then I’ll also verify with the hotel by a second phone call that they have indeed received the reservation, and that they do actually have a room for me.
My guess is that hotels.com can save $20-50 per night for last minute bookings. But the real value I wanted last night was a service that knows, at that last minute, what’s available and what’s not. For those rare occasions when I need that kind of information, last night’s experience taught me it’s value. And at the end of a long and frustrating day, I’ll gladly pay for it.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, … … Nope, that ain’t happenin’.