Hotels.com: Easy search engine for misleading hotel descriptions
Written: Mar 8, 2004 (Updated Nov 6, 2004)
I recently needed to book a hotel in Miami and searched through several travel sites (orbitz, travelocity, expedia) and found that hotels.com had the best price for the hotel. All these sites can be searched quickly through www.tripadvisor.com.
The search engine and price were great. However, the immense downside to hotels.com is that the site steered me to what turned out to be the worst dump I have ever stayed in.
We stayed at the Port of Miami hotel. Below is how Hotels.com described the hotel and the actual reality once we saw the hotel:
Description: The Port of Miami Hotel is a wonderful, hotel located at the entrance of the busy Port of Miami, and just a short distance on foot or by car from the area's most popular attractions.
Reality: The hotel was surrounded by highways and vacant lots. The only thing within walking distance was a mugging.
Description: This property is the perfect choice for those who need easy access to either the Port of Miami or the Miami International Airport; but, still want to be near the popular South Beach, and the wonderful shopping and excitement of downtown Miami.
Reality: Miami Airport was a $23 cab ride away. South Beach was a $15 cab ride away. This hotel is not convenient to anything. "Easy access" to the piers still requires at least a $10 cab ride - which is about the same for many local hotels.
Description: This hotel blends the very best in high quality service and comfortable accommodations at reasonable prices. Each of the spacious, comfortable guest rooms is tastefully decorated and fully equipped to meet the needs of the 21st century traveler.
Reality: This hotel was in total disrepair complete with peeling wallpaper, chipped paint, dirty bathroom and smelly, stained rugs. I completely missed the "tasteful decoration" unless that referred to the chipped formica furniture. The only thing to appeal to the "21st century traveler" was basic cable. They didn't have HBO, pay per view, internet service or pizza delivery.
Description: The friendly, professional hotel staff is always ready to assist with the needs of every guest; and this property is just minutes to fine dining, shopping and entertainment.
Reality: The hotel staff did not clean the room adequately and lied to us about local restaurants in an effort to steer us to one italian restaurant that apparently gives the staff kick-backs. As I mentioned above, the "minutes" to fine dining, shopping and entertainment consisted of a $15 cab ride each way.
I couldn't believe how badly the site misrepresented this hotel. What was even worse, is that site indicated the hotel was part of the Howard Johnson chain and the hotel appears to have lost that affiliation.
THE WEB SITE
The web site is very easy to navigate. You simply input the name of the city you are visiting and up will come multiple results. Hotels.com offers an extra feature to sort your results based on a landmark you are visiting. I needed a room before a cruise so I sorted my results based on proximity to "Port of Miami." This made narrowing down my choices much easier.
Another nice feature is that the prices are listed in the results of your search so you can scan down one screen without clicking in and out to get the prices. Once you choose a hotel, you can click on it to get a description of the hotel. The very important thing to keep in mind is that the hotels provide the descriptions, there are no independent reviews, so most descriptions are extremely favorable. You must do more research before booking a hotel on epinions or a similar site that provides independent reviews.
My only gripe about the operation of the web site is that it is not always clear how to account for children when booking a room. I chose a hotel that allowed children to stay in the room for free with their parents. We had two adults and two kids in the room. However, the booking system required me to indicate how many people were in the room. According to this system, I would be charged more for 4 people than 2. I thought they meant how many adults in the room rather than total people but is wasn't clear. I called customer service to get an answer. The number for customer service was listed clearly on the booking screen.
I find the prices on Hotels.com to be decent. They are not always the best of the major search engines but they are usually close.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if you are flexible as to the exact location of your hotel, you can consider using a discount site such as Hotwire or Priceline.
Sometimes the hotel's own web site will offer a better price than any of the major search engines. They might also offer a package that is a better deal than just the room (maybe breakfast, show tickets or the like). It makes sense to check that hotel's web site before booking.
BEWARE - SERVICE FEES
In addition to the price quoted by the site, Hotels.com charges an additional "service" fee. This fee can often be avoided by going to the hotel chain's own site to book the room.
I found customer service to be very helpful in booking the room and taking my money. Customer service was not helpful in providing a true description of the hotel.
The site sent an email that confirmed my booking information. I printed out the email but it turns out I didn't need it - the hotel had my reservation under my name and didn't need any further information.
I can't recommend this site for hotel information since the information they provide appears to be totally wrong and misleading. The site is helpful as a search engine to find out the prices and locations of hotels. However, I can not recommend this site for an actual booking unless you have independently confirmed the nature of the hotel you will be staying at.
DO YOU LIKE TO SHOP ON THE INTERNET? HERE ARE SOME MORE REVIEWS OF WEB STORES:
Clothing and Accessories: Talbots; The Gap; CWD Kids; Hanna Andersson; J. Jill; Tote Le Monde ; Blu Pyxie ; Miniboden; One Hanes Place; Nordstrom; Gymboree; Simple Shoes; Sierra Blue.
Clothing and Home Goods: Lands End; Bluefly; Soft Surroundings; Garnet Hill; Sundance; L.L. Bean.
Home and Garden: Smith & Noble; Restoration Hardware; Gardeners Supply Company; Unicahome; Homeclick; FaucetDirect; Gardens Alive; West Elm; Crate & Barrel; MyKnobs; CB2.
Books and Magazines: Amazon.com; ValueMags; Magazine Values; Dover Publications.
Office Supplies, Furniture and Services: Staples; Officemax; Topdeq; Efax.
Electronics: HP Shopping; Buy.com.
Travel: Amtrak; Hotwire; Orbitz.
Discount: Overstock.com; Target.
Photo Developing: Shutterfly; Snapfish.
Baby Stuff: Babystyle; Babys Here Birth Announcements; Baby Universe; SoZo.
Miscellaneous: 1-800 contacts; Movie Tickets.com; Drugstore.com.
Rebate Sites: Upromise; Ebates.