Chris Elliott has a piece in US News on hotels assigning their worst rooms to customers booking through discount channels.
This absolutely happens at some properties, though I’ve never experienced it personally through scores of successful bids.
The best advice is that discount sites aren’t the right venue when room selection really matters. If you can afford a nice hotel with an ocean view on your vacation, Priceline may not be the right answer given the risk of being assigned a garden view. You might want to pay to actually reserve the ocean view room. On the other hand, if money is an issue then a “Priceline room” at a four star property may be better than a regularly-reserved room at the two star property you’d have otherwise booked.
Meanwhile, if you do go the discount route and are unhappy with your room, as to be changed. And if the first person says no, ask someone else.
Chris Elliott offers some further advice but I’m not sure what to make of it:
- Analysts say the discounts–as much as 40 percent to 60 percent on sites like Priceline and Hotwire–make the travel websites worthwhile. But, if you can, check with the hotel to learn what kind of room you get for that rate. Earning frequent-stayer status also can help your room assignment.
Check with the hotel about the room you’ll get, before booking on Priceline or Hotwire where you’re explicitly not even supposed to know what hotel it is you’ll be getting?
I know as well as anyone that sites like Biddingfortravel.com and Betterbidding.com will help give you an idea what you’ll be getting in advance. But even then many zones and quality levels have plenty of hotels you might get, and there can always wind up being new previously unreported hotels as well. So I’m not sure how calling a hotel upfront before booking a nonrefunable room is a useful option here.
And while some hotels might still honor elite status even on a Priceline stay, several chains like Starwood and Hilton explicitly state that elite status does not provide benefits on stays booked through these channels. Hyatt and Marriott are generally better in this regard.
The ultimate point is simply that Priceline and to a lesser extent Hotwire are outstanding tools but they are not universal silver bullets for all occasions.