I’ve had AAA membership for awhile, largely because I book AAA rates at hotels frequently. I don’t think I’ve ever been asked for proof of membership at check-in, however.
The Hilton and Hyatt websites both ask you to enter AAA numbers when making reservations online, they don’t check that an account is currently active but presumably check to see that the digits are plausible.
AAA rates aren’t always the best, for instance there are often better corporate rates where if you were an employee of a given company you’d be entitled to a lower negotiated rate — which sometimes codes with added benefits like free or discounted parking, or a much more generous cancellation policy than standard reservations (such as 6pm on day of arrival rather than day prior to check-in).
I’ve never been asked for ID on a corporate rate when checking in, either, although I understand that it’s quite common to be asked for proof of eligibility for a company rate at hotels in Asia, and I do know at least one hotel chain revenue manager that has had his hotels ask for ID (a business card, or at least something with the company’s logo or other identifying marks on it) at check-in for certain rates that are exceptionally good though this practice is very rare in the United States.
It’s certainly ethically questionable to represent yourself as working for a company that you do not in order to obtain a discount to which you would not otherwise be entitled.
On the other hand, you aren’t taking away discounts from others — on the contrary you are boosting the volume of business the company appears to be doing with the hotel chain, helping them to continue to justify such a deep discount in the first place. And hotels actively manage inventory, most of the time whether you book a room at a discount or a higher rate it’s the overall occupancy and projections of how many rooms they’ll sell on a given night that determines whether they open up inventory in the ‘bucket’ that each corporate rate draws from (rather than there being a fixed number of corporate rate rooms per night).
Different folks will approach this issue differently, my tendency is to book rates I’m entitled to.
AAA rates are pretty widely available and one doesn’t have to be an employee of a particular company to be eligible for them. On average I find that the rates are about equal to advance purchase rates, but are cancellable. I’m generally allergic to prepaid rates because my plans change, my preferences for where I’m going to stay change, and because rates may fall after I’ve made my booking and I like to re-check pricing as travel approaches.
With Hyatt some hotels also frequently offer ‘AAA Breakfast Rates’ that are about the same price as the regular AAA rate and advance purchase rate that also throws in breakfast, something I get as a Diamond member of Gold Passport but that would be quite useful otherwise.
Since I use the rates enough to justify paying for the membership, I actually do pay for the membership in order to actually be eligible even if no one is checking.
Years ago I had a AAA membership — when I turned 16 and for a few years thereafter — because my first cars were quite the adventure. I started off with a Renault Alliance that my family paid $800 for and that had electrical problems. It was replaced by a Mercury Topaz with over 130,000 miles on it. I got great use out of the roadside assistance and towing benefits of membership!
But since then I don’t use it for much more than the hotel discount. So I recently let my membership lapse, figuring I’d pick it up again when I saw a good promotion, and especially since I didn’t have immediate upcoming bookings where I’d need to assuage my conscience.
Something arrived in the mail on Friday though that creates a new crisis of conscience for me:
AAA sent a direct mail package to me as a lapsed member, trying to get me to re-up. The package included a membership card, valid through May 1 2014.
Presumably they find that the response rates are higher when they actually send the card.
Now I don’t even have to join to have a AAA card if ever asked. At least for the next 15 months.
So what say you, do I send in my money if I’ll be using the discount?