A reader contacted me after he booked the Durham Hilton near Duke University. His reservation was for a fairly typical $125 AAA rate.
The first date I pulled up, AAA rate there was running $134.
The hotel advertises at Hilton.com rates ‘from $118’.
The hotel, though, claimed he had booked a mistake rate. His reservation was for over Duke’s graduation weekend, and the hotel could clearly sell its rooms for more.
Typically, though, we think of a mistake rate as a ‘fat finger’ fare, hitting the wrong key or leaving out a digit. Or perhaps a currency conversion error — for instance Hilton honored a rate at the Hilton Moorea where $1000 a night overwater villas with meals went for ~ $100 because prices were listed in Congolese Francs (CDF) instead of French Pacific Francs (CFP).
That’s different, it seems to me, from a hotel loading their usual rates and then deciding not to honor a booking because you can sell the room for more.
I helped the reader get his case in front of Hilton corporate. In my experience Hilton doesn’t have as much control over its hotels as some chains like Starwood. Unfortunately, Hilton didn’t make good on the rate.
I wanted to offer Hilton’s side in this discussion, too, and so I asked them a few questions.
- What is Hilton’s definition of a mistake rate?
- On rare occasion, our hotels will offer guests a rate and later discover that it was made in error. In this instance, Hilton Durham Near Duke University, mistakenly offered a lower rate than what should have been posted on certain dates in 2016. Upon realizing the error, the hotel quickly reached out to those who had booked reservations to explain the situation and have also created a hotline for customers to call to amend their reservations as needed (919-564-2918). Hotels do have the right to cancel or modify reservations when made in error.
- At what point can a consumer rely on a reservation they make with Hilton?
- It is a top priority for our customers to be able to trust that their reservations are handled with care and when changes do need to be made, we work directly with the customer to resolve issues to the best of their satisfaction.
- If a hotel contacts a guest to cancel their reservation, or requiring that they pay more, what steps should they take if any with Hilton corporate?
- The guest should contact the hotel or Hilton Reservations Customer Care who will investigate the issue and do their best to resolve to the guest’s satisfaction.
I’ll leave it to you to judge those answers on their merits.
In the meantime, in a situation like this, what’s left for a guest to do? If you can’t voluntarily resolve a disagreement with a hotel, and the hotel chain won’t help, what recourse do you have?
- File a complaint with the state’s Department of Consumer Protection, in most cases this will just raise the cost to the hotel but you may not get anything out of this (it will vary substantially by state and the circumstances of the case)
- File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, the hotel may be more inclined to help with them as an intermediary
- File a lawsuit in small claims court.
Ultimately, though, there’s an even bigger question here than a single reservation disavowed by a hotel. What is a mistake rate?
I’ve offered in my discussion of airline mistakes, that in order to take the extreme step of dishonoring a booking there needs to be both an objective standard (like 80% or 90% below the lowest rate at which the same product was sold in the preceding 30 days) and a timely response.
Simply leaving it up to a travel provider to decide a mistake has occurred creates situations where they can simply choose not to honor a booking because they realize they can get more money selling a room or a seat to someone else.
“I didn’t mean to charge my usual price” shouldn’t be justification.. should it?