Hotwire: Caught Ripping Us Off

We’ve been going back and forth on booking for Vegas this weekend, and after deciding we wanted something with certain ameneties we booked a couple nights at T.I. The reason we chose this hotel had nothing to do with the hotel itself and a lot more to do with the services we could get at a reduced rate as part of the online purchase. And for those who live in a cave, booking directly through the hotel is always more expensive than booking through Expedia or Orbitz… but not necessarily Hotwire, whose bait-and-switch online scheme we’ll get to in a minute.

Because the cost saved using the hotel’s promotions was greater than the cost lost by booking directly through them, we booked the hotel and purchased the various packages we wanted… tickets to Mystere, massages, etc. All of this purchased online while booking the room. And because the online system specifically asks you for dates of the amenities they’re selling you, I had this crazy assumption that those services were not only offered, but available as well. I was wrong. When I called to set up the appointment I learned that the “2 tickets for $99” promotion for Mystere actually wasn’t really but kind of sorta part of our booking but that the tickets were actually more like two for $109 and that we hadn’t really purchased them because their online system is a joke and didn’t charge us for the tickets (we hope) and that we would need to just go ahead and book those on our own. Whatever. But when the woman at their spa informed me that they “probably won’t be open those dates” I became a little irritable.

Riddle: What has 2,885 rooms and doesn’t honor its promotions?

I decided to cancel the room. Why pay mini-bar prices at a place that doesn’t even have a mini-bar? Or a spa. Or integrity. Or a few bucks to change their sign.

But before I could cancel the room I needed to book another room. And having just booked our room at Treasure Island, I browsed around until my head hurt and I couldn’t think anymore. So I decided to use Hotwire.

Hotwire, for those who’ve never used their service, is a travel booking website which books room rates at a supposed discount… but there’s a catch. You don’t know where you’re booking. You can tell Hotwire what you’re looking for and it will kind of give you an idea as far as quality and amenities, but the hotel you’re booking isn’t actually revealed until after you’ve paid for your room. And also, you can’t cancel. You trade choice and the ability to back out for a really sweet deal. Or so the myth goes.

I browsed around their vague hotel descriptions, and after getting a bit of a sense for price selected one of the mystery hotels and charged up the ol’ credit card.

Riddle: What has 2,885 rooms and costs more through Hotwire?

Yes, Hotwire gave us the hotel we had already booked. However, because we had just booked through the hotel for the same dates just moments prior this gives everyone an incredible opportunity to see exactly what amazing savings Hotwire provides in exchange for essentially leaving the comfort of your hard-earned vacation in their filthy little con-artist hands.

Treasure Island, booked through the actual fucking hotel with no discount…

$136.87

Treasure Island, booked through Hotwire’s discounted smoke-and-mirrors “Hot Rate”  just minutes later…

$146.32

WHAAA????

I called Hotwire’s Customer Service, expecting that whoever answered the phone would show at least a tiny bit of humiliation. I was wrong. “Hotel rates change fast,” she assured me, not seeming to understand that I was actually paying more through Hotwire’s racket. “As rooms book up they become more expensive.”

Good point. However, giving Hotwire the benefit of the doubt, and assuming that in the minutes between both bookings a number of rooms were suddenly scooped up for one of the slowest weekends in Vegas, the discount should at the very least cover that rise in price. At worst I could see the two leveling out. But actually paying more through Hotwire?

I pressed a little harder. Having the documentation in hand to prove my claim, the Customer Service rep went ahead and checked on the hotel’s website. Sure enough, Hotwire was charging us more than the hotel.  Which she admitted. And in exchange for our conceding our choice in hotel, being locked into a booking with no possibility to cancel, and catching them bloody red handed ripping us off, we were offered a refund of $14.80. In total, that amounts to a few measly dollars below what we had paid to book on the hotel’s website. And they still wouldn’t offer us the option to cancel. Unbe-fuckin-lievable.

Had we not had the one-in-a-thousand shot of having booked the very same hotel at the same time we never would have known they were ripping us off. What’s more, we don’t even want to stay here. What we’ve traded in choice as well as flexibility amounted to a “Hot Rate” discount of about 1 percent. Pathetic.

Folks, if you learn nothing from my blog (which you won’t), take away this one lesson: Never use Hotwire. Ever. They’re a bunch of cock whisperers.

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2 thoughts on “Hotwire: Caught Ripping Us Off

  1. KILL THEM.

    Seriously, that’s my knee-jerk reaction to everything these days. Like that scowling older woman who was in front of me in line for the little DYI metered stamp machine thing today at the post office and could not figure out how to swipe her damn credit card. Gun now. Thoughts later. It’s a wonderful life philosophy.

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