Don’t Let an Online Reservation Cause an Unhappy Vacation
HARTFORD, July 21 – Are you planning to spend some time at a hotel soon? If you’re looking online for the best rates, don’t fall for a great price until you know with whom you’re dealing. Just because a webpage looks like the official site of a popular hotel chain doesn’t necessarily mean it is.
Savvy travelers shop around to get the best online hotel deals by emailing a property directly, booking through the hotel chain’s website, or using a price-comparison site. You can even check with a third-party reservation service. But, booking with third-party sites can lead to confusion if you’re not clear on all the details.
“Third-party sites can either save you time and money, or cost you – money, time, and peace of mind,” Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan A. Harris said today. “Whenever you book online, make sure you know who’s at the other end of that BOOK NOW button.”
Some third-party sites clearly disclose that they’re not affiliated with the hotel. But other websites so closely resemble a hotel chain’s official site that consumers can be misled, leading to problems at check-in!
“Some vacationers who have used third-party sites report arriving at their hotel only to find there’s no record of a reservation in their name. In other cases, special requests that travelers made through a third-party site were not communicated to the hotel,” Harris said. “Third-party sites could have policies about pre-payment, cancellations, or refunds that are different from the hotel’s policy, and reservations made through a third-party site may not count toward a hotel’s rewards program.”
It’s not always easy to be sure about who is handling the reservation. If you type a hotel name into a search engine, don’t assume that the first result will be the official hotel website. In many cases, that top spot has been “bought” by a third-party reservation company. Other sites usually buy prominent ad space on the right side of the screen.
Some third-party sites look very much like hotels’ official sites, even using popular logos and similar web addresses. You can’t rely only on visual cues, but calling the phone number listed online can further confuse the matter because some third-party sites use call centers that are hard to distinguish from a chain’s official reservation line.
How can you prevent hotel reservation mix-ups?
Whether you book directly through a chain or indirectly through a third-party site, read the details carefully for any fees or surcharges in the fine print. Look for hyperlinks to policies, exclusions, and other key information that may be hidden.
If you want to communicate with your preferred hotel or hotel chain and book directly through them, look for the toll-free number or website address printed in hotel brochures you may have, your Rewards card, or in the company’s TV or print ads. Phone numbers on the web may actually lead you elsewhere.
After booking, print out your reservation confirmation and keep it with you on your trip. If possible, have it easily accessible on your smartphone also.
Don’t leave home without final confirmation. Before your trip, call the hotel directly and double-check that your reservation is in the system. Confirm any special requests directly with the front desk.