The Hotel Scam

September 28, 2009 by admncc

I’ve always had a hard time justifying the cost of a hotel room.  I mean, other than a bed to sleep in, a wireless connection for my lap top and a descent TV for when I’m going to sleep, I don’t need anything else.  So why are they so expensive?

OK, I realize that other people have their own needs…  But hopefully after reading about my experience at a Holiday Inn Express this past weekend, you’ll see where I’m coming from.

Now, given an option, I will typically stay at a Marriot, because of the Marriot Rewards program.  Unfortunately, when I was in Pittsburgh for a funeral this past weekend, the first two Marriot’s we called were sold out.  In fact the next three hotels we called after that were also sold out.  The reason – the G-20 was in Pittsburgh at the same time that we were.

So after searching Google for a hotel close to the funeral home, I booked a room at a Holiday Inn Express for $179 (for one night).  I explained that I was in town for a funeral and asked about rate discounts – none.  After applying some pressure, however, I was able to get their employee to admit to me that the rate is normally $135 (or lower) per night, but that it was “jacked up” (her words) due to the G-20.  That’s my first problem – inconsistent price changing.

Jump ahead to my arrival…  This was quite possibly the smallest hotel room I’d ever seen, there were no trash cans in the room and our non-smoking room smelled like smoke and/or dirty laundry.  Oh, and the TV had no pay per view movies (a hotel must, in my mind, these days).  So what was I paying the $179 for?  Apparently nothing other than a G-20 rate increase I guess.

All in all, I spent $204.50 and was physically at the hotel for less than 11 hours.  By the way, it’s funny how the hotel fees and taxes bumped my rate from the $179 they quoted me to the $204.50 we ultimately paid…

To top things off, I had forgotten my toothbrush and they wouldn’t even bring one up to me.  I was told that I could come down to the lobby if I wanted to pick one up.  What a joke!

This ends my hotel rant, which should have been an open letter to the Holiday Inn Express.  But something tells me they aren’t listening anyway…

All Posts / Business / Family/Lifestyle / General Moaning Consumerism / G-20 / Holiday Inn / Holiday Inn Express / Hotel Pricing / Hotel Stays / Hotels / Marriot / Overnight Stays / Travel / Travel Expenses /


  1. Leo Nevoli says:

    Years ago when the Wife and I went to Canada to spend the weekend at Niagara Falls, I checked the various hotels, and I came across one that was offering weekend rooms for $40 USD. All the other places wanted any where from $90 to $150. Figuring that it was a good price, I booked it for the weekend. It was on one of the side streets from the “happening” stuff on Clifton Road. The room was very small, no phone, small TV, desk, bathroom, a table and 2 chairs. Clearly not much in the small room. When we checking in, they gave us a map and a “thank you for staying with us” note. On the note it explained, you may not find all you need in your room, but ask us and we will help you get it. You may find your room to be a bit cramped, but we suspect you are visiting us on vacation; no one wants to spend a vacation in a hotel room, who hope you decided to get out of your room and visit the other attractions in Niagara Falls. We spend about 15 hours in the room that weekend, and that was mainly to sleep and change clothing. This was one of the few places that I would say you get what you pay for, and it is worth it.

    Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the place, but I know it was run by a former professional wrestler, which had a restaurant attached to it.

  2. I, personally, LOVE staying in hotels, cause they signal travel to me—and I love to travel. But, I agree the rates are ridiculous! Especially when the hotel does not look like the picturs on the internet that they use to sucker you.

  3. NeoConDon says:

    I’d be curious what the “max rate” for the room is. It’s usually on the door where the fire route is. It’s unfortunate that you had to stay in Pittsburgh, and any other day the rates would be far less, but when a business is able to make more it will…especially in these difficult times for the hotel industry. The taxes for staying in hotels are really creeping up in Ohio; sounds the same in PA.

    When it comes to quality and hotels, I never stay in a dump. Unless there’s a restaurant and indoor pool, I won’t stay there. With 6 members in my family, we usually need to stay in a two room suite. We’ve found Embassy Suites and Hawthorne to be the best value, but they’re usually around $200 a night. Good thing we only stay in hotels four or five times a year.

  4. Extreme John says:

    Pretty funny how I decide to check my reader for any new updates and see a hotel rant. I find it funny because just today my business manager booked a last minute hotel room for me online through Westin, I always enjoy Westin hotels.

    The problem was that she realized she booked my room in Chicago North and it should have been the North River or something like that. She called Westin to have the reservation switched from the one hotel to the other, the Westin’s response, “Sorry no refunds and we can’t switch the reservation.”

    Customer service at it’s highest, so as it stands I now have 1 room for like $489 (2 nights) at a hotel I will not be going to, and I have another reservation at the Westin on the other side of town $400 or something in that range (2 nights) at the hotel I will be staying at.

    I guess my thought is that I see how it benefits Westin to double bang me now, but will that help them in the future when I never stay at a Westin Diplomat Hotel again? Nope, especially since I usually stay in a Westin at least 4-6 times a year.

    Customer Service Fail on every angle.

  5. It’s unfortunate you had a bad experience. Hubby and I have gotten into the habit of looking at the reviews on the various travel sites and trying to gauge what the hotel is really like before booking our stay (if at all possible).

    Truthfully, I wouldn’t expect a Holiday Inn Express to bring you a toothbrush. Towels? Yes. The missing trash cans? Yes. Giving you another room that doesn’t smell? Yes. But it’s up to you to raise the issue. This line of hotels is designed to be simple but it should be a lot cheaper. But, like anything else, they charge those prices because people will pay them.

    I hope you have better luck the next time you have to stay in a hotel. I’m with you. I do Marriott’s as much as I can.

  6. Dan says:

    For $179, they should be trimming my nose hairs if I want them to. I remember when Red Roof Inn’s were $44 a night.

  7. C. Princess says:

    I was once in Rio for Carnival one year and the hotel I was staying at openly admitted the rate of their rooms were 5x higher than any other day {with the exception of New Year’s} out of the year. Unfortunately inconsistent price changing is at every hotel around the world.

  8. The Hubs was stuck in the city for 3 days because of the G20 – don’t get me started.

    But you make a point. You can almost always talk down the price of a hotel room. It’s insane the wiggle room they have! That room sucked and I wouldn’t have been happy to spring $179 for it.

  9. You guys got some good comments on this issue. Just about everyone has stayed at a hotel at one time or another in their life and more than a few have had bad experiences. It’s all about expectations, isn’t it?. As a former hotelier let me comment on some of the things that I see here: First, we all pretty much know how Mike feels about his experience by the title of his post, The Hotel Scam. So without appearing to defend the hotel industry of which I was a part of for over 25 years let me try to clarify a couple of things:

    A Holiday Inn Express is what is called a “limited service” type of hotel, basic amenities only, you were lucky to GET a toothbrush much less have it brought to your room. Like ReformingGeek points out, get another room, yes, trash can, OK, unfortunately you must make yourself heard and keep after them. Limited service also means, limited # of employees.

    Any hotel reserves the right to raise prices when something is going on around them which makes room availability an issue. When the PGATour or the Super Bowl is in town you can be sure that the hotels will take advantage of the situation by raising their rates. Customers like C.Princess call this “inconsistent pricing”, hotels have another name for it, it’s called yield management or RevPar which is just another way of saying maximize your daily rates. The airlines have been doing it for a long time. Ask any of the 200 or so passengers on your next flight somewhere how much they paid for their ticket and you might get 200 different answers! Where it hurts a hotel is when they don’t deliver the service expected with the increase in rate. And how can they expect to do this as a “limited service” hotel?

    That leads us to ExtremeJohn’s comment about his Westin Experience. There could have been a number of problems here which would lead to his bad experience but without knowing all the facts I wouldn’t be able to defend the hotel. He says he had his business manager make him a “last-minute reservation” “through Westin” when the sort of treatment he says he received from Westin when he tried to cancel is more like the treatment you could expect from the likes of Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, etc, THEY do not care about your problems, they NEVER refund money unless it is their fault. Had you booked directly with Westin on THEIR reservation system I suspect you would have had no problem getting another room at a different Westin. I did this all the time when I worked for Hilton. A customer would have his secretary or a travel agent book a room at another Hilton in town when it was my hotel he was wanting to stay in. They would call in a panic when discovering their error and I would be their hero when I would say, “no problem, let me take care of that for you” The only reason I might not be able to do this would be if I was sold out on the nights in question. It may be that the particular Westin he was working with was sold out on those nights and his business manager inadvertantly made a non-refundable reservation. If you call a hotel to cancel a reservation on the day of arrival and the hotel is sold out due to a special event, you are not giving them much of a chance to resell the room, and then they might get tough with you on a refund.

    Don’t get mad at front desk people who are only authorized to make the standard discounts, IF they are available on that day. AAA, AARP, and other discounts are usually worth 10% off, again, based on availability. If you want deeper discounts or want to try to cut a deal, CALL THE SALES DEPT, they are the ones who can go deep with the discounts IF you convince them you are worthy!

    But getting back to ExtremeJohn’s experience with Westin. If his reservation had been booked on the Westin system and Westin acted the way he describes here then shame on Westin for bad customer service.

    Hope these comments help

  10. That’s unfortunate. I read an interview with the new CEO of Holiday Inn and how they are trying to “upgrade” their brand and are insisting on maintaining sufficiently high rates so that people recognize Holiday Inn as a quality (nonbudget) hotel.

    That strategy, with the economy in tatters, seems like the wrong strategy at the wrong time.

  11. the Holiday Inn needs to get over themselves. seriously. i don’t know who they think they are. good rant.

    bambam cemetery

  12. tallelf says:

    Hotels have some issues, as does any business. CC they were merely trying to capitalize on everyone else. The fact they offered to have a tooth brush available is impressive. I can’t remember the hotel that I stayed at but when I hit the front desk for a tooth brush and a bottle of mouthwash, they said that would be 5$. I thought that some of these would be within that 179$ increased fee. This is one of the reasons that when people come to visit, if I am not able to accomodate them in my house, I would recommend some of the local bed and breakfasts instead of the hotels. (Also they are too far away) but that is another blog in and of itself.

  13. ZXT says:

    $200 is a highway robbery for something like that. You should have send a copy of your CC to Holiday Inn themselves.

  14. Fabulous says:

    I love travel websites that offer reviews on hotels. I ALWAYS use those before booking a hotel ANYWHERE. The pictures are misleading but reading real reviews from people is the best thing. If there are 47 reviews and the majority of them are good/excellent I’ll stay there!

    As for increasing their prices because an event is in town. Thats only natural. Everyone is trying to make a buck, especially in this economy, and thats what they do. If they aren’t going to make money when Grand Prix is in town when will they? (I use Grand Prix because when my friends came to Montreal a few summers ago they were paying about 350$ a night for a hotel that normally costs 150$).

    As for BoomerBloggers comment I have to disagree with him when he says that Expedia refuses to refund anyone for any reason. I’ve had to cancel two trips a few days before I was booked to be in a hotel. I called and explained the situation to them (okay so I lied and told them that my friends that were coming to visit got called for deployment earlier than they thought so they had to cancel) and they refunded my money in full..yep not even a cancellation fee. I think you just have to know how to speak with the people on the phone.

    CC: Next time you call a hotel for a rate you should do a few things. 1. check the rates on THEIR website, 2. Check rates on Expedia, etc. 3. When they quote you a price that is higher than the expedia rate just tell them that you found it for cheaper on another website but would rather book through them directly and that you can email them a screenshot of the price you found if they’d like. I guarantee you that the hotel will match or beat the lower rate you found. You have no idea how often I do this for my company.

  15. Jacki says:

    When we travel anywhere I always stay with Marriott…never been unsatisfied. I am always prepared to spend more because we need a small kitchen for Emma (since she has to eat Gluten Free) and so rooms with at least a microwave and fridge cost a lot.

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