Friday, August 01, 2008 trying to pass a less than 1 star hotel for a 3 star hotel.

I took my boys to Houston to get out of town for a few days. I decided to book a Hotel via since I had good luck with it previously. The downside of Hotwire is sometimes you get a less than desirable room. In Dallas, I got a room at the Wyndham which is a nice hotel but the rooms are usually near the elevators and all you hear all night is the roar of the elevator. I had figured for a quick trip to Houston. I had planned to got Galveston but could not find anything for under $149 a night and that included these "Mom and Pop" dive hotels that usually cost around $50 a night. I have family in Houston I could have stayed with, but did not want to impose on them. I checked Hotwire and they had a 3 star hotel for $65 a night. I figured this was a pretty good deal and I almost did not book it since the Radisson was offering their hotel deal for a few dollars more but had free hot breakfast. When you are traveling with 2 boys, a hot breakfast at a hotel can save you money. I decided to book the Hotwire hotel for 2 nights and wound up with a Econo Lodge. I would like to know when Econo Lodges started offering 3 star accommodations? I do have a travel agent license and I am quite familiar with Hotel ratings. At best, Econo Lodge is a 1 star. I had a birthday party for my Cousin's daughter in New Braunfels where I was going to get to see all my cousins and my aunt and uncle. I went to the birthday party and left for Houston about 2:30PM. I get to this hotel which is near Nasa and it had changed Hotel names a few times. My GPS had it listed as a Quality Inn and Suites. I go to check in and the two ladies working behind the counter did not seem to know what was going on. They give me my room and they proceed to tell me it is a Smoking room and it is the only room they have available. I explain I have 2 kids and my kids have allergies. The smoking room would not be acceptable. They told me I would need to call Hotwire to dispute the charges since they already charged my account. I immediately hand them back their hotel key. I did make a point to go see just how bad of a "smoking" room it was. It was on the back side of the hotel in the "ghetto" section. There were a few shady looking folks also staying in the same area. I grabbed my MacBook, used their internet and booked the Radisson near the airport. I check in at the Radisson and it much nicer than the Econo Lodge. The room is much bigger, plus the amenities were a lot nicer. I proceeded to call Hotwire and waited on hold for 20 minutes. I finally get a rep who is very rude and inconsiderate. She berates me and explains when I clicked on the accept button on their site, I was agreeing to their terms. I politely explain that I was offered a 3 star hotel for $65 and Econo Lodge is not even a 1 star hotel. She told me they had reps who had visited the hotel physically and it warranted at least a 2 1/2 rating. That is still not the 3 star that they offered me. Secondly, this hotel was not even a 2 1/2 star because 2 1/2 star hotels usually have a restaurant attached to it and this one did not and they usually offer hot breakfast and this hotel only offered a Continental breakfast. I had explained that I was a licensed travel agent and would put my license on the line that this hotel was not even a 2 1/2 star hotel. The rep basically told me I was screwed and hung up on me.

First of all if you are going to shaft customers like that, why even have have a customer service department? She could have given me the benefit of the doubt and offered me some sort of credit. She could have said, "I am sorry to hear that sir. I can offer you a credit on your next stay using Hotwire." She could have even offered me a gift card for a free meal somewhere and I would have probably given them the benefit of the doubt. What is interesting is that I noticed that Hotwire was recently sued because they were doing the same thing, offering 3 star hotels and "bait and switching" with 1 and 2 star hotels. Here is the link:

and here is another unhappy Hotwire customer forum/viewtopic.php?t=591775

I am going to dispute the charges with my bank and will never use Hotwire ever again. I will also make it a point to tell folks not to use Hotwire either because it is only going to save them headaches later. I can only imagine what would have happened if I was traveling overseas or perhaps out of state? I might have not been so lucky finding another place to stay for the night. It is like the old adage says, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."