Saturday, September 22, 2012

You could have had a fan, but...

I spent most of Friday evening at the airport in Indianapolis. American Airlines was doing that thing where they can't decide if they want to cancel a flight or not. So instead, every 20 minutes, they just delayed the flight by another 20 or 30 minutes. (See the snapshot from my phone? That's all the flight alerts my travel tracking app sent me last night.) Eventually, as I rather suspected would happen, the flight was canceled, so I went to reclaim my bag and make my way to a hotel for the night.

As I was collecting my things and figuring out next steps, I pulled up Hotels.com and found a hotel downtown that I'm familiar with, one I like, and it happened to be the cheapest option downtown this evening. So I call them on the phone, instead of booking via Hotels.com, because my hands are full and I'm walking, trying to get out of the airport. The hotel clerk, after bumbling through the process and putting me on hold multiple times, quotes me a price higher than Hotels.com ($169 versus $149). I ask her if she can match the Hotels.com price, meaning, can they come down by $20? She says nope, sorry, can't do that.

I asked to confirm: So you're telling me, that I have to go book online instead to save that $20, and then your hotel has to pay the booking website 20% of the booking amount? You can't just give me the same rate directly, saving me the time and saving you the booking fee? Nope, can't be done, she says. "Um, that's like, some third party thing, we can't match what they do." (Buh?)

OK, thanks, no point in bothering then. I'll go online.

By now, I'm already kind of miffed that the hotel wouldn't help me out. Last time I was stranded due to a flight cancellation, another hotel downtown had no problem matching that rate. It's a shame that hotel wasn't available this time around. I then decided that I don't really care where I stay for the night, I just want it to be as cheap as possible and somewhere downtown, so I can make my way to the Amtrak station early in the morning.

So while riding back downtown in the back of a taxi, I fire up the laptop, plug in the Sprint modem, and pull up Hotwire.com. Hotwire had a four star hotel in downtown Indy for only $113 tonight.

So I booked it. On the Hotwire website, they don't tell you the name or exact location of the hotel until you make the booking. And when I pushed the "buy it" button I found out that I had ended up with the exact same hotel that I had talked to on the phone. I got it for a full $56 less than what I was quoted on the phone, and they still had to pay the website for the booking. Yet, I was ready and willing to pay them $36 more directly.

I'm left frustrated by all of this. This hotel could have turned me into a fan by doing me a favor on a really stressful travel day. Instead, they turned me away, and then it dawned on me that if they're not going to be loyal to me, maybe I shouldn't bother being loyal to them.

Oh, and I was booked to stay at this hotel for a week next month. Now I'm starting to think I should cancel that and just use Hotwire instead. Treat me like a commodity, and I can do the same to you.

(Oh, and after getting to the hotel and checking in? I wanted to meet a friend for drinks, but I decided not to spend another dime in the hotel that didn't seem to care about me. So, we went down the street a block to the other hotel, the one that treated me better, but didn't have any rooms this time around. It felt good spending my money in their lobby bar, instead of at the first place. I'm a fan.)

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