The Redhead and the Evil Hotel Consolidator

I ran across an announcement today from a legal office that is looking into reports of travelers being unable to block accessible rooms made at hotel consolidator websites.

Gee, I’ve been writing about that for years, but for those of you who may have missed the redhead’s rant, here goes again.

Be very careful when you book hotel rooms on-line and never, ever book an accessible room from an on-line hotel consolidator.

Why?

Well, first off hotel consolidators only treat reservations for accessible rooms as requests for accessible rooms; but more importantly the reservations are held in the consolidator’s name (not the traveler’s name) until approximately 24 to 48 hours prior to the traveler’s arrival.

In other words if you were to call the hotel directly to confirm your reservation (and to make sure an accessible room is blocked for you) in most cases your name would not even be on file. Consolidators book blocks of accessible rooms and specific rooms are not assigned to travelers until last minute, so in most cases you get pot luck.

Worse yet, when you discover this fact and realize that in all likelihood you won’t end up with an accessible room, you can’t cancel without paying a substantial cancellation fee (which of course is automatically charged to your credit card). So basically, hotel consolidators won’t guarantee you a specific room type, but they will charge you out the wazoo for canceling when you find out how their little scam works. Not exactly a level playing field, is it?

How do you spot a hotel consolidator? It’s pretty easy. They all require prepayment of hotel charges with a credit card and most have some pretty stiff cancellation fees. In my case it was $75 for canceling my reservation a full two months in advance. To make matters worse, I didn’t even see the cancellation fee notice when I made the reservation because it was in a java-script window which did not show up on my browser.

In my case, I was let off the hook because of privilege. Funny how that happened all of a sudden when they discovered I was a travel editor. But prior to that, the reservation agent adamantly assured me, that under no circumstances would they waive the cancellation fee, not even if I died. I felt that was taking things a bit too far.

So remember, take a lesson from the redhead and never do business with the evil hotel consolidator.

In fact it’s a good rule of thumb to never prepay hotel charges for an accessible room. After all, once you pay, your negotiating advantage is eliminated.

What if you get there and the room is not really accessible?

What if it was misrepresented?

If you’ve prepaid your charges you have very little recourse. If you haven’t, well at least you can walk away with a little change in your pocket, and that fact in itself might convince property management to work with you to remedy the situation.

Listen to the redhead! Beware the evil hotel consolidator!