I stay in hotels from time to time, but I’m hardly a frequent traveler. I haven’t had to professionally in a decade, and my personal travel only includes a stay or two a year.
So I don’t have much loyalty to this chain or that. I have a vague affection for Holiday Inn, mostly because of Great Sign nostalgia and having that awesome toy Holiday Inn when I was a child. Beyond that minor tug: meh. In the low-middle range in which I generally consume hotel rooms, there just isn’t much difference.
Given that I don’t much care where I stay, I’ve taken to using online travel sites to book. I used Expedia.com for my recent stay in Oxford. It landed me in the Hampton Inn & Suites at exit 188 on I-20. Okeydoke. Whatever. I stayed in the adjacent Holiday Inn Express last time, but like I said, I’m a hotel whore.
When I went to check in, there was a woman in front of me. She was headed to Atlanta but didn’t want to drive straight into the rain, so she stopped for the night. She had no reservation. Fine, we’re delighted to have you, Jessica said. We have plenty of rooms on each floor, and do you have a preference? Oh, we’ll put you on the fourth floor. You won’t have anyone above you then. Off she went.
My turn. I gave Jessica my name, she took my license and credit card, and everything proceeded apace in a courteous and professional manner. But she never asked me if I had a floor preference. I took my key and went to my second-floor room, which was two doors from the elevator and directly overlooked the lobby.
There was nothing objectively wrong with the experience. She told me to let her know if she could do anything for me. My room was clean and comfortable. I got what I paid for. Had there been no one immediately in front of me to provide inadvertent contrast, I’d have never questioned it.
But if you were ranking rooms on the property from first to worst, this would have unambiguously been in the bottom quartile. And there were a lot of vacancies. And I wasn’t offered a choice, like the customer immediately in front of me was.
So did I get a subtle second-class treatment because I used a travel site instead of booking directly with the chain? I’d never considered such before, but it is the most obvious difference between my experience and that of the customer ahead of me. Casual net research seems to confirm that such suspicions not only exist, but are widespread.
I paid $78 plus taxes and fees, while the going rate for my room on the Hampton site seems to be $89 plus taxes and fees. Could I have been offered my choice of room location had I spent eleven more dollars?
Any experiences in this vein, BoWilliams.com readers?