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Why I Will Never Book with Hotwire Again

Arlington, Virginia
Destination Expert
for Washington DC
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3,103 posts
101 reviews
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Why I Will Never Book with Hotwire Again

I have recommended Hotwire on this forum for years, although not as frequently as LMT Club. Still, I have found it to be a great source for getting tremendously discounted hotel rooms over the years. I have never had a problem with it. Until now. And unlike baseball, this dreadful experience has left me with such a sour aftertaste that the "3 strikes" rule will not apply.

You may remember my post earlier in the week about hotels at Dulles for my one-night stay last evening. I wound up making plans to go out to Wolf Trap with my friend last night so I elected to just stay right there in Tysons Corner to get out to Dulles by cab easily in the morning. I booked through Hotwire the morning of my stay, only to be informed by the hotel I was assigned at check-in that they had no trace of the Hotwire reservation and could not accommodate me for that evening. It usually takes at least 24-48 hours to get the Hotwire reservation from their end, they said, and that there was nothing they could do.

Needless to say, I was fed up by this point. I was pushing it late to make it out to Wolf Trap, and so I just sucked it up and called the Ritz across the street, made a reservation and checked in shortly thereafter. I got my room, changed, and headed out to Wolf Trap, just making it in time for the performance.

Today I called Hotwire and explained what happened. They called the hotel and conducted an "investigation" - including calling the hotel, which looked at security cameras to try and locate me entering the hotel and the agent with whom I spoke. After 45 minutes they were unable to argue the fact that I entered (And exited) the hotel but said they had to speak with the agent to proceed. They never even implied that a refund for the stay would be a possibility. I told them that I appreciated their efforts, but 45 minutes consumed enough of my evening...what would come out of it? And they kept dodging the question as to whether any refund would be issued.

Instead, they offered me $25 "Hot Dollars" for my next Hotwire stay. A far cry from the $80+ loss I will incur from not being able to check-in at the hotel and the nearly $250 I spent at the Ritz. Yes, I know the Ritz was my splurge...not theirs. I'm not asking to be compensated for that. But somewhere a lapse in communication between Hotwire and the property occurred and put me out $80+ with no compensation, considering the Hotwire credit is useless to me, as I plan not to book through them again.

As my mother always said, you get what you pay for. I hope that my experience causes others to BE CAREFUL when booking through Hotwire for same-night reservations (or reservations within 48 hours of check-in, for that matter). Hotwire's customer service is pretty much non-existent, so don't expect much help from them regardless of the situation. They will side by the hotel unconditionally.

I hope you don't see this as my endless rant...I'm not asking for your sympathy. Rather, I hope this serves as a warning for others. As I see it, if it saves anyone from the situation Hotwire and the hotel put me in (and thank goodness my stay was only one night's loss!), it was worth my posting.

AM13

Washington DC...
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13,668 posts
308 reviews
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1. Re: Why I Will Never Book with Hotwire Again

Thanks, never would have thought to worry about time lags involved with 3rd prty bookings! I hope your credit card company refunds you the money.

Edited: 04 August 2013, 02:14
Washington DC...
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733 posts
50 reviews
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2. Re: Why I Will Never Book with Hotwire Again

Thanks - that is good to know! What an awful experience!

Arlington, Virginia
Destination Expert
for Washington DC
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3,103 posts
101 reviews
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3. Re: Why I Will Never Book with Hotwire Again

Honu_Ohana...do you think I should call the credit card company? I didn't think of that. I booked it on a Visa Signature.

Sterling, VA
Destination Expert
for Washington DC
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12,144 posts
141 reviews
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4. Re: Why I Will Never Book with Hotwire Again

AM---Definitely call the credit card company. Tell them what happened and why you dispute the charge.

That said, sorry to hear that this happened to you. I have to say that I've never used any third party booking sites, but that's just me. We always aim to book Marriott properties as we are Marriott Rewards members.

You should consider posting this on the bargain travel forum here on TA. After all, I'm sure those who use that forum would be interested to hear what happened to you.

Arlington, Virginia
Destination Expert
for Washington DC
Level Contributor
3,103 posts
101 reviews
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5. Re: Why I Will Never Book with Hotwire Again

SueFee - Thanks for your advice. I will go ahead and call my CC company and post that on the bargain travel forum...I never knew it existed. We're going to be traveling quite a bit in the next few years with our son off at college. Plus, we are in the process of CONSIDERING relocating to Boston :(. All the towns we need to be in a lot have Marriott or Marriott-branded properties. We try for Ritz-Carlton's, but they're few and far between for us. Only one of any use is Boston's but it's usually too overpriced for me. I'm new to Marriott Rewards... but have 4 nights so far this year. Going for 10 by the end of December. Hoping to start switching to them more and more. I have high SPG status now, just starting to prefer Marriott properties over SPG for location and hotels where I need them...more convenient.

Do you find Marriott Rewards to be a good value? Any info you have on the program would be helpful to me, considering I'm sort of a newbie!

AM13

Fairfax County...
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2,368 posts
25 reviews
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6. Re: Why I Will Never Book with Hotwire Again

AM13, sorry to hear about your bad experience. Which hotel is this? It sounds to me that the hotel may also be at fault. What was Hotwire trying to investigate? Are they saying that they did get you a room at that hotel, but you did not show? Why else would they want to see the security video footage and why else would they not refund you $80 you paid them?

Based on what Hotwire told you, it seems to implied that the hotel did look through the security video footage for Hotwire. If that is case, then the hotel appears to have your booking, and was working with Hotwire to determine whether you were a no show, and who at the hotel talked to you. If the hotel did not have your booking, there would not have been a need to look at the video footage. The hotel could have just told Hotwire that they did not have your reservation, period. I would dispute the credit card charge.

I also hardly ever use third party booking services. The more parties involved in any transaction, the more chances for error. It is also more difficult to recover when something goes wrong. I do still use third party booking services if they are reputable AND if the price difference is worth the risk. For me, that price difference need to be at least 25%.

About hotel loyalty programs, the best one really depends which one has the most coverage at the places you will use them, and which one gives you more benefit when you stay at their properties. IMHO, the Marriott Reward program is not as good because it is harder to get to at least the Gold status, and you really need at least Gold status to have any meaningful benefit. The best program is SPG, but SPG has very limited coverage in the US.

Edited: 04 August 2013, 06:46
Sterling, VA
Destination Expert
for Washington DC
Level Contributor
12,144 posts
141 reviews
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7. Re: Why I Will Never Book with Hotwire Again

With silver status in Marriott Rewards, you still accumulate points towards free nights. That's what attracted us to it in the first place.

Fairfax County...
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2,368 posts
25 reviews
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8. Re: Why I Will Never Book with Hotwire Again

True. But with Gold status in most programs, you get free internet access, chance for a room upgrade (subject to availability and individual hotel decision), and usually at least a free continental breakfast for two. I found those benefits to be more meaningful when I do stay. With the recent devaluation of their loyalty points, both Marriott and Hilton are making the free nights harder to get.

But at the end, the most important thing is whether a particular hotel group has decent properties at the cities you want to visit.

Washington DC...
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13,668 posts
308 reviews
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9. Re: Why I Will Never Book with Hotwire Again

Yes, if you have not already called and followed up in writing w/ your credit card company, do it!

Arlington, Virginia
Destination Expert
for Washington DC
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3,103 posts
101 reviews
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10. Re: Why I Will Never Book with Hotwire Again

Ed - I think that is what they were trying to imply. However, the responses they gave me on the phone seemed to imply that have reason to believe I DID, in fact, show up and try to check in. To be completely honest, I suspect that the property in question didn't even go through the video footage and were just looking for an answer from the front desk agent with whom I spoke (who was off shift when Hotwire, the hotel, and I were on a 3-way call). Had they simply looked at the video footage (they asked me for a description of myself, the desk agent, etc.), the call would have been 5 minutes, tops. I could narrow it down to the half-hour in which I attempted checking in.

I agree the hotel may be at fault, too. Regardless, I plan on disputing the credit card charge and seeing what happens there. Honu_Ohana - thanks for that suggestion as well. I will be sure to do so.