On our travels we normally prebook all our accommodation using various on-line booking sites, and, generally, this system works very well, and we've enjoyed some great bargains. But our experience in Istanbul has made us think twice about using the sites which take your money at the time of booking and issue you with a voucher which you surrender to your hotel on arrival. The bottom line was, the hotel we had booked (for two nights) was quite happy to take the voucher and have us fill in all the forms, but then, a few hours later, told us that they'd sold our room to another couple who had walked in off the street, and there was, therefore, no accommodation for us at the hotel! The fact that we had already checked in, and had paid for the room almost a half-year before, didn't phase them one bit. Their policy, the manager finally admitted, was to dishonour the vouchers (which are, of course, sold at less-than-the-rack rate) if a full-price paying customer should turn up in the meantime. He even said that he had informed the various booking sites about this!
So what did we get for our two-night voucher? The offer that the manager would ring around the nearby hotels and see if any of these had a room available for us. He was able to turn up one (it was, it was explained to us, a heavy booking-demand weekend); this other hotel had just one room left (it turned out to be the worst room in the place, opening onto the lobby, which was very noisy until quite late at night), and we could take it or leave it. But, if we chose to leave it, we were "on our own". As far as he was concerned, this offer fulfilled the obligations of the prepaid voucher (which, of course, he retained... so I presume the booking site paid him the money it had collected from us and he settled with the host hotel).
According to the terms of the voucher, the hotel that "bumped" us is a four-star hotel offering suites. What we wound up with, for the first night, was considerably less than that, although I must admit that the manager of the "substitute" hotel, clearly aware of our displeasure, couldn't have been nicer, and for our second night he moved us into a room away from the lobby which was more than satisfactory. But the point that really shocked us about all this is that neither hotel seemed to think that there was anything particularly unusual about voucher-holders being "bumped" in favour of full-price customers, even after check-in. This would seem to me a very good reason for travellers -- at least those going to Istanbul -- to avoid the booking sites that charge you up-front, and stick with the ones that allow you to make the booking without actually paying anything until you check in.
I informed the booking site about this matter, and they promised to investigate, but, a week later, I still haven't heard about the outcome, and nobody has talked about this companiy's obligations in a case where they hold on to your money for a half-year without even guaranteeing that you'll get a room of the stabndard you paid for in the hotel that they offered. It's something to consider when choosing your booking site. What do other Tripadvisor writers think?
I have deliberately not mentioned here the name of the booking site (yet), because I don't think the problem is unique to that site... it would probably apply to any of the "prepay-and-get-a-voucher" sites.... and, also, they may still decide to get back to me with an equitable solution (banning the hotel might be a good start). I will be happy to mention the name of the hotel that treated us like this, but I'll do it in a few days, as a follow-up post, after I have finally given up on hearing again from the booking site. This first post is just to make you think twice before you book... and, hopefully, to encourage any others who have had similar experiences to write in with their cautionary tales!Edited: 08 June 2014, 00:14