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“Bait and Switch Online Booking”

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Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Saint Augustine North
Ranked #14 of 79 Hotels in St. Augustine
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 30 March 2012

This review was written solely for the purposes of helping other travelers make better informed decisions about where to stay, and more importantly, how to book. We got a real education about how Holiday Inn Express and IHG (the online booking company used by Holiday Inn Express) operate. By sharing that experience we hope it helps others avoid falling prey to fraudulent online booking practices. This was so blatant that we're pursuing the matter with the Better Business Bureau.

We booked a KING SUITE NONSMOKING on the Holiday Inn Express website for 2 nights last weekend, and we guaranteed the reservation with our Visa card (or so we thought). Note that we did not book the room through a third party website (out of concerns that something would go wrong and the reservation would not be honored)--we booked with the Holiday Inn Express website thinking that was a safe bet. When we arrived late Saturday evening, the woman behind the hotel counter told us she didn't know how we could have booked that particular room because it was not available. She first tried to blame TripAdvisor. When I produced the printed reservation confirmation from the Holiday Inn Express website, she tried to blame their own website and said they were not responsible for bookings made on the website--they have no control over what the website does.

So there we were hours from home, late at night, and pretty much at their mercy. We had taken the bait on the website, now came the time for the switch. They said all they had available was a handicapped King room, but that it was big enough to fit a roll-away bed. Then the lady behind the counter said they would cut us a break and not charge us for the roll away bed. Then she explained that there was no way for her to change the rate in the computer, and we would have to pay the higher, local rate for the King room (which was higher than the online rate for the King Suite that we had reserved). As I got more agitated, the other lady behind the counter "somehow" managed to figure out how to reduce the room rate. So rather than having to try to find a room late at night in an unfamiliar town, we gave in and decided to stay there. That's probably what most folks would do, and that's how they get this bait and switch scam to work.

When we got to the room, they had moved the furnishings together in order to make room for the roll-away bed, placing it right up against the AC unit. We rearranged the furniture enough to move the roll-away bed away so someone could actually sleep on it without getting blasted by the cold air all night. The room was located right at the elevator doors, so all night we listened to folks coming and going, the elevator doors, and the noisy ice machine right next to the elevator. Not a great way to start our Spring Break vacation.

When we got home, I happened to notice a guarantee in the email we were sent to confirm the reservation. I went to the IHG website that sent us the email and found the following "guarantee":

"A Guaranteed Room
Booking on IHG.com is the best way to guarantee your room. If for any reason your reservation cannot be honored, IHG will provide you with a room and transportation to another convenient and comparable hotel. And, we’ll pay for the full cost of the first night’s lodging price, plus tax."

So I called to find out if the guarantee was real, or just a marketing gimmick. It turns out it was just a marketing gimmick.

The first gal I talked to at IHG (Kate) was empathetic, and said the hotel would have 48 hours to contact us, and that we should be getting the first night refunded to our credit card since they failed to honor the reservation. She explained that it was the hotel's responsibility to keep the website informed as to the available room inventory. Well, 48 hours came and went, and when I called back, Verl at IHG had a much different story. He told me that because the hotel offered us a room that could "accommodate our party, at the hotel's discretion", the guarantee did not apply. He also said they hear this complaint a lot. He said it is not uncommon for the website to book a room that is not available. This is their standard operating practice. I couldn't believe my ears. If all that is true, then what is the point of booking a room online at all? All you would be booking is any room they happen to have available when you get there. I doubt that business model would fly very well or for very long, and I've not once had a similar issue in all the years we've been booking other hotels online.

So ask yourself, what kind of guarantee is that? Here's the gist of their guarantee: You can book any room you like on the Holiday Inn Express (IHG) website, and if it's available when you arrive at the hotel, it's yours. If not, the hotel can offer you whatever room they have left, and for any rate they like, and if you don't like it, tough. Find your own room somewhere else (and get no compensation). Or take what they offer for whatever rate they offer, and if you don't like it, tough (you get no compensation). In other words, it's no guarantee at all; It's just another bait and switch scam.

We may only spend between 1 and 3 grand a year on lodging as a family, but we're taking Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express off the menu permanently. I'll also update my corporate profile and drop this chain. There are so many other great hotels that don't seem to have this bait and switch policy.

To put things in perspective, at least we had a roof over our heads and didn't have to trek out at 9PM to try to find a room somewhere else. But if it was your family, and your vacation started out like this, what would you think? Would you knowingly put yourself in this situation? Well at least now you have the benefit of someone else's bad experience, so you can make a better informed decision. Happy travels!

Room Tip: Booking online at Holiday Inn Express.com may result in bait and switch--be aware of this before you...
See more room tips
  • Stayed: March 2012, travelled with family
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15  Thank B K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
IHGCare, Guest Relations Manager at Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Saint Augustine North, responded to this reviewResponded 30 April 2012

Dear B K,

I would like to thank you for your review and apologize that your experience with our hotel did not meet your expectations. I would greatly appreciate further information regarding your stay in order that I can investigate further.

I have sent you a private message to obtain additional details about your experience.

Thanks,
Brenda J.
IHGCare

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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668 - 674 of 779 reviews

Reviewed 30 March 2012

This hotel is very nice. The only drawback was the lack of parking due to many commercial trucks parking across many spots.

Breakfast was nicely laid out and kept very clean.
Room was clean and very serviceable

I would stay here again when I return

Stayed: March 2012
1  Thank C H L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 29 March 2012

My husband and I stay in Holiday Inn Express hotels frequently and always have found them a great value and this was no exception. The service is great, room clean and comfortable and there is a better than average complimentary hot breakfast to start the day. I wouldn't hesitate to book here again on a return trip to this beautiful city.

  • Stayed: March 2012, travelled as a couple
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Thank RMD48_12
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 27 March 2012

Our stay was wonderful at this hotel. We stayed there while at a baseball tournament with lots of teams staying there also. The pool was nice and they were very accomodating to our boys. The breakfast was great and there was plenty of it. The staff made the comment that because they knew the baseball teams were there, they had prepared extra food. There was not a shortage and the breakfast staff went out of their way to make sure everything stayed stocked up. The front desk was so kind as to let us have a late check out without even a hesitation. The beds were very comfy and clean. All and all, I would definately stay there again!

  • Stayed: March 2012, travelled with family
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Thank the4ofus95
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 26 March 2012

I made my reservation about 10-12 days ahead of our scheduled stay. My husband has a difficult time riding elevators so I requested a ground floor room, if possible. Check-in is at 2:00 and we arrived just before 3:00 and was told the only room available was on the 4th floor, which is their top floor! I know that special request can't always be honored, but I find it very hard to believe that there was not one single room available on any of the other three floors, especially when I saw people still checking in after 9:00 pm and heard another family checking in (on the 4th floor) after midnight!

The rooms were very nice and breakfast was good, but very crowded.

I'm not sure if we will stay here again because of the room location problem.

  • Stayed: March 2012, travelled with family
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Thank 4849Traveler
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
IHGCare, ihgcare at Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Saint Augustine North, responded to this reviewResponded 26 April 2012

Dear 4849Traveler,

Thank you for taking the time to let us have your feedback via Tripadvisor following your recent stay at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Saint Augustine North. Unfortunately, there are times when an IHG property is unable to accommodate a request due to unexpected stayovers or other situations which may arise. Our Hotels always try to honor requests such as ground floor, adjoining rooms but they are by request only and are not guaranteed. I apologize the hotel was unable to accommodate your requests. I have forwarded your comments to the General Manager and ownership of this hotel. I am confident they will take the necessary steps to hopefully prevent a similar situation from occurring again in the future. Once again, we appreciate you taking the time to share your comments with us. We know you have many choices when it comes to lodging and we hope you will continue to choose IHG for your future travel needs.

Sincerely,
Brenda J.
IHGCare

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 24 March 2012

This was our first visit to this spot after many trips to the area using other facilities. We found the room clean and neat. Our room was street side ground floor and we found the traffic noise a bit unnerving at times. Like most newer facilities this establishment uses energy saving devices on the AC unit. The fan kept shutting on and off during the night, we were unable to make the fan, at least, run all the time. We found it quite disturbing to our sleep patterns. We probably will not stay here again because of this on our next trip.

  • Stayed: March 2012, travelled on business
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1  Thank CanonShooter1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
IHGCare, Guest Relations Case Manager at Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Saint Augustine North, responded to this reviewResponded 25 April 2012

Dear CanonShooter1,

Thank you for staying with us and taking the time to leave a review. I am grateful that you liked your room and gave us a high cleanliness score.
I do apologize that you were not happy with the AC unit. Some of our units will turn off if movement is not detected in the room. It part of our go-green initiative. Your comments have been documented and shared with the appropriate department.

Thanks again,

Katie J
IHGCare

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 18 March 2012

Room was spotless, room decor was very nice and even the towels smelled good. Breakfast included was the standard hot and cold HI Express options and well stocked, very good. In room wireless worked fine, fast and was free. Microwave and fridge included in the room. Easy access to historic St. Augustine.

  • Stayed: March 2012, travelled with family
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3  Thank Lola2104
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Saint Augustine North

Address: 2300 State Road 16, St. Augustine, FL 32084-0550
Phone Number:
Region: United States > Florida > St. Augustine
Amenities:
Business Centre with Internet Access Fitness Centre with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
#1 Business Hotel in St. Augustine
#2 Family Hotel in St. Augustine
#4 Romantic Hotel in St. Augustine
Price Range: £77 - £155 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:2.5 star — Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Saint Augustine North 2.5*
Number of rooms: 82
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
St. Augustine Hotel's Old City Charm Delights GuestsWith breathtaking beaches, thrilling attractions, historic sites, booming businesses and more, St. Augustine is an unforgettable place. You can easily experience all the "Ancient City" has to offer at the Holiday Inn Express® Hotel & Suites Saint Augustine North. Located off I-95, the hotel's guests in St. Augustine, FL are close to St. Augustine Airport and downtown.Whatever your definition of fun, you're sure to find it here in the nation's oldest city. The hotel's address in St. Augustine, FL is just six miles from the charming historic district. Beach lovers can delight in Anastasia State Park with gorgeous beaches and fishing. The hotel's location near Flagler College also gives guests the ability to tour this amazing hotel-turned-college. From Ripley's Believe It or Not! to the Fountain of Youth, our patrons can enjoy it all.Corporate guests appreciate our location off I-95 and six miles from St. Johns County Convention Center. The hotel's location near Flagler College, the Florida National Guard and many major companies makes business travel simple, too. The free high-speed, wireless Internet access , 24 hour Business Center and spacious meeting rooms also help you work with ease.You'll love unwinding in the heated, indoor pool, working out in the 24-hour Fitness Center and enjoying our shopping package with St. Augustine Premium Outlets. You'll also enjoy our complementary hot Breakfast Buffet every morning. Book now for modern fun and comfort in the "Ancient City." ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Holiday Inn Express Hotel And Suites Saint Augustine North
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Saint Augustine North St. Augustine, Florida

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