After reading the numbers of complaints regarding hotels and internet reservations on this site, I though it might be helpful to get an insiders view.
I have been in the hotel industry for several years and have worked directly with these websites for the past few. They are not bad businesses and offer the individual traveler the opportunity to book reservations at discounts often reserved for large corporations. The problems with these sites are that they are often deceptive, inflexible, and unresponsive. If you know what you are getting, you can make a more informed decision. At the end I will even teach you my insiders trick to getting a better deal than through these websites.
These sites are based upon the idea that they will move 1000s of rooms of excess inventory during my slow periods. In turn they receive an incredibly low rate and are able to tack on a mark up for their services. The mark up tend to run 15% to 40% but I have seen it as high as 50%-75%. When you consider that the hotel still pays the housekeeper, replaces the shampoo (why does everyone steal the shampoo? Do you not have shampoo at home? Yeah, you know you do it too. Just a little hotel humor) washes the sheets, etc. We often time will see the website clear several times as much money as we do, but an empty room makes us no money, something is better than nothing.
What these sites do not tell you is that we offer them whatever rooms are left. That is the agreement. If you plan on putting 4 people in a room, you are not guaranteed to get a room with 2 beds. If you ask for non smoking, you may not get it. We try to accomodate these guest requests as best we can, but if it comes down to a guest who chose our hotel specifically and is paying a higher rate or someone who booked a generic cheap room online the person who booked it through us will get their choice. When you book it directly through a reputable hotel, they will guarantee you room type.
The second problem is that you pay them for the room and not us. If you have a complaint about your room, and I am sure that no one who reads this site would ever complain :-), we can do nothing to adjust your rate. You paid them for the room. We never ran your card and we don't have your card number. In order to receive any sort of refund, you need to work through them. I wish you the best of luck in getting something done about it from them.
If you need to cancel the reservation, you will pay a cancellation charge. This is because you pay for the room at the time at which you make the reservation. Most larger hotel chains will not do this. Most chains will also offer you a cancellation policy that allows you to cancel up to 24 hours before arrival time at no charge. If you need to check out early for some reason, most chains will charge a small early departure fee. If you made an online reservation, you will be paying full price for all of the remaining days.
What happens when you show up and the hotel is hosting a australian yoddling conference or an all night praise a thon in the room next door? You are still paying for the room if you booked it online. You walk in to find a large cockroach dead on your bed? Still paying. You can contest the charges or argue with the site for a refund, but this is time consuming and often futile.
Looking for a better way to make your reservation?
Step 1) Look online and find the best rate you can.
Step 2) Document where you found it.
Step 3) Call the reservations number for that hotel directly and ask them to match the rate.
This method allows you to avoid all of the problems listed above with these sites, plus it makes the hotel happy. You receive all of the service benefits and flexibility. The hotel doesn't have to pay the huge mark up to the internet company. The only person who loses? The website. If you feel bad for them, read some of the rip off reports about them.
Hope this helps. I check this site frequently to find out what other hotels are doing wrong so we can avoid the mistakes. Most importantly, keep traveling! We need to keep this country moving. Great deals abound out there and a great number of hotels are looking to win clients for life.
Thank you for your patient in reading this. I hope it helps someone.
Kansas City, Missouri