Hotels Say They Want Us To Book On Their Web Sites, But Its Still Quicker And Easier To Call
Im a bit out of touch when it comes to booking hotel rooms on line. Most of the time I stay at the hotel thats hired me for a consulting assignment, or at a local hotel they book for me. On vacation we tend to visit friends and family and stay with them. Given all the press releases I see about the latest growth figures for on-line booking, when I do use hotels on-line sites I assume (ha!) that the bugs will have been worked out of the process long ago. After all, because its hotels least-expensive source of business they want us to book that way, right?
And yet: Using Google Maps to find hotels close to a new client earlier this year, I found one that looked right, clicked on the link in the pop-up box on the map and made the reservation. It wasnt until I checked the confirmation e-mail the day before leaving that I realized that the URL in the link was wrong; the booking had been made for a different hotel in the same chain, in a city with the same name but in a different state. And it was a prepaid, non-refundable reservation. I was able to sort this out by phone, and mentioned it to the check-in agent when I arrived. œOh yes, we get about five guests a week with that problem. Really? And no-ones gone back to Google Maps and corrected the URL?
Last weekend my wife and I needed a hotel in Ohio for a family event. The only non-smoking rooms available on-line at the most convenient hotel were handicapped-access rooms with two double beds; not ideal, but everyone else had already decided on that property, and so we booked it. I called the hotel that evening (after the confirmation had come through) and asked if there were any non-smoking rooms with king or queen beds. œSure, no problem, we have several; let me change that for you. It was cheaper, too.
Then our plans changed slightly and I needed to shorten our stay at the hotel by one night. Should be easy on the Web site, I thought, using the Modify link. Ah, well, yes, but if you want to change the number of nights, you have to cancel the booking and re-start the search for availability. Again, really? I called the hotel and they made the change in less than a minute.
I still prefer booking on-line; its easier to look at all the alternatives from different chains and pick the one thats best for me. I also understand that hotels would prefer that I do that, as its cheapest for them and they don't want to burden their staff with unnecessary phone calls. But if they want guests to focus primarily on the Web site for reservations, that site has to carry all the inventory the guest can book, and it has to function in ways that allow the guest to make and change reservations in the simplest, most helpful way possible.