Monday, November 20, 2006

Hotwire.com - great bargain or total rip-off?

Hotwire is a very special hotel reservation site. I personally had an open mind as I tried to use hotwire to find hotel bargains in two cities in the US. But I stopped, or rather I was stopped before I could succeed in my quest.

Hotwire gives you socalled hotel deals in specific areas on your destination. I say "so called" as the name of the hotel will not be disclosed to you before you have made your reservation. This secrecy guarantees, according to the founder mr. Ottmar, great deals for the customer. This as famous hotels would, according to him, ruin their reputation if it was known to the market, that they gave customers the kind of bargains that only hotwire may provide.

I think this sounds very strange. I've had great deals from other hotel reservation sites on prestigious hotels at very reasonable prices. To know the name of the hotel is a must - this gives the customer a chance to ensure that the hotel he has chosen is the hotel of his choice. He can also cross cheque by visting the website of the hotel before completing his reservation.

This secrecy is not made better by the fact that a reservation with hotwire is irrevocable. If you have ordered a room with hotwire you'll never get your money back. And I mean never, however early you may try to cancel your reservation, what ever reason. This is a very bad deal indeed for the customer. Other hotel-reservation sites may charge your card as you book, but you will, nearly always have a possibility to cancel and get your money back.

But I wanted to check the site for myself. I tried, to see what six different websites had to offer for a hotel room in New York and Boston from November 10th to November 12th. This comparison ended up impossible on hotwire. As I succeeded my search in Boston, and changed to New York I got a pop-up window that tried to force me to register my profil with hotwire. This window was impossible to remove, and I could not continue my search. So I was forced to quit. This way to recruit new customers is completely unacceptable.

Mr. Ottmar may claim that he provides me with the best deals. But as I lack the name of the bargain, I will only have his word. This combined with the absence of any cancellation policy has convinced me that hotwire is nothing for me. If anyone of you can prove me wrong, I would be more than happy to know.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The whole point of hotwire is that top hotels do not want to give out there bottom end prices, and that makes complete sense. Hotwire will almost always yield you the lowest price for the hotel you end up with. For example, I just booked a room in the InterContinental Chicago on New Years Eve for $99 plus tax, for a grand total of about $120. Hotwire also shows the exact amenities that the hotel has, so if you do a little reserach in the hotels in your particular class level on the site, it's pretty easy to figure out which one it is. If you really want to know, you can even call Hotwire and ask them questions about the location, such as what and what is within a couple blocks, and based on their answers it's quite easy to figure out what hotel you will end up with. I basically knew that it was going to be either the Hyatt Regency or the InterContinental. Hotwire is definitely not a scam, it's a way to get the best deal on a certain star level hotel, in a certain specified area. If you want to know the name of the hotel then of course you can expect to pay a lot more, the whole point of hotwire and the reason that they can offer such prices is because this way the hotels guarantee that a number of rooms will be sold and and they know they won't be empty, and you can't cancel because if you did and the hotel can't fill the room they will lose money. When you make a regular reservation you will be paying a much higher price, but if you cancel the room, the hotel figures there's still a chance to make some of their money back last minute by unloading it on hotwire or a similar site, but when you are already paying the rock bottom price, the hotel cannot afford for you to cancel out the room when they could have put someone in their who would have paid over double what you did. If you must know the name of the hotel, clearly hotwire is not for you, but if you are ok with any 4-star (or 3-star of 2-star, etc. depending on what you are looking for), you can specify this and the hotel you get will be guaranteed to be in that class level.