As a young adult (who wasn't lucky enough to be born into a family with money), I know first hand how important budgeting is. So, when it comes to booking a vacation, I'm always on the lookout for a great deal.
When I first heard of Hotwire, I decided to give a shot. You get a "great" hotel at a discounted price. The only catch is you don't know what the hotel is ahead of time.
My first experience (which was about three years ago) was a good one. We got a fairly nice boutique hotel. Although it wasn't a hotel that we, personally, would have chosen to stay at, we couldn't complain about it thanks to the price. That good experience led us to booking with Hotwire again, followed by a few more times. Throughout the years, I started notice a decline in the quality of hotels we would get. No longer were we getting nice boutique or even "brand name" hotels (as their website suggests). Instead we were getting "no name" odd-ball hotels.
Still, the hotels were clean and served the purpose, so we continued to book.
On this occasion, I realised I had booked my hotel in the wrong location. I called Hotwire to change it and, to my grateful surprise, they helped me! When I got off the phone though, I realised there was a problem. My original reservation had been at a 3-star hotel. My new reservation was at a 2-star. Why was I being downgraded?
Not only that, but the hotel that they put us in had terrible reviews. To top it off, the price of the hotel was actually cheaper through the hotel's website than through Hotwire! I thought this was supposed to be a discount website?
I called back and let them know that there had been a mistake. I'm willing to pay more for a nicer hotel, but I refuse to stay at this place.
The woman who took my call had to be the rudest customer service representative I've ever spoken to and absolutely refused to help me. I mentioned the price difference to her and she suggested that I may have an upgraded room at the hotel, rather than a standard one, which is why I'm paying more through Hotwire. I told her I don't want an upgraded room. I want a new hotel. She said she could refund me the difference in the cost of the room. I repeated that I didn't want a refund in the difference. I wanted a refund on the hotel!
Her response was to tell me that I was given a "once in a lifetime opportunity" with this hotel and there's nothing she can do for me. I'm sorry, what?
My emotions got the best of me and I started crying. Full on sobbing. I begged and pleaded with her to put me in a nicer hotel. The reviews on this place make it sound like it's like something out of a horror movie (I may be slightly exaggerating, but you get the point).
Instead of sympathizing, she repeated that there was nothing she could do for me and asked me to "wait on the line for a brief survey" and then proceeded to hang up on me!
There was no survey. No refund on the different cost of the room. No refund. Period.
I was livid! How can you call yourself a customer service representative and hang up on a crying customer? A customer who has been with you for years!
I wrote Hotwire an angry email, explaining what had just happened. My response was this:
Thank you for contacting Hotwire Customer Care regarding your reservation with <removed for security purposes>. I understand there is some concern with the quality of this hotel. I am sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused.
I can assure you that we expect a quality experience and a clean room in working order from all our hotel partners. In fact, we regularly evaluate our suppliers to ensure they are providing our valuable customers the wonderful stay that they expect when booking through Hotwire.
If you arrive at the hotel and the establishment does not meet your expectations, please do not hesitate to contact us at the number below so that we may work with our hotel partner to resolve the issue. Our Customer Care Associates are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If we can be of further assistance, please feel free to reply to this email or call us directly at 1-866-HOTWIRE (468-9473). Thank you for choosing Hotwire.
Joseph T.Hotwire Customer Care
There was absolutely no apology for the customer service rep's behaviour. Not only was it ignored altogether, but I'm pretty sure I was given a standard, automated, response.
So, I called the hotel and asked what type of room I was receiving. The manager at the hotel seemed nice enough when speaking to her on the phone (fortunately) and told me it was a standard room. I told her how Hotwire said it would most likely be a bigger room, due to the price I'm paying. She said, "No, with Hotwire, we only give standard rooms."
I mumbled something about not liking Hotwire and, to my surprise, she agreed with me!
I asked how much it would be for a room upgrade. She stated how much I was paying and I interrupted her. The amount she stated was actually $10 a day less than what I was paying. She told me she was a bit surprised because the price she had said is the price Hotwire members usually pay! To me, it sounded like I was getting ripped off by Hotwire! So, I did what anyone else would do. I called Hotwire back.
This time I received a customer service rep that couldn't seem to understand what I was telling her. When I complained about the price difference, she put me on hold and called the hotel. She spoke with the same manager I spoke to. When the rep came back to the line, she said the hotel manager told her the rooms are actually $50 more than I was quoted!
I tried to explain again, "The suites are that much more. But the room that I was given, by Hotwire, should have cost me at least $10 less a night. The hotel manager told me that's the price that someone else who booked off Hotwire, shortly after me, was given. And that's the standard Hotwire price. Which makes sense, since I'm currently paying more through Hotwire than if I had booked through the hotel directly."
Still, the rep didn't understand me.
I explained, again, that I just want to be put in a different hotel and I'm willing to pay more for the difference. After another 5 minute hold, she came back to tell me there was nothing that could be done. They've already made an "exception" for me and they can't do it again.
"But you put me in a 2-star hotel when I had a 3-star before," I protested.
"When you booked the 2-star, the rep on the phone would have followed policy and told you it was a 2-star. You agreed to those terms before the end of the phone call. Therefore, you made the choice to go to a 2-star."
Well, I don't recall hearing that it was a 2-star. Granted, I was occupied at work at the time and rushing through the call. Regardless, it was a mistake. I called back right away and I'm willing to spend more money.
Still, they refused to do a thing.
I'm now paranoid about this hotel and very upset with Hotwire's service. Maybe the hotel will end up being nice after all, but after the way I was treated by Hotwire, I will never book with them again.
In short, I will never book with Hotwire again because:
- Being a loyal customer means nothing to them;
- If they're nice enough to allow you to make one mistake, they'll hold it against you and won't ever allow you to make a second one, regardless if you're willing to spend more money;
- They don't care about customer service. If you're crying on the phone with them, their response is to hang up on you. No apologies given;
- The "high-standards" of hotels you receive with Hotwire are usually low quality, no-name hotel/motels;
- Hotels show more appreciation to people who book through the hotel directly, rather than though a third-party (as told to me by hotel staff);
- Even if you buy Hotwire insurance, you can't cancel your reservation unless an immediate relative dies (as I discovered from countless, negative, reviews);
- Hotwire is owned by Expedia who owns Hotels.com and Trip Advisor. That right there says it all.
The best advice I can give you is to do your research and make your booking directly through a hotel. Most hotels have a reasonable cancellation policy as well, unlike Hotwire.
Update: Shortly after writing this post, I noticed the charge on my credit card, from Hotwire, was higher than the charge stated in my confirmation email.
They had charged me in American dollars (despite my original booking being in Canadian). I called to dispute the charge and was originally told that nothing could be done. When I pointed out the fact that my original booking was done in Canadian (and ranted about all my prior issues with Hotwire), the customer service rep let down his guard and actually tried to help me. He ended up putting through a request (yes, a request. Not the actually refund) for a refund on the American charge. He also put through a request for their "price match guarantee" since now my booking was costing me almost $40 more than if I had booked it directly through the hotel's website (he originally stated he couldn't help me with the price match, since it has to be requested within 48-hours. I mentioned my two phone calls and the email - in which I asked for a refund - that were ignored and he actually chose to try to help me).
Although I appreciate this rep actually assisting me, I now must wait up to 7 to 10 business days to see if the refund requests go through. Great.
He also wouldn't budge on switching hotels for me.
Further update: Aug 12: Still have not received my refund. I called Hotwire and spoke with a (surprisingly nice) rep who told me that a refund had been put through. I spoke with my credit card company however and this is untrue.
She put through another request for me.
Update on the hotel: The hotel, was indeed, gross. There was dust everywhere, hair in the bedsheets and in the bathroom and the food was inedible. On our last morning in the hotel, the power went out (in just our room and our neighbours). We had to shower and pack in the dark. We received no sort of compensation for this either.