When you’re booking with a major hotel chain, you want to make sure you get the best price. Many chains promise this with ‘best price guarantees’, but we’ve found these are often not worth the sites they’re written on.
I’d like to believe in guarantees. There’s a nice old-fashioned feeling about the word that suggests they’re part of a Victorian gentleman’s bond of honour and anything attached to them should be safe.
I get that feeling when I look at the big ‘best rate guaranteed’ badges on hotel websites. The guarantee is supposed to mean that the hotel will match any cheaper price found elsewhere.
I’m quite a lazy shopper (terrible admission for a Which? employee I know), so sometimes I’m likely to see that badge and think it’s not worth the effort to search elsewhere for something cheaper. After all, hotel chains wouldn’t put the promise on their websites if there were cheaper prices around would they?
Why promise if you can’t keep it?
Well from our Which? Travel’s investigation, it seems they would. We looked at 14 hotel chains that were offering ‘best price guarantees’ and found better prices for the same hotel on the same date for 12 of them.
However, when we went back to those 12 and asked them to put their guarantee in to practice, we were disappointed. Only two of the chains – Britannia and Jurys Inn – immediately offered to match the prices we had found.
Most of the chains told us that their guarantees only applied if we had booked a room with them first, at the higher price. Once we had paid for the room, we could then submit our evidence of the cheaper price and the chain would decide if it qualified for their price match guarantee.
And often the claims procedure was inconvenient in itself – involving online forms, pricey 0871 numbers, currency conversions and being told to wait up to three days for an answer. This wait could make the guarantee worthless – if the decision went against us we could have lost out on the cheaper option and paid more than we needed to.
I think that any hotel chain offering a price guarantee should match a cheaper price as soon as you tell them about it. After all, they can quickly check online to see if you’re telling the truth.
Until they start doing that, I’ll be ignoring these guarantees. They might as well put a badge on their website advising ‘shop around for the best price’.