Blind Hotel Booking – Seriously, Internet?

With my busy social calendar (read: my girlfriend’s busy social calendar) over the coming month, this past weekend was looking to be my last opportunity to take to the Sierra’s for a weekend of skiing before spring and summer race into Northern California. When nearly 20 inches of snow fell on Tahoe in 3 days last week, it was a near certainty that I would find my way to Tahoe.

Initial plans called for a couples trip, but circumstances beyond my control lead to the girls backing out and me and a friend planning an early Saturday to late Sunday ski adventure. No longer did we have to meet the high (although likely diminished since dating us) standards of our girlfriends, but  we could let function guide our decisions — we are men after all. So I took to the internet to find the best deal on a hotel that met our minimalist qualifications.

That’s when the internet made me an offer no logical person should make, and I almost accepted.

It actually made me the offer twice. Once through Priceline’s “Express Deals” and again through Hotwire’s “Hot Rates”. To secure “Super Savings” for our desired night and location, all I had to do was blindly pay for the reservation without knowing the name of the hotel or the exact location. I could not read reviews or view pictures, but must trust them to provide a quality stay. I don’t trust William Shatner, but I do love deals.

Why I Almost Said Yes

The offers simplified my buying process immensely by giving me what I wanted (a quality room for a lower price than their lesser quality brethren that I was also considering), and not complicating with additional information to review and consider. I have reviewed some of the benefits of doing so in my earlier article on Product Messaging.

I could save the time of reading reviews, formulating opinion, being let down when good looking deals are marred by bad reviews, and book a steal of a room.

***Do not discount the fact that the turn from a couples weekend to a guys weekend meant impulsive decision making with disregard to quality was fully on the menu***

Why I Did Not End Up Buying

Up until that point I had followed the standard internet flight/hotel/restaurant search process. Filter out anything over budget, remove 1 star listings (keeping it classy), and read reviews to catch red flags and develop general opinion to help in making my decision.

The cheapest option through my initial searches was a 2 star smoking room with generally bad reviews that included details of the unique decor which included bloodstained sheets with cigarette burns. Turns out my standards are not that low.

Could you imagine if I had blindly booked a deal just based off of price at this hotel? In all likelihood if I had booked and not read up on the place, the stay would have been fine, and I would have been happy with the outcome of my thrifty risk. But I know I could not resist digging into the reviews once I had the name of the hotel, and would have felt hoodwinked if I found anything less than 5 star reviews. If it was a well reviewed place, why would they not use that to their advantage in getting me to stay with them, and why are they having a hard time filling rooms to begin with?

Turns out I am willing to pay more for less if it comes with the reassurance and knowledge of what I am getting for my money. With the amount of information available to consumers today, withholding transparency creates a huge amount of distrust, not a good thing for customers to feel.

Why Hotel Booking Sites Offer Such Services

Here is the claim from Hotwire regarding why these deals are being offered in this manner.

When brand-name hotels use us to fill rooms that would otherwise go unsold, their prices are deeply discounted. Hotels don’t want to publicize rates this low, so we hide their name, address, and picture until after booking.

What is more likely is that the hotels have suffered from bad reviews or PR in the past, and are looking for quick wins to fill their rooms that frugal travelers will blindly jump on. It cannot be easy to rebound from even a few highly negative reviews in today’s world of information. Even if you respond and improve your services or offerings, the review generally remains as a permanent mar to your record.

As I learned while bar tending in college, if a customer has a great experience they will tell their friends, but if they have a bad experience, they will tell EVERYONE. With the internet giving everyone a medium to voice their dislike, that can be hard to recover from.

Has Anyone Booked This Way?

I would expect most people who book blindly have excellent or at least satisfactory experiences. I am wondering if any TVF readers have been so bold. If so, what lead you to make the decision to take the risk, and was it worth it?

  • Danielle Dhaliwal

    Ricky and I totally did this using Hotwire when we went to Vegas. We ended up in a pretty decent place not too far from the strip. Had a rooftop bar and casino and let’s face it if you are going somewhere like Vegas you may not end up using your hotel room for more than a shower and a place to store your luggage. If the deal was good enough I think I would do it again but maybe I am just not as classy as you.