I’ve talked before about online travel agents (OTAs) and their cunning ways to try and get you to book via them rather than going direct to the accommodation provider. They are nothing but a booking platform – a means to search and book accommodation, therefore your booking, the terms and conditions, the cancellation terms and so on are all the hotel’s. Your contract is with the hotel and unfortunately, this means if something goes wrong, Booking.com or any other OTA like Trivago, Hotels.com, Kayak, LateRooms etc are generally going to be unhelpful.
Small businesses like ours are being charged high commissions for a booking when guests go through them, which means a lot of us struggle with already tight margins being reduced anywhere up to 15-20%. Hotels generally offer better rates and terms if you book direct as it still means a win:win for all concerned. The hotel pays less than they would have in commission and the guest gets a better deal too. However, some guests still choose to book through them, despite paying more for their stay and not getting any of the hotel perks because they feel they are a trusted brand compared to a possibly unknown independent hotel or B&B, not realising the contract of sale is the same.
I was disgusted to hear details of a poor family as featured on Rip Off Britain last week who had their holiday ruined by Booking.com, They’d booked a villa on an island for a special family get together but a few weeks after booking it, having now booked their flights too, they were advised the villa had been double booked and wasn’t available after all. I’ve heard this a lot in recent times. At The 25, as with a lot of other accommodation providers, we have what’s called a channel manager. Put simply, when you take a booking, it automatically stops advertising that room on all other websites you might be featured on. Therefore, a double booking would be a very rare occasion (we’ve never had one in over 13 years). Someone would have to be in the process of booking the same room at literally the same time as someone else to the minute. However, I’ve seen on Facebook in hotel discussion groups that Booking.com have regularly double booked other people’s accommodation despite it being sold and no longer advertised. I think they must have some bugs in their system.
However it became double booked, it needed sorting. Booking.com offered a selection of alternate properties of which none were suitable as they were all too few bedrooms or nowhere near where they needed to be staying. Their customer service department then gave another list of properties. They queried one as there was quite a price difference but were told to go ahead and book it. They did so, but were later told that it was on the wrong list and to cancel it and Booking,com would sort the price issue and re-book it on their behalf.
As they had cancelled quite close to the travel date there was a hefty cancellation charge to pay. The accommodation took £14,000 from their credit card to cover these! When they spoke to Booking.com who had caused the issue, they then decided not to take any further ownership and basically wash their hands of the matter! They said the property owner was entitled to charge a cancellation fee, despite them only booking it and cancelling it as Booking.com had told them to!
The family was left out of pocket, couldn’t afford to go away now so lost their flights and even had to stop building work on their extension as the cancellation fee had taken all their money for that. Shocking customer service.
Of course, getting the TV involved soon got Booking.com to change their minds and they admitted handling the situation badly and paid for everything in full as well as several thousand pounds in commission.
So, let their misery be a lesson to you all. It pays to book direct. At worst you’re getting all the same terms but be helping a business survive. At best you’re getting a cheaper room and a better deal overall. There is no benefit to going via an OTA.
Always #BookDirect for the best deal and best customer service.
If you book direct with us and use your VIP code, you’re saving 10% overall on the price, getting a complimentary minibar (for bookings of two nights or more), and a later check out. We make a little extra, you save lots of money and we’re all happy. See you soon!