What happens when a traveler books a room on line – without the option to cancel – arrives, and is told the hotel is fully booked and is offered a room at a hotel that is not nearly as nice as the hotel that was originally booked?
Bait-and-switch takes many forms. It often involves luring customers with a reasonably priced product and then, after they agree to buy it, telling them it is out of stock and offering them a more expensive (or an inferior quality) product.
I booked a room at the Heritage Baan Silom Hotel in Old Bangkok for one night so that I could experience Loy Krathong, a.k.a. the Festival of Lights, up close and personal.
I didn’t want to have to worry about how to get home. I figured that it might be difficult getting a taxi willing to take me back to the distant suburbs, where my Bangkokian friend lives, on a national holiday.
The hotel looked absolutely beautiful in the on-line pictures, and when I arrived, it actually exceeded my expectations. I couldn’t believe my luck. How could a hotel room that cost only US$34 a night be so stylish?
But Bangkok is full of stylish accommodation at budget prices so it was not a complete surprise.
Not only was the hotel itself drop-dead gorgeous, it was part of a complex of beautifully renovated heritage buildings that also housed boutiques, restaurants, and a Starbuck’s outlet.
There were also lots of other cool places in the ‘hood – including a supermarket across the street.
When I went into the lobby to check in, the receptionist couldn’t find my booking (even though I had PAID IN FULL on my credit card).
I checked my inbox on a computer in the hotel’s lobby and found the confirmation letter and number. It gave them to the receptionist. That should have sorted things out
No such luck!
The receptionist informed me that the hotel was fully booked, but – not to worry! – a driver was waiting for me, and I would be driven to an EVEN NICER hotel in The Heritage Hotels Group with EVEN BETTER facilities at NO EXTRA charge!
Imagine that! Everything was being handled with such finesse … a car and driver were at the ready!!! To whisk us off to an even “nicer hotel” with even “better facilities” at “no extra charge” in the same hotel group.
I naively believed the receptionist and didn’t put up a fuss. I assumed it was just another one of those computer glitches that have plagued me on this VERY stressful trip.
In retrospect, I’m not so sure …
In retrospect, I should have realized that if there had honestly been a computer glitch and my room had been double-booked, it would be unlikely that the hotel would have been able to arrange a car and a driver quite that quickly.
Surely it would have required a bit more effort to arrange a car. Two German ladies were told the same thing, and they were NOT the least bit amused at being bumped from their room.
“We have a confirmed reservation,” they exclaimed.
What We Booked
What We Got
The 3 of us were driven past a colourful Indian temple and then through a neighborhood that got progressively less nice. There were fewer and fewer restaurants and cafes.
We turned into a very crappy alley, and the car stopped in front of a hotel that was NOT housed in a heritage building.
The main reason why I had liked the hotel I booked – there were equally convenient hotels in the vicinity that were cheaper – is because it was housed in heritage building, and I’m a buff of heritage architecture.
I could have dealt with that, but things got worse. The hotel was newly constructed, and decoration had not been completed. It looked like one great big construction site. The German ladies protested, and I started taking pictures.
After getting out of the van, I marched up to the front desk said that we had been told this hotel was much nicer than the one we had booked, and it was not only not nicer, it was much, much less nice than the hotel we had booked.
Not only that, it was still under construction, and there was lots of noise. And I didn’t like the neighborhood nearly as much as the neighborhood of the hotel I had booked on line.
I was promised that only the exterior and lobby were being decorated, but that the rooms were okay.
Room with a View
Under protest, I was taken to my room. I took one look, drew open the drapes (it overlooked a construction site), and said, “This is not acceptable. This is not what I booked.”
I returned to the lobby and said, “You have got to honour your word and upgrade me to a better hotel that the one that I booked – not a worse one. I refuse to stay here”
I was offered a refund, which I refused. I said that I had spent 400 baht, or US$11.50, to ride a taxi from my friend’s house to the hotel and would face a similar if not more expensive fare home (and it would take longer) because it was now rush hour.
I demanded that they put me up in a hotel nicer than the one I had booked as compensation for the extreme inconvenience they had caused. Plus … that is what the receptionist at the other hotel had promised.
They finally agreed to put me up in a one-bedroom serviced apartment with a swimming pool across the street.
So much for Loy Krathong. By the time this was sorted out, it was too late for me to explore the waterfront as I had planned.
I was also too tired to deal with crowds.
I should have stayed at my friend’s place and watched it on television.
I ran into the German ladies in the street later that evening. They told me that a bus had arrived while we were checking in and believed we had been bumped from our rooms because the hotel wanted to accommodate a larger group.
Did they think that we had no choice but to accept their offer of accommodation in a less desirable hotel in a less desirable part of town?
Perhaps it really had been the result of a computer glitch, and they were trying their best to sort things out.
But I find that hard to believe. While I can’t prove it, it seems like a classic case of bait and switch.
But even if it had been an honest mistake, the situation could have been handled better.
We should not have been lied to, and we should not have been expected to settle for a hotel room in an inferior quality hotel without getting some kind of compensation.
A discount on the room, a foot massage in the day spa, a cocktail at the bar, a dinner voucher at the cafe …
Surely they could have done something to make us feel better.