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Last Updated: August 6, 2020

Third Party Hotel Booking Website Warning


As you probably know, there are plenty of websites like Travelocity, Hotwire, and Expedia that provide a much needed service of rate comparisons for airline, hotel, and rental car bookings as well as vacation package options. When it comes to hotels, it has been my experience that these services often offer the same rate that anyone can get by booking directly with the property. My issue comes in where unexpected fees are tacked on at the very end of the reservation transaction process.

It is worth noting that third-party websites (TPWs) will sometimes sell rooms at lower prices than what the hotel will give you in person. Once I was stranded in Fort Lauderdale because I missed a connecting flight to Aruba. It was a busy weekend, but a TPW found a room at a decent rate. It would have been faster to take a cab to the hotel (which I would have to do anyway) than to book the room online, so I got the cab. When I got to the hotel, I was quoted a rate of about 50% higher. When I asked them to match the online rate that I proceeded to show them on my phone, they said “No”; I sat in their lobby and made the reservation online.

On the other hand, it’s happened to me at least twice that a reservation I made through a TPW never got transmitted to the proper hotel or the hotel lost it. Both times the mess got sorted out, but it was only after quite a bit of complaining and fuss.

On to the point of this newsletter — let’s say you want to book a room at a specific hotel and don’t need to shop around. Let’s use the Longhorn hotel in Las Vegas as an example. The following image is what you might see in Google:

Longhorn hotel - Las Vegas

Google lists the actual Longhorn website second in the search results. If you click the first link, here is what you would see from Reservations.com: a $38 room. That seems more than fair.

Reservations.com - a $38 room

Next, here is what you would see if you clicked “RESERVE”:

Reservations.com - a reserve

Hey, wait a minute! What is that $19.99 service fee? If you click the down arrow to the left of “Room cancellation policy, hotel information and fees”, here is what you would see:

Reservations.com - hotel information and fees

This is ridiculous and unethical! Third party hotel booking sites make plenty of money through kickbacks from the hotels. It is unprecedented, as far as I know, to charge both parties for the same service. I am getting sick and tired of getting quoted one price up front and then getting hit with hidden fees for things that are traditionally paid for by the merchant at the last step before clicking “pay” or on the bill.

Meanwhile, here is what you would pay directly at the Longhorn web site, the same $38 for the room. Notice that there is no “service fee” just for making a reservation. The $7.90 amenity fee, which I could easily rant about too, that would be paid regardless of who you book through.

Longhorn web site

It just goes to show that you get the same room at the same base price either way. However, unnecessarily jumping through a third-party website you get hit with a $20 service fee. Basically, a fee to put an unneeded third party between you and your hotel.

What can we learn from this?

  • If you know exactly where you want to stay, book directly through the hotel.
  • When doing a search for a specific business, many web sites will spoof that business for search engine optimization purposes. Look carefully at the URL’s to make sure you are being taken directly where you want to go.
  • Before buying or reserving anything online, check every line item for hidden fees. This goes for paying restaurant bills too, but I don’t want to get off topic about that.
  • Do not patronize Reservations.com.