Since 2005, I’ve spent a lot of time living out of hotel rooms. The programming opportunities where I live are limited. So I’ve had to take jobs in areas near my home, but far enough away that I usually need to stay in hotels.
For most of that time I’ve used the Priceline “Name Your Own Price” system with good success. That system allows you to specify a “star level” that you want and a “price level” that you are willing to pay and through some black magic they (often) find a hotel matching your requested star level at your offered price.
But every so often, something goes wrong. Today, what went wrong is that the hotel that I “won” is not up-to-snuff with regards to its assigned star level.
This week, I ended up bidding on 2.5 star hotels. In this area, 2.5 star hotels include hotels such as Marriot’s Courtyard Inn, Springhill Suites, and Hilton’s Hampton Inn. But this week, I won a stay at hotel that is not in that league. Not by a long shot. If I were to give this hotel a star rating, it would be a 1 star hotel.
Where did things go wrong? Priceline’s custom ratings system. If you visit the priceline web site, you will see that they rate hotels:
We consider a number of factors in evaluating the quality of participating hotels such as: amenities, facilities, reputation, brand, other rating services, customer feedback from guests who have stayed at the hotel, etc to assign a single star rating.
What’s missing? Quality. A hotel may have a pool, but if you wouldn’t even fish out that pool why should it count as an “amenity”?
This “1-star” hotel offers a pool, spa, breakfast and other amenities. However, the quality of those amenities is poor enough that one would not recommend them to anyone else. That is the case with this week’s hotel. The amenities are of poor quality. But in the Priceline world, the quality of amenities does not seem to be of any importance. Just the number of amenities.
So, next week, I will have to go up a star level and have to pay more, just to know that my chances of getting this hotel again are diminished.
Finally, to add insult to injury, I had to pay $70/night to get this low quality hotel. Whereas, I normally pay $50/night for a much better quality hotel (timing is everything n the Priceline world). But the “normal” price for this hotel is $82/night. So I only saved $12/night. On a normal week, I pay $50/night for a room that goes for $130/night. That’s a savings worth mentioning.
In a perfect world we all can agree on what a 2.5 star hotel. Until then, we can just hope that some day Priceline begins to fall in line with everyone else.