By Christopher Elliott Travel columnist
Tribune Media Services
updated 1/25/2007 11:29:35 AM ET 2007-01-25T16:29:35
TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER

Q: I recently made a reservation at the Days Hotel & Conference Centre Toronto Downtown through the Daysinn.com Web site, but later found a better rate on another site, Hotels.ca.

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Days Inn offers a “best rate” guarantee that says if you find a lower rate than on its Web site or through its toll-free number, your first night is free.

But when I tried to claim my free night, a Days Inn representative said they couldn’t honor my request because the room description on Hotels.ca “does not specify the number of beds in the room.”

Instead, the site just indicates that it’s a standard “double room.” The Days Inn in Toronto, the representative added, offers rooms with one or two double beds, as well as more than one room type with two double beds.

I’ve tried to guide the customer service representative through the process of booking the hotel by phone, but they continue to refuse to honor my claim. When I ask to speak with a manager, they become rude and obnoxious. Can you help?
— Stan Dulkiewicz, Rochester, N.Y.

A: It looks as if you found the identical room on Hotels.ca for less than the Daysinn.com Web site. Days Inn should offer you a free night, no questions asked.

Here’s the problem: The company’s “best rate” guarantee, like that of other hotel chains, is not as straightforward as it first seems.

The rate you find doesn’t just have to be viewable and bookable from another site, but it also must be for the same hotel, the same room type, the same number of guests, in the same currency and for the same dates. Plus, you have to make your claim within 24 hours of booking your room on Daysinn.com or through its toll-free number.

You can find the terms and conditions online here.

Many industry critics and hotel guests have denounced “best rate” guarantees as little more than marketing gimmicks. Once you check out the fine print on the Days Inn site, it’s easy to understand why.

I’ve reviewed the correspondence between you and Days Inn, and the hotel repeatedly denies your request for a free night, citing a problem with your room category. That seems like a cop-out. Why should you lose a free night because your hotel doesn’t describe its rooms precisely enough on a third-party Web site?

When you find yourself stuck in a request/denial cycle, try escalating your case to the next level. Don’t just ask for a supervisor. Consider calling, writing or e-mailing the executives at Days Inn who are in charge of the department that’s rejecting your claim. Often, you’ll be transferred to an executive office with the authority to overrule the decisions of a customer service agent.

I contacted Days Inn on your behalf, and it reviewed your case. It said that its agents were wrong, and that you do qualify for a free night under its best rate guarantee. The company is processing your claim after all.

Christopher Elliot is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. E-mail him at chris@elliott.org, or troubleshoot your trip through his Web site, http://www.csr.elliott.org

© 2006 Christopher Elliott ... Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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