Some cases, even once resolved, leave us scratching our heads. Rod Mirchev’s is one of them.
Mirchev had booked a room at the Hotel RL in Washington, D.C., for Inauguration Day weekend. He got a great rate, too. Until, that is, his online travel agency, Booking.com, pulled the rug out from under him.
Mirchev suspected he was the victim of price gouging. When the downtown D.C. property realized it could charge a lot more than the rate he locked in for his room that weekend, he was going to have to pay the price.
Mirchev asked our advocacy team to suspend our efforts to fix the problem, saying he was in direct contact with hotel management to resolve the issue. Optimistic, we respected his wishes.
Days later, Mirchev updated us, saying that the case had “resolved.” He agreed reluctantly to pay an additional $35 per night to keep his reservation and said the hotel had given him a new confirmation number.
This “resolution” didn’t feel right. It seemed to confirm Mirchev’s initial suspicion — that we were indeed bearing witness to an unethical price hike. Despite his insistence that he considered the case closed, Mirchev agreed we could reach out to Booking.com to get its side of the story.
Booking.com put the facts of the case into context, explaining that the price booked by Mirchev was in fact a mistake. The hotel “loaded incorrect rates” to the computer system for that weekend, and as a result asked Mirchev to pay $499 per night plus tax, instead of the $123 per night he booked.
At that time, Mirchev contacted company executives himself, and reached someone who could review the matter.
Once Booking.com became involved, it negotiated the hotel’s rate down to $309 per night, which was still unreasonably high for Mirchev. While he wanted the rate he booked, which was made in good faith and with no attempt to deceive, he knew the hotel was sold out. Mirchev would have no options should the hotel decide to cancel his reservation.
Backed into a corner, Mirchev countered with a nightly maximum of $200 per night, which Booking.com was able to reduce to $175 per night, all taxes included.
Our contact at Booking.com added that its customer service team successfully advocated for Mirchev, bringing the overall price for his four nights to $700, including tax, instead of the $1,714 demanded by the hotel. Booking.com added that Mirchev accepted the resolution, along with an apology, and the matter was considered closed.
OK, maybe you’ve closed the matter. And perhaps even Mirchev agrees. But the consumer advocate in the room still didn’t accept that the original price was not honored.
After all, we are a society that operates on rules and regulations, and where none exist, we rely on principles. Honesty. Decency. So I had to go there:
We are an organization that does not condone consumers “gaming” the system or unethical attempts to score too-good-to-be-true airfares or room rates. In this case, however, the rate that Mirchev was quoted and booked is consistent with the average rate for the hotel on a typical weekend. This is not a case of Mirchev finding an absurdly low rate and locking it in, with the hope of not being found out. As a consumer advocate, I don’t bring a case to a company that includes claims I believe to be made in bad faith.
I appreciate the timeline you present and the efforts made by Booking.com to correct the situation. I ask, however, how can a consumer know that the rate posted on your website, consistent with an average rate over the year, is real and not the start of negotiations with a hotel property?
The answer? It was an honest mistake, with no attempt to deceive by either party.
Pretty dissatisfying, wouldn’t you say?
In this case, despite the outcome, it seems the online travel agency actually added a level of protection that Mirchev would not have had if he had booked directly with the hotel. Hotel RL could have kicked him to the curb, citing its “error.”
Defeated, I informed Mirchev of the case’s disappointing conclusion, but shared my optimism that the hotel will honor the reservation.
Mirchev added, “If they don’t honor the reservation, I will not be happy.”
That makes two of us.