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Did you book that night at the hotel’s site?

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Whether you travel a lot or just a little, you’ve probably gone online to book a hotel stay. Sometimes you might find a travel comparison site gets you the best deal. Other times, you might book directly at a hotel’s website — maybe to earn points for the company’s reward program, or because you have some special requests for your stay.

For those times you’re looking to book directly with a hotel, make sure that’s what you’re doing. The FTC has heard from people who searched online and thought they were booking on a hotel website, only to find they’d unknowingly been doing business with someone else.

The confusion resulted in problems like:

  • arriving and finding no reservation
  • having trouble canceling or modifying a reservation, or disputing charges through the hotel
  • finding reserved rooms didn’t reflect special requests like disability access
  • being charged undisclosed fees
  • paying a higher rate than what’s advertised by the hotel
  • getting credit card charges from the third party, not the hotel
  • not earning points with their hotel reward program

It can be hard to tell that you’re not on the hotel’s site. You might see a hotel’s name in the URL, or call the number shown next to the hotel’s address and not realize it’s the reservation company — not the hotel — you’re talking to.

Your best bet to avoid surprises — look closely at your search results. If you know you want to deal directly with a hotel, take the time to look for signs you might be on a third-party site, like another company’s logo. It’s also a good idea to find the hotel phone number yourself, rather than rely on what’s listed on the site.


Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit


I have comment for you I booked a hotel last night at the Howard Johnson hotel in Stockton, CA the site I used was I got to the hotel and they said they were full and the sight could only give me one night someplace else and said it would take 24 hours to refund the rest on my card and the Howard Johnson Motel said I was on the do not rent list and don't know because I never stayed there before

I contacted to make a reservation my my behalf at ge Norfolk Arms hotel I Arundel.
The 3rd part agent booked me for the 26th of May instead of 26th of August, obviously the hotel allowed me to sleep in the car with my 3yo child. is horrible. They offer a "best price guarantee" but then when you call to adjust the price they claim to not know of any such guarantee.

If a company doesn't follow through on its advertised promises you can tell the FTC at

Not only hotels. I get calls from people pretending to be Microsoft. My sister contacted Norton anti-virus and the email was hijacked to another site who requested that she allow them to access her computer; she did, then got suspicious and cut them off but discovered they had already planted an eye that she had to uninstall. I get calls from people who say they are Microsoft Administration, very foreign sounding, lots of this type of thing going on.

But how do you avoid 3rd party sites? I recently located my hotel, went to their website, and booked my reservation only to receive a confirmation from the 3rd party. What if the hotel's only option is to "throw" you (unknowingly) to that 3rd party site because the hotel chain has made a business decision to have that 3rd party site handle all of their online reservations. And, if I don't want to use that 3rd party site (assuming I can even distinguish it as I am making my reservation), if that is the only option that hotel chain provides then I can't make an online reservation for that hotel without using their 3rd party service provider.

The blog post is about knowing which site you're on when you book a reservation. It sounds like you checked and made sure you were on a hotel's site when you booked your reservation.

This happened to me. I thought I was making reservations directly with the hotel but it was not affiliated with the hotel. I was charged a higher rate than I should have been charged. I tried to cancel my reservation that I made with the bogus company but was told that I still would be charged the total price as a penalty.

The 2 tips in the last paragraph were not very helpful. Are there any more?

Isn't there something the FTC can do about companies which even when ask then on the phone misrepresented themselves and when you type in a hotels specific name their in a search box for the email address and phone number, these unscrupulous companies are listed under that specific hotel chains name; it is complicated for the average consumer to know if the hotel has subcontracted to a legitimate third party company to handle reservations or if it is a unscrupulous company which is does not represent the hotel/motel. It appears that the buyer must always beware; which is so frustrating, and exhausting

Yes, it can be hard to know what site you're on.

You might see a hotel’s name in the URL, or call the number shown next to the hotel’s address be taken to a reservation company, not the hotel, but it could be hard to know that.

To help avoid surprises, look closely at your search results. If you want to contact a hotel directly, look at the page you get in the search results. Look for signs on the page - like finding another company's logo on the page - that show it's a third party site, instead of the hotel you want.

Wow I have to be careful and maybe it's better to go to the hotel or call them from a directory phone book. Sometimes old ways still work better.

The Scam is alive and well with Investment Group Inc out of Chicago. Offering 21k for a 14k expense. The email is addressed as this: Sales IGINC

It happened to us recently. We called 411 for information on the phone number of the hotel and were connected to RESERVATION DESK. Thinking it was the hotel we made our reservatgion only to find that the price was $20. more when we arrived at the hotel. That our reservation did not go directly to the hotel but instead to a 3rd party Be careful even when you call that you know who you are dealing with. We thought we were talking to the hotel directly

Consumers should also be aware of condo/hotel websites doing the same thing. Be sure you are booking with the condo/hotel front desk and not a rogue owner, a travel agent, or a totally fake website with no room to offer at all.

As a hotel manager, I am very pleased to see this getting attention finally. For those requesting more tips on avoiding third parties, I may have a few to add. 1.) When booking online, check for any wording such as "brought to you by" "powered by" "presented by" or any other such wording. 2.) Google allows sites to pay to be a top result, and third parties use this tactic to place their booking sources at the top, all while looking like the hotel site. If you know the actual company or hotel name, type into the address bar instead. 3.) If you are looking to call, make sure the number you are calling is an actual area code number, rather than a 1-888- 4.) Many hotels, especially in the US, have to have Front Desk staff that speak the local language, and in many cases these staff members are local to the area itself. If you call a number and the person does not sound like they are from that area, they may be at an off-site facility. Furthermore, a test I recommend any of my guests to use is to simply ask the person to describe what is in front of them (the lobby). For a person actually at the desk, this is a simple task, though for someone off-site, there may be a clear pause while they try to find a photo to describe. 5.) Many hotels have Apps and so, booking through their apps, many of which are free, you are getting a direct booking connection to the hotel. 6.) Finally, read everything. Especially if you see an asterisk next to something, that means there is more to it than what you immediately see.

I have dealt with these issues for years and it is a constant battle with third parties and the difficulties they impose on guests. I hope things are dealt with rather quickly so that this mess can be fixed finally.

we paid for a room at the good knight inn in Langley paid a 150.00 50.00 for damage deposit when we seen the dirtiest hotel room ever seen ask for a refund they took our key closed and locked the office door and wouldn't give back any money we never even stay the night but we don't have bedbugs or any foot problems from the shower they should have a review of that shabby location its a dump if your readers don't believe this go stay there

I am pleased to see this issue being focused on. For years this has been an issue at properties around the country. It always amazes me to hear a guest yelling at the front desk and our staff for an issue that quite simply is not our problem. Being hospitality professionals we do our best to solve any problem with a smile on our faces even though 90% of the issues with third parties are not the result of an error of the hotel. This can be solved very simply by booking with the hotel directly. It is unprofessional of us to tell a guest that they are not our customer, but it really is that simple. When booking with third parties, the guest is NOT our customer. The third party has the guests money. Not the hotel. Not to mention that in addition to being yelled at by the same guest that did not pay close attention to booking, we also get much less revenue from that same reservation. Third parties have some of the highest commission rates out there. For most hotels, you will not pay any less through a third party than you would at the hotel site.
Deceptive practices used by third parties are cruel and unfair to all guests. It only benefits the third parties because they do not have to deal with an irate guest in person..only via phone.
For me it is simple. Book directly with the hotel. After all, you would not just hand your money to anyone. Pay attention and ensure you are booking the correct way.

This happened to my parents when they came to visit me, halfway across the country. The scam site had the hotel name + in the name, and my mother legitimately believed she WAS booking through the hotel.

We were fortunate that my mother was refunded, my parents could stay with me (I put them up in my bed and slept on the floor) versus arriving late at night in an unfamiliar city, but it's a disgusting scam.

How did your parents get a refund? This happened to my daughter and she received a refund and a month later the charges showed up on her card again.

I travel over 20X/year and always book my hotels on line with the hotel's web site - never any other site. Within minutes I receive and e-mail confirmation. If you follow the same process and DON't receive an e-mail, chances are you've been duped.

It can be hard to tell that you’re not on the hotel’s site. You might see a hotel’s name in the URL, or call the number shown next to the hotel’s address and not realize it’s the reservation company,not the hotel.

For me it is simple. Book directly with the hotel. After all, you would not just hand your money to anyone. Pay attention and ensure you are booking the correct way.

We had the same issue. Thought we were reserving a condo with After the confirmation we received a 2nd email confirmation with additional charges of a $120 cleaning fee and extras, from an apartment management company whose head office is in Armenia.
Cancellation was not permitted. took no responsibility. They are simply the agent. It is laid out in fine print so read carefully.

Consumers should also be aware of condo/hotel websites doing the same thing. Be sure you are booking with the condo/hotel front desk and not a rogue owner

Beware bait and switch and credit card billing for hotel reservations. They have sneaky software with promises and when you print it, they have it deleted. Extreme deception. I hope that website is looked into.

You can report problems with online sellers to the FTC at

I filed an FTC complaint about, not the exact same issue but all I got in the reply was some links about travel scams. Does that mean the FTC is not going to investigate my specific complaint, or is it the norm to kust send some informative links? I feel they coykd have beeb more forthcoming. Nothing in the email refers to my specific conplaint or says I can contact anyone or that I have or have not been scammed or to call some other place.

Thank you for filing a complaint. The information you provide goes into a secure database that law enforcement agencies, including the FTC, use for investigations nationwide.

Last May I booked a room for a weekend at a Holiday Inn just out side Hershey, PA. during that booking I was talked into joining a vacation rewards program because I "earned 10,000 points". The Hotel was legit but the rewards program is obviously a scam. They took my money $249 charged to my credit card, and took my reservations as well. The reservations for that weekend worked well however the rewards program did not. From the date of sale until today I informed these people I was taking a trip to Orlando, Fl in October 2016 but didn't have the exact dates and wouldn't know for sure until mid Sept. I gave them my dates as I tried to make my reservation then I am told there is no availability that weekend. Obviously they plan the tours we are required to take to get our money returned to us as they try and sell us some resort time share I am guessing. They never indicated a schedule for me at time of sale and indicated I would be accommodated any time before my expiration date. Well I just emailed them my demand to refund my money or get my room booked while I am in Orlando. Lets see what happens before I report them to the FTC fir scamming people. All is rainbows and flowers when they make the sales pitch but after they "go you" then all of a sudden there is an only of available clause. I wouldn't book a room at Holiday Inn ever if I were you.

What to do against a third party website selling rooms in a hotel that has more than 5 official & serious health violations not resolved in the legal 60 days period given by law ? We booked 5 rooms through a third party website that is NOT holding the money ( rooms are charged on arrival by hotel).

When we arrived, and aske to visit a room, we couldn't visit because "hotel was at full capacity". We paid for the rooms and left the hotel to go to work. When back at the hotel, the shock was horrible: mold, roaches, filthy smell, bath tub leaks, toilet leaks, stained & sticky carpeting... The filthiest rooms ever ! None of our band member could properly sleep. We stayed 3 hours and left. What are the regulations & obligations about this for the hotel and for the third party ? Thanks for your help.

You can ask the hotel for a refund of the money you paid, file a complaint about the hotel and the website with the state and local consumer protection agencies or state Attorney General’s office, or use other try some of the other methods listed in this FTC article about resolving consumer problems.

I booked a hotel through The hotel was booked and said there was no cancellation policy. My bad for booking anyway. I realized days later that is was the wrong hotel and tried to cancel, said they would send a request to the Presidio Inn and ask them to cancel on my behalf. They refused. The reservation is for 8 months from now...tell me how a company is allowed to make such decisions. If I cancel I will be charged $719.00 Angry!!!

I booked a private camp site in California and had a confirmation number. They (camp owners) have a policy to charge my entire fee for a 10-day stay on my credit card before I arrive. They attempted to charge my card 7 (seven) days before I arrive. My credit card did not go through - the bank changed the number. They sent an email telling me I will loose the site in 48 hours. That email was sent 3 days before I read it. I don't live on my computer. They did not attempt to phone me or mail a notice. Is this legal???? Imagine driving over 4 hours, making plans with friends and family, and loosing a 10-day reservation. Any idea on my legal rights?

great blog and nice one

I thought I was booking directly with The Wall Street Inn in New York city but I learned upon check out when I asked them to print out the bill for my expense report that I had booked with Agoda and I had to contact them to the hotel invoice. I called Agoda and they told me I booked with Priceline. I called Priceline and they told me I booked with Get A Room dot com. I was charged $550 for one night when I swear the rate that I thought I got was more like $350. This is unbelievable. I will probably have to eat the extra $200 as it probably won't be reimbursed by my employer.

so i booked @ hotel for 5 nights with Reservation Counter. for 800$.
All is well - until convention is cancelled due to current pandemic.
I call to cancel but I apparently took out a non refund policy.
I was told no issues, just need to call the hotel and have them ok the cancel. Called the hotel, they said no problem but they can't cancel the reservation because it was done through Reservation Counter.
I call Reservation Counter back, they said no problem, but they need a name and position from the hotel and make sure they are ok with refunding the money.
Called the hotel got a name and her position but she can't refund because they dont' get paid until the day i check in.
which means reservation counter still has my 800$.
Called Reservation back with name and position, and big surprise now it has to be escalated.. (like they couldnt' tell that from the previous times i called??)
so they have my 800$ and wont' give it back to me. .
If that isn't a scam... I will never use a 3rd party again, especially Reservation Counter.. typical round around.
Why this is even legal makes me shake my head.
Whats legal is not necessary moral.

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