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

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.


Tagged with: online, travel, vacation
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 bookit.com 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

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 + reservations.com 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.

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 Booking.com. 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. Booking.com 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 Booking.com 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 ftc.gov/complaint.

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.

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