Why Hotwire’s Pet-Friendly Booking Feature is Seriously Flawed
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Pet owners rejoiced in 2013 when Hotwire added “Pet Friendly” to its list of amenities.
Hotels generally charge an extra fee to accommodate four-legged family members. As a dog owner, I’ve seen rates vary from $10 to $50 per night. The latter only at luxe five star properties. Some hotels charge a flat fee per stay. Either way, it’s probable you’re going to pay to bring Fido along.
The trouble with booking a pet-friendly room on Hotwire is that there’s no way to know which property you’re staying at until (nonrefundable!) money has exchanged hands. Even then, you still need to call the hotel to find out the fee and confirm you’re booked for a pet friendly room – the amenity isn’t automatically applied to the reservation.
I recently ran into an issue where I booked a pet friendly stay on Hotwire, only to find that the hotel had run out of this room type. Many hotels set aside a certain number of rooms for furry guests and there’s no way of knowing if these rooms are available when making a reservation on Hotwire. Since Hotwire sales are final, you can imagine my frustration. Four hundred and some dollars out-of-pocket frustration. It wasn’t the hotel’s fault, but a flaw in Hotwire’s booking system. After a lengthy back-and-forth, the hotel agreed to let us stay in a non-pet friendly room with our dog.
Hotwire went to great lengths last year to launch a new brand campaign that focuses on the happiness travelers feel when they score a great deal. We did get a great deal, but that happiness high dissipated the second I recognized this major glitch in the system. Relaxation no more.
And then there’s the issue of pet fees. Sure, pets can create extra work for housekeeping, so tacking on a commensurate fee is reasonable.
When I paid $125.64 a few weeks ago for a one-night stay at Hyatt Regency Vancouver, the found-out-after-the-fact $100 pet fee floored me. Never in my wildest imagination did I think a hotel would charge such an outrageous sum of money to allow pets. Since Hotwire doesn’t provide any transparency about the actual pet fee, it felt like a case of e-commerce bait and switch. I wasn’t happy.
I reached out to Hyatt Regency Vancouver, as well as Hotwire.
Hotwire claimed no responsibility:
Thank you for contacting Hotwire Customer Care regarding your hotel reservation at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver in British Columbia, scheduled for check-in on October 13, 2015, Hotwire itinerary 5583171563. I understand you are dissatisfied with your booking due to the pet fee. I would like to provide information about your reservation.
We provide as much information as possible about amenities and fees before booking, however, we cannot guarantee that all amenities without fee information are complimentary. I regret we are unable to offer any compensation for this situation.
If we can be of further assistance, please feel free to reply to this email or contact us directly at 1-866-HOTWIRE (468-9473).
Thank you for choosing Hotwire.
Hotwire Customer Care
Hyatt Regency Vancouver was more amenable, after I asked them to consider adjusting the pet fee to a more reasonable amount in this instance. The response:
We will be more than happy to provide the $50 plus taxes for the deep-cleaning pet fee during your one-night stay with us in October 2015 due to the length of your stay. Please understand that our hotel policy has changed in the last year to have the pet deep cleaning fee at $100 plus tax applied for up to 6 nights because of the changing demographic of our travelers.
In the end, Hyatt Regency Vancouver did not charge us for the pet fee. They actually bent over backwards to welcome our dog – after a few ranty tweets about the absurdity of the fee. We had a great stay and I’d definitely go back, though most likely sans dog.
Even at Pooch Hotel in Silicon Valley (touted as most expensive doggie hotel rooms in the US), dedicated doggy suites start at $50 per night. And that comes with 24/7 care, playtime and potty breaks.
When you book a room on Hotwire, you might not know what hotel you’re getting, but you know what you’re paying. When it comes to booking a pet friendly room, you know what you’re paying, but you don’t know the pet fee – or even if there’s a room available. And that’s a problem.
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