Why Hotels Hate Priceline Guests & Other Dirty Little Secrets

This is part three in a three-part series on using Priceline and Hotwire to get killer travel deals. See part one: The Secret To Getting Best Travel Prices on Priceline and Hotwire, and part two: Beat The System: Killer Priceline Tricks For Hotel Deals.

Priceline.com can be used to get incredible hotel deals – if you know how to work the system. But you’re taking some risks to get a good deal, the worst being unable to cancel for any reason. But you might also encounter problems at the hotel because you’re a PRICELINE guest.


I found this great post on a random website from a hotel worker, telling the honest truth about what the hotels think of Priceline customers. I’d love to attribute it but he posted anonymously.

Rule #1 — If the hotel is full, you’ll get the worst room, and if it’s oversold, you’ll be first to be relocated to another hotel (after all, you didn’t choose the hotel in the first place, did you?). Flip side, if the hotel is empty, you might be able to sweet-talk your way to a suite.

Rule #2 — Smoking and bed types are never guaranteed. Priceline advises you to call the hotel and make these requests, but usually the only person to read them is the clerk who checks you in. Nothing is reserved or set aside. You may have booked on Priceline six months ago, but if another guest reserves on the hotel’s site the day before, he gets the priority for smoking and bed type preference. This is especially true if he has status in the hotel’s loyalty program.

Rule #3 — Hotels consider Priceline a necessary evil. Hotels only get a fraction of the cheapo rate you received because Priceline takes a huge chunk as commission. Priceline does help occupancy numbers and maintains employment for hotel staff during slow seasons (generally, Priceline rates at least cover the hotel’s cost to maintain rooms).

Rule #4 — Priceline guests are not viewed as being loyal. Well duh — you didn’t choose the hotel; you were assigned it. Where is the incentive to make you want to return if you don’t pick your hotels in the first place?

Rule #5 — Beware of the hidden costs. You may have to pay for breakfast; you may not. Same goes for parking, internet, airport transportation, and the list goes on. But once you’ve booked, there’s no option to select another hotel where the extras are included.

Bottom line — if you can settle for a room with a bed, aren’t sensitive to smoke, don’t mind water from the handicap shower all over your floor, and like to be surprised by your experience in the same way you are surprised by your hotel, Priceline can save you a lot of money. But if you’re picky, try your luck elsewhere and use it to pay for peace of mind.

(Note: This worker also posted that he felt relieved to be able to unload this stuff!)

The Dirty Little Secret Priceline Doesn’t Want You To Know
Calling the hotel directly may get you a better deal than either Hotwire or Priceline! Here’s advice directly from a hotel manager who posted on BETTERBIDDING.COM:

“Hotel room rates can fluctuate from one week to the next, even day to day, depending on the hotel manager. A great hotel manager knows that he/she has a limited number of rooms to sell on any given night and it is their responsibility as a manager to maximize the amount they can get for those rooms. Thusly, if a particular date looks like it is going to sell out, then the manager will raise the rates to try to capture more revenue, or if rooms are not selling as expected, they’ll lower rates to speed up reservations.


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My advice is to:

  • book as far in advance as you can, then several times prior to your arrival to call the hotel and just check the rates for the room type you booked for the date you are staying. If the rates have dropped, then cancel the room and rebook it. Be sure you know the hotel’s cancellation policy too, most hotels will give you up to 24 hrs prior to your arrival to cancel your room, but demand can also affect a hotels cancellation policy too.
  • DO YOUR SHOPPING AHEAD OF TIME. I’ve seen Priceline/Hotwire guests come in who showed me what they paid for their room and they could have gotten the same room for less, with all the choices, if they had called the hotel direct. You have to read the fine print and add the service charges, etc. to your final room costs, then do your calling around.”

Call the Hotel Directly And Book a Better Deal

By booking your room directly, you will:

  • get the same rate (or better) than you found online, because they can offer you the rate WITHOUT the Priceline/Hotwire sites tacked on.
  • know exactly what kind of room you are getting (smoking or non, one bed or two, etc.)
  • be treated better as a loyal customer (vs. someone who was just assigned the hotel)
  • still get hotel points (if applicable)
  • be able to cancel without being out any money (or at the very most, one night)

Tips For Getting a Great Hotel Deal Directly

  • Call the local hotel branch (not the 800 number)
  • Call after the reservation office has closed for the evening. If the front desk clerk isn’t busy, he or she is more likely to give you a lower rate than the reservation office or the hotel manager is. If they are busy, offer to call back – this consideration may also help you get a good deal.
  • Ask for a discount. Some to ask for include AAA (most hotels don’t even ask for your card) death rate, church rate, government, weekend, reunion, corporate, etc.
  • DON’T use student or AARP.
  • DON’T say “I saw a cheaper price on the web,” or they may just tell you to go ahead and book it there.
  • If they can’t give you a discount, ask if they will upgrade you to a better class of room at the same rate.

ABOVE ALL: Be nice. The nicer you are, the more likely you are to get a better rate or an upgrade.

Tips For Negotiating a Longer Stay

If you know you need to stay in an area long term (a few weeks or more), consider negotiating directly with the manager. Tell them you would be willing to sign a contract for a reduced rate, or even accept a less frequent cleaning schedule (every two days instead of every day). Any way you can save them money will make them more willing to give you a good deal.

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  1. Beat The System: Killer Priceline Tricks For Hotel Deals Says:

    [...] « The Secret To Getting Best Travel Prices on Priceline & Hotwire: Part One Why Hotels Hate Priceline Guests & Other Dirty Little Secrets [...]

  2. i work hotels, indianapolis Says:

    front desk 6 years, MANY different ones and nearly all major chains. Bottom line: you’re never really getting a great deal. travelocity/priceline/orbitz/etc all have a surcharge, we pass that on you to, even with your “discount” we’re still way over breaking even (instead of 6x profit on a walk-in it may be only 3x boo hoo)as this article would have you believe.

    here’s a real tip, call the hotel yourself, you can get better rates better availability, if you can convince someone who answers to like you will go far.. remember we do nothing but get screamed at by customers and managers all day.

  3. John Says:

    Better book directly with the hotel. Third parties are having really bad reputation lately. Specially EXPEDIA (Source: http://www.expedianews.com ) .you will have a better service if you deal directly with the hotel.

  4. Paul Says:

    I’ve used Priceline many times over the past 10 years. They’re not as good as they used to be, but you can still get some very good deals. I’ve booked 3 star hotels for as little as $35.00 per night. It’s more difficult to get the really low prices today, but I recently booked a 3 star hotel for $40.00 per night. Admittedly you don’t get your choice of hotel, but you get to choose the area, and quality of hotel.

  5. robert erwin Says:

    recent horrible experience with priceline.com. Was booked at “Crossland”. When we arrived, they wanted more money than the agreed upon price between priceline & I, for a non-smoking room. Am doing chemo for lung cancer, & smoking room would have been terrible. Called priceline to ask if they could supply a non smoking room. Priceline cancelled the contract, not at my request. Then when I got the credit card bill, was charged $75.00 by priceline. Terrible company.

  6. juliemarg Says:

    I’m told that the method priceline uses to tell the hotels that you are booked is a fax. If the fax goes missing, too bad.

  7. Brian Says:

    I have done the Pricline thing for almost two years straight and now negotiate directly with the Hotels. Time is money and getting a hotel 15 miles away from where you wanted to be and having no restaurant to eat it , the extra calls to the hotel to TRY and request a specific room . And just the stress of spinning that Roulette wheel when booking only to say ” oh crap, they gave me that place again” Id rather spend another 25 bucks speak to a friendly agent and stay exactly where I want , in the room I want , and the bed I want .

  8. Kate Says:

    I will never use Priceline again and I will tell everyone I know about my negative experience with Priceline. There is zero – zero – customer service. They cannot help you in anyway. The advertisements of no cancellation fee and other promises are totally false.

    It is a horrible website. Never use them unless you want to be cheated out of money.

  9. Lydia Says:

    Well said.

    Lydias last blog post..Tom Condit for California Insurance Commissioner – Workers’

  10. Taryn Says:

    The first rule is partially not true. Maybe some hotels give you crappy room. But when you work at a hotel that doesnt even have crappy rooms, like me. It really doesnt matter. Also which is really not true is that if we are over sold, priceline and travelocity will not be walked. Because there all pre charged.Its more of a hassle for us hotel workers to walk them then to not. The only reason why its not good to book with them are to reasons. There is a good chance you might get double charged if the hotel doesnt catch that your resvation is booked thru travelocity or priceline. 2nd they need to get paid too, so the rate that they give you might not be the best rate the hotel has to offer.If it is then all means go ahead. But its best to check with the hotel first. Useually the hotel has the best rates.

  11. allen Says:

    I will never use Priceline again. When I used them in the past, I would always stay at a four star hotel. It never failed, nine times out of ten, I would get the worst room in the place. And when I mean worst, I mean, the worst! Here are some of the rooms I have encountered: No air conditioning, smoke damage, water damage, filthy rooms, rooms that had not been serviced( dirty linens on the bed and dirty, wet towels in the bathroom.) Each time I would call the front desk, the clerk(s) would say something to the effect, ” It’s not our problem, call Priceline to make your complaint.” Look, what it comes down to, if you’re a college student, go for it and use Priceline. If you’re a professional, act like one and pay the hotel’s full rate, or you will get Pricelined.