Hotels.com and Why It’s Probably Best to Book Direct

One of the biggest problems that the hospitality industry has over the next few months is gaining the trust of guests in terms of their cleanliness, their operations and their financial security. So, I’ve merrily been posting about hotels who have treated me with professionalism over refunds, as I’ll return once this is all over. One hotel that gave me some problems was the Hampton by Hilton in Bristol, with this timeline of confusion:

18/02/2020 – Reservation made for hotel
26/03/2020 – Reservation cancelled by hotel, full refund confirmed and would be processed immediately
15/04/2020 – Hotels.com say hotel is now offering voucher only
15/04/2020 – Hotels.com say this is in error, a refund will be offered
06/05/2020 – Hotels.com say they are not currently authorised to offer a refund
17/05/2020 – Speak to hotels.com, they say they need to refer internally and get back to the hotel
24/05/2020 – Hotels.com confirm Hampton by Hilton have refused to allow them to refund

The refund in itself wasn’t much of a problem, there is lots else for hotels to focus on in the world, but it was clear that either Hampton by Hilton or hotels.com was telling me complete nonsense. A delay in refunding is fine, but this playing one off against the other for two months was a little frustrating. And, although small fry, I had posted that Hampton by Hilton had acted professionally back in March 2020 and over 1,000 people had read that (I had trusted the refund e-mail), so I felt that I’d misled people.

So, on 27 May 2020, I just asked the press offices of hotels.com and Hampton by Hilton to investigate. Then it became apparent to me exactly who was acting with professionalism and who wasn’t.

E-mails to hotels.com on 27 May and 1 June 2020 asking for the press office to become involved were ignored. No response at all, nothing, so not even the phone number of the press office. Incidentally, the web address provided by hotels.com’s web-site for the press office, http://press.hotels.com/, doesn’t even work. And, I can see why Expedia, who own the company, might well hide their press office details, given the state of https://www.trustpilot.com/review/www.hotels.com.

An e-mail to Hampton by Hilton received a swift acknowledgement, a holding e-mail, an investigation and a reply on 3 June 2020. Their reply was professional, to the point and confirmed to Hampton by Hilton that hotels.com had agreed they should be refunding and they themselves would get in touch with regards to this refund. Apologetic, timely and helpful, it was clear that Hampton by Hilton were acting with respect.

It’s three days on, and I can’t exactly imagine hotels.com are going to rush to respond, but this is a reminder that booking directly with hotel companies is now much safer in terms of receiving refunds and having that direct contact. Hotels.com take a fair chunk of commission from hotels and in all fairness to Hampton by Hilton, they should be very disappointed in what they’re receiving (my words, not theirs).

I’ve had around 440 nights booked through hotels.com over the last nine years, but I’ll be using my rewards nights up and won’t use them again after those nights are used. So, the best advice really is just book direct and get the best price and take advantage of the hotel’s own loyalty scheme. Or, perhaps, for those who really want to use an aggregator site, just use booking.com.