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About 5 months ago, I booked a room in a hotel for my honeymoon (via the hotel website). During the booking process, I was notified that there were only 3 rooms left and that the price provided was the best available (it stated a 10% discount). Let's say I paid $2800. The hotel had the right to charge me a 100% cancellation or change fee, but the hotel did not pre-reserve any money - the full payment was meant to be done on our arrival.

I changed my plans, and needed one more day at the hotel, so I checked the prices. I was shocked to see that the same stay was $800 cheaper than when I booked it! The site says that there are still 3 rooms left, and now the price is at a 15% discount (which is a totally not true, since they stated otherwise on the first reservation I made, the math does not check here...)

I contacted the hotel multiple times stating that I want the price changed to the actual one, since I feel cheated on that, but have not been answered for over a week now.

I'm wondering what are my options now. Should I cancel the first reservation, block my credit card not to be charged and rebook the room at a lower price? What are the consequences of such behaviour?

I mean, it's a lot of cash, but at the same time I feel that the hotel has cheated me into paying more (30%, to be honest), which is totally unfair and against all rules.

I don't want to be forced to pay it twice if something goes wrong! Can the hotel seek the payment when I arrive for my other reservation? Could there be any problems with checking in/out or even getting in or out of the country? The hotel is located in Cuba (Melia hotels).

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45  
Um, you were happy enough with paying the price you bargained for when you made the booking, right? Are you somehow getting less value for that money than you thought you would get? It seems to me that you agreed to be bound to pay that price in exchange for the hotel promising to hold the room for you even in the event that demand went UP and they could find someone else to rent it to for a higher price. Backing out now because that didn't happen is about as fair as wanting your insurance money for the last year back because your house didn't actually burn down! – Henning Makholm Mar 3 at 15:40
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@Wojtek Possibly other customers on more expensive flexible bookings cancelled, leaving the hotel then with more rooms free than the expected? – Gagravarr Mar 3 at 15:58
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If the price went up, would you agree to pay them more? – JonathanReez Mar 3 at 18:55
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Have you contacted them by phone and asked about simply adding a day to the booking yet? (Melia has reservation offices all over the globe) Or did you just start complaining about being cheated? As you are not cancelling, but rather adding one day, they might have simply updated your booking without any penalties. And as has happened to me in the past, revised the overall cost to match the current price for that room category. But if your emails have only been demands and complaints, then you may have built a wall. – Tom Mar 4 at 2:37
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What currency did you use for the booking? It's possible they didn't change their prices in their base currency, apart from adding the 15% discount, but the apparent price, in your currency, changed due to fluctuations in the currency market. – user568458 Mar 4 at 17:37

10 Answers 10

There are no rules that say a hotel has to refund money to already-booked patrons if they lower their prices. And you would certainly object if the hotel asked you for more money because 'prices had gone up since you booked'. Forcing hotels to refund money to customers with previous bookings would essentially mean they stopped reducing prices, because it would cost them more in refunds than they would make in selling the last few cheap rooms.

You can ask for a price reduction, and some places will give you one out of goodwill. You would be more likely to be successful asking for some kind of upgrade, which usually costs the hotel nothing, rather than for a return of money. But they are under no obligation.

If you want to cancel and rebook you will have to follow the rules, which would seem to indicate you will not get any money back.

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This is a good answer insofar as the lowered price goes. But the Hotel are being dishonest about the discount (assuming the OP has interpreted everything correctly). ($2800 / 0.9) * 0.85 = $2644 is what the price should be with a 15% discount, not $2000 as reported by the OP. I don't know what the rules are in Cuba, but in Europe where I'm from, it is unlawful for a business to lie about a discount. It could be possible to argue based on $2000 with a 15% discount that the price with a 10% discount should have been ($2000 / 0.85) * 0.9 = $2117. – JBentley Mar 4 at 16:49
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@JBentley it's possible that the messy numbers are related to currency fluctuations. Maybe the original price in whatever the hotel uses as its base currency stayed the same, but the price online and booking were in another currency for customer convenience, and the relative value has changed. Assuming their base currency is Cuban pesos, there have been some pretty big fluctuations in the last 6 months. – user568458 Mar 4 at 16:54
    
@user568458 Yes, that is a good possible explanation. – JBentley Mar 4 at 16:55
    
@user568458 Yeah, that's a good point. Even more widely-used currencies like the USD, EUR, and GBP can vary against each other by that much over the space of half a year sometimes (such as happened last year, for example.) – reirab Mar 4 at 21:45
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This may well be ordinary everyday lying (also called advertizing) or it may be '3 rooms left at this price'. Once those 3 have sold, three more might be made available. – DJClayworth Mar 5 at 21:01

If the hotel's not responding to your request to change the rate, there's not much you can do to get a lower rate.

Their "best available" pricing is generally just a marketing term saying that this is the best price we have available to the general public, right now. (It's not even necessarily the cheapest due to things like corporate contracts or other discounted rates not available to everyone.) As time goes on, different blocks of rooms are released for sale, and rates and number of rooms available at those rates can go up or down based on predicted demand.

They're not going out of their way to discourage you from booking immediately, but they haven't tricked you – rate and availability changes are just part of the way hotels work.

If the hotel is part of a chain and you are a member of their loyalty program (particularly if you have any elite status) you may have some success if you call the loyalty program's help line and explain your situation.

Otherwise, if you're worried about the rate going down after you book it, you'll need to make a fully refundable reservation - which would then allow you to cancel and rebook with no penalty if the rate goes down.

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Yes, this is exactly correct. For what it's worth, airline fares work almost identically (except that you probably have less chance of the phone call actually netting you the lower fare with an airline than with a hotel.) – reirab Mar 4 at 21:48

Moral aspects aside, the answer depends solely on the cancellation policy you have accepted. If the cancellation is free, or the cancellation fee is less than $800, it is your right to cancel and rebook at a smaller price. If your booking is not refundable, or the cancellation fee is high, there's nothing you can do.

"Blocking your credit card not to be charged" won't achieve anything good, because you have willingly made the booking, so there's no legal argument for your bank to claim that money back from the hotel. If anything, you can get in trouble with your bank.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Thanks for all your answers, i'm so amazed by your engagement in this matter :)

Just to clarify how the story went, and what is the outcome.

We have been a little nervous about what the hotel will decide, and a long time has passed since we had written our email to them. Fortunately after about a week we had been notified that the hotel has the right to change its rates when the hotel manager decides that the demand is high or low. They were sorry that we feel bad about our reservation and have offered us a free room upgrade.

This however was not what we wanted to be honest, so we have replied them (in a more organised matter) counting out every issue that we found with our reservation (such as missleading information about the number of rooms, no information about the possibility to change rates, missleading promotion percentage). We have also taken a more private approach, requesting their indulgence, and underlining that it is just their good will in that matter to make our honeymoon less nervous and more enjoyable by agreeing to cancel the reservation and letting us add one more day at the current rates.

We have however accepted the fact that we won't be most probably able to do anything here, and we will be stuck with the (much higher) price only to be "cheered" with the higher standard of the room (garden view vs. ocean view).

To our surprise after a few days (yesterday) we had our reservation canceled. A few moments later we have been sent an email from hotels customer service with a formal apology for all the troubles we have gone through :) We then proceeded to book another room in the hotel at a lower rate with an extended period. To our next surprise we have been given additional discount for the room, so we have paid a lot less than we ever expected.

LovingMelia :)

Tldr - The hotel offered us a free upgrade, but we rejected it, and wrote (more organised) reply. After a few days they hotel have canceled our reservation cost free and gave us an additional discount.

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Technically speaking nothing stops you from cancelling the card and booking a room at a lower price, especially if you're planning to travel to a different country. Theoretically speaking the hotel can attempt to sue you for non-payment of debt, but this is quite costly and it's unlikely they will bother. They might also add you to their black-list of non-payers, which might cause potential issues when booking a hotel in the same country.

However if you do so, you will not be able to book a room in the same hotel again, as there's a very high chance the hotel will demand payment both for the original booking and the new booking. So unless you're really bothered by them lowering your price, I wouldn't attempt changing anything.

Legally speaking the hotel is free to charge you any amount of money, as long as that amount was disclosed beforehand. Likewise I assume you won't agree to give a former employer a refund if they find out you've found a new lower-paying job. A price is a price, regardless of what will happen in the future.

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I don't think that would work. The hotel knows it's you, and they would simply charge both amounts to your credit card presented at arrival. – Joe Mar 4 at 17:13

This is called "Dynamic Pricing". Hotels do it, airlines do it, even theatres are beginning to do it. Holiday companies do it more than anyone - on a package deal or cruise "how much did YOU pay?" is a favourite, though unsatisfying (for most) topic of conversation. It's a bit like playing the futures market on the Stock Exchange. In this case you lost. You can't do anything about it, except point the position out to the hotel and hope for some good-will gesture.

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There are many kinds of rates for a particular room. The same room could be sold for different prices depending on who or when it is being booked; here are just some off the top of my head:

  1. Tour operators; these companies usually reserve a block of availability and they get a specific rate. They usually sell the hotel as part of a tour package, including other perks like tours, transfers, etc.

  2. The aggregate rate - these are rates usually published for sites to list on their own pages. Places like hotels.com/booking.com.

  3. The corporate rate - for corporate bookings.

  4. The rack rate (normally this is the rate you get when you walk into the property).

  5. "Special" rates - weekend discounts, combination specials, etc.

This doesn't include the variations that happen due to the date/season of reservation.

So it is quite possible that when you reserved the room, the combination of circumstances caused a specific rate to be shown.

If you find a new rate, and you can safely cancel your previous reservation - first book your new reservation and then cancel your previous reservation; its the simplest option to get the new discounted rate.

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What's the cancellation date on your reservation? If you still have time, you could try to book a room at the nbew rate, then when you get it cancel the old reservation. That should be legit unless you got a special rate by agreeing that you couldn't cancel it.

(That kind of restriction is more often an issue for airlines or cruise ships than hotels, though.)

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This happened to me but I had booked via hotels.com I emailed them and they happily refunded the difference. I had booked a hotel for a layover on the way back from a long trip and didn't want to take time while on holiday finding the best deal in a city I was unfamiliar with.

I would advise putting this down to experience and next time book nearer the time to get the best deal. In the travel industry the people who book earliest almost always pay the most.

Also you mentioned a honey moon, in those special occasions or when traveling with a partner unfortunately you usually have to sacrifice any savings for piece of mind for the other person. So yes you paid way over the odds for this reservation but you can make some back next time you travel on your own and can be more flexible to get the best possible rate! That can be done using Hotwire or Priceline the night before you need it, but it takes time to learn where the deals are in each city. For example in SF, financial district is dirt cheap on weekends, union square cheap on weekdays. Both are nearby each other so hardly any difference in location.

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If you have prepaid already - then you have no options, I think. The deal is done and sealed. But if you haven't paid money yet - you can demand a new price.

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How so? The OP mentions hotel policy stating non-refundable. – JoErNanO Mar 6 at 14:48
    
@JoErNanO I mean that it's not a refund, if you paid - then you sealed the deal. If you haven't paid yet - you can try to negotiate a better price – Alexey Vesnin Mar 6 at 15:42

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