6

I recently called Booking.com about a situation where I had booked a hotel on booking.com and received a confirmation email from booking.com, but when I showed up at the hotel they couldn't find my reservation and I had to pay a second time for the room.

One of the questions the customer service representative asked me was whether I had booked a partner offer. I did not know.

At the end of the call, it was still unclear as to whether I had booked a partner offer. But the representative wanted to give me some advice. He said I should never book a partner offer. He said whenever he books his own personal trips, he always avoids partner offers. I asked why, and he said something about the partner offer being run by a department at the hotel that doesn't tell the front desk about it. I didn't completely understand what he was saying because his native language was not English, and after already spending over 1 hour on the phone, I didn't feel like chatting anymore.

I tried looking up "partner offer" on Booking.com, and I found an FAQ:

What is a Partner offer?

To offer you more competitive prices, we sometimes partner with other companies. These offers are always paid for in advance and can't be booked in combination with other offers. Additionally, any changes to your personal or booking details after booking aren't possible.

Unfortunately that doesn't clear up what the representative tried to tell me.

Then I looked at hotel listings on Booking.com for the city in which I stayed to see if the hotel would appear as a partner offer or not. It did not appear at all, and the hotel's page on Booking.com says "This property isn't taking reservations on our site right now." Then I looked at all the other listings to see if there would be any indication as to whether any of them was a partner offer, but I did not see any.

So basically my questions are:

  1. Is it a bad idea to book a partner offer?
  2. How can I tell if a listing on Booking.com is a partner offer?
5
  • 4
    "I asked why, and he said something about the partner offer being run by a department at the hotel that doesn't tell the front desk about it." That sounds an awful lot like incompetence on the hotel's part rather than anything to do with partner offers or booking.com in general.
    – Chris H
    Nov 29, 2022 at 15:15
  • 1
    A partner offer is likely not subject to Booking.com's regular Terms & Conditions. Nov 29, 2022 at 17:21
  • Did you get your first payment refunded ?
    – Hilmar
    Nov 30, 2022 at 3:06
  • @Hilmar I am still awaiting the result of their investigation. Nov 30, 2022 at 3:10
  • 2
    Tip: if they drag it out too long, threaten to reverse the credit card charge. You paid for service that you didn't receive.
    – Hilmar
    Nov 30, 2022 at 3:17

3 Answers 3

8

Against my better judgment, I decided to try booking a "partner booking" on Booking.com in Germany. I am well aware of how hotel bookings work in general from being in the industry, but I was morbidly curious. I would recommend strongly against ever making a partner booking.

Booking.com displayed an almost but not quite "too good to be true" suite available, reasonably clearly marked as a partner booking. This was priced at about the same level as their regular rooms (~200 EUR), so I thought there was some chance this was either a last minute deal or a prebought inventory situation. It was neither. The confirmation I got from Booking was extremely sparse and just had a confirmation number, the hotel name, and not much else. Notably missing was the room type.

When I got to the hotel, the hotel had a booking for a regular room. The front desk showed me the reservation they had received, and it was for a regular room. Fine, whatever, at least they had a reservation and I had a room, which is all I really needed.

Everything really went to hell when I tried to check out. The hotel owner claimed I hadn't paid. I showed her my credit card statement showing that Booking.com had charged me earlier. She showed me her hotel management software showing that she had no records of being paid by Booking. We eventually had to get a Booking representative on speakerphone to tell the hotel manager that Booking would pay her...eventually. She was not particularly pleased about this but did let us go. Dealing with all this with a train to catch was somewhat stressful, but I had budgeted some extra time because I thought something terrible might happen.

Throughout all this Booking support was mostly useless. First level support staff barely understood about partner bookings at all and tried to tell me I didn't have a reservation because the confirmation number for partner bookings is in a different format. After multiple phone calls I managed to walk one of their staff through the booking process to show that they were still displaying the suite as available on their website, when it clearly wasn't. That eventually convinced them that something was wrong and they promised to get back to me about refunds. That was a month ago and I have received no contact. Booking also has a method to request an invoice that is supposed to arrive within a month - that has also not arrived. (Edit: Unsurprisingly, several months later, I have had no contact from Booking.)

I tried going through my credit card company to chargeback part of the bill. However, since Booking's confirmation email for partner bookings is so sparse, there's nothing on there that shows the room type, so my credit card company couldn't do anything. If for some reason you make a partner booking after reading this story, I'd recommend making a video of the process so you have some proof for future chargebacks.

The kicker for all this is that the "partner" involved is Agoda - which is owned by Booking.com.

3
  • Curiously, I've used Agoda when in South East Asia with no issues.
    – alamar
    Jul 5 at 9:33
  • 2
    I am almost certain that Agoda as a third party is not meaningfully worse than Booking or Expedia. I'm fairly sure the problem lies with any company acting as a fourth party intermediated by Booking. Jul 5 at 10:22
  • I've noticed before that when booking through Booking, only partial or barely any data makes it to the hotel, so I often need to provide my details again at checkin time. One hotel employee explicitly mentioned to me that they always have these issues with Booking. I wouldn't be surprised if going through yet another layer like Agoda simply has such an impedance mismatch that even more data gets lost.
    – deceze
    Oct 17 at 2:44
5

It's always the safest to book directly with the provider (airline or hotel). It's a clear contract between you and the provider and it's quite clear who is repsonsible.

Booking through an OTA (Online Travel Agent like Booking, Expedia, Agoda, Travelocity etc.) complicates customer service. OTA's terms and conditions say "talk to the provider" and the provider's terms and conditions say "talk to the OTA".

So booking directly is in most case the best choice unless the OTA is substantially cheaper and/or direct booking is not available or particularly cumbersome.

Most reputable OTAs work decently but you can run into snags if customer service is required.

A "partner offer" adds a another 4th party to the arrangement which complicates things even further. Personally I would stay away from that. It may work fine, but if you need to change or cancel, things will get murky.

1
  • Note that some hotels will offer to match prices offered by third-party agents, either as part of a formal program or you can just call them up and ask if they can match a price. Some chains will even give you a further discount beyond the price match if you do this. If an online travel agent is offering a room for $100, that means the hotel will get substantially less than $100 in revenue once the agency takes their cut, so it can be worth it for the hotel to match the price. Though sometimes the terms and conditions are complex, and they may refuse to match if the cancellation policy differs Nov 30, 2022 at 4:42
2

To answer this part of my question:

How can I tell if a listing on Booking.com is a partner offer?

One of the room types for a hotel I'm looking at on Booking.com is a partner offer, as indicated under the Your Choices section.

enter image description here

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .