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I'm used to traveling across Europe for work. I have been booking my hotel rooms through common online websites like hotels.com or booking.com.

However, I find that I have been frustrated many times when entering my room at the hotel and finding out that the room doesn't have "the view on the sea" as written on the booking site.

The most common excuse that I get from the receptionist is: "We are full and that's the only room left" which is (sometimes) one close to the elevator with a view on the indoor court.

I got an explanation one time from a receptionist who said that it depends on the "face" of the customer. She said that a customer basically tossing down a credit card at check in will be close to the elevator, but one coming in with a smile might have the great view.

I have a budget of 200€ per night (which I assume is quite good) and I usually try to book a superior room.

So my questions are:

  • How are the rooms assigned at a hotel? (first arrived have the best room?)

and

  • How can I be assured to get a superior room?

For an example: Recently, I booked a hotel room via hotels.com and there were two kind of rooms: partial view on the sea and full view on the sea. I paid for full view. When I arrived at the hotel, there were no more full view rooms because the hotel was full. From the receptionist, I was told I had been upgraded to another class of room (which really looked like the one without the view). There was another room with view but I'd have to pay extra...

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    for one, never book on hotels.com. book directly with the hotel. that will move your standing up in the hotel's eyes. – Apologize and reinstate Monica May 20 '15 at 19:49
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    The same is true for booking.com ... – Maître Peseur May 20 '15 at 19:57
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    As for the VtC: I'm personally of two minds on this one. It most definitly will be full of opinion with probably little fact (sourced anyway), but.... this really has some potential to be incredibly useful to a large number of visitors to the site AND draw in visitors asking the same question of Google. So, I'm VtLO this one and hoping for some decent suggestions, beyond one liners (as the first comments have shown. – CGCampbell May 20 '15 at 21:23
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    I agree with CGC, let's give this one the benefit of the doubt. If the answers produced are mainly subjective then I'll vote to close. – JoErNanO May 20 '15 at 21:28
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    Don't hotel chains have membership groups like airlines? Where you can accrue points over time for things like upgrades or free bookings within the chain at pricier hotels? – CGCampbell May 20 '15 at 22:08
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You are making a mistake in booking your work travel on booking.com. Booking.com takes a cut out of the rate and therefore the hotel is not really interested in helping you.

The best way is to book directly with chain hotels. (Almost all the chain hotels guarantee that the rate they offer directly cannot be beaten by buying the same room elsewhere.) The advantages are, first, you get points that you can spend on your own leisure stays. Second, you get status points for each night. Third, if you already have status with the chain, this will be recognized, which it will not be if you buy from booking.com.

Once you have stayed ten nights or so, the chain will know that your business is of value to them, and therefore the hotel will, 99% of the time, put you in a good room.

So to answer your question, "how are the rooms allocated?": the hotel will know that a frequent customer is checking in later, therefore it is important to ensure that customer gets a good room. If the hotel has oversold the cheaper rooms, then our regular customer will be first in line to be upgraded to a better room, to make room for the booking.com customers.

(Yes; of course you should interact with the receptionist. If you are in Vegas, throw in a 40 USD "tip" will often get you a very nice upgrade. But I would not try that in Europe.)

I do most of my travel in IHG hotels (Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Hotel Indigo). Through this, I have IHG Platinum status. I usually buy the cheapest room available with a double bed; yet I am upgraded to a junior suite or a club room with I guess 60% rate. Very rarely do I get put into a terrible room. If this happens I ask to see the manager, and if that doesn't work, I complain to IHG central customer care!

IHG has its pluses and minuses, like all chains, so you should research what kind of prices and, in particular, locations you are willing to tolerate. There is usually a shortage of the cheaper Holiday Inn properties in the centre of major cities, for example. Club Accor has a good chain with a very wide selection: you can always count on an Ibis being in the centre of town. Hilton would be my number two choice though for other reasons I will not get into.

If you will not meet the 60 nights per year or so required to be a "serious" customer, you can jump to a reasonable status grade by taking out the appropriate credit card. I know, for instance, that the current UK-issued IHG Visa card comes with IHG Platinum status for £99 per year, and comes with a 60,000 point welcome bonus (probably worth £300 if spent carefully). American Express Platinum (UK edition) comes with a number of high-status hotel cards as well, but the annual fee is an eye-watering £450/year. However, if you are really travelling around a lot, it might be worth the downpayment to make your business life a bit easier.

(This is not financial advice, you should investigate the options carefully before taking out any kind of credit card.)

  • note that you can also get rebates on booking.com if you have higher status, so that would speak against your argument, as it gives you a much bigger choice of hotels. Of course it does not help you with the choice of rooms. – drat May 21 '15 at 1:14
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    going with a hotel chain is often very limiting in terms of location, a lot of big chains locate themselves near conference centres, airports, train stations, which can be far away from where you want to go. – EdmundYeung99 May 21 '15 at 3:38
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I book most of my accommodation on hotels.com because of their rewards scheme.

Most of the time the hotel will list the different types of rooms which may be priced accordingly. These booking systems might have pre-booked the rooms in bulk and are on-selling them to you, and you will be allocated a room with the room type you book. However, it is still up to the discretion of the reception staff to assign you a room when you check-in.

To increase your chances of getting what you want, you can include a comment or request for a specific room, e.g. room with a view. You can take this further by giving them an email or call after you have booked to try secure yourself the room you want.

Some other things to consider when trying to get the room you want:

  • Hotel fully booked - Bear in mind hotels often overbook, if they are nice they will upgrade you for free, otherwise they just try to fit you in to any spare room
  • Prepay - I've found that pre-paying often 'secures' my room type, but also reduces the chance of a free upgrade
  • When you arrive to check-in - if you arrive early before everyone else, you will get first dibs on the rooms available
  • Tipping - in some countries/cultures if you tip when you check-in you are more likely to get a room upgrade (USA)
  • Read reviews - in particular anything about room recommendations and what people got for the rooms they booked, that way you can determine whether its worthwhile to book the higher class rooms, or just go with the standard room and ask for a nicer view

In your example you booked the full view room, but received what you believe is the partial view room. You should have been entitled to a discount (presuming the partial view room was cheaper) or if you feel the room was misrepresented, you can contact hotels.com or bookings.com

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