Hotels: There’s always room(s) to negotiate
Turns out that negotiating isn’t just for the big things in life, like salary, rent, or a car purchase.
As an experiment in negotiation, I called up 20 hotels from Seattle to Georgia to see if they’d give me a lower rate. My only rule: Just ask nicely.
On my first call, I asked the receptionist how much it would cost to book a standard room for two people on a particular upcoming weekend. Then I just asked, very politely, “Is there any way to bring that price down a little?” You could call that “negotiation,” but, frankly, that makes it sound tougher than it really was!
The results? Twelve of the 20 hotels quickly offered me a discount. An upscale hotel in Dallas dropped from $279 a night to $229 with prepayment. A cozy little place in Portland, Maine, gave me a “first-timer rate” that was $25 below the first offer. A historic hotel in downtown Boston quickly dropped from $379 to $285 (though I later saw an even cheaper rate on travelzoo.com).
What I found is that many hotels offer a lower rate for prepaid, nonrefundable reservations. Some allow for “first-time guest” discounts if you haven’t visited before. Many also offer corporate or club discounts (though I didn’t include those in the 12, since it didn’t lower the price). And, of course, the hotels that didn’t offer me a lower rate claimed that they quoted me their best rate off the bat. [Disclaimer: Negotiating may not be as effective when booking for holidays or prime-time tourist seasons, but it’s worth a try.]
Of course, in several cases, I found better rates on sites like kayak.com and hotwire.com, even after a hotel offered me a discount over the phone. So, don’t assume the hotel is quoting the lowest rate; they may not even be privy to the deals on the web. And if you do tell them a price you saw online, they may match (or even beat?) the rate, or they may tell you to book it through that website instead. The real lesson is to consider both the web and the phone as tools in your hotel-hunting arsenal.
What’s the best deal you’ve scored?