No, really unreal. From the hardcopy March edition of Budget Travel magazine (p. 46) an anonymous "hotel executive" makes these comments:
It’s been said that we treat guests worse when they reserve through third-party Internet sites. It’s no myth: Of course we treat them worse! Travelocity, Expedia, Priceline, Hotwire, Orbitz, Hotels.com–you name it, we turn up our noses at them. You can’t tell me that these people care about service! Can’t! The way we look at it, these folks are solely concerned about price and they probably can’t differentiate good service from bad. People who reserve through third-party sites are the first clients we downgrade or relocate if rooms are oversold. Heck, we might even pull the sparkling water, cheese and crackers, and other nice amenities from their rooms. You might think that policies such as these are unspoken rules, but they’re discussed openly during our staff meetings. On the other hand, guests who make reservations through our website or call center almost always have access to the lowest published rates. And when you book directly, it says that you picked us for us, and we’ll treat you accordingly.
This person is saying, in effect, that if a guest doesn’t book
directly, we’ll make them pay for it indirectly. We’ll make their
experience incomparable to guests that book directly, but we won’t tell
them that–we’ll just keep them guessing. This is such a bad strategy on so many levels, I don’t know where to begin. Most importantly, it completely ignores the commonly held understanding in retail that people who have bad experiences say more about it than folks who’ve had good experiences. Why would you purposely give a guest a bad experience? Am I missing a key ingredient? Is there something else going on in the hospitality industry that wasn’t mentioned in the article?
The last sentence in the article was as telling as the previous quoted paragraph: "…make the tip extraordinary or the special service will disappear." What if the focus were changed around a bit to say this: "…make the service extraordinary or the special tipper will disappear." I don’t think this "hotel executive" would understand this new point of view.
My own experience here: a couple of years ago we went through Priceline to get a room at the Benson. We paid a fraction of the published rate and we experienced exemplary service. I wouldn’t blink at going back at full fare, and I tell others the same thing. However, if our service had sucked, what motivation would I have to return? Why would I encourage anyone else to go there? Who would I be blaming for the poor service? Hint: it’s not Priceline.