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inconsistent Priceline star rating


bd134
By bd134,
in

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Three days ago I tried to bid a 4-star hotel room in downtown Los Angeles. I was very certain that the only two zones that offer 4-star hotels were, Beverly Hills and Downtown LA. I wasn't able to get a hotel room then, so three days later, I bid again without checking whether other zones now offers a 4-star today. Alas! LAX just showed a 4-star, and I got the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles! (I know I should have checked every time I start a new bid :) )

Remark: I've got 4 nights stay for $60 each night. I'll disclose full dates later.

There is no way Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles is a 4-star, rated even higher than Westin LAX! And, Priceline's vacation travel package clearly showed that Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles is a 3-star. I've contacted Priceline for this matter, but the CS replied:

1. We evaluate each participating property on many different criteria,

including cleanliness, guest satisfaction, d

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Welcome to BetterBidding!

Any other suggestions?
We'll be glad to offer others suggestions when you post your winning bid as a NEW TOPIC in the appropriate state category.

Elsewhere on the board:

While we welcome both positive and negative experiences, please keep in mind that the spirit of this message board is helping users.

If you have a complaint, problem, or question with a recent or upcoming Priceline/Hotwire stay, we will be happy to do what we can to help, but please be considerate of the board's primary goal of helping others and first post the details of your 'win.'

It is important for everyone to know when problems and customer service issues arise, but the majority of the users come here to see winning bid information... so please oblige them with this information before asking for them for help.

Thanks! :)

Please use this HOTWIRE and these PRICELINE LINKS: HOTELS, CAR RENTALS, and AIRFARE to begin your travel purchases

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First thing to do is double check the Priceline confirmation page and make sure the Sheraton Gateway appears there as a 4* hotel.

Do a package search and then take a screenshot of your monitor showing that the Sheraton is rated 3* via the packages product. Ideally make the screen small enough so that you can also have another window on the screen capture (of your local online edition newspaper) which has the current date shown on it... this will show that as of the current date the Sheraton is rated 3* via the Vacation Product yet 4* rated via the Hotel product.

Note the incosistency and contact them again. If you receive a canned response (which the above is, so take no offense from the letter other than the fact that they didn't send you a personal response... the above letter is one that would get sent as a reply to anyone that inquired/complained about a star quality issue) contact them a 3rd time. This time explain that you added the LAX zone only after seeing that the Sheraton in that zone was a 3* (via the vacation product) and you knew you couldn't possibly receive it, because you (or a relative) once had such a terrible stay at that property that you swore you would never go back. Once again focus on the different rating between the hotel product and the vacation product and priceline is not honoring their end of the contract since they are calling this property a 4* and a 3* both at the same time.

It will take awhile but eventually it will be fixed or you'll be given a phone number to call their Customer Service directly and you'll be able to plead your case and explain to a real person what happened. I think they'll take care of this once you get somebody to actually read your problem... be persistent.

Good Luck and keep us updated to your progress (or lack there of).

Please use this HOTWIRE and these PRICELINE LINKS: HOTELS, CAR RENTALS, and AIRFARE to begin your travel purchases

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Thank you so much for your reply. This is their second reply, received at 2:08 pm CST:

Thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding your reservation at the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles, and your concern about the star level of this property.

We have sent this information to our corporate offices for them to research. When we hear back from them we will contact you as soon as possible to advise you of the resolution.

We are very sorry for the delay and the inconvenience, Mr. X. We do thank you for the opportunity to assist you and hope this information is helpful to you.

Frank B.

And later today, they sent the third reply, received at 8:33 pm CST:

Thank you for taking the time to contact us in regards to your hotel reservation at the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles. We are sorry to hear that you are not happy with the star rating on this hotel.

We have sent your information to our corporate office about the star rating on the hotel. They have advised that they are going to stand by the rating that they provided. With that information we are sorry to say we will not be able to change or cancel your reservation.

We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your patience while resolving this issue.

Sincerely,

Bryan B.

I apologize for composing such a long post. I've e-mailed Christopher Elliott and hopefully he will be willing to look into the case, and contact Brian Ek. I don't want to call or e-mail Brian Ek first because I think this is something that can be resolved easily. I even mentioned that I'm willing to settle for a 3-star in downtown.

I also sent an e-mail to Sheraton Gateway's sales department, to ask him whether they provide "appointments, bathrobes, mini-bars, and comprehensive business services?", as described by Priceline's 4-star description. I guess I should send him another e-mail to see whether they have "upgraded amenities, bathrobes, and in-room safes. Multiple dining options are frequently available as well as room service", as described by another page about what a 4-star might be.

As of now, midnight CST, I haven't heard anything back from Sheraton Gateway. And, on the vacation package, it still shows Sheraton Gateway as a 3-star.

I guess I should also post my complain at webflyer.com, look for that Starwood representative, and maybe call Brian Ek everyday? :)

Sorry for the long message and thanks for your suggestions!

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I don't think you're going to get anywhere with your impression that this is not a 4* hotel, so why bother asking about things like bathrobes which are not a requirement of a 4* hotel anyway... stick with the argument that at the time of your purchase (or immediately thereafter) the hotel is rated 3* by Priceline, cut and dry.

I would reply to the first email and ask them "I understand you are sticking with your assessed star rating, here is a screenshot showing that you rate this hotel 3 stars" (and send a copy of the screenshot)

The first tier finally did read your message, but the 'corporate office' has not.

Please use this HOTWIRE and these PRICELINE LINKS: HOTELS, CAR RENTALS, and AIRFARE to begin your travel purchases

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It will be interesting to see the resolution of this situation. I won this hotel last August and posted my win and review here at the time. It is at least 20 minutes away from downtown, but it was very nice, with a friendly staff. But I imagine that what really galls you is the fact that it is out of the zone you wanted.

If I were you I wouldn't expect much - as long as Priceline showed 4 star availability in LAX, they were keeping up their side and it was up to you to check before you bid it. I was just bidding on Boston hotels and one whole area vanished in the middle of my bids! But they certainly need to explain how they can rate a hotel 4 stars one way and 3 stars another - I'll be interested in that, for sure. Anyway, good luck.

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Here is their reply today:

Dear Mr. X,

Thank you for taking the time to send us an e-mail regarding the star rating of the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles.

Once again we appoligize that you are unhappy with the star rating. Our corporate offices have researched your concerns and our standing by our 4 star rating.

If a hotel accepts your price, Priceline will immediately charge your credit card the total cost of your stay. Rooms purchased through Priceline can not be cancelled, changed or transferred and refunds are

not allowed.

Mr. X, We apologize for the inconvenience and regret being unable to assist you further.

Sincerely,

Rosanne

Travel Services Specialist

Well, at least this time the last name for the Travel Services Specialist is not "B". She does not have a last name! :)

I just posted my question at webflyer.com's Starwood board. It seems to me that Priceline is very sure that "if you bid your hotel room, Sheraton Gateway is a 4-star" and "if you booked a vacation packages with Sheraton Gateway, you'll get a 3-star room". Can I rephrase that as, "you'll get an inferior room by booking vacation packages with Priceline"???

I'm also surprised that they haven't "upgrade" Sheraton Gateway as a 4-star on vacation packages page, after more than 36 hours has gone?

Very interesting...

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I hate to do this everyday, but I bet their hourly wage must be higher than mine?

It's a shame that Priceline.com, Inc. is a membber of BBB.

If Priceline.com's vacation packages indeed belongs to "other group", I wonder who's the CEO of that "other group", and whether they have separate SEC filings for that "other group"?

Dear Mr. X,

Thank you for taking the time to send us an e-mail back in regards to your hotel reservation at they Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles. We again are sorry to hear that you are not happy with the star rating placed on this hotel.

Mr. X all properties offered through priceline.com have been evaluated according to the specific star level standards that we have developed exclusively for our program and described on our web site. While you may feel that this property should have a different star rating or is rated differently by other groups, we are confident that our evaluation of

this property will meet the expectations of a 4 star priceline.com hotel. We are not saying that "you'll get an inferior room by booking a vacation package with us"!

Again at this time sir we will not be able to change or cancel your current hotel reservation.

We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your patience while resolving this issue.

Sincerely,

Bryan B.

Travel Services Specialist

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So what are the differences in star criteria between the hotel product and the vacation product? (i'd guess: 'none')

There shouldn't be any difference, but let's just assume for a moment that there is a rational explanation for this, the criteria for the hotel product should be more stringent since it is opaque and the user has to 'trust' priceline to rate the hotels accurately/conservatively. You could rate a Residence Inn 5* if you want in the Vacation Product and although inaccurate, there would be little room for complaining since the user knew exactly which hotel they were getting beforehand and should have done a little research on the property. In the case of an opaque purchase, a customer has to trust priceline and their rating system, so if the same criteria isn't going to be applied across their product line, then the opaque product should be stricter, not less so.

Please use this HOTWIRE and these PRICELINE LINKS: HOTELS, CAR RENTALS, and AIRFARE to begin your travel purchases

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm posting the last e-mail from their Travel Services Specialist so that I'll not took up too much space here. Remarks are added in red color.

Dear Mr. X,

Our records indicate that you have already contacted us via telephone.

Remark: I was never able to reach a "real" person.

We apologize if we were unable to resolve your concern to your

satisfaction. Our ability to assist you is directly related to

contractual agreements with our airline, hotel, and rental car partners.

Remark: In the future, just ask questions to the higher level.

If you would like to discuss this matter at a higher level, we suggest

that you send an e-mail to our management team. You may do so by

visiting the Investor Relations section of our website and clicking on

"Management" in the right hand column, or click on the following priceline.com/customerservice/email/Corp/emailanswer.asp?category=0&question=0&pagetitle=Send+us+your+feedback

Remark: It's funny that no one let me know the link in the first place!

Note: If clicking on the link does not take you to our management page,

copy and paste the complete URL into the address bar of your web

browser.

Sincerely,

Frank B.

Travel Services Specialist

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Final update:

I've contacted Priceline's executive office, 1-800-945-4602. Thier office hours are Monday through Friday between the hours of 9:00am and 6:00pm EST. They can't receive e-mail attachments, but they can receive fax.

So what happened to my case? Well, even though the person acknowledged the mistake, and she was sorry about that, they refused to change or compensate me anything. Isn't it a nice way to say "We don't want your business"?

In another word, Priceline think it's okay to have inconsistent hotel ratings!

What a BBB member!

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