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FTC investigating Drip Pricing - Mention Priceline and 'resort fees'

FTC investigating Drip Pricing - Mention Priceline and 'resort fees'

Old May 20, 12, 8:58 am
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FTC investigating Drip Pricing - Mention Priceline and 'resort fees'

Apparently the FTC is investigating Drip Pricing - a term meaning there are additional fees that are not disclosed until later in the buying process or afterwards:

http://consumerist.com/2012/05/got-a...-from-you.html

This is an easy way to get Priceline rates scrutinized for not including Resort Fees and other mandatory hotel surcharges. Currently they claim "Total Charges", but buried four paragraphs down in the Taxes and Service Fees link, after 3 paragraphs of legalese is a mention that the hotel may charge up to $40/night for mandatory fees. The customer cannot find out if their hotel will have these fees prior to bidding.

Additionally, lower bids could cost the consumer more if one hotel recovers more out of the resort fee. Hypothetically, bidding $80 in a zone may give you a hotel with a $40 resort fee per night, for $120 total. Bidding $100 in the same zone could give a hotel with a $10 resort fee, for $110 total. There is no easy way to know this ahead of time.

A solution would be to have Priceline bundle any mandatory hotel fees in the bid. If the hotel's minimum bid on Priceline is $80 and the resort fee is $40, make the minimum bid $120 and on the confirmation page break it down as "Resort X has accepted your bid of $120 (including $40 resort fee)." Simple and would still allow Priceline to remain very opaque.

If you have dealt with the frustration of the resort fee in the past, let the FTC know so it shows up on their radar. You can contact them over the next two weeks at 877-382-4357 or http://www.ftc.gov/complaint (include the phrase "drip pricing" in the details).
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Old May 21, 12, 5:41 am
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Thanks for update.
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Old May 28, 12, 6:56 am
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Originally Posted by lowfareair View Post
A solution would be to have Priceline bundle any mandatory hotel fees in the bid. If the hotel's minimum bid on Priceline is $80 and the resort fee is $40, make the minimum bid $120 and on the confirmation page break it down as "Resort X has accepted your bid of $120 (including $40 resort fee)." Simple and would still allow Priceline to remain very opaque.
I agree this would be a great enhancement, but how would Priceline handle a bid where there were two hotels in the same zone, same star level and one property charges a resort fee and the other one doesn't?

Would an easier solution be that after you enter your bid price, a prompt follows advising you there is a property (or properties) in this zone and star level that charges up to $40 in resort fees, giving you the option of abandoning the bid or going forward if you agree to the additional charges?
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Old May 28, 12, 8:35 am
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I just wish the bidding sites would just add the resort fees in as part of the bid... or else, allow you the option of not getting an "upgrade". That is usually when I have the problem... I get the "free" upgrade in Star Level which puts me in a "resort" type situation.
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Old May 28, 12, 3:30 pm
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Originally Posted by BEAV View Post
I agree this would be a great enhancement, but how would Priceline handle a bid where there were two hotels in the same zone, same star level and one property charges a resort fee and the other one doesn't?
My solution simply bundles the resort fee into the bid. The user does not know (or need to know) if there's a resort fee as they have already paid it (if applicable) in their bid. If you bid $120, it would look at hotel A with a $40 resort fee as an $80 bid for the room plus $40 resort fee. Hotel B with no resort fee would have the bid as $120 for the room.
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Old May 28, 12, 4:33 pm
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It would be great if "unbundling" was done transparently and fairly -- it might not be as simple as including the resort fee, which could just lead to hotels saying "you didn't pay the resort fee, so have to pay extra for internet/parking/pool/etc".

The ideal solution would standardize the terminologies, while allowing things to be broken out, both for search and bidding engines. Just allow the user to check whether they want, for a hotel, parking/fitness center/internet/etc, or for an airline ticket a checked bag etc, and report/bid a price that includes those things.

Want to charge $20/day for internet access while the Best Western down the street includes it? Great, just make it clear on the booking screen so I'm not fooled into thinking your supposedly better hotel is "only" $30 a night more, when it's really $50 more for the product I need.
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Old May 28, 12, 6:06 pm
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Priceline ripping me off

I made a reservation with Priceline on friday and within 2 minutes found that the actual hotel was cheaper and included breakfast! I immediately sent an email requesting a refund from PL. I have heard nothing from them. Priceline won't refund my money even though the hotel website is offering a lower fare with Breakfast. I wrote an email with no reply so far and spent 20 minutes on the phone with two people who did nothing. The hotel is offering a lower room price that includes breakfast and PL is charging 20% more. I want a full refund so I can rebook with the hotel direct. What a rip
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Old May 28, 12, 6:43 pm
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I had a very similar situation to the previous post in 2009. I booked a 3-star in Las Vegas and got Terrible's Hotel and Casino. I wasn't sure it was really a 3-star, but more importantly, they had a special rate, I think you had to check in on a Tuesday or Wednesday, which I was doing. Anyway, IIRC, Priceline gave me a refund so that the net price I paid was 20% below Terrible's online rate.

My advice would be to let your blood pressure drop a bit and give it some time to get resolved.

At the same time, I have always wondered what happens if you bid $500 for a 2-star hotel. I mean, that's what you offered, right?

The real problem could be if they over-classify a hotel, you ask for a 5-star and get the Holiday Inn. But I've never gotten a hotel I thought was off by more than a half-star.
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Old May 28, 12, 6:58 pm
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Originally Posted by lowfareair View Post
My solution simply bundles the resort fee into the bid. The user does not know (or need to know) if there's a resort fee as they have already paid it (if applicable) in their bid. If you bid $120, it would look at hotel A with a $40 resort fee as an $80 bid for the room plus $40 resort fee. Hotel B with no resort fee would have the bid as $120 for the room.
"The Haggler column in the New York Times attempted to investigate this issue. Priceline's reply was basically that they have no way to know what resort fees are being charged, and that it's entirely up to the individual hotel.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/11/yo...nes-price.html

and the following week's column:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/25/yo...revisited.html

I would say that Mr. Segal's ("The Haggler") tongue-in-cheek handling of the matter amounted to "If you believe that, I also have a bridge you might want to buy."
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Old May 29, 12, 11:28 am
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First, welcome to Flyertalk.

Unfortunately, that is not how the Priceline model works... you do not get to play... and only pay if you like what you get.

If the hotel had such a low rate, you should have booked it directly BEFORE trying out Priceline.

You have to do your homework... or else, what happenned to you is what happens. It is not their fault that there was a "cheaper" option at the hotel they got for you. That is the gamble when you use Priceline. Sounds like you did not do your homework... and overbid for the hotel category you wanted.

I would be shocked if you got a refund... but you might get lucky and they take pity on you. But, as another poster said, you had better calm down first before reaching out to them.

Good luck.

Originally Posted by dkeller2012 View Post
I made a reservation with Priceline on friday and within 2 minutes found that the actual hotel was cheaper and included breakfast! I immediately sent an email requesting a refund from PL. I have heard nothing from them. Priceline won't refund my money even though the hotel website is offering a lower fare with Breakfast. I wrote an email with no reply so far and spent 20 minutes on the phone with two people who did nothing. The hotel is offering a lower room price that includes breakfast and PL is charging 20% more. I want a full refund so I can rebook with the hotel direct. What a rip
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Old May 29, 12, 2:13 pm
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Priceline has some sort of guarantee in place to ensure you don't pay more than what you can get through other methods when you bid. I imagine it might not compensate for booking fees and breakfast, but make sure to make the claim through the site (and there is a deadline on it too).
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Old May 29, 12, 2:31 pm
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Originally Posted by dkeller2012 View Post
I made a reservation with Priceline on friday and within 2 minutes found that the actual hotel was cheaper and included breakfast! I immediately sent an email requesting a refund from PL. I have heard nothing from them. Priceline won't refund my money even though the hotel website is offering a lower fare with Breakfast. I wrote an email with no reply so far and spent 20 minutes on the phone with two people who did nothing. The hotel is offering a lower room price that includes breakfast and PL is charging 20% more. I want a full refund so I can rebook with the hotel direct. What a rip
Wouldn't this scenario qualify for Priceline's Best Rate Guarantee?


http://travela.priceline.com/promo/big_deal_guarantee/
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Old May 29, 12, 4:16 pm
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I did not think this would apply to the OP situation... the rate he found was a bundled package deal... and the Best Rate Guarantee does not include those... if I have understood it correctly. Granted, you could say the breakfast made it even more expensive... but not sure they would see it that way.

The Big Deal Guarantee applies to the rate for room nights only. Promotional packages, deals, or bundles that may include additional amenities such as parking, meals, entertainment, etc. are not eligible.

Originally Posted by BEAV View Post
Wouldn't this scenario qualify for Priceline's Best Rate Guarantee?


http://travela.priceline.com/promo/big_deal_guarantee/
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Old May 30, 12, 10:02 am
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Originally Posted by wharvey View Post
I did not think this would apply to the OP situation... the rate he found was a bundled package deal... and the Best Rate Guarantee does not include those... if I have understood it correctly. Granted, you could say the breakfast made it even more expensive... but not sure they would see it that way.

The Big Deal Guarantee applies to the rate for room nights only. Promotional packages, deals, or bundles that may include additional amenities such as parking, meals, entertainment, etc. are not eligible.

I think it would be hard to argue that if a hotel charges $500 a night, but has a package for $99 including breakfast, that the comparative rate for the guarantee is $500. You probably can't argue that the breakfast is worth (say) $20 so the real comparitive rate is $79, but I would think Priceline would recognize that in this case it should be $99.

I saw a rate exactly like that a few weeks ago when making a hotel booking, admittedly the rates were much higher (over $1000 per night) but the "romance package" with breakfast was cheaper than the room-only rate.
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Old May 30, 12, 1:32 pm
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I agree with you... but have seen many people post about how other BRG get denied because the comparable rate was not exactly the same as the one booked... granted, they were not with Priceline.. but Priceline's BRG rule is written almost identically to those other BRGs.
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