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Priceline Pet Peeve (and FTC Complaint)

Priceline Pet Peeve (and FTC Complaint)

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Old Feb 25, 09, 8:24 pm
  #1  
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Priceline Pet Peeve (and FTC Complaint)

I have a pet peeve about Priceline hotel bidding.

If you win a bid on a Priceline hotel, you can be put at a hotel that has a "resort fee." If you refuse to pay the resort fee, your prepaid reservation goes "poof."

This peeves me more than I can say. We all hate these secret fees, but if you make a reservation directly with a hotel, you can ask "What will my full rate be, including all taxes and mandatory fees?" If they say "Well, the room rate is $59, plus a mandatory $200 fee to rent your room key" - you know the real rate is $259. But with Priceline, you can agree to pay a certain rate, then find out it's more, AND YOU CAN'T CANCEL OR GET YOUR MONEY BACK.

I filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission that either (a) this should be considered an unfair and deceptive practice or at least that (b) Priceline should be enjoined from using the slogan "Name Your Own Price" as it pertains to hotels, because you are never truly allowed to "Name Your Own Price."

The whole thing is rather ridiculous, because Priceline could easily fold the fee into the rate they quote. The hotel would have to agree to include any such fees in the amount they charge for the inventory they make available to Pricelines. It's also VERY decptive. Consider the following not-at-all unreasonable scenario.

Trump Hotel Las Vegas offers 5-star inventory to Priceline for $75. Venetian, in the same zone, offers inventory for $85. So when you bid, you get Trump. However, Trump has a mandatory $15 valet parking fee (even if you don't have a car!). So you are actually paying MORE for Trump, but they get preference over Venetian in the bidding process.

I am also considering that if I win a bid with a hotel that has such a resort fee, protesting to my credit card company on the grounds that I was deceived.

I have only once ever actually won a bid with a hotel that had a resort fee, and I got them to waive it. The resort fee included "wireless internet access" and the wireless internet wasn't working. I was only there for one night, a Saturday, and I don't think they had anyone around to figure out how to fix it, so they waived the fee for the internet I didn't get.
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Old Feb 26, 09, 6:10 am
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Its a pet peeve of mine as well and extremely deceptive. The Red Rock resort charges a $25 resort fee, so in effect, they can accept a lower bid in the same zone as another similar rated hotel, yet still get more revenue by charging the resort fee on the back end. Good luck, but Priceline has disclaimer that additional fees may be charged.
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Old Feb 26, 09, 7:49 am
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Originally Posted by redtop43 View Post
I am also considering that if I win a bid with a hotel that has such a resort fee, protesting to my credit card company on the grounds that I was deceived.
Sorry to sound pessimistic, but I'd rate it VERY low that you will win that battle... as the previous poster said, in PL's terms and conditions, they state that you might be charged extra fees (resort, parking, etc...) upon getting to the hotel. You were not really deceived....

Now, do I think it's fair? No, I don't... but does Priceline cover themselves and the hotel? Yes, they do, I'm afraid...
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Old Feb 26, 09, 12:03 pm
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If they charge a fee for valet parking and you don't have a car, surely you should ask the hotel for a refund. I have been able to tell several hotels that I will not use the facilities to which the fee gives acess and they have removed it. I think the OP complaint is very real and if the price is not the price for a room then the hotel is violating its agreement with Priceline. The resort fee usually means that you are given things beyond the hotel room itself and beyond the usual services. For example, access to a swimming pool is not the basis for a resort fee but access to a spa is.
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Old Feb 26, 09, 12:45 pm
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Whoops, I guess I'm over-tired or didn't read the OP's post quite closely enough... I do agree that paying a valet parking fee when one does not have a car is absolutely ridiculous and I hope, as you said B1, that s/he can have that taken off the bill. My apologies for the oversight on that!
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Old Feb 26, 09, 12:58 pm
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Normally I think folks who post complaints about Priceline just don't understand the Priceline proposition very well and come off half-baked... but I think redtop43 has a great point here. Any fee above the stated room price should be optional, or else the stated price is false and deceptive.

I certainly don't mind paying extra for valet parking if I want to use valet parking, or a wifi fee if wifi is not free and I want to use wifi. Being forced to pay a previously undisclosed "resort fee," though, whether you intend to do resorty things or not, should be a matter for the FTC.
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Old Feb 26, 09, 1:56 pm
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Originally Posted by redtop43 View Post
So when you bid, you get Trump. However, Trump has a mandatory $15 valet parking fee (even if you don't have a car!)
I don't like resort fees either, but the $15 mandatory resort fee at Trump covers much more than valet parking. From the Terms & Conditions section on Trump's website:

There will be a nightly resort fee of $15 plus tax applied to include the following amenities:

-Overnight Valet Parking (in and out priveleges)
-Fitness Center Access
-Use of Pool Facilities
-Two Bottles of Water in Room, Replenished Daily
-Daily Newspaper Delivery
-Coffee in Room, Replenished Daily
-Shoe Shine Service
-Incoming Faxes
-Local Telephone Calls
I don't think Priceline likes hotels charging resort fees any more than purchasers do. Priceline doesn't get any revenue from hotel resort fees but Priceline gets all the related flak and ill will.
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Old Feb 26, 09, 6:12 pm
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Well, an optional package of services is one thing, but making it mandatory is slimy. If everyone has to pay it, like it or not, it's part of the room rate. I went to Las Vegas 4-5 years in a row, from about 2001 or 2002 to 2005, staying at the Riviera. The first time I went was during the California electricty crisis, and they had a $3.50 daily "energy fee." However, even when electricity prices returned to normal, they still charged it.

But the Priceline situation is unique, in that I agree to pay a certain price, and then they tell me that like it not, I have to pay more. For example, if I book the Riviera on I4Vegas (which is where I usually booked) I can call the Riv and ask them "Do you have any other fees?" If I don't like their fees, I don't have to book. Priceline will take my money and give me nothing in return if I don't want to pay the resort fee.

That's why I think that "Name Your Own Price" is unfair and deceptive, if I can't actually name a price and either get a hotel room for that price or not get it.
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Old Feb 27, 09, 1:40 am
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I would like to see any history of lawsuits against PL on the resort fee issue.

Unfortunately there are so many whiners out there who are probably suing/complaining to the FTC, etc. with unreasonable PL gripes (I didn't get the hotel I wanted! The property I got was really a 3*!) that this valid issue probably gets lost in the noise.

Ultimately PL's business model patent will run out in a couple of years, then there'll be Real Competition.
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Old Feb 27, 09, 3:36 am
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I think the resort fees should be disclosed on the screen that comes right before you submit your bid that has the taxes and fees on it.
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Old Feb 27, 09, 12:39 pm
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People are "warned" that they COULD get a resort and that there could be additional fees. Would it be nice if one could say NO RESORTS? Most definitely. But, people cannot say they were not warned... very clear in the process.
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Old Feb 27, 09, 1:07 pm
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Originally Posted by wharvey View Post
People are "warned" that they COULD get a resort and that there could be additional fees... people cannot say they were not warned... very clear in the process.
What would you say is the maximum mandatory resort fee it would be fair business practice to surprise customers with when they have already invested in nonrefundable rooms? $10 a day? $50? $100?

I do not think it is good business practice to impose any surprise mandatory fee on customers. Either tell them in advance so they can opt out of the booking, or make the fee optional, then withhold services if it's unpaid.

The fact is that most resort fees, like extended warranties, are stacked against the customer; the model counts on buyers not using the services they've purchased.
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Old Feb 27, 09, 1:07 pm
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Originally Posted by BearX220 View Post
Normally I think folks who post complaints about Priceline just don't understand the Priceline proposition very well and come off half-baked... but I think redtop43 has a great point here. Any fee above the stated room price should be optional, or else the stated price is false and deceptive.
What makes the situation even more glaring is that Priceline has a very distinctive "RESORTS" category. If a hotel deems itself worthy of imposing a "resort fee", then it should be restricted to that category, exclusively.
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Old Feb 27, 09, 2:37 pm
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Personally, I never bid in areas where resorts could come up.... I will only use Hotwire in those instances.

I do not like the practice.... but Priceline is up front.... and it is the hotel that adds those fees.

Again, Priceline is not made for the uninformed.... You and I can probably figure out when a resort might come up... and take the proper precautions... the average user might not be as smart.

But again, I am sure that is part of Priceline's success.

William

Originally Posted by BearX220 View Post
What would you say is the maximum mandatory resort fee it would be fair business practice to surprise customers with when they have already invested in nonrefundable rooms? $10 a day? $50? $100?

I do not think it is good business practice to impose any surprise mandatory fee on customers. Either tell them in advance so they can opt out of the booking, or make the fee optional, then withhold services if it's unpaid.

The fact is that most resort fees, like extended warranties, are stacked against the customer; the model counts on buyers not using the services they've purchased.
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Old Feb 27, 09, 5:10 pm
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I completely agree with tedtop43 and think Priceline is totally wrong on this issue.

As an example, there are many 3* and 3.5* hotels in the Disneyland/Anaheim area but currently about 90% of the bids in that zone are hijacked by Crown Plaza. They low ball Priceline bids then tack on a mandatory $12 “resort fee” at checkin. Never mind that you arrive by taxi and don’t have a computer and are not going to Disneyland. You are going to be hit with parking fees and internet access fees anyway.

I have written Priceline about this to no avail. It seems to me that accepted bids should include all mandatory charges. How else do we know if we're getting a good deal?
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