Posted by Ric Garrido

Let me be clear. I have never booked a room through getaroom.com. I have never signed up to be a member of getaroom.com.

The waters of best rate guarantee claims are getting murkier with the simple descriptor of ‘membership rate’ on GetaRoom.com as I test the parameters of what is acceptable for defining best rate claims.

Today, I had a best rate guarantee claim denied by Starwood Hotels. My claim was based on an $80 rate at Starwood Hotels for Aloft Jacksonville Airport when I can book the same room on getaroom.com for $64.41.

Aloft JAX

Aloft Jacksonville Airport is $80 on Starwood site.

Aloft JAX getaroom

GetaRoom.com $64.41 rate states it is an “Exclusive Membership Rate”.

Anyone can see and book this rate simply by going to getaroom.com. They say it is an exclusive membership rate, yet there is no barrier to seeing and booking the rate for the general public like me and you.

JAX aloft getaroom rates

When I check Jacksonville, Florida on getaroom.com, these rates appear for Aloft Jacksonville Airport. They state “exclusive membership rate”.

Exclusive Membership Rate Superior Room, 1 King Bed $64.41 Non-refundable. The first four rates shown on the website state “Exclusive Membership Rate”.

JAX Aloft getaroom

$72.78 for Aloft Jacksonville Airport on getaroom.com vs. $91 on Starwood site for same room.

The next few GetaRoom.com rates do not have those words “Exclusive Membership Rate”. The booking process is identical for both the member exclusive rate and the general rate.

JAX Aloft getaroom nonmember

GetaRoom.com $80.49 Superior Room, 1 King Bed Non-Refundable.

What makes a person a member of Getaroom.com?

Starwood Best Rate Guarantee sent back this response to my BRG claim.

I have reviewed the rates for Aloft Jacksonville Airport for the dates of your claim on our website and found a rate of 80.10 USD which is lower than the rate of 80.26 USD found on Getaroom.com. Since the rate is lower on our website, I am not able to approve your claim.

For one thing, the rate shown on getaroom.com is $80.49 and not $80.26.

The response does not even address the fact that my claim was made against the $64.41 rate on getaroom.com.

Starwood Hotels Best Rate Guarantee T&C states:

The Best Rate Guarantee does not apply to:

Rates requiring membership in a club or other organization, offered pursuant to direct mail or email solicitations, requiring discount codes or coupons, or otherwise not intended for the general public;

My point again is getaroom.com says the $64.41 rate is a member exclusive rate. I’ll state again that I have never booked a room through getaroom.com and I do not see anything about the room rate that prevents any member of the general public from booking the deal. Just because the website states it is a ‘membership exclusive rate’, those words seem to be window dressing and do not seem to have any validity in this case since I am not a member of getaroom.com and I can see and book the $64.41 rate.

In the UK there was a court ruling in 2013 stating online travel agencies can undercut the hotel chain’s room rates when offering lower rates to a fenced group, i.e. a group member. Here is my August 2013 Loyalty Traveler post: UK ruling may impact hotel chain BRG claims (August 9, 2013).

This is the first time I have tested that ruling with a Best Rate Guarantee claim.

Bottom line is I can book Aloft Jacksonville Airport for $64.41 on getaroom.com for the same King bed hotel room Starwood Hotels is charging $80.

Simply tacking on the words “Exclusive Membership Rate” allows getaroom.com to offer a lower rate than Starwood Hotels for the same room and Starwood Hotels gets to deny a best rate guarantee claim.

I wonder how I become a member of getaroom.com?

18 Responses

  1. This is super frustrating, and I’ve really only succeeded once in a successful ‘best rate claim’ out of my 10 or so attempts. Recently I made two separate claims on hotels.com which went through and they were supposed to refund the difference on my credit card- and of course they didn’t! So not only did I spend an hour on the phone making the original bookings, but I spent an hour after returning home trying to get them to refund the difference. It’s hard to justify the savings anymore, considering how much aggravation it is.

  2. As an SPG Platinum, I have literally got into fights with SPG BRG staff. They are clueless about 30% of the time. I’d email SPG this blog posting and ask them to honor the lower rate. Whenever I have trouble with the BRG folks, the platinum ambassador usually takes care of it with no problem. Always escalate with SPG BRG. I call bullshit on their logic.

  3. Yeah I have run in to similar Marriott issues for European sites which use the word “coupon” for your booking confirmation. Even though the rate was cancellable until 3 days before they insisted that because “a coupon” was involved it wasn’t a valid BRG/LNF claim. It was pretty clear that they used the word coupon for the booking confirmation. Still Marriott is generally pretty good. Your best bet may to check out HotelTonight?

  4. I found the link to join GetaRoom.com as a member.

    https://www.getaroom.com/login

    @A – I’ll wait to see how Marriott handles my best rate guarantee claim. It is another parameter test since I was denied initially on one of my Chicago BRG claims last month for a Marriott brand hotel when I put Kayak as the competitor website. Marriott’s terms state metasearch sites do not qualify and Marriott’s BRG representative simply denied the claim based on me submitting Kayak.com as the competitor website with the lower rate.

    The sticking point here is I actually booked the lower rate today through Kayak.com (refundable rate) since that is the only site where the lower rate was found and the completed reservation simply states it is serviced by a Travelocity Partner Network. The rate I booked on Kayak.com is lower than the rate on Travelocity.

    I am going to be sorely disappointed if two best rate guarantee claims are denied by Starwood and Marriott when the rates are legitimately lower on competitor online travel agency sites and bookable by the general public.

    Loopholes will gut best rate guarantee policies.

  5. I wouldn’t be surprised if the hotel negotiated the extra verbiage with getaroom to get that low of a rate to prevent BRGs.

  6. Ric,

    I really want to encourage you to pursue this, not just for the $15, but to publicize and put some pressure on these practices. Dealing with BRG often feels like dealing with medical insurance claims. The company reps seemed trained to look for any possible way to deny claims. Since it usually doesn’t involve a lot of money for the customer, he gives up in frustration. However, by denying tens or hundreds of thousands of claims a year, the hotel companies save a ton of money all while claiming to offer a best rate guarantee. I think you should rally the troops and try to put an end to this nonsense.

  7. This is a loop hole to get around brg claims. AAA rate can be less than the BRG rate.

  8. On another note: welcome to Jacksonville! Not sure why you’re staying at the airport, but I’m sure you have a good reason!

  9. Hyatt turns this down to on the same basis — “membership rate” — very frustrating.

  10. @Ben – late arrival to JAX. 2,000 bonus points on a BRG claim $65 rate would keep me at the airport.

    Chances are I will end up downtown Jacksonville. I am heading to Savannah the next day. Jacksonville is simply road trip launching point. Focus of trip is Savannah, Hilton Head, Charleston and Outer Banks of NC.

  11. I had a similar experience with IHG BRG claim. They indicated this is member exclusive price and won’t verify the claim.

  12. While I am disappointed that you are not planning on spending time in Jacksonville, staying downtown is really out of your way. The airport is almost to the FL/GA line and downtown would really be backtracking.

    The Aloft at the airport is fairly new and is in the center of a newer shopping/dining center area. You mainly have most of the different chain restaurants/stores in that area.

    If you do decide to stay downtown, then I would recommend the Hyatt Regency. Trey to get a room with a view over the bridges. The Main Street and Acosta bridges are lit up at night and it is quite pretty from the upper level rooms.

    I am impressed that you actually found a BRG – every time that I have looked, the rates have been the same as on SPG. I usually have good luck with SPG BRG, just not in JAX.

    Comment by Katherine on April 21st, 2014 at 9:05 pm
  13. @Katherine – I plan to drive around Jacksonville area and check out downtown and beaches. I would have loved to stay two weeks and tour the southeast, but like most vacation trips, I had to set a time limit and I have an ambitious schedule.

    I think of this as an overview trip to get a feel for the different tourist destinations and then I can return and focus on specific locations for in-depth familiarization.

    I have a free night with Hyatt that I plan to redeem at Andaz Savannah, Georgia.

    Jacksonville is definitely a city with hotel deals for loyalty travelers. Many of the hotels are low category award nights across several hotel chains.

  14. Super long explanation but will help if you REALLY want to know why hotels do this….

    The lower rate you see on getaroom.com is likely a discounted FIT rate that the hotel offers to wholesale travel agencies (Ex. Bonotel, Gullivers Travel, etc). These type of rates are ‘in theory’ opaque to the general public and require a membership of sorts to reserve. If a hotel desires added exposure in low demand periods, they have the ability to grant permission for these FIT travel agencies to ‘sell’ the same discounted/opaque rates through 3rd party ‘membership’ sites such as getaroom.com. Which you figured out doesn’t really require any type of membership other than going to the site. This is by design…

    If you were to book the room through getaroom.com, you are actually booking with the FIT travel agency itself (even if the CC charge appears to be getaroom.com). Think of getaroom.com as a store front that allows lesser known/offline travel agencies the ability to distribute their rates online, just like Expedia and other 3rd party travel sites allow lesser known hotels to distribute themselves on popular/high-traffic websites (bill-board effect).

    The reality is though hotels would MUCH rather you book direct (meaning by calling in or through their official brand website), as they will save on margins/fees that are associated with you reserving through a 3rd party site. Most hotels pay 3rd party travel sites 15-25% on EVERY room night booked. It goes the same for FIT rates, the hotel would likely have netted 5-10% below the $64 you saw online. A portion of this margin goes to getaroom.com and the remainder to the FIT travel agency. This behind the scenes ‘mark-up’ is how getaroom.com and the FIT travel agency make a profit from the booking.

    So……. If you truly want to rattle the appropriate cage, you should reach out to the hotel directly (online BRG = BS). Ask to speak to the ‘Revenue Manager’ or the GM if the RM is not on property (it’s very common for branded hotels to have centralized/off-set revenue management). They are your best bet to get the request in front of someone who actually has the authority and the knowledge as to why they would want to make the change to the lower price you found online. It’s in the hotels’ best interest to do so as they will net less profit from your reservation if they allow you to book through a 3rd party site. It’s all about margins, margins, margins ie why Southwest Airlines for example only allows you to book through their DIRECT website. The fact is the travel industry is overrun with these type of ‘middle-man’ websites but that’s a battle for another day….

    In the end… If you are looking to capture points from your stay, which I assume fueled this quest, you may have to bite the bullet on the rate difference as the hotel can always deflect the BRG request for the ‘membership’ reasons given to you. The same goes for AAA rates… SOL…

    ALWAYS BOOK DIRECT!

    Comment by Hotel 101 on April 22nd, 2014 at 7:32 am
  15. PS. Kayak.com is by far the most effective way of identifying online rate discrepancies. Tip… Use the Kayak mobile app to find even deeper discounts as it’s extremely trendy right now for hotels to offer ‘mobile-exclusive’ discounts that the desktop version of Kayak.com won’t pick up on. Happy booking!

    Comment by Hotel 101 on April 22nd, 2014 at 7:44 am
  16. @Hotel 101 – I have called Revenue Managers and asked them to match/beat and they often refuse. So don’t be surprised if you get a dumb revenue manager. Or maybe they aren’t dumb and aren’t allowed to beat the 3rd party rate contractually…

  17. I would escalate this up the chain of command to Starwood corporate for an official response if I was in your shoes

    Comment by D Wonderment on April 22nd, 2014 at 7:32 pm
  18. I’m glad I found this post. I am having the same experience with Aloft Philadelphia. The BRG team is not even acknowledging that there is a lower rate. I am only gold but I am hopeful the SPG Gold team can resolve this.

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