Oct232018

My booking.com hotel reservation with no ***king room upon arrival, yeah!

My first reservation in more than two years with a non-chain hotel was a f**king booking.com nightmare for Hotel Alexis, Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Since there are many places in Cluj, Romania for about $50 per night, I figured booking one night at an independent hotel would be a better value than redeeming hotel points.

I opted for a hotel rather than a lower priced full apartment to have the advantage of a front desk to check in and not be waiting around to meet up with someone for a room key.

I had a hotel reservation with Ramada Cluj using a Wyndham GoFast reward rate of 3,000 points + 72.80 EUR. Then, five days before my arrival in Cluj, Romania I decided to change my hotel reservation after I found a great value 3-night stay in another city where 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points buys a $279 room night. I needed my 3,000 points back to book the better Wyndham deal.

Hotel Alexis, Cluj, Romania via Booking.com

Cluj, Romania hotel reservation $59 rate on Booking.com

Last week I flew Icelandair to Iceland and London on my $270 round trip airline ticket, spent the night at Hotel Indigo Leicester Square using my free Chase Mastercard anniversary night, rode a National Express bus from Victoria Coach Station to London Luton Airport, flew Wizz Air on a $27 flight to Cluj-Napoca, exited the airport and boarded Bus #5 for a 63 cents bus ticket to the city center and walked 10 minutes along the city streets to Hotel Alexis to check in.

“We have no reservation for you and we have no rooms!”

Showed my booking.com reservation printout, and the hotel manager said, “We have no reservation for you from booking.com, we have taken no money from you and we have no rooms available.”

Cluj-Napoca, Romania

I am in a city I have never been, in a country I am experiencing for the first time, and the sun has set.

There is nothing around me on the street that looks particularly inviting and I have no place to go. The nearest place of refuge I see on Google Maps to regroup and figure a way out of my predicament is Hampton Inn by Hilton Cluj-Napoca.

Hampton Inn Cluj increased from 10,000 points to 20,000 Hilton Honors points last month.

I wheeled my luggage down a street and according to Google Maps I was only about 100 meters from the Hampton Inn.

But there was a large wall between me and the street with a locked gate. That was my first experience of what I came to learn is a common residential design in Cluj-Napoca, where roads perpendicular to the main roads frequently do not go all the way through. There are large residential courtyards between many major streets. More often than not the roads leading off the main streets dead end in a residential courtyard space.

Notice how many of the roads leading off the main yellow roads do not connect to the other yellow road.

I backtracked and eventually found my way to the Hampton Inn Cluj-Napoca. Seated in the bar area with a beer, I find Hampton Inn Cluj room rate is 150 EUR for the night. If my wife had been with me, that would be the end of the story and I would be 150 EUR poorer.

If Hilton Honors had not increased the reward rate for Hampton Cluj from 10,000 points to 20,000 points last month, I would have purchased 10,000 Hilton Honors points for $100 and booked a reward night and that would be the end of the story.

But I was not giving in so quickly.

Domus Apartment, Cluj, Romania

Checking Trivago.com showed I could book an apartment for about $50 in a location nearby Hampton Inn Cluj.

And I find myself back on booking.com booking another ***king reservation for Domus Apartment, Cluj.

However, this time I called the apartment contact number immediately to confirm that I would be there within the hour.

After typing in the address for the apartment into Google Maps, I leave Hampton Inn and head out into the dark night. As I approach the Google Maps pinpoint, I see several businesses, but nothing that looks like an apartment building. I walk back and forth along the street watching the blue dot showing me move back and forth past the map pinpoint for the apartment address. There is an office door for Garmin and a long wall that says on my map it is a high school.

I call the Domus Apartment contact number and there is no answer. I watch every car that drives by on the main street and turns slowly at the street corner in expectation that someone will roll down a window and greet me with a key.

Finally, after a half hour and several unanswered phone calls, someone picks up the line.

“Didn’t you receive the email with the directions?”

“No! The only email I received gave me this contact phone number.”

(Turned out one of the 5 emails I received from Booking.com did have directions to the apartment that I failed to see.)

The problem was the apartment location is actually on the perpendicular street to the apartment’s street address and about 100 meters away from where I had been waiting.

The apartment key was in an open mailbox on a wall of mailboxes outside the door of a high-rise apartment building.

I went up the elevator to the floor of the apartment.

Who is afraid of the dark?

I step off the elevator into a stark bare walls hallway and walk to the first door to check the number and determine if I am walking the correct way down the hall.

Then the lights go off and I am in pitch blackness. Waving my arms turns the lights back on and I quickly move past doors and locate the apartment.

My 44 EUR Domus Apartment in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

Inside the apartment looks nice. At this point my adrenaline is pumping and I am hungry since it is 9pm and I hadn’t eaten a meal since a light breakfast of tofu and veggies at 9am on the National Express bus ride to Luton Airport.

I make sure the doors and windows of the apartment are locked before walking to the city old town, about a 20 minute walk.

Cluj National Theatre

On the Unirii Square in Old Town Cluj, I see several restaurants with some people still seated outside in a row of tables on one side of the square at 10pm on a Wednesday night. Reggae music playing over the outdoor loudspeaker makes the decision of where I dine and soon with food in my stomach and alcohol flowing through my bloodstream, I settle back into the joy of experiencing a new and cool place.

Burger and beer in Cluj, Romania

A few beers in a few different pubs and a midnight walk home dispels the anxiety of being in Cluj and Romania on my first night. Cluj-Napoca seems safe and care-free as so many big European cities are where women walk alone at midnight to wherever they are going and young men on the street keep to themselves in a non-threatening way.

Domus Apartment view

Domus Apartment, Cluj

Domus Apartment, Cluj

Domus Apartment Cluj

An apartment in Cluj at $49 a night was a good deal. In the end all worked out.

The future of hotel loyalty points?

There are still plenty of good deals to be found, but Romania is one example of a place where Wyndham Rewards and Hilton Honors points have devalued by 50% or more in 2018.

A year ago I could have been in a suite at the Ramada Cluj for 53 EUR + 3,000 Wyndham Rewards points.

My reservation I canceled last week at Ramada Cluj was 72.80 EUR + 3,000 points for a Standard King room.

Ramada Cluj-Napoca, Romania

I booked an incredible deal in August at Hampton Inn Cluj redeeming 19,000 points for a 5th night free reward stay before the Hilton Honors reward rate increases in Romania last month.

Hampton Inn Cluj is now 80,000 points for a 5th Night Free reward stay, if you have Honors elite status or 100,000 points without elite status for 5 nights.

Hampton Cluj-Napoca, Romania

BOOKING.COM – BOOKING YEAH – (2013).

 

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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  1. Just curious, why didn’t you call Booking.com from the hotel room whom said you didn’t have a reservation? Surely , they would’ve found suitable arrangements for you. I’m a genius with Booking.com and they always come through

  2. So…..I’ve used booking.com for years in Asia and Europe and never had any issues, especially using their Booking Assistant for reserving a parking space at the hotel, etc. So I would hope your experience is an anomaly. I also like the fact I get 4-8 miles/dollar going through the AA portal for booking.com, but that’s not part of this discussion.

    I’m genius status with booking.com, like Flying Machine, above….

  3. Glad it worked out in the end – the apartment looks like great value!
    I’ve been walked once on a hotels.com booking, during a holiday weekend with the best hotels sold out and rates sky-high. I called hotels.com and requested them to find me a new room. While it was hard work and took almost 1h on the phone with them, they eventually came through and found me an equivalent hotel without additional pay.
    I’d recommend to do your own research before you call on any acceptable, equivalent hotels. They did try to stick me with hotels very far away or much inferior – because they tried to find something at the same price I had paid months earlier, which was of course no longer available…
    So, prepare yourself, call the OTA and be persistent…
    I found independent hotels to often be very good value and significantly cheaper than comparable chain hotels – unless you work miles & promotions as hard as you do!

  4. @Flyingmachine – No reason to think Booking.com could find a better room for me than I could find on my own.

    The Hotel Alexis manager offered to help me find another room.

    Again. No reason to think he would do a better job finding a room for me than I could find on my own online.

  5. @Df – Wordplay based on booking.com TV commercials. Seriously.

    That is why I included the link at the end of this article for the booking.com tv commercial.

  6. @JRG – Booking.com worked out in the end for my second reservation around the block from Hotel Alexis, Cluj.

    I have another reservation through Booking.com tomorrow night.

    If I have no problems with 2 out of 3 hotel stays on booking.com this trip, then that will settle the score for me with booking.com.

  7. Does booking.com have a room guarantee or some kind of compensation when something like this happens?

  8. Skillfully navigated.
    I hope I would have been able to execute as well – probably not.

    I enjoyed the ****ing .com ref. I remember those ads.

  9. I apologize for having a VERY different opinion here. You are a cheapskate always trying to get a point here and a point there, switching at the last minute because a fraction of a reward point is being dangled in front of you and not paying attention to details! You blame a hotel, which you booked with a no cancellation fee so no commitment on your part. You blame Google (TWICE) for not having precise directions in a developing tourist market and then blame Booking.com for not putting directions (which they put in EVERY confirmation) in bold face print, which says “hey dummies look here!”. You complain noone was waiting for you with a key and greeting as if you were at a Ramada instead of a cheap place you found to save a few bucks. Then you complain about lights going out in a bare hallway, which is now the European standard the US should adopt. Wow, I pity the people who travel with you…do they ever meet you standards?

  10. @Bill

    Proud cheapskate!

    Living most of the year in one of the prettiest and least affordable places in the USA makes me a cheapskate by economic necessity.
    https://www.forbes.com/pictures/fihh45hlgf/8-monterey-california/#48d8441237ef

    Living 10 weeks in European cities each year for around $8,000 a year is possible by being a cheapskate about travel expenses.

    I was accustomed to lights going out in the hallway of apartment buildings in the early 1970s when I lived in West Germany for three years. We used to have plenty of game play in the dark as children in our apartment building hallways.

    The point about Google Maps is street addresses in Cluj are often different from physical address due to the way businesses and residences are often set within a courtyard dozens of meters from the street. That is a feature of the city design.

    I canceled the Ramada due to wanting a hotel in the same general neighborhood as the Hampton Inn where I had a reservation for the following six nights and saving my Wyndham Rewards points for a hotel reservation over New Year’s Eve in a very expensive city.

    The main point is “You blame a hotel, which you booked with a no cancellation fee so no commitment on your part.”

    What does it matter if there was no cancellation fee? I would have prepaid the room like I did for my booking.com reservation in Iceland if that had been how the hotel wanted to arrange it. That would have been preferable to me rather than find out upon arrival that they did not have a room for me and no problem on their part since they had not charged my credit card.

    The first two emails from booking.com for Domus Apartment with ‘reservation confirmation’ in the email header did not have directions for how to get the apartment key. The third email had the directions to the apartment and key. The fourth email said my check-in time was approved, but no directions in that email either. Lot of emails for the booking in the span of three minutes. Too many ***king emails for the reservation.

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