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Room for doubt

September 27, 2009|CATHARINE HAMM

Question: Hilton Hotels has a best-rate guarantee, so I booked a room at the Hilton Rome Airport. At the Hilton website, the lowest rate was an advance purchase of 168 euros (about $247, for a king or a twin room, although specific bed types are subject to availability and not guaranteed). I then found that HotelTravel.com offered rooms for 139 euros (about $204, bed type not specified). Both rates included taxes. I then submitted a Best Rate Guarantee claim that was denied for the following reason: "The rooms are not the same." Though I tried to elevate my problem to higher-ups at Hilton, no one has responded. I'm surprised that they don't seem to care, especially since I'm a Diamond member of their HHonors program. Can anything be done?

Randall Gellens San Diego

Answer: Yes. Quit trying to game the system, you cheater, you.

I'm being facetious. Gellens did nothing wrong. Neither, strictly speaking, did Hilton.

Here's the answer, according to Hilton:

Gellens booked his room on the Hilton website, but he didn't specify a room type.

Then he booked a room on a third-party website, but he didn't specify a room type. But the 168-euro room and the 139-euro room were not the same.

Why?

Because on his Hilton HHonors profile, he specifies that he likes a king, nonsmoking room on a high floor, so that's the room he would have gotten. The less expensive room would have been any old room, smoking or not, king or not, high floor or not.

So naturally it was less. Uh, yeah, of course.

When I think on the analytical left side of my brain, this makes perfect sense. When I think on the right side of my brain, where an emotional free-for-all takes place, I want to scream, "That is just horse pucky, pardner."

Because when I look at the Hilton Best Rate Guarantee website, I see lots of restrictions but nothing that says your profile will govern your choice and nullify your chance to get a $50 credit and a $50 American Express Gift Cheque that is promised if you find a lower rate.

I asked David Trumble, director of corporate communications for Hilton Hotels Corp., whether Gellens could have known this -- not exactly a fair question, but this isn't exactly a fair situation. Trumble said he didn't know how to answer that, but added, "It's on his profile, and, now, I don't know how conversant he is with his own profile, but it was set up that way.

"The net net is that he's an important customer to Hilton."

In tough economic times, we're all important, aren't we? So don't we deserve some transparency?

Seems clear to me.

--

Have a travel dilemma? Write to travel@latimes.com.

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