Tuesday, October 2, 2007

There must be a better way!

It used to be that the most frustrating thing about traveling was having to make Hotel Reservations. I know this, because I worked in a hotel when I was in college. They put us through rigorous training on how to up-sell the rooms and the hotel and give the customer a big story about why it was taking so long. First, a customer would call and say "What are your rates?" We'd say, "Well, what dates are you looking at, because our rates change depending on when it is." (That was only barely true. We charged a slightly lower rate on the weekends, but that was the only difference.)

Then we'd ask them what kind of room they wanted, smoking or nonsmoking, two double beds or a queen, and if they were interested in one of our suites. (The purpose of this was to make sure that the type of room they wanted was actually available on the days that they were looking at. We did not charge a different price for different types of rooms. We were not allowed to tell them that, though.) Then, (this was always my favorite part) "Let me tell you a little bit about our hotel while the computer brings up your rate ... (the rate is sitting right there on the screen while you do this.) "We have an outdoor pool, room-service from Mitzel's American kitchen, a conference room and a business center. (We were only required to list two, but it was just as easy to say them all)

THEN, we were allowed to tell them that the rooms were $88 per night. Some people thought this was a great deal and others said "No thank you" and hung up. The point of the long to-do over it was to make sure that they knew it was a NICE hotel so they didn't wig out about the rate right away, and also so that we could say "Would you like to make this reservation now?" and if they said yes, all we needed was a credit card number and the room was already booked for them, since we checked availability beforehand.

And the worst part was we had to do this every single time ANYONE asked about our rates because we got secret shopped by our own company all the time. If you got a perfect score, including answering the phone correctly and saying thank you at the end, they gave you a $10 bonus. Which was awesome, but frustrating because they'd typically only call once a month and we'd get rate requests like 10-15 times in an eight hour shift. Most people put up with the crap we gave them, but a few got pretty mad about it. I have to admit, I'd be frustrated too, if I were calling eight hotels in an area to find the best rate and it took more than 5 minutes per call! That's like 40 minutes just to save a few $$$, are you kidding?

Thankfully, these days, most people are smart enough to book their hotel rooms online. A Web site like HotelReservations.com can tell you all about the pool and room service that each hotel offers should you be interested, but if you just want the cheapest rate and that's it, they can do that. And its a lot faster than doing it yourself!

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