Back in March 2009, I had an occasion to need to stay at a hotel I booked through Hotwire.com. The hotel was nice enough, but there were a few things that were a bit peculiar. For one, they did not offer dry cleaning services, which is odd for any hotel and particularly one not far from a major airport that allegedly caters to business travelers. The other odd thing, was the hotel had a DJ playing house music in the lobby bar. It was extremely loud, but the sound did not reach the floors above, so it was fine really, unless you wanted to relax in the bar with a drink and enjoy typical hotel bar conversation or watch a game on the TV. In any event, after submitting a review shortly after I stayed, I just received an e-mail from Hotwire telling me that the review I submitted was not appropriate and needed to be changed because I mentioned policies of the hotel. I thought this odd, so I went back to Hotwire to see what I had submitted. Clearly, I did not mention any “policies” of the hotel, but rather just pointed out a few of the peculiarities and suggested that if you were looking for business accommodations you might be better off elsewhere.
Here is a screenshot of a portion of the e-mail I received:
Now here is the review I submitted:
Great place, not much immediately around the hotel though. In the evenings they did have DJ music in the lobby bar, which seemed like a low-key club setting. There was a very good exercise room, and a pool. The hotel does not offer dry cleaning services, which was surprising. So if you are traveling on business this might not be the best choice. I always like to get my shirts and suit pressed to look my best, but that was not an option, so I had to make do with an ironing board and no starch. The room had a mini-refrigerator, king bed and a desk, which was reasonably comfortable. There was no easy chair though, so watching TV at night was either in bed or in the desk chair. For the rate I managed to get on Hotwire it was great, but I suspect if I had paid the full rate for this hotel I would have been extremely disappointed.
Here is the non-responsive e-mail I received from Hotwire Customer Service when I informed them they had made an error and that nothing I said mentioned any hotel policies:
Thank you for contacting us to express your concerns regarding your survey.
Customer feedback is an important component in ensuring quality products and services at Hotwire.
Our goal is to exceed your expectations and we regret we did not do so on this occasion. We hope to have the opportunity to better serve your needs in the near future.
If we can be of further assistance, please feel free to reply to this email or contact us directly at 1-866-XXX-XXXX. Thank you for choosing Hotwire.
This is obviously sent by someone who didn’t read my e-mail sent to Hotwire, or perhaps just picked a standard non-responsive e-mail reply from a list of canned choices. In any event, I am not going to correct the review because I am not about to waste time trying to dumb down a fair, accurate and informative review, particularly without knowing what the problem with the review is. Furthermore, the closest that I come to doing that is probably that they offer no dry cleaning services, but quite honestly that was the entire reason I wrote the review in the first place. As a frequent business traveler, when I travel to places I am not familiar with I always like to try and get some sense of the hotel from various reviews. If you are in town to visit friends, family or site-seeing this hotel was great, but for those on business who might want to be able to be able to get a shirt or suit pressed or cleaned, you better have a car and a map to get to the nearest dry cleaner. Likewise, after a long day it is always nice to get a drink in the hotel bar and relax a bit, but if you are not into loud DJ music that would be difficult to accomplish.
So all of this makes me wonder what exactly the value is in Hotwire reviews? I have had some good experiences with Hotwire, but many not so good experiences, and perhaps this is why. It is no wonder the reviews are all spectacular and then you get to the hotel and see it is not at all like what you were lead to believe. It would seem that Hotwire has a bias against legitimate but potentially unfavorable reviews and opinions. It is their site and business, and they can do whatever the like, but I can to and I think it is important that people know they cannot trust Hotwire reviews because potentially negative reviews are weeded out.
I typically, as a rule, no longer use Hotwire because I think classifying Comfort Inn as a 3 star hotel is disingenuous, which actually happened to me once. Nevertheless, when I am only going to be in a place for a few days and I need a quick, cheap room I have given in to the price point temptation presented by Hotwire. Knowing that the reviews on Hotwire need to pass some kind of uncertain and ill defined acceptability review means I will just steer clear of Hotwire from now on.
So what does this have to do with intellectually property? Perhaps not much as IPWatchdog readers are typically accustomed to in my writing, but it is certainly an Internet related story, and I am going to try and write more about that where appropriate. Also, if you have a business and you want you Trademark to remain valuable you need to make sure you are not doing anything particularly silly or stupid to waste such an important asset. Perhaps Hotwire is trying to become synonymous with really cheap, not so good and/or “interesting” hotels that for one reason or another, whether ongoing construction, newness or weirdness, have rooms that cannot be filled. Your mileage may vary, but that is exactly what I think of when I hear “Hotwire,” and I can’t believe that is a good thing for their long term viability, particularly if others also feel the same way.
Join the Discussion
16 comments so far.
Grachik KhurshudyanJuly 14, 2012 07:39 pm
Hotwire is absolutely worthless. I will never-ever use it again or recommend to anybody. Somebody should sue them for the absence of truth in their advertisement. “Four-star” hotels for “two-star” prices. In my case it was exactly opposite. They sold me a “cat-in-a-bag” and when I checked it out – it was a hotel infested with drugs and insects. I had to cancel the reservation (two day in advance) because I could not send my granddaughter to stay in that place. Obviously i got ripped off for $117.00 plus $8.00 insurance, which also does not cover anything.
When I tried to stop the payment from Credit Card, they said that Hotwire has “iron-clad policy” and i will have to pay. I am very upset and don’t even know what could be done to stop these people from ripping us off.
CrocmanApril 1, 2011 08:05 am
Hotwire is fraudulent. Think twice before using Hotwire or taking their word at anything. They misrepresent hotel locations on their advertisements. They advertise in preferred areas but click on their area map and you will learn that they are just baiting. You could end up in a far away area from what you were led to expect.
Don’t get ripped off like we did! No refund!
Plaza HotelSeptember 1, 2010 06:04 pm
That is pretty ridiculous. Just forget about Hotwire I say. There are a bunch of good review sites out there though. I wouldn’t write them all off. Some of them even give you cool incentives to give a good review.
Iron County LodgingSeptember 1, 2010 03:58 pm
did you ever get though to a real person who could explain how your feedback wasn’t approved?
Reserve It Now RentalsAugust 27, 2010 03:50 pm
That’s good to know. I think Hotwire would be a good starting point for me, but then I would go ahead and call the hotel to ask about services, etc. That’s especially important when traveling with children who need pools. the last six hotel/motel experiences were disasters because they said they had working pools and we get there to find out the pool is out of service for one reason or another.
finding Z zeroApril 10, 2010 01:40 pm
WOW! I did a google search of something in a form letter from HW asking me to modify my review and found your website. I’ve been in an e-mail debate with this Co. (I’m recently retired and can afford the time). I was hit by a hidden $20/night parking fee in a downtown hotel. I didn’t need to stay ‘downtown’ had I known of this fee. The first comment from them was they only disclose info about the hotel that the hotel gives them (the vampire coven on the 4th floor, or the behind the bureau chute int J. Malkevitch’s head may do them no good). When I noticed they ignored some of my questions and queries, they responded that they ‘understood’ my concerns (hand-holding) about these issues. The rest of the paragraph was blah blah boiler-plate about how important we are to them, but no action. I got the rejected review because I mentioned the $20 fee (not the hotel), and had I known, I would have stayed at the Embassy Suites for the same price (with a wonderful breakfast for 3 included). I asked how listing a $20 parking fee would ‘compromise the the anonymity of the hotel’ (their term). I am awaiting their esponse. Not sure, as others have said, what use is a review that leaves out pertinent info. I suggested they use the reviews (in lieu of publishing them) to beef up their ‘know before you go’ segment to allow customers (maybe a check box) to opt out of out those hotels that charge customers ‘hidden fees’ w/o ‘compromising their anonymity,’ After all, the only reason to use HW is to save $$. They replied with directing me to their ‘Know b4 u go’………sheeeeeeesh!
CRyanApril 8, 2010 02:06 pm
I do not work for a competitor of Hotwire, I just used their “services” yesterday and got ripped off!!!
I reserved a hotel thru HotWire for 3 persons and paid a total of 74.64.
I have spent the last 2 hours trying to get some sort of service out of their “customer service” people, first of all, the total savings I got was a fantastic total of 2.40 usd which is NOT a “Deep Discount” as their website claims (that is IF I got what I reserved). Once you get ripped off, like I did, and call customer service, they tell you that they guarantee the “Lowest rate on the Internet” which can be as low as 1 cent cheaper and they still claim it’s a discounted rate.
Second, I called the Hotel HotWire choose for my reservation just to confirm that they had received my itinerary and the lady told me that I had a HotWire reservation for 1 king bed, then I called HotWire again, and they told me they had a “problem” with the hotel reservations (or something) and that if I wanted to “upgrade” to a double bed room (which is not an upgrade, it’s what I originally paid for) I had to pay an extra 10 usd to the hotel and then mail the receipt to HotWire and eventually HotWire would reimburse me the 10 usd back.
Why do I have to do this????? I paid for a double bed room, Hot Wire selects a roachy hotel for me at a fantastic savings of 2.40 usd, and then I STILL have to go to the trouble of paying La Quinta, sending my receipt to HotWire and then I have to wait for the refund???? Why??? Why the bad service??? Why do I have to do all this running around to save 2.40 and get an inferior hotel that I would have never chosen on my own???
I prepaid the hotel for my mom who is old and does not speak English so she would not have to mess with anything and now she’ll have to do all this???? My goodness!!! This is just bad all around!
I’ve used HotWire before with very good results and have highly recommended it to all my friends and family, but after this I will never use HotWire again and will tell this bad experience to everyone who’ll listen!!! This is just wrong!!!
Will NEVER use HotWire again!!!
Prosource IncorporatedDecember 11, 2009 12:26 pm
Reviews and top 10’s getting the most attention from search engines and the organic traffic.
Gene QuinnDecember 3, 2009 04:56 pm
Thanks for making me laugh. Obviously, you are trying to take shots at me personally and claiming that I am not smart enough to read and/or understand. That is extremely humorous coming from someone who thinks multiple punctuation marks at the end of a sentence are appropriate, and even funnier coming from someone not smart enough to know that you are supposed to capitalize the first letter of a new sentence. Even funnier still when you write in broken English.
Thanks so much for making me smile!
starlaDecember 3, 2009 03:09 pm
SteveJuly 6, 2009 07:42 pm
I believe that Hotwire’s goal is to represent the true ideas of the customer with the intention to build customer trust in the product offering…as opposed to sugar coating the review to drive sales. They are limited in what can be posted due to commitments to supplier partners to maintain opacity. Mentioning a DJ in the lobby could be information that reveals the identity of the hotel, hence resulting in the customer being able to ID the hotel pre-purchase.
MelJuly 6, 2009 03:21 pm
I recommend TripAdvisor.com for useful and unbiased hotel reviews. They do not book rooms themselves, but rely instead on advertising and therefore are not beholden to specific hotels for revenue. They would have published Mr. Quinn’s review rather than trying to squelch or censor it as Hotwire did.
Gene QuinnJuly 5, 2009 04:51 pm
I too out the “ass” string from the banned words list. I put it there not realizing it was a string search and it would affect a great many legitimate words.
Gene QuinnJuly 5, 2009 04:41 pm
I agree with you 100%. If Hotwire wants to change my review they can, but I am not about to take them up on their invitation to me to change the review. I provided an honest and informative review. If they want to water it down to make it sound positive then they can go ahead, but I am not going to participate in that endeavor, particularly since their standards are obviously subjective.
It is too bad that Hotwire doesn’t want to provide factual information, which really does make it far more than a lottery ticket than folks would expect.
I hope all is well with you.
Richard BelzerJuly 5, 2009 02:24 pm
Gene, Hotwire’s privacy statement clearly states (at least, it’s clear to anyone with legal training) that when you send a review you grant “nonexclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable and fully sublicensable right to (a) use, reproduce, modify, adapt, translate, distribute, publish, create derivative works from and publicly display and perform such Submissions throughout the world in any media, now known or hereafter devised.”
“Modify” and “adapt” mean that they can change your review however they see fit. They are following their policy.
Hotwire’s business model consists of selling you a lottery ticket for an unnamed hotel in a given location and “star” class. They have strong incentives not to publish reviews that provide specific information that could reduce a consumer’s willingness to buy the lottery ticket. Both the dry cleaning and lounge DJ constitute facts that would, as you specifically intended, discourage some consumers from taking the gamble. Your experience indicates that they are following these incentives.
I sometimes read hotel reviews, but I tend not to place much value on them because reviewers are not a random sample of customers. (Indeed, I’m never sure that the most positive reviews aren’t submitted by employees and the most negative reviews aren’t submitted by competitors.) Reviews are useful to the customer only if they contain factual information, not opinions. It sounds like Hotwire (from whom I have never bought anything) is specifically opposed to factual reviews precisely because they communicate useful information.
breadcrumbsJuly 5, 2009 09:04 am
It appears that Hotwire.com can be a$$ocated with certain HOT topics that serve as tripWIRES to invoking the wrath of Quinn.