Hotel Haggling?

Should one haggle with hotels? After all, they make less money on a room if it's sold through a travel agent because the typical agent procures the room at a wholesale rate of up to 20% off or more with 7% the usual bottom line discount.

If you book the room through the hotel instead of the agent, shouldn't you be able to shave a few bucks off the price? A win-win deal, right? You might think so, but it's not that easy. Although the hotel stands to earn more money on this transaction than if you booked through the agent, the agent works with hotels on volume, so your clever uniqueness and entrepreneurial fortitude are not rewarded. You might as well save the financial prowess for the stores.

Nowadays, middlemen such as Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz, plus hotel specialists such as hotels.com and quikbook.com, offer an attractive outlet for rental properties trying to fill their rooms. It's similar to those middlemen who purchase large amounts of telephone time at bargain rates and then re-sell it to you and me.

Because consumers view rates on the travel sites far better than what the hotel sites were offering, many shoppers never checked hotel websites at all. Hotels have tried various tactics to wrest back control of their inventory. Some yanked rooms off Expedia and hotels.com to cut a better deal with Travelocity. Some chains managed to discourage middlemen from undercutting promotions on hotel websites. And some hotels won't provide upgrades or loyalty points to those who don't book directly on their sites.

If you conduct an experiment and phone some hotels, likely you will discover that few if any will haggle. Some might offer an "upgrade." Others will claim it "unethical" to cut the price below what is listed on the website. And with volume the primary issue with middlemen, how are hotel staff supposed to know that they are not being "tested?"

I guess that the best that you can do is to refer to your plastic card memberships such as AAA, CAA and such. In the United States, the best rates are usually afforded to the military then to government then to corporate clients. I suppose that it's slightly "unethical," but I have business cards for all three! As they say in the haggling game, caveat emptor!

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