If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

5 Aug

When I visit the office every other week or so, I spend a couple of nights in a hotel close by. As this is at my own expense, and I’m tight, I don’t like to spend too much and inevitably end up in a Travelodge. It’s not so bad, but it does get a bit dull.

To get the best prices, I have to book about two months in advance, and when I do I always look to see if I can grab a bargain somewhere else first. I’ve stayed in Premier Inns, which are just like Travelodge but with more TV channels, and occasionally in another posh chain (mentioning no names in case they find me!). They are usually old country houses, where the rooms are expensive, with new-built concrete bunkhouses round the back, where the rooms are cheaper.

For a couple of years, they had summer offers on and I stayed there quite often for not much money. They’ve stopped that now, so I haven’t been in one for a while, although I always look.

So, some time in April, I was checking out prices for June on the posh hotel website. Nothing there, but I scrolled forwards a bit to see if any offers might be coming up. July… nope. August… Hang on a minute! For one night only, prices for their hotel in Reading went from about £100/night to… £11. Yes, 11 quid. How could I resist? Staying there for two nights would have made it more than the Travelodge, but if I did one night there and one night somewhere else, bingo!

To make things even better, I had a discount code, so I actually managed to get the room for £9.35. Bargain!

Of course, I should have realised something was a bit dodgy. It’s an obvious pricing mistake, and as the day of the booking (today!) got closer, I started to worry. I looked up whether or not they had to honour it, and the answer was basically no. So, I envisaged a few scenarios in my mind. They’ll send me an email saying it’s a mistake, and I’ll have to cancel it. I’ll get there, they’ll spot it at check-in and tell me it’s a mistake. I’ll get there, they won’t notice until the following morning and then we’ll have an embarrassing argument about it being a mistake (but hopefully would honour it, as by then surely it’s binding, right?) Or, and this was what I was secretly hoping, they may or may not notice it, but the person taking payment will just blindly accept that what the computer says is correct.

Anyway, in a last minute panic (prompted by Lady Downton telling me that of course they wouldn’t let me in), I called them, and they came up with another, completely unexpected option. They completely denied that I had made the booking. Nothing in my name. Even when I gave them the booking reference number from their own website, they said the booking had never been confirmed (there is no way to make a provisional booking on their website, and I’ve never had to confirm anything before).

My own fault I suppose. If it looks like a company are incompetent and you try to take advantage of it, you can’t really complain when they turn out to be incompetent again can you?