This is Insane, But True. Your Hotel Booking Site is Not Being Honest with you. They charge differently depending upon your browser and tell a fair few fibs to you.
You have seen
Last chance! We have 1 room left!
Just missed it!
We reserved our last available room at this property
We’ll likely sell out of apartments at this hotel within the next 2 hours.
Do NOT believe one word of this.
- 1 It’s Personal
- 2 Even The Computer you use and the browser you use can cost you
- 3 Booking Sites Tell Fibbies
- 4 We turn off Country and Western to expose this scam
- 5 It’s Not Just Us
- 6 What can you do?
- 7 30 Most Authoritative Articles on Travel Hacks
We did a road trip to Tropical North Queensland recently, where we were booking hotels the day before, if not on the day. We were getting these messages, ‘Just missed it! We reserved our last available room at this property’. For the first day or two we believed this information and looked at other accommodation options.
Then we got to a town where there was not a chance that the hotel was booked out because we stalked it, and all of the doors to the rooms were open and there was not a car in site.
We sat out the front in our car, and got our phones onto it. We both got the ‘Just missed it! We reserved our last available room at this property‘, on three booking sites that we checked.
So … We walked into the motel in Yungaburra, Tropical North Queensland and talked to the owner. He had not had a guest for a week, and we were his first. He was pleased to see us, and we were pleased to see him but annoyed that yes, we have found another issue with booking sites. Most hotels have a lowest price guarantee and are willing to match third-party sites anyhow but we felt so sorry for him, we just paid the price he asked. Here is a free plug to the Yungaburra Park Motel, clean and friendly and perfectly located in this artsy village.
Even The Computer you use and the browser you use can cost you
If you are a regular reader of our site, and we sure hope you are, you may have read Traveler Alert: Which Web Browser Should you Use to Save Money? where we revealed that different web browsers and different computers will yield very different results if you are booking accommodation online or even flights.
In brief, our research showed that prices varied considerably depending on the computer and the search engine you use, not to mention where you live.
If you are a Mac user, then the assumption is that you make more money and are interested in fancier hotels, and ‘can pay the higher prices, and this is what you are given.
However, if you are a PC user and use Internet Explorer as your search engine, then you will get a much lower price, because you must be poorer.
If you live in a poor neighborhood, you get an even cheaper price.
If you live in a poor neighbourhood, use an old PC and have Internet Explorer, chances are the hotels will pay you to stay with them
This is called dynamic pricing apparently though I am sure that a few of we Mac users, who have Safari might come up with a different term…and that ain’t a pretty term.
You should read the article in full, you will be quite astounded as to how you are being manipulated.
Booking Sites Tell Fibbies
Booking sites know that if you are looking for accommodation, then you are looking for accommodation. These messages, like Last chance! We have 1 room left! , are to scare you into making a booking. The more you look at the one destination, the faster it is, that someone from Hong Kong, or Los Angeles or wherever is also looking at this property.
The message is … seriously Paula, do you really want to miss out and be homeless for the night?
It is psychological warfare and very often they win when you are tired, you want to stay in a place with limited accommodation, and you know no better.
We turn off Country and Western to expose this scam
Instead of listening to road trip music in some parts of the journey, I looked up random hotels anywhere, rang them, to see if they had any accommodation. We specifically targeted those that claimed to be sold out, or who had only one room left. Only once from about 20 phone calls, did the hotel say that they had no rooms left, and I believed them. Customers are money to them, booking sites not so much. They are just 3rd party companies looking to make a profit. And there is only so much Country and Western I could cope with ..just joking.
If you see this on the booking site, and all of the booking sites are as guilty as one another, it is probably false. We traveled to the Village in the Rainforest, Kuranda and to the Kuranda Hotel. The booking sites claimed that they had 1 room left. We rang them and got a room and we were the only guests in the entire place the 2nd night. There was one other couple there on the first night, and the rest of the rooms were free.
It’s Not Just Us
Even the New York Times have written about Third-Party Hotel Booking Sites Can Mislead Consumers
What can you do?
- Don’t panic
- Don’t let them make you think you will be sleeping in the car or in the middle of nowhere.
- Ring the hotel directly, and use these 3rd party rates as a bargaining tool. If you are booking an overseas hotel, it is worth paying for Skype and calling them yourselves.
- Make a note to share this information with everyone you know so that your friends and family know that booking sites are fibbers.
I have compiled a list of the 30 Most Authoritative articles on Travel Hacks and many of the ways that we are all being scammed. Take your time and use this as a resource to check what is happening. No one wants to give away hard earned money because of some form of
trickery dynamic pricing.
30 Most Authoritative Articles on Travel Hacks
- 8 Hotel Booking Hacks Every Traveler Needs to Know
- 25 Hotel Hacks From Professional Travelers
- 8 Hotel Booking Hacks Every Traveler Needs to Know
- How To Travel Hack Your Hotel
- Hotel Hacks: The Best Way to Book a Great-Priced Room Now
- How to Get the Best Hotel Deals
- 20 Hotel Hacks To Save You Money On Your Next Trip
- Booking Cheap Hotels
- 13 Hotel Booking Hacks for Business Travelers
- 22 Airport Hacks to Remember Before Your Next Flight
- How to Hack Your Way to a Cheaper Airfare
- 29 travel hacks that even frequent fliers don’t know
- How to Find the Cheapest Flights
- BEST 100 TRAVEL TIPS AND HACKS
- 60+ Amazing Travel Hacks Everyone Should Know!
- 10 Travel Hacks That Will Instantly Upgrade Your Trip
- What are the best travel hacks?
- 29 travel hacks that even frequent fliers don’t know
- 10 Travel Hacks Every Business Traveler Should Know
- The smartest travel hacks for a hassle-free holiday
- These are the ultimate travel hacks
- 24 Of The Smartest Travel Hacks You’ll Ever Need. #22 Is Crucial.
- 100 Life Hacks That Make Life Easier
- 10 clever travel hacks for jet-setting women
- TRAVEL HACKING RESOURCES
- Vacation Travel Hacks — Straight From The Pros
- 5 more travel hacks
- Eight of the best business travel hacks
- What 100 Million Web Searches Reveal About Summer Travel
- Five Travel Hacks and Trends to Optimize Your Summer Travel
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Really?? Is it true. but I had been never heard about this. You gave Interesting Information. I would say thanks for such a informative blog. I mostly tried online hotel booking. Its means in future I’ll booking hotel directly?
Very very true. We are appalled at such prices differences depending upon the web browser you are using.
Holy Moly! I had no idea! It makes sense though… I figured this was true with airline booking sites, as by the time I get from selecting the flight to purchasing the flight, the price I selected is almost never available anymore. Uh huh… sure! So, I guess it shouldn’t shock me that hotels do the same psychological scheming! They know you’re interested, so they falsify the availability to make you think you have to book right then and there. Sheesh! Thanks for revealing the truth!
It sucks doesn’t it. Even though I know, I still think, what if it is the last room. It is psychological warfare.
Does it help if you browse incognito or will they still be looking at what device you are on and what search engine you use to do targeted pricing? It does sound like trying to book with the hotel directly is a good idea.
It would appear that browsing incognito helps a little, but not a lot. Once you are a marked man or woman, you need to go to a different device, different browser and different area.
So interesting…and unnerving!!
It is isn’t it. At least we are partially aware of some of the things that go on.
Gosh, I had no idea. How deceitful. Thanks for the article and links; I have some reading to do now.
Pleasure. Not nice is it.
‘Love the post and yes, the messages from hotel booking sites are awfully annoying so much so that I even end up reserving a few different possibilities. Just in case…!
Having said that, I prefer to book with the hotel directly. They really appreciate it and in many cases, you get a better deal. I wanted to book a hotel in Estonia and the hotel had just celebrated it’s 25th anniversary and had a special offer for that particular month. We were to visit 2 days later. I Emailed the hotel and asked if that offer could still be applied to us and they said yes and sent me a personal confirmation which I thought was wonderfully nice of them!
I like the personal touch as well, and think many of us will be attempting to deal with the hotels directly. However, these booking site are really handy, if only they would be transparent.
Oh wow! That sounds like a pain. I’ve been using only two travel booking sites and I have never thought of any of those responses that I get. Until now that I read this entry. :p Thanks for this info.
Neither had I until it was smack in our faces. I guess I suspected, but when it was so blatantly confirmed, I had to write about it.
It’s all in how the release process works. Hotels would rather book through their own sites for a variety of reasons. Another thing to consider is many loyalty programs are no longer granting points for stays booked via a third party vendor. Ouch!
Interesting shift of power happening then. I do find booking sites to be convenient, I just dislike the lack of transparency.
There oughta be a law! Infuriating~
I hate that they think that we are all gullible. Oh, hang on. I was.
That is so incredibly annoying. I find that I often use the hotel booking sites to get an idea of what I want, and then I usually check directly on the hotel site to see if there are better options. Since we often need a suite to accommodate the 5 of us, I usually find that there are some rooms on the hotel site that are not mentioned on the 3rd party site. In any case, this is a deplorable practice. I suppose they want to scare people into quickly booking it without taking the time to research elsewhere.
I have found that the booking sites only offer a selection of rooms, and always assumed that is all they had been given. In my further research, which I will write about shortly, they hold back some rooms to push the desperation higher in us, the consumers.
I always assumed that the hotels might only sell a portion of their rooms through these 3rd party sites. and so if they say only 2 rooms left or Sold Out! they mean THEY are sold out or only have 2 rooms left. Why say a hotel is sold out if they aren’t? nobody wins. Unless they hope to steer you to a more expensive “available” room or one on which they get a better commission? Enlightening!
I think you make a good point. Say the cheaper rooms are gone, or nearly gone, you freak out and pay for the more expensive room.
This is very interesting and also disturbing, I have a bad feeling about booking pages but had no idea how exactly does it work.
We are continuing our crusade to find out more. Will keep you posted.
I’ve been annoyed at those pesky “just one room left” type messages, but from your post, I can see that it pays to be more vigilant than I’ve been until now. Yikes!
It is unfair. I believed it for so long, as many of my friends have and do. It sucks.
Yep! Seen all those messages before. Informative post with lots of great travel hacks.
Thanks, I am going to get into all of these practices now.
We once had a win with a booking company! Thinking we would get a better deal if we dealt directly with the hotel, we arrived at the hotel only to be told there were no rooms available. We thought this strange as we had just checked the rate on a booking site and told them so. They were adamant so we went into the sitting area and booked the hotel through the booking site! They were not pleased with this but because they valued their business with the booking site, they had to honour the booking! Most other times, I have to agree with you…it is always best to deal directly with the hotel! It’s great that you have bought this to people attention.
Yes, I think we all need to stand our ground and ask them to honour the prices quoted or as you did, walk outside and book it through a 3rd party. Then they lose that extra to the commission that they pay to the booking companies.
I have learned this the hard way and use the rates quoted in booking sites to nego with the hotel itself. But what about airfare? What us the trick?
Am onto to that one Carol; post will come soon.
It is true that sites and agents have a limited amount of rooms so the fact that a site says they don’t have availability does not mean the hotel is booked. Whenever this has happened to me I called the hotel / or emailed them and made sure. It never however happened to me that the hotel happened to be empty or had availability but it is perfectly possible that the promote certain hotels over others so they may say one is full so that you book another one for a higher price or from which they make a higher commissions. What has been annoying me recently is that you no longer see hotels ranked based on your preferences but on what the site wants to promote to you so now, when you go on tripAdvisor or Hotels.com you see first the one that has paid to be on top. I dislike that and it is confusing. Booking sites have become so large and so important that they are setting trends. They are the largest advertisers online too (and I know that because I work for Google) so they have power to decide which hotels have business and which don’t. few hotels are not booked through third party sites, most, have to adhere to their commissions and demands because their business depends on it. I always book straight with the hotel when I can. You are likely to get lower prices or at least, better consideration, because them, too, are tired of the power these bookings sites have. Only consumers can change that. it is important to remember as well that the huge increase in travel and the convenience we all have nowadays is also thanks to these online business that made travel bookings and planning so much easier but it is time it all becomes more democratic and fair and less monopolistic. Thanks for sharing all this, always a great reminder. and the list of authoritative articles is absolutely great, you did spent a lot of time putting this together and I appreciate it very much!
I think that you are correct in that it is we consumers, who need to try and regain some control. After all we have purchasing power. Is this enough in the face of what you have correctly noted, that they make suggestions to us based on what and where they want us to stay…and then play with our heads by saying that we will be sleeping on a park bench if we don’t book right now.
It is all well and good for us as travel writers to see through this, and I think it is our job, to also let other travellers know that this is the state of play. People are savvy and do not like being ripped off, nor being used as pawns. However, as you say, it is precisely all of these booking sites that have made booking your own travels that much easier. Thanks Mar, I have learned from your comment.
Another post to be bookmarked, albeit it rather annoying in its revelation. Good advice though to call ahead. And as for the Mac/PC debate, your other article has got under our skin. It took me over 10 years to convince hubby to go Mac, and now that we are finally PC free – we learn the error of our ways.
I am a Mac user and always will be. What I find super annoying is their assumption that I am rich and can afford to pay more. I am researching further into this psychology behind dynamic pricing. A post will be coming.
I wonder what the logic of saying “You’ve missed it – we’re full” is…? Surely, they risk doing themselves out of a booking (and their commission) by doing this.
What they’re doing is essentially fraudulent so it’s high time the powers-that-be clamped down on this type of behaviour.
I agree Paul; there are 3 losers in this situation. The first is us, the customers, then the actual hotel owners and finally the 3rd party booking sites. It sucks, when you see this lovely many at Yungaburra just trying to make a living.
I’m so bookmarking this article. Great resources you list. Thanks. I hope that motel owner gets lots of business through your site.
Thanks Carol, I hope he does too. I think that while we are being ripped off, obviously it is really affecting their businesses as well.
So true. We are pros at using incognito window’s, VPNs and anything we can to book the first original price that is usually always still there.
The more people who can develop these skills in getting the best price the better.
How interesting! It sort of makes sense but at the same time is really naughty isn’t it? I use a mac but I am in no way well-off its a 10 year old hand-me down! Thanks for sharing those links to the ultimate travel hacks, I’ll bookmark the page and start making my way through. I’ll be aware of being more savvy when I make my bookings in future, thanks so much for sharing this 🙂
I included the list because they contain such good information. There are so many things that we weren’t even aware of, but are becoming more savvy now.
Wow! I really feel like a dumbo. I always panic over the last room left thing because I don’t want to be hotel-less with wailing children. Thanks for a really informative post.
Don’t feel like that. You won’t believe how many times I have panicked and booked because of the ‘1 room left’. They get us when we are most vulnerable.
This isn’t telling fibs or being misleading. It’s lying. End of. Surely that can’t be legal? I had no idea!! Thank you for sharing this. I’ll be spreading the word.
I played around with my words, because that is exactly what I wanted to say. I am going to do more research into dynamic pricing, which seems to be the banner that this exists under. Legal? Not sure ..yet.
Your post pisses me of, Paula. I am aware of these scams and especially the ones the airlines are playing on us. Questions is what can we do to avoid them? I am using only MACs and I don’t have a PC. Besides, they are always ahead of the game. Is there a way we can win?
Anda, it makes me angry too. All I can think of is the more that we share this information with everyone, people will at least be more aware and alert. Will we the customers ever win? Don’t know, but I never dismiss people power.
Excellent article. I am looking forward to read several of the articles you have included in the resources area.I believe this situation extends to a lot of services we book online. Last week, I was trying to buy train tickets using the Renfe site. I had problems with my credit card, so, I tried the transactions several times and used different browsers. I saw at least three different prices for the same route / category I was trying to book. The differences were astonishing in some cases. And, yes, I hate when the “only 1 room left” message appears when I am trying to book a hotel.
That is the thing Rufe; there isn’t just a dollar here of a dollar there difference. It can be massive. That means we are forever having to check and double check with different browsers and search engines to stay on top. And many people don’t have the skills or the time.
That is such a good idea to ring the hotel directly and use the third party sites as a bargaining tool if necessary
It does work. I just say well I can walk back out to the car and book it online if you like, or you play fair.
Well you just confirmed my suspicions about these booking sites smh. These are great tips and for sure bookmarking for the travel hacks tips! Thanks.
It took me a while to realise just how prevalent this dynamic pricing is. I am not going to share everyone we find.
I had never heard if you search with a MAC computer you would get higher rates.I’m going to keep a closer eye when I search.
Definitely keep an eye on it. Get a few people together with different computers and browsers and search for the exact same hotel, room etc. You will be shocked and angry.
Feels like the travel industry is conspiring against us, the poor travellers!
I already knew those messages weren’t true, that´s why I never took them seriously…
Any how, time to back to the old fashioned way, book a room by a phone call!
I always had my suspicions, but to have it so blatantly confirmed was the icing on the cake.
Well, I did not know that – sneaky! And bad business for the hotels too. Looks like you have lots of other good tips on your site too – I’m going to have a nosey around. Thanks
It is sneaky isn’t it. I feel for hotels who get caught up in this. Love you to look around our site. Welcome.
I knew that these warnings weren’t true because when I looked at a hotel booking site on a different day on a different computer, there’d still be rooms available. It never occurred to me, though, that they’d leave the rooms empty! Nobody gains from that! Another tip I’d add, though, is to go incognito on your computer, because the booking sites can tell if you’re looking at the same hotel or flight more than once, and they raise the price! Thanks for the long list of hack advice!
Yes, I wrote about this on the linked article where I was shocked to discover the prices varied depending upon your computer and web browser. I feel sorry for the hotels who have the empty rooms. They need to take a stand about it.
Some of the points you make are really interesting and disturbing but I do have to question one of your points. Most of the booking websites are simply a Travel Agency without a store or a wholesale outlet.
As a Travel Agent I have learned that different wholesalers only contract a price for a certain number of rooms. So they could genuinely be out of allotment and showing a sold out message while others still can supply.
This is evident on a site like Tripadvisor where some suppliers will show a price and others not. No price, no allotted rooms left.
Yes, we did look into that as well, knowing that each site is only given a certain allocation. So we checked multiple sites for the hotel at Yungaburra, after we were in our room. All were showing either 1 room left, or sold out. We could see for ourselves and the owner confirmed, that we were the only one’s there the 1st night. I think that whilst there may be only a certain amount of rooms per booking site, it is very odd that they are all showing misinformation.
Thanks for these great travel hack sites Paula, I’ll be sure to make my way through them as I finalise my plans for Winter in Europe.
These are the best sites and the best pieces of advice to getting the most honest prices; though I am still a little cynical.
I’m trying to book a room right now for Barcelona, and the messages on the these booking sites can raise a person’s blood pressure. I have found a place that I like, and have been stalking the room for the past few days, and it’s still there. Of course, the site is yelling at me to book 🙂 Great list of travel hacks.
I know. They play with our heads deliberately, and because we panic, or at least i do, then they win.
I’m a hotelier, and I can tell you that your best bet is to book direct.
Interesting, and will try this.