When will substance win over celebrity?

Hilton really did it. They wheeled out A-list celebrities like Anna Kendrick and launched a truly massive international terrestrial ad campaign which saturated every household in the world. The campaign had one message: you never need to look anywhere further than Hilton for the best prices, and if you find better elsewhere, there’s a no-hassle policy which gets you a 25% discount. It was entirely designed to help you trust Hilton, and feel like they want to do the right thing.

a room with a large window and a view of a lake and mountainsIt’s with sadness that we report after plugging, playing and listening that it’s total bulls**t. It’s really unfortunate for everyone, including both you and Hilton. Ultimately, hotels want you to book direct, so it’s almost impossible to understand why Hilton would undermine this, yet they have…

  1. Booking direct means chains don’t need to pay online travel agencies a commission.
  2. If you have a great experience with your claim, you’ll look at other brands less.
  3. You want to book direct because it’s how you get points and benefits.
  4. The only reason not to book direct is a better price. By giving you both they win.

Not only were our prices never matched, nor was any discount ever received – there was nowhere to send a bill for wasting our precious leisure time. Hilton’s “price match guarantee” was designed to build trust, and amongst anyone savvy enough to use it, it’s only eroded it. The inbox has officially flooded. When will a hotel chain design a product does what it says on the tin?

“I just tried this – the online chat agent said I would get the reduced rate and told me to book the room and submit the form. I get a reply less than 30 minutes later saying the booking site i used was “ineligible”. No information is given about which sites are eligible.
There was a significant difference in price too – 146 euro vs 98 euro.
Next time i’ll be booking the cheaper 3d party rate.”

a pool with a thatched roof and palm trees and a city in the backgroundIn a perfect world, brands would operate with a minimum of one baseline: just don’t ever lie to your customers. As hotels continue to take away simple things like breakfast, free wifi or a check out much past when you’d wake up, it’s little things in the loyalty scheme which can influence future purchases. A guarantee that booking with Hilton really is the right move for benefits and the lowest price seemed like a great way to start which ultimately saves them money, but then the comments came flooding in.

“Be careful – this may not be what it seems. I had exactly the same room, same dates, same # of people, same cancellation policy. I spoke to several people at Hilton and ultimately told that they do not honor price match from the particular site I used. I was disappointed because I found a lesser price that should have been honored by this price match and it was not. Lost my confidence in Hilton advertising.”

We really owe you an apology, because we bought it too. We got an email, read through the briefing and wrote a piece about why Hilton’s guarantee really should work, and really could be lucrative. It sounded so good and so simple, but then the floodgates of comments and emails opened up. Of them all, not one said, “yay, this worked.” Instead, they all shared a similar thread: Hilton would find a meaningless technicality, or at least claim one and then deny the claim.

“I had a similar problem last night. I found a Hilton room that had a ‘special rate’ on hotels.co.uk which was £20 cheaper per night (for 10 nights) than on hilton.com. I phoned the helpline BEFORE BOOKING and was told that they would not price match as hotels.co.uk was offering a special rate. The person I spoke with told me that I should just book on the 3rd party website (which I did). This makes no sense to me as we all know that Hilton will only receive a fraction of the price I paid, as hotels.co.uk takes a huge cut, but their loss!”

a tall building with many windowsWhat’s insulting here is that they created a campaign designed to build trust, without actually doing anything to earn it. There’s no doubt that Joe or Jane traveler trusts Anna Kendrick, because who wouldn’t? They were probably excited. Why disappoint them?  It’s even more shocking because this is one of the few hotel issues where our needs *should be* in line with theirs. They save by not paying commission to sites like Expedia, and we like to save by getting the best price. We get the best price, they save on giving it to us and everyone walks away happy.

It’s why the world was mad at Tiger Woods. No one cares what someone branded as a dirtbag does in their extracurriculars, but that’s not the way Tiger Woods was marketed to anyone. We were sold the dream of the perfect husband, father and sporting hero who had overcome adversity – only to find out that he either is or was a dirtbag. It makes you mad for being sold a marketing lie, rather than just an indifferent traveler.

a bedroom with a large window overlooking the oceanBy every data point we’ve received, Hilton clearly never intended to honour a single claim. They just wanted more people to book direct to save on commission, without actually doing anything to earn it. It’s hard to understand how in 2019, in the age of the internet, leaks, Wikipedia and instant viral stories that a brand just doesn’t get that people are smart — will actually look. As a blog, one of the hardest things is illustrating when something really is great after so many things have purported to be but aren’t. It hurts that we bought this whopper and probably helped sell it to you, kind of like when they sold points and devalued them in the same week.

If the travel world is skeptical of major brands, it’s because of this. Just like when an airline ignores your first 7 emails, and then relents on the 8th, making something impossible ruins loyalty forever. By the time you get what you want, they’ve lost and so have you. Why not just get it right the first time? Surely it would save on staffing costs? The goodwill from making the claim process easy and ridding the brand of paying commission to online travel agencies is priceless. Telling whoppers to customers and paying Anna Kendrick to sell them – costly.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. For all the recent negativity concerning BonVoy, I recently had Marriott honor 4 separate Best Rate Guarantees in New York and Miami, all confirmed within 24 hours, using hotels.com as the foil, all for 1 week+ stays, saving me thousands.

    Not as successful with IHG.

    I had never used BRG previously. I am well trained now.

  2. So true. Just the past few weeks I’ve found cheaper Hilton / Hampton Inn rates on Expedia, Booking.com & kayak. Don’t have the patience to try & get price match which I know they won’t do.

  3. Maybe Hilton is betting on Bonvoy being so awful (I’ve been Bonvoyed too) that people will essentially have so little choice that they can get away with treating the customer with scorn. Too much consolidation.
    Oh, who is Anna Kendrick? She sounds like one of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, but that seems a tad unlikely.

  4. If Hilton was smart, they would have capitalized on the troubles Marriott has been having for the past year. The Merger, the data breach, the terrible Bonvoy name and subsequent loyalty program problems, you name it. Hilton had a golden opportunity and squandered it.

  5. I had a good experience with Hilton’s Price matching. I booked a refundable stay, and found a lower refundable rate at Hotels.com. I called in to have the adjustment made in real time, and in about 30 minutes, I’d saved $500+ off the original rate I booked. I had to train the agent how to find the rate I was seeing, so I have a feeling if I had just filed an online claim, it would have been denied. Try calling in!

  6. I have the same experience always finding cheaper sites for booking and then when I call Hilton they always give the same reply that it is not a site they recognize and they say go ahead and book it with them but you will have no points or any privileges added to your stay !!!

  7. I would summarise Hilton’s policies and clueless customer service as the Ryanair of the hotelier world. Unfortunately my company insists on using their properties while Hilton took the time to write specific paragraphs to discriminate against those of my colleagues who poses gold status with their loyality program. My least favourite hotel chain by far.

  8. I’ve just tried the Price Guarantee for the first time and I have to say… I’m impressed, quick form on Hilton website to fill in with details for cheaper price and an email less than 24hours later confirming 25% discounted rate.

    Happy days, it’s just a shame Hilton can’t seem to get this right for ALL their loyal customers, who I imaging will be questioning their loyalty going forward.

  9. Just tried to use Hilton’s Price Match “Guarantee.” Was told that because the cancellation policy on Priceline was different (4 days out), they would not match. So I asked what their price was for 4 days out cancellation…they don’t offer that rate. How convenient! Also, they will not match that with a lower cancellation rate (0-2 days) that they do offer. They offered to book me for $12 more per night with no cancellation option. WHAT!? Marriott will be my go-to from now on for sure.

  10. Hilton’s “price match guarantee” is definitely the biggest joke! They find every excuse they can to not honor a lower price from a 3rd party booking site. Simply put, it’s a lie and a scam. Shameful!

  11. Disgusting. The Price Match Guarantee is a complete scam. I spent 1 hour and 20 minutes being stringed along by some hilton agent. The hilton.com website lists $161 for the room, $150 with a hilton honors rate. Trip Advisor and Travelocity offer $145. The Travelocity rate says “10% promotional” rate which is the excuse the agent uses to deny my claim. The hilton agent says he “found a promotional rate” in the the system of $137, would I like to book it? The agent was NOT able to show me how to obtain the price on hilton’s official website which is touted as an Official Booking Channel. They do not give you the lowest available price on the their official booking channels and will not honor their 25% off the lowest price when you do actually find something lower. Snaptravel.com was offering me the same room for $120/nt (though it requires you to give an SMS number to receive the rate, which yet another reason they will try to deny your claim). Sorry state that the FTC and other consumer protection agencies haven’t stepped in to shut down this bogus and false advertising. Class action lawsuit anyone???

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