A few weeks ago, I made an embarrassing mistake: I goofed up a prepaid, non-refundable Priceline hotel reservation. I entered the wrong dates. But thanks to a helpful agent at the hotel, “unchangeable” really wasn’t.
I’m no rookie in the Priceline name-your-own-price game. I’ve been doing it for years for much of my personal travel, and it’s been a great way to get a big bang for the buck ($37 Hyatts, anyone?). So I knew that the rules specify that you can’t cancel or change a name-your-own-price room, so I kicked myself for screwing up our check-in date by a single day.
Then, it occurred to me that, in today’s soft hotel booking environment, I might be able to negotiate directly with the hotel. Hey, if Priceline’s mascot is William Shatner as “the Negotiator,” I could channel the Shat and see what comes up.
I called the hotel. I told them upfront that I knew I had screwed up, and if they wanted me to go pound sand, it was in their right, and I would be fine with that. But I asked politely if they might be able shift my stay by a day. Instead of Friday and Saturday nights, I wanted Thursday and Friday nights.
The answer I got surprised me: “Sure!” No argument, no scorn, no lecture on how I should know the rules. Just “Sure!”
They made the change in their system… but there was a catch. I had to call Priceline and get them to change the dates on their end. The agent at the hotel explained that this was a function of their accounting system, and that the dates of the reservation had to align with the booking agency’s dates. I knew I was in for a fight, after all.
I called Priceline’s customer service, but they wouldn’t budge. They were friendly enough, but hustled me off the phone when their answer was “no.” (Their smooth move to end the call: “If there’s nothing else we can help you with, I’d like to thank you for choosing Priceline, and I hope you have a nice day.”)
So, I called the hotel back. She sighed. “Of course Priceline can change the reservation. If you give me your Priceline request number, I’ll call them and fix this.” Wow. I gave her the number. Five minutes later, she called me back and told me it was done. She told me that the Priceline rep she had spoken with wanted her to tell me that this was a one-time exception. My record has probably been noted in some way. I received an e-mail from Priceline confirming the change, but without any chastising.
I’m grateful that this option existed, because it certainly saved us a few bucks. And I’m very impressed with the customer service that the hotel provided me in going to bat for me. (Though the hotel employee didn’t seem to be afraid of any ramifications of the move, I’m not naming names because I don’t want anyone to catch any inadvertent flak.)
I realize that it was a bending of the rules, and that this shouldn’t be abused. I share this story for those times you might actually need to make a change, but are told you can’t. It’s possible. It just takes the right agent.