I’ve become something of a slacker when it comes to hotel bookings. It is not at all uncommon for me to pick my hotel after arriving in a city, walking around for a while and getting a feel for the town. This is especially true when I am visiting a new (to me) city but even with some places I’ve been many times before I’ll take my chances on a walk-up rate or try to find something new. It has always worked pretty well in the past and never really could come up with a reason not to go that route. Until this past Saturday night when I arrived in Honolulu around 6:30pm and was unable to make a booking for a hotel.
I tried the websites of a couple different hotel booking engines – Hotels.com and Starwood – and both failed. Neither would let me choose to check in that night. In their world it was already tomorrow, even though it was just getting to be dinner time in Honolulu. So I did what anyone would naturally do: I tweeted my frustration, knowing that it actually wouldn’t change anything.
I also called Hotels.com to see if they could book the hotel for me over the phone instead. They could not. It turns out that their systems decide it to be "tomorrow" at midnight eastern time. The rest of the time zones apparently don’t count. The agent was willing to make some phone calls for me and check availability at a few local hotels but their computer systems could not do anything. And even if they could find a room for me I would still have to be a walk-in customer so no Welcome Rewards points. Better than nothing, but not what I was hoping for.
SPG was impressively responsive to my concern. It took a couple days to make direct contact with someone but they actually reached out to me over the phone and we talked through the issues I encountered. I’m not betting on it actually changing – I can understand why they do it the way they do – but it was good to see them reach out and try to address the issue I had booking a room. Then again, as the rep I talked to noted, it is in their best interest to get as many rooms as possible booked every night and cutting things off a couple hours early limits that.
This little snafu wasn’t the first time I had issues with time zones and bookings and it probably won’t be the last. And I doubt that it will change the approach I take too much. Though I’ll try to make sure I get in a couple hours earlier when heading to Hawaii.
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