An unexpected change in venue


Mr. Seth, you are checking out this morning, yes?

Considering that we were booked for two more nights this was not exactly the Christmas morning greeting I was expecting after breakfast this morning at our hotel in Kochi. And considering the troubles we had actually getting a room booked at a reasonable rate for the four nights we are here, it was not a development I was particularly happy with. Oh, and it is peak season here in town so most of the hotels are fully booked.

Some folks would see this sort of situation as a terrible problem. They are the the weak. This was an opportunity for greatness. It was my moment to rise up and make the best of a challenging circumstance. And I would settle for nothing less than greatness.

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Our host was working his phones, calling the other guest houses in the area to see if any had a room. I whipped out my laptop, fired up the Skype client and called the OTA we booked through, hotels.com. The agent quickly confirmed that we had booked for the four nights and then he called the hotel to confirm that things were as messed up as I claimed. As I was sitting in the lobby I heard half the conversation, with my version of the story quickly confirmed. At that point the CSR agreed that they needed to find us alternate accommodations.

I had the web page open while chatting with the agent and I was looking at the same options he was. The first suggestion was an airport hotel. With the airport about 90 minutes from town that was simply not going to work. There was only one other hotel in the area that still had rooms available, the Vivanta by Taj – Malabar Cochin.

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I had previously experienced issues with bookings made via hotels.com for this trip and at that time my suggestion of switching us to the Vivanta, a rather expensive option, was rejected. No surprise, really, as it is quite pricey. This morning, however, there weren’t really too many alternatives available and the CSR acknowledged the bind we were in. He went off to make a few calls and promised to give me a ring back once things were sorted out. About 15 minutes later, after he made confirmation calls to the hotel directly (I didn’t really trust the online inventory and neither did he) he called us back with the good news. We were booked in for two nights at one of the nicest hotels in town, with hotels.com picking up the tab. Big win.

We headed out from the original hotel, hopped in a tuk tuk and then on to the ferry to Wellingdon Island and then walked the 5 minutes from the ferry dock to the front doors of the hotel. I’m guessing that most guests don’t arrive on foot – they seemed mildly surprised – but we were soon escorted to our room with a semi-obstructed view of the harbor and briefed by the receptionist on the properties amenities and facilities. Only one really mattered at that moment, the pool.

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So today’s schedule changed rather dramatically from the original plan. Rather than running around Fort Cochin and checking out parts of the Cochin Carnival we’re lounging pool-side at the Taj. Definitely not part of the original plan, but we’re making the best of it.

Part of me feels a bit guilty having paid so little and received so much. But it isn’t my fault that three separate times the inventory we booked through hotels.com was a mess. This time it was also party the hotel’s fault, but it was still a mess. In the end I think that them fixing it this way was the only reasonably option available. An unexpected, but also rather nice, Christmas present indeed.

Read more from the India/Sri Lanka New Years adventure here.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

9 Comments

    1. Any particular reason why, Josh? Not really in the cards for this trip (though we did consider adding it in at one point).

  1. It’s like hearing your flight has been canceled and they rebooked you in first. Glad to hear it worked out. Happy holidays from Amarillo!

  2. Lucky outcome. Could have just as easily ended with no rooms available, period. Not sure that it’s completely avoidable, but it’s one reason why try to avoid middlemen like hotels.com that really don’t add much of value.

    Did you find out why the hotel’s record of your reservation different from your hotels.com booking?

    Enjoy the tw days in luxury 🙂

    1. I suppose it could have been a problem, Oliver, but we hadn’t vacated the room yet and had an alternative not come so quickly I would have had no problems fighting with the proprietor to keep the room. I also have travel insurance that might’ve covered it and, worst case scenario, the ability to flex my budget to grab a walk-up room rate at some point. I might not like it, but if I had to pay the cash myself I would have. A somewhat similar scenario in Istanbul a couple years ago meant I skipped a few other trips to cover the cost of that Turkish Air fiasco. Such is life. Still way cheaper in the long run than the silly travel insurance the airlines try to sell you with each flight.

      As for avoiding middle-men, I often do, too, but the suggestion that hotels.com doesn’t add much value is certainly not consistent with my experience. I get an easily documented 15% RoI on bookings through them. I also have access to a way broader collection of properties. I generally avoid Western branded hotels, especially once outside the USA, and those are harder to track down without third party OTA sites. I spend a lot of nights on the road and most are booked through hotels.com and I’m quite happy overall with the results of that. I could easily show thousands of dollars in savings annually from such an approach. That’s quite a bit of value to me.

      As for figuring out what happened, yeah, I did. Probably another post coming with those details as it is a pretty interesting story.

      And yes, AJ, it is a pretty nice property. That said, I don’t think it is worth the prices they’re asking. Not even close.

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