Loyalty Is Not a One-Way Street.

As a consumer, getting the best deal—or at least a good deal—when traveling is becoming a constant struggle. The other side has the advantage and, what’s more, they keep changing the rules.
I belong to the Hilton Honors program. I joined almost impulsively because NARP had held its Spring meeting in a Hilton hotel for two or three years in a row. As they say, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
But I have also found the on-line travel agencies very helpful. Specifically, I’ve used booking.com to research and book a number of hotels on recent trips. It has an excellent easy-to-use web site and their reviews are from people who have made their reservations through booking.com and have actually stayed at the properties they’re reviewing.
Obviously, the hotels would rather you book directly with them because they have to pay commissions to sites like booking.com. And so hotels have now begun offering both incentives and disincentives designed to get potential guests to book direct using the hotel’s web site.
On my recent trip, I stayed at Hilton hotels in Windsor, Connecticut; at two different Hiltons in Chicago, (going and coming back); and at one in Oakland. In each case, I could have reserved the rooms using the hotel’s web site, but I made all four reservations through booking.com.
Bottom line: I spent almost a thousand bucks at Hilton hotels … and was penalized for it. Because I went through booking.com, I got no Hilton Honors points from any of those hotels. And, if I had booked direct, the internet connections would have been free at the Windsor and Chicago properties. But because I made my reservation using booking.com, those hotels charged me $12.95 a night for wi-fi.
I do understand the rationale, but I’m still put out at Hilton. After all, the whole point to their loyalty program is to get me to stay at their hotels. I did my part: I made a conscious decision to book four of their hotels for a total of five nights. And all I got for my loyalty was $39 in extra charges for the wi-fi. And no points.