Avoiding That "Not What I Expected" Hotel Experience

By Peter Neumann
By Max Resnik

November 5, 2010 Updated Nov 5, 2010 at 6:09 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- Ever get to your hotel on a trip only to discover that it's not exactly what you had expected?

Sometimes those online brochures and reviews can be misleading, or worse.

Like the rest of us, you've probably checked on a hotel or motel online, got your credit card out and made your reservation. You finally get there the day of your trip only to discover that the pictures online didn't exactly match up with what's in front of you!

So we decided to talk to some folks that we thought could offer some help.

We spent some time with the President of the Northeast Indiana Hospitality Association who had some good tips. First, if you have to book online, do it through the hotel’s website, not a third party like Expedia, Priceline or Hotels.com.

Why? Those third party websites hold your credit card number and you’re charged immediately. If you get to your hotel and it looks like something out of a horror film and you want to level a complaint, perhaps ask for your money back, that won’t happen because your information is with the third party, not the hotel.

You could try to complain to the third party website, but who knows where that will lead you. More than likely, you’ll be talking to someone halfway across the country with no direct relationship to the hotel where you just had a bad experience.

Hotels must meet certain standards that are created by their corporations. Find out what those are. If they don’t meet the standard, start at the front desk and work your way up. Hotel employees are trained in customer satisfaction. They are there to create a home away from home. So if home is what you’re looking for, make sure that you get it.

We could only find one hotel that offers a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee, and that’s Hampton Inn.

Another tip: Don’t put all of your eggs into the “user feedback” basket on those third party websites. There is no way for you to verify whether the review is true to the experience.

Is there a website that you can trust? There is, and it’s pretty cool. Check out oyster.com. It’s under our Newslinks page. This site goes into hotels, especially ones that promote themselves through picture galleries and virtual tours, and exposes the hotels that aren’t as beautiful as they appear on the web.

There are other options too. Try consulting a travel agent. The expense in most cases is minimal if you can group your hotel and your airfare. The bigger the group is, the cheaper the cost of the agent’s work. Are you traveling a short distance and packing the family in the car? That will work too. It’s the job of a travel agent to help make your experience everything you want it to be, whether you’re headed to Italy or Indy.

So what should you take away before you head out for Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season?

-Book with the hotel
-Check to see what standards the hotel chain must live up to
-Consult unbiased review websites like oyster.com to make sure you don’t show up at the Bates Motel
-Hotels have 800-numbers that you can call if the web worries you
-Travel agents probably aren’t as expensive as you think, so it may be worth a five-minute phone call
-Lastly, do just a little bit of homework and you won’t drop you bags and your jaw when you arrive at that “not what I expected” hotel.

Watch this report, then tell us your worst hotel experiences in the comments section of your story, or on our Facebook page!

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