Jul

24

 One of the qualities by which a client rates his bank or broker on is the ability to work things "quietly" — execute an order in a discretely to achieve a good fill. This is because participants are generally unaware someone out there has a buy or sell order and won't strive to squeeze you. In that respect, anonymity is a good thing.

Yesterday I was booking a hotel on a website, and came across a variation of this, where top hotels are willing to unload inventory at knockdown prices, but they do so "anonymously" through an intermediary website. They want to sell a few extra rooms, but don't want to publicly quote the price because it will impact their pricing power.

I considered going with one that offered a reasonable rate and gave general details about location and specs of the room, but at no time before paying would I know they name of the hotel. It mightn't sound like a big deal, but if I were handing over a few hundred Euro, I'd like to know more about the premises. In the end I didn't pull the trigger — I went for somewhere a bit more expensive, where I knew what to expect.

Afterwards, I thought about it and asked whether I lost out on a good deal and whether this anonymous selling is a good idea and will succeed. My own view is it won't, because hotel rooms are among the most expensive transactions people make regularly on the Web, and travelers are quite risk averse when booking. They want reassurance — number of stars, brand name, location — before paying, and are quiet skeptical about descriptions (I can tell you from experience there is nothing regal about the "Royal Hotel" in Tipperary town).

Moreover, the hotels are over a barrel, because if an anonymous five-star hotel is offering rooms at 75% off, people think it can't really be that good, of there is something fishy; and if they are only slightly under a similarly priced but known hotel, people will pay that slight bit more to avoid uncertainty. So they are also looking for information in the price.

Sam Humbert writes:

When I've used PCLN for hotels, I've gotten, broadly speaking, good value for money. Generally there's been a reason a particular hotel traded cheap-to-the-curve — construction noise from building a new wing, or the pool's closed for repairs. Also I've found desk-clerks exude bad juju when you check in/out on a PCLN reservation — they don't view you as a "real customer" who's loyal to their hotel brand.

Craig Mee adds:

Reminds me of a friend who was a manager of a world-renowned hotel chain. Two things he told me –

1. He told his hotel counter staff never to give poor service, even if there are discrepancies with the bill and customers are disagreeing. What he said made perfect professional sense, "once you're committed to not charging the customer for the said amount from a business standpoint wear it on the chin and be as nice to that customer as any other." Then he added quietly, "besides, it's usually the cleaning staff taking liquor from the mini-bar, not the patron."

2. Specials are special on the menu for a reason; don't go near them. They usually jazz up something that is "on the way out."


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