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One of my favourite travel hacking techniques is searching the internet for lower room rates, then claiming a Best Rate Guarantee from the hotel chain in question. That way I can take advantage of the lower rate, yet still receive my usual status benefits, points, etc.
In my opinion, the best Best Rate Guarantee programme is offered by Starwood Preferred Guest. I’ve written about it previously, and you can read the detailed version by clicking here.
Besides the relative ease of making successful claims with SPG, the carrot of 2,000 Starpoints (£40 of value) for a one-night stay is incredibly appealing. For a longer stay, the 20% discount is also quite welcome.
But lately I’ve had two Best Rate Guarantee claims rejected by SPG. This comes as a surprise to me. Most mornings when I see an e-mail in my inbox with the subject of “Re: BRG new enrollment by Craig Sowerby”, I expect my claim to have been approved overnight.
Both rejections resulted from the fact that the delay in processing Best Rate Guarantee claims has increased substantially. Until recently, I would receive a reply from Starwood within 24 hours. Lately… it’s been closer to 48-72 hours, leading to this…
Competing rates don’t tend to last long. After all, they are “below market”. Either somebody at the hotel will notice and correct the rate, or a fellow traveler will simply book it with the online travel agency.
So, if Starwood are going to be processing BRG claims in 72 hours instead of 24, the chances of the lower rate remaining available are much worse. And, as frustrating as it may be, I don’t dispute that hotel chains need to be able to independently verify the competing rate. People are far too skilled with Photoshop (and its equivalents) for this process to work any other way.
But what’s really going on? Has Starwood (or ultimately its new bosses at Marriott) decided to starve the Best Rate Guarantee programme of resource? Or something even worse? Fingers crossed that these recent delays are merely the result of BRG specialists enjoying their summer holidays…