Italian City Hotels
Adventure Travel Indeed!
One of the services we are proud to offer is individual travel assistance. Some people use it to reach and leave our organized trips, others (typically people who already know us) just to book economical hotels that we have inspected and can vouch for, for independent stays.
Here is a link to our page discussing our general Hotel Consulting / Reservation Service.
The health of our activity in this domain would suggest that we are providing a useful and appreciated service. People avoid 5 hours reading planted reviews on Trip Advisor, get written confirmation of their bookings, find their rooms waiting for them at all hours, get good rooms which correspond to what they requested, are treated with respect and courtesy, avoid payment problems (you pay us, we pay the hotels) and, especially, find the amount of our fee to be reasonable: a small budget item in a big travel budget, and which provides a quality guarantee worth more than it costs. Especially when it allows you to book a cheaper hotel with confidence.
There is an exception to our customer satisfaction rate, and this page is an attempt to address it. Our work in the Italian cities that are Rome, Florence, Venice, and Milan, does not elicit the same praise that our other work does. And yet, these are the places in which we have invested the most time! How can this be? Read on....
How Italian City Hotels Work
It may be the wave of the future everywhere heaven help us but for a generation now, and maybe for longer, Italian city hotels have often managed their affairs as airlines do (now there’s a business model you want to follow): no two guests pay the same price for a room. Posted prices are joyous fictions, the cost for the room you actually get can be half, or double, the price on the door, etc.
We have witnessed, first hand, some amazing behaviour at check-in desks. “Lost” reservations are endemic, banal, not even worth mentioning. They only mean that someone else tipped the desk clerk before you arrived. We’re sure that you have at least heard of that one. If you travel a lot, you may even have been a victim.
Another boring trick: the double-charging of credit cards (once when you book, once when you stay). Sure, they refund... after a while... if you notice... and send photocopies of statements.... And they apologize very nicely.
But here are some you may be less familiar with:
- The open auctioning, by a desk clerk, of the only available room between two desperate travellers, both of whom had confirmed reservations. Fully sanctioned by the hotel manager the next morning. “What do you expect him to do? There were two of you.” (?!)
- The 3-star that has a “plumbing problem,” re-books you in a 1-star up the street, but charges you it’s 3-star price for the room (“It was a lot of work to find a place for you at the last minute.” Editorial: that is my fault... how?).
Or it puts you in a taxi “to a more expensive hotel, at our [its] expense.” Except that the more expensive hotel is a modern horror in a distant suburb, the price on the door reflected neither in the quality of the room, nor in the price paid for it by the first hotel....
- How about the booking you make at a “low season” rate, only to find out that it is “high season” when you check in to the hotel? Or the reverse: you book (and pay) on the web site at the “high season” rate, only to find that walk-ins are being told it is “low season” when they ask about room rates. Interestingly, the season can change several times in one day.
- Or breakfast, included in the price when you check in, but not when you check out? Or optional when you make your booking, but built in to a (higher) price when you arrive for your stay?
We could go on, but you get the idea.
What We Do About It
We know how to get around a lot of this. Being a regular client is the first step. You don’t cheat your regulars: they won’t come back. At least, you don’t cheat them badly. A little rounding among friends doesn’t count....
When an Italian hotel manager tells you he did something, “because [he] like[s] you,” you’re in trouble. Run screaming into the street.
Getting a written contract across a year is another good bet. We don’t negotiate for the lowest possible price, equivalent to the seasonal internet special, or to the walk-in rate on offer if the hotel is empty at 6p. We negotiate for a price that will be respected, even when the city is packed, even when people are standing 3 deep at the check-in desk with wads of cash.
Our primary concern is that you have your room. If paying 10€ more to a cheap hotel insures that our people get special treatment (defined as “the rooms they paid for, regardless of their arrival time or the crowds trying to get in”), well, that is worth it.
Could you write to the same hotel and reserve the room for 10€ less? Yes. Just be sure to arrive early enough (and to have cash in your pocket), so that you have time to hunt down something else when your reservation is “lost.” At least you’ll be ahead of the people who booked via third-party web sites. They are really last in line: the hotel has to pay a commission to the site, and can always say that the error was the site’s when it tells you it rented out your room to someone else.
Being able to speak Italian also helps: the hotel keeper knows that we know “how things work.” He knows that the “plumbing problem” won’t fly or at least that it will only fly once....
And yet we still have problems. We have used eight otherwise pleasant, reasonably-priced “primary” hotels in Florence in twelve years, each change provoked by a truly unacceptable customer service breakdown.
Not even counting the fact that our clients are routinely asked to pay for rooms for which they have already paid us, and for which we have paid. Even showing the hotel’s own confirmation letter (which acknowledges receipt of the payment) to the desk clerk only works sometimes!
Editorial: allow us to say that that one really amazes us. What is going on there? If the hotel signs a letter saying it has been paid, and you are holding that letter in your hand, on what basis can it say it has not been paid!?
Well, if your check-out is in our Paris office hours, we can sort it out with a phone call (and recommend that you get the reception desk to make it it will save us all a lot of time). But regardless, you are protected. Yes, you put down your credit card and pay again, often a higher price, sometimes a lower “offer of the day” rate we’ve seen everything. But we reimburse the charge before you even get your credit card bill, and fight it out with the hotel to get them to give us your money back. Sigh. We’re used to it, they know we mean business, and this type of intervention is what we charge our fee for.
The Problem That This All Leads To
So, our problem with you, our guests, is that you often arrive in our selected hotels, and find that the guy standing next to you at check-in is paying a lower rate. Grumble. Or that there is a big sign out front advertising a special rate that is lower than yours. Grumble grumble. Or you are hit up for the cost of the stay, which you already paid to us, when you check out: a stressful nuisance, even if you know we will give you your money back. Grumble grumble grumble. Or you were charged (by us) for the “required” breakfast, but have to leave too early to partake on your last morning, and discover that the hotel is not requiring breakfast of its walk-ins. FOUR GRUMBLES!
Of course, you are less aware of the times you check in and the guy next to you is offered a room at double your rate. Must be a different room, right? And you cluck sympathetically at the lady whose reservation was lost, but you don’t particularly relate it to your own smooth check-in... did she really make the booking to begin with? Who knows? You’re not having any trouble....
And perhaps our hotel doesn’t stand out for its value... unless you visit a couple of others in the street, and see what those funds usually buy (or don’t) in an Italian city. But why would you do that?
Bottom line: you don’t think we have done particularly well by you. Oh, but we have! And we are a bit defensive on the topic, as you can see....
To encourage you to make your best deal, and keep us out of it! This is not a profit center for us. It is intended as a convenience, and does not cover the salaried time of the person who gets stuck with the job. If you handle it for yourself, there is a good chance that you will save 10€. And only a small chance that you will sleep under a bridge. After all, a considerable majority of reservations are honored!
Is that what we would do? Not on your life. If we knew someone willing to do the work we do, at our price, we would never book another Italian hotel room! But we don’t know anyone (else) that dumb.
If you book through us, we ask that you understand the nature of our service. In addition to our hopefully savvy hotel selection, we are providing an insurance policy. Insuring against Italian City Hotel misbehaviour is a daunting and expensive task, but we are up to it....