Q: I just booked a hotel room in New Orleans through Hotwire. It seemed like a great deal. The listing was for a 4.5-star hotel. I started looking around their website, trying to determine what the possibilities were, and by looking at the hotel plus car section I was able to see that there seemed to be three nice choices of 4.5-star hotels in the area the listing was in.
I was specifically trying to avoid the Le Pavillon Hotel and was glad to see it was not a possibility because it was listed as a four-star hotel.
We booked the room, and we got the Le Pavillon. As soon as I received the confirmation email, I called Hotwire. I was sure this was just a mistake. The first woman I spoke to listened and put me on hold to try and help me.
She came back and started quoting star ratings from other websites and claimed that they used an average to arrive at the 4.5 -star rating. I told her that sounded reasonable, but that the Hotwire website identifies the property as having four stars and that I booked a 4.5-star hotel. She agreed but could do nothing.
I asked to speak to a manager. That conversation was a complete waste of time. He explained that Expedia rates the hotels in the vacation area of the Hotwire website and that they do not have to abide by them.
I explained that I felt that was ridiculous because it says Hotwire at the top of the page and that I didnt feel I was being unreasonable in feeling confident that I wouldnt be stuck with Le Pavillon when booking a 4.5-star hotel. I did not ask for a refund. I just asked to be switched to an actual 4.5-star hotel. He said that they would do nothing to help us until we checked in.
This hotel is so, so far from a 4.5 star gorgeous lobby, but the rooms havent been redone in a long time. Can you give me any guidance as to how to try and resolve this? Anna Johnson, Pensacola, Fla.
A: Hotwire should follow its own star rating system. Its bad enough that theres no nationally recognized rating system for hotel rooms. But if a company classifies a room as a four-star property, the least you can do is expect it to be consistent about the review.
It helps to understand something about the way Hotwire handles hotel bookings. As a so-called opaque site, you can pick the city and certain characteristics of the property, such as the level of amenities you want. But the name of the hotel isnt revealed until youve paid for the room, and all purchases are nonrefundable. Still, it was reasonable of you to expect Hotwire to be consistent with its star ratings.
Calling Hotwire was a complete act of futility. I recommended that you put your grievance in writing, but you were met with even more form responses from Hotwire. How frustrating. The only way out would have been a lengthy credit card dispute, the outcome of which is far from guaranteed.
I contacted Hotwire on your behalf. It refunded your purchase.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Email him at email@example.com, or troubleshoot your trip through his website, www.elliott.org.