After repeated problems with Hotwire, despite our Elite Express status, we needed a change in booking last minute rooms in major cities. After initially writing about Hotel Tonight’s Android launch we were able to put it through the ringer. Lucikly the Hotel Tonight Android app kept up with our every move.
Because of the nature of our business last minute trips are a much more frequent occurrence than we’d like. Sometimes OEM’s and carriers announce a last minute event or you end up on a wait list and get cleared a day before. So we need the ability to book rooms and maintain a budget at the last minute. Hotel Tonight is that way.
Hotel Tonight has a very easy to use intuitive UI. The first thing that you need to know about Hotel Tonight though is that it’s meant for same day discounted bookings at top tier, and boutique hotels. What this means is that you can’t book locally before 12:00noon wherever your at.
A quick lesson learned with that in mind, is that if you really like the hotel you’re at you need to wait until 12:00 noon to see if it’s still in that days offerings. If you are confident in the reservation you’re making, make it for as long as the app will let you.
More after the break
The way Hotel Tonight works is that they have relationships with hundreds of hotels across the country. On a daily basis they find out what hotels need to clear vacancies and they post the hotel deal on hotel tonight, for the night of the reservation and in some cases a few days past.
Hotel Tonight offers a handful of hotel offerings. They’re not taking everyones last minute run of house stock like Hotwire.com or Hotels.com’s blind box hotels. Yes, they are getting run of house stock but not like the clearinghouse sites do.
The UI allows you to see the hotel rates, the hotel name (unlike Hotwire) and pictures of the actual hotel. We didn’t explore every hotel offered but it appears Hotel Tonight has a certain caliber of pictures it wants on their sites, there are no pictures of front desks with plants, entire lobbies, restaurants and the rooms are in the pictures section. (This is a big problem for other hotel apps).
Hotel Tonight uses it’s own category class for hotel stays and there is a key in the FAQ and on the app itself. Basic is of course a basic room, not a 1 star room, but just the essentials. Luxury is of course more luxurious and nicer throughout. Rooms are priced accordingly and there is real value.
At a hotel in New York we paid just over $100 per night and found that the posted rate was over $225. We wanted to extend just one night and of course the front desk couldn’t get even close to the rate being offered by Hotel Tonight.
In San Francisco the boutique hotel was elegant and nice and just steps away from the Davie Symphony Hall where we captured the 2012 Crunchie Awards. Again the rate was more than 50% off the walk in rate and about 35% off the rate found on hotels.com
In Miami we paid $99 a night plus Miami’s very reasonable $7 room tax and other fees which made the total out of pocket for the room at a 4 star hotel just $112 a night. The walk up rate was $240 and the best rate on hotels.com was $169 (see what we mean by value) We originally booked two nights through the app. That’s when I realized with the 11:00 check out and the 12:00 deal postings we may get a little sticky.
Miami was where we also got to experience Hotel Tonight’s customer service. When we checked into our room we noticed that there was no wifi signal at all, the TV also didn’t work, at all and it was a nice 32″ flat screen. Finally, the balcony door was stuck in the shut position. After finding out from the hotel that the balcony door was supposed to open this was an issue because we are of course smokers and on the 6th floor.
We told the Hotel desk people of our problem at 4:00pm then went out for the evening and came back in at around midnight and none of the problems has been fixed. They were finally able to switch us to a different room at 2am. This is of course no fault of hoteltonight, but follow along folks…
After hearing about our problems we noticed that the light on the phone was on when we woke up. We called down to the front desk and the front desk manager wanted to apologize for the problems we had (remember this is a four star place). He offered us a couple free meal tickets and said that he would refund us but it would have to go to the third party that booked the room.
After hearing that we called Hotel Tonight’s customer service where we spoke with a customer service agent based here in the Good Ole US of A and who’s real name was Bob. Bob didn’t want to take up our time. He took our information and my number. I explained to him that I had Google Voice and would screen calls, and as an even bigger added bonus he was familiar with how that worked.
15 minutes later Bob had called back, the hotel had refunded the room to Hotel Tonight and voila we had a credit. We turned around and booked the exact same room. We had mentioned to Bob that we may book two nights and we only booked one so about a half hour later Bob called back to make sure everything was ok.
We also got a follow up email that was a little more personalized than emails received from other similar companies. The customer experience was like this, one call, one person handled the entire issue, and the same person followed up. In writing this article we were concerned we may have been getting preferential treatment because they may have realized that our email address reflected this website. We were assured by Hotel Tonight CEO Sam Shank that customer service is one of their priorities (as it should be) and that anyone would have encountered the same service.
If our experience with Hotel Tonight isn’t enough to make you go to the Android Market and download the app to your phone right now, than maybe this is: go to the Android Market, download HotelTonight and on your first booking (not after you complete a booking) but on your very first booking you get an instant coupon for $25.00 off just to try it out.
So what are you waiting for download it here!