Because getting there is not fun.

Standing on Stand-By, Part 1

Mon, 2009/03/30 - 16:21 by aargh

The hotels have taken a page from the airlines' book:

I recently chose a no-frills room with my preferred hotel chain. Right as I completed the booking process, the hotel's website popped up an offer to go standby on a room upgrade. The upgrade prices were about halfway between the cost of a standard room (the type which I had booked) and the advertised cost of a premium room (say, an executive suite on a high floor).

To the hotel chain's credit, their website was quite open in explaining that the goal was to fill premium rooms that would otherwise go empty.

Not bad, I murmured. Similar to airline upgrades, I can either pay for a posh suite outright or, if I'm willing to take a gamble on my room, I can apply for a boost and roll the dice. A risk-free gamble at that, since I only pay if the upgrade goes through.

Hotels sometimes offer room upgrades upon checkin (for a fee, of course) if premium spots are available. So now the hotel simply enters the Internet age and extends the offer at booking time.

Start to disassemble this, though, and you see the twist:

That this time around, the hotel gets a chance to dance around upgrade standards and make a buck in the proces.

Let's say you book a standard room but, upon check-in, the hotel has no such rooms left. If there are nicer rooms available the hotel typically gives you a free boost into the premium space. They almost have to, since it's hardly your fault they ran out of what you'd asked for.

Now let's say you book a standard room again but this time you opt for the standby upgrade. You arrive, some premium rooms are free, and you and the hotel gleefully exchange some of your cash for their space.

So far you're still in the lead: you got your upgrade at a discount off the premium room's advertised price.

All this is fine and dandy unless the hotel is overbooked on standard rooms. Having ticked the box to go standby, you just opted out of a free upgrade.

Now this isn't a complete screw-job, mind you: you only lose out if the hotel was going to upgrade you anyway due to lack of other space, and how often that happens depends quite a bit on when and where you travel. Going standby puts you at the top of the list for room upgrades because, as you cede your standard room, someone else can fill it. So if you squint just right you'll see this as hotels prioritizing their upgrade list in the event of an overbooking.

Given the time to iron out the kinks, I think there's potential for this to work.

Or maybe not.

More on that next time.