Buyer Beware – Budget Travel Sites

Hotels Fight Back Against Sites Like Expedia and Priceline

This was a headline I read this morning in the New York Times. It’s true that most people are not brand-loyal when they travel and will search all sorts of 3rd party sites to get the best “at-the-moment” deal. A few days ago I even told you about a new way to search for flights that can provide tremendous value. But – Buyer Beware when it comes to these budget / 3rd party travel sites. That doesn’t mean that I used these sites to PURCHASE anything. In fact, I ALWAYS use these sites to SEARCH for deals on flights & hotels. Then I ALWAYS BOOK DIRECTLY WITH THE SOURCE. Even when I wasn’t loyal to Delta & Marriott I would do that. I don’t really know why ,I just do. I guess booking with them makes me feel more legit? (shrug) I’ve read too many cases where people use these sites and their reservations get lost, room types aren’t honored, etc. I’d rather not deal with all of that. Use the tools available at your disposal, but ALWAYS book DIRECT.

I’m saying Buyer Beware because:

  • Hotels can “see” on your reservation that you booked via a 3rd party site. We also know that they do not make as much profit/commission on these type of reservations. As a result, they can give you the crappiest room available and save the swankiest rooms for people who book directly with them.
  • Airlines are creating basic, no-amenity, no change, non-refundable no advance seat selection site ticket fares to fill demand from 3rd party sites. Delta calls theirs Basic Economy. as a Gold Medallion Member, I would never book that. Ever. Even’t if I wasn’t Gold. If you are rock solid with your travel plans and don’t care about a middle seat, then go right ahead. Just make sure you also read the fine print.
  • Hotels are offering perks for people without status – those who “Just Enroll” with their programs on reservations booked directly with them. Things like room type, Wi-Fi and selecting room location on your mobile phone are now offered by brands like Hilton. The offers look legit and like they may apply to ALL reservations but that’s just not the case. You must read the Terms and Conditions.
  • You will not earn points for you stay/flight. You’re giving up major benefits here. Loyal pays off, really. You can stay for free, eat for free and be treated pretty much like royalty wherever you go. I’m super serious here.

So ask yourself, is it really worth it? You may be saving $20 on any given flight or hotel stay but in the end, booking DIRECTLY with the travel companies almost always outweigh the GAINS.

Check out my Travel Section for more Tips and Tricks.

Marriott Terms & Conditions - WiFi only
Marriott Terms & Conditions – WiFi only
Hilton Terms & Conditions
Hilton Terms & Conditions
Marriott Basic Member Benefits
Marriott Basic Member Benefits
Hilton "Just Join" Member Benefits
Hilton “Just Join” Member Benefits

photo credit: http://design-milk.com/destination-design-chic-basic-ramblas-hotel/

Priceline for Medical Care

imagesWe live in a Share & Bid Economy: There’s Priceline for Cars/Hotel, Shipping Wars on A&E for transporting goods and eBay for everything else. Well, now there’s a new service called Medibid and it works exactly like you’d expect: For $25, patients post bids for out-patient medical treatment (i.e. knee surgery) and doctors submit bids. The doctor must provide their license number but after that you’re on your own when it comes to validating quality and the like. Washington Post 

The site is focusing on transparency: we should KNOW what a service will cost (in its entirety) before we agree to have it performed. These days, doctors sometimes post full videos of their operation / work online. So between social media and the Internet, researching a medical professional’s history or even getting reviews is not as hard as it used to be. Take HealthGrades, for instance: the site allows people to rate doctors and post about their experiences. If this takes off, it will certainly squeeze the hospital establishment and will become a win for doctors  because they can perform the operation in their offices and not pay typical hospital costs.

Even so, most medical professionals are referred, meaning word of mouth will prevail over an insurance company’s “in-network” list. If someone you trust has a great experience, it makes financial sense for you (considering insurance contribution) and the doctor is on Medibid, I say go for it!