From the Travel desk: Special Occasions

  • Article by: KERRI WESTENBERG
  • Star Tribune
  • March 8, 2013 - 5:38 PM

Charming the front desk clerk with a big smile and a bigger tip, being a faithful customer, making an oblique reference to a “special occasion” when you book: These are not likely to get you a room upgrade at some Loews, Hyatts and Hiltons, among other hotels.

Instead, after you’ve booked a room at these spots online, you’re sent to another screen that gives you the option to gamble on an upgrade.

You can agree to pay additional set fees for a range of better rooms, and if one of those rooms is available when you check in, you’ll get the upgrade and pay the price.

I ran across this scenario when booking a room at the Oceana Hotel in Santa Monica, Calif. I declined the offer to pay $64 a night if the hotel could upgrade me to a room with an ocean view. Had I selected such a room when booking in the first place, it would have cost me an extra $100 a night. So the offer represented a deal — provided the hotel wouldn’t have otherwise offered a free upgrade to a friendly repeat customer (such as me).

Crafty new technology is behind the upgrade offers. What with websites that send notices of airline price dips and guidebooks that can be housed on smartphones, technology is the friend of travelers. Perhaps I shouldn’t begrudge the hospitality industry for using technology to its advantage, too, in this case, by letting hotels gauge a person’s willingness to pay for an upgrade instead of offering them willy-nilly.

The website of the company behind the “eStandby” technology, Nor1, calls it an “upsell solution created to increase wallet share for hotels while giving their guests a better stay.” I call it a shame.


Send your questions or tips to travel editor Kerri Westenberg at, and follow her on twitter @kerriwestenberg.

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