#1 factor that determines how people choose a hotel

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#1 factor that determines how people choose a hotel
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When you see a bad review of a hotel online, do you steer away from making a reservation at that location?

If so, you’re not alone. The New York Times cites research that shows negative reviews are so powerful that they can influence a decision on accommodations even more than price.

Read more: Want the lowest holiday airfares? Book by these dates!

We know about the power of the negative review…but how about the power of a positive one?

It’s no secret that travelers have for years been using technology to get leverage when they’re faced with an unsatisfactory hotel stay. Hotel chains routinely monitor social networking sites for instances of their name and respond to customer grievances.

Say you get to your hotel and you need some extra towels, just as an example. If you call down to the front desk, you may be put on ignore if it’s during a high-occupancy time and there are no hands on deck to help you. But if make a comment about the lack of towels on the hotel’s official Twitter or Facebook page, hotel management may ring your room and offer, ‘We’re sorry you were unhappy with the lack of clean towels today. Can we come by now and drop some off for you?’ This works particularly well if you have a large social media that could potentially be swayed by your posts.

But have you ever thought about zigging when others zag…and standing out from the crowd by posting a good comment? Writing something online saying you’re greatly anticipating your stay—even before you get to your hotel—is a great way to put yourself on their radar and possibly get some upgrades.

Mike Timmermann recently wrote a piece that explained how one woman got more than $300 in travel freebies simply by being nice!

Remember the old saying: You get more bees with honey than with vinegar.

Watch out for these hotel booking scams

Know where you’re booking

There are a variety of legit third-party players for online hotel booking (like Expedia and Kayak, just to name a few.) But you’ve got to be aware of the bad guys. Many are paid ads at the top of your search results page when you search for something like ‘hotel booking sites’ or ‘affordable hotels.’ Two in particular to watch out for include  ReservationCounter and ReservationDesk, according to Yahoo Finance. Check the URLs closely to make sure you’re booking where you think you’re booking!  Better yet, consider booking directly with the hotel themselves, rather than through any third party. They may even match a deal you find on Expedia or Kayak.

The pizza flier scam

Picture this: You’re tired after a day of sightseeing and you go back to your hotel room to crash out. Pretty soon hunger strikes and you eye that pizza flyer that was slipped under your door earlier in the day. You call the number and the nice person on the other end of the line gets your credit or debit card number and says your pizza will be delivered shortly.

An hour later, you’re still waiting. So you call the pizza place back. The nice person on the phone apologizes and promises your pie is on the way. Two hours later, and still no pie! What happened? The nice people on the other end of the line were criminals! When they took your card number over the phone, they instantly started using your card number around the world as part of a criminal ring.

There’s an easy workaround for you: Before you order a pizza, call down to the front desk to verify that the pizza leaflets are legit. Or better yet, ask them for recommendations about legit restaurants. You can always use your smartphone (or a computer) to visit Yelp.com, Kudzu.com or other local review services to check out the alleged restaurant.

By doing that, you solve the munchies and you avoid having to spend all night on the phone with your credit card company trying to shut down your account before the criminals spend more of your money!

Checkout scam

There’s an ugly ongoing problem when you check in or out of a hotel. At the desk, you’re always asked to give a form of payment like a credit card or a debit card so if you trash the room, they have something on you. But then a lot of people decide at checkout that they want to pay cash instead of plastic. So you settle up and they give you a receipt (hopefully) and you go.

The problem comes if there’s a dishonest individual working behind the desk. They may still charge your room to your card *and* pocket the cash. If you later notice and have proof you paid cash, you call up and they say, ‘Sorry, it was a clerical error.’ But what if you didn’t keep that receipt or they didn’t give you one showing you paid cash? You lose.

The best answer is the form of payment you leave at the desk when you check in is the form of payment you pay with when you check out. Hotels are a fertile ground for identity theft rings and credit card theft rings. You have a situation where there is frequent turnover at hotels and weak background checks on employees. Plus, there are so many transactions happening and so much info being given by travelers. It all adds up to hotels becoming a new weak point in our nation’s ability to stop identity theft and credit card theft.

And that brings us full circle to the dangers of debit cards. Because the hotel check-in desk has become such a weak link, never pay for a hotel room with a debit card.
If your number is compromised, using a debit card lays you wide open to having your entire checking account emptied. Then you have to fight with your bank to get your money restored. So for hotels, the only safe thing is to pay with a credit card!

Front desk calling scam

In this one, you check into a hotel, get up to your room and get a call from the front desk saying there’s been a problem with your credit card. You’re told the charge didn’t go through and they need to confirm your number with you.

The only problem is it’s not the front desk calling. It’s a criminal who just dialed in and asked to be transferred to such-and-such room number. If you fall for the ploy, next thing you know there are fraudulent charges being pushed through on your card by the criminals.

If you get this call, tell the person you’ll come back down to the front desk in a moment to discuss the credit card trouble. That way you can handle a legitimate request if it is one and you can also deny the criminals on the phone the info they want!

Read more: The #1 rule of cheap travel

Hotel chains direct booking site could save you money

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Theo Thimou About the author:
Theo is director of content for clark.com. He has co-written 2 books with Clark Howard, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Clark Howard's Living Large in Lean Times.
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