Investment adviser Mitch Tuchman scored a deal any traveler would be proud of: $280 a night for a recent stay at the luxurious Viceroy Hotel in Manhattan, where the going rate can exceed more than $500 on a weeknight.
But when a change in plans required him to stay another day, all bets were off. The price soared to $720 a night.
"I can understand a 20%, 30% increase, but we're talking about 2-1/2 times more money just to stay in my room," said Tuchman, managing director of Menlo Park, California-based Rebalance-IRA.com.
Hotel experts say big price hikes after a discount runs out are not uncommon, particularly where demand can change significantly in one day.
Weddings, conventions, large events and even the start of the business week can alter a hotel's pricing dramatically.
In Tuchman's case, only four of the hotel's 240 rooms were unbooked for the extra night he wanted, and he was told the expectation was they would sell out.
Scott Pusillo, vice president of market strategy for Viceroy Hotel Group, says rates change with demand.
"Just like airlines, where peak demand days and flight times are priced differently, individual hotel room prices are set on a daily basis," he said.
How to Negotiate
Travelers have a few options when facing this situation.
The first stop should be the front desk, but be prepared to move on quickly, because there is a high rate of failure, said Clem Bason, chief executive officer of the hotel deal site goSeek.
If you are a frequent guest, that is one card to play. "The higher your status the better," Bason said.
Many experts advise looking around. "Reserving a room at another hotel within the guest's ideal price range is probably the safest bet," said Emily Hughes, co-founder of TripExpert.
You will then also know what kind of prices are reasonable to negotiate.
A couple of challenges await. First, you might not find anything acceptable, either in price or quality. Or, like Tuchman and many others who have already settled into a hotel room, you might dread the idea of packing up your things to head somewhere else for one night.
Raise the Stakes
After failing at the front desk, Tuchman employed a tactic recommended by consumer advocates in most settings: He went higher up the food chain.
To find the right person, travel experts advise asking for the manager on duty, who will usually have the authority to adjust the rate.
Tuchman did this and pleaded his case. The manager offered to drop the rate to $600. Tuchman noted the value of goodwill, and the manager offered a $500 rate.
Realizing he probably would have to pay $425 to $450 a night to stay elsewhere, Tuchman accepted. The lesson: "Everything is negotiable."