During a period of maintenance to the Hilton Honors website I was able to secure prices that beat the Dynamic Pricing engine. Was this a case of luck, a new award pricing hack, or just bad technology?
Regularly Scheduled Maintenance
I frequently shop for hotel rooms late on Saturday nights for our vacations. It just seems to be the only time I have where I let my mind wander and also have the time and resources to search for space. Nearly every Saturday night, the Hilton website adds a disclaimer box at the top of the page to indicate that maintenance is taking place overnight. Some of the features and functionality are missing during these periods, but I’m kind of used to it at this point and it hasn’t caused any serious concerns yet.
Prior to my most recent experience, I had only encountered a few inconveniences but nothing worth noting before. If anything, the post would have been titled: Man Tries To Book During Maintenance Outage, Fails and Inconvenienced.
223,000 points or 80,000 points?
When I first looked at the Waldorf-Astoria Orlando, the price was too rich for my blood at 80,000 Hilton Honors points per night. For other potential trip ideas I had looked at the all-inclusive Hilton Rose Hall (60,000 points), the Conrad Cartagena (40,000 points), and we had just stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria Panama (40,000) – all of which were dramatically less expensive than the Waldorf-Astoria Orlando. Even in pricey Hong Kong, the Conrad which offers soaring views of Victoria Harbour and one of the most prestigious addresses in the city is just 70,000 points, charging more seems outrageous.
My mind wandered, I contemplated how much we might enjoy the property for a number of reasons and I decided to check back again. For our dates the price had soared to a staggering 223,oo0 points or more than $420/nt in cash (which would not include the resort fee or taxes). Now it was really far too expensive and the price conditioning made the previously too expensive 80,000 look like a bargain. I started shopping other Hilton hotels in the area and there was something off about each one. This Hampton was pretty new, but too far from the parks, that Homewoood suites was a good value but would it offer enough resort-style family fun?
I checked the price again as I combed through the not-quite-good-enough properties for the property again and low and behold, it dropped down to 80,000 points per room per night. Feeling like I just found systemwide upgrade space (eVIP) on an American flight far in advance, I swooped in and booked two rooms for two nights right away, one for ourselves and one for our guests.
As I attempt to execute this order with the haste of a mistake fare, I find an issue at the top of the screen, indicating that my order was not completed.
The error message is bizarre because I used a saved card to proceed. Just in case that was the focus of the maintenance concerns, I also re-entered the saved credit card information again tonsure they were having problems other than solely with saved data.
I then noticed the money/points slider allowing me to decide with how much I would be happy to pay with cash leaving the rest deducted from my Honors account. While I clicked the points and money option, I never selected anything besides $0, so it should just deduct the points from my car.
By sliding it across to the left and to the right (making it clear to slide it back to $0 before processing my request.
As I struggled through execution of the pricing, I rang the Diamond Desk at Hilton Honors. The associate pulled it up and looked for the space herself. She was unable to replicate the lower of the two prices (80,000/night) instead only showing the higher price comparable to what I had found before.
We re-confirmed details and assumptions made over the phone while the polite agent was unable to do anything that I wasn’t already limited to execute online myself. While she was repeating the conditions I was trying to achieve, I continually tried to book the rooms on my own until on my third attempt, I was successful.
I informed her of this, she reloaded my account and found the reservations. Both of us dumbfounded, I closed the call and grabbed the appropriate number of screenshots.
Bad Tech or Points Hack?
The confirmation screen said well-played and that made me wonder, was it? I know this is the boilerplate cheeky response they give everyone, but did I trick the system into believing that I had made a money and points booking even though money was at $0 and points were at 80,000 instead of the 200k+ they should have been?
The truth is, I don’t know if I have stumbled onto a hack, bad tech, or lucky timing. This week, the Honors website was not undergoing any maintenance and I was not able to attempt my booking again. I have posted before that dynamic pricing can go wrong, but maybe this is an example of not the pricing going wrong but the tech that supports it. Clearly Hilton doesn’t have a logical process in their dynamic award pricing engine already, this could be a way to even the hack their already bad technology or it could have been a break while maintenance was ongoing. I really do not know.
Do think this is a hack, bad technology or just luck? Do you disagree with all three simply because you would never pay 80,000 per night for a domestic hotel stay?