Travelodge look cheap and nasty attacking Premier Inn

30 November 2009

Ah, Travelodge. You probably thought you were been incredibly clever with your mailshot late on Friday, but you appear to have achieved quite the opposite - you've highlighted a competitor's special offer and made yourselves look like smug, petty fools.

In case you don't subscribe to the email newsletter from Travelodge, here's what you missed:

Premier Inn admits to website anomaly which may be overcharging thousands since June 2009

We know that Travelodge customers also use other hotel brands, so we were keen to let you know about some news which might affect you.

On Tuesday 24th November 09, following a complaint by Travelodge to the ASA, The Times reported that budget hotel operator Premier Inn has potentially been overcharging thousands of customers trying to book a Premier Offer £29 room since June 2009. Their television and newspaper advertising, featuring Lenny Henry, proudly claimed that the chain were offering 1,000,000 rooms for £29, but The Times reported that when customers arrived at the Premier Inn website those using the Quick Book on the homepage were not being offered £29 rooms when they were still available. Instead customers would only be able to find these advertised rooms by clicking on a different part of the website.

Independent price checking revealed that customers had a less then 1% chance of finding a £29 room if they used Quick Book compared with a 24% chance for those clicking on a Premier Offer banner.* This means thousands of customers may have been charged as much as double the price they should have paid. At no time did Premier Inn advise customers that lower prices were available in other parts of their website and encourage them to check for £29 rooms. There could be thousands, tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of customers affected.

Incredibly after being challenged by The Times, Premier Inn stated that "the anomaly of higher prices being offered through the quick bookings facility would disappear next week (1st December 2009)" but so far have not offered ANY refund to Premier Inn customers who were overcharged by this problem.

The purpose of this email is to build an online petition to encourage Premier Inn to offer a full refund to any customer who has booked a more expensive room when the same room was available on another part of their website for £29.

Think you might have been affected? Learn more about what action you can take or simply sign the petition here.

And look, they've created an online petition to hand over to Premier Inn to demand a refund for customers, at Hooray for Travelodge, fighting for consumer rights! Almost. In fact, not at all. There are a few problems with the moral crusade Travelodge have undertaken:

  • Customers may not have been overcharged, and in fact probably weren't overcharged at all; by their own figures, there was a less than one in four chance of bagging an offer anyway, but their email suggests everyone should sign their petition regardless
  • Travelodge seem surprised there was more chance of finding a promotional offer by clicking on the promotional offer banner - isn't that how promotional offers work? Just to give you an example, here's the sort of banner Premier Inn features - is it so difficult to figure out you'll find the best deals by clicking on the image? Is this really worth spamming your own customers?

    Bitterwallet - £29 offers on Premier Inn site

  • The complaint to the ASA wasn't made by a customer, but by Travelodge themselves - they initiated the whole process in their own interests, but are now championing their cause in the name of the consumer

Now that doesn't mean Premier Inn aren't in the wrong - consumers should expect to see all prices when booking through other areas of the site. That said, despite what Travelodge are suggesting, customers probably weren't overcharged to begin with, and there's a bloody big banner that provides perhaps the simplest call-to-action since the STOP sign was invented - it's not as if the offers were hidden from view.

The reaction to Travelodge's email seems to have had the opposite effect to the one intended; several readers forwarded the email to us, with many commenting that it read more like a spiteful attempt to run a competitor down, that it was nothing more than sour grapes - one commenter over at MSE points out that Travelodge themselves used to run a very similar offer. In short, Travelodge have just informed their entire customer base how to find cheap hotels with Premier Inn, and are looking slightly dickish for doing so.

TOPICS:   Travel   Advertising


  • Lam
    When I got the email, I thought it was a nasty stunt seeing as it was pretty clear on the Premier Inn site where to click to get that special rate. The tag line in the email was “You have received this email because you have opted to receive marketing emails from Travelodge.” I don't think the email is marketing for Travelodge because after looking on the Premier Inn website, I found a hotel a stones throw away from the Travelodge I had booked, so I cancelled the Travelodge booking saving myself £16.00 ( and the reviews for the Premier Inn are way better than the Travelodge ) So thankyou Travelodge for your marketing email, please keep sending them with details of where I can stay at a better rate than you offer.
  • Junkyard
    Despite the quite obvious instruction to "click on Lenny to book", there's an even more obvious section on the left where you're invited to begin typing the details of the room you're looking for. Who in their right mind would think that, by filling in the details here and clicking "check availability", they were actually stating "I am not interested in rooms from £29, and would like to be charged the full rate for my room if at all possible"?
  • Kevin
    I thik Travelodge have a lot to be guilty for about the way they promote their own sales. Never been able to find a deal with them, especially as they don't actually list where the cheap ones are! No idea how Premier Inn do it but I've not been with them for ages as their prices are far too high (especially in London) when compared with Travelodge.
  • Lam
    I agree Junkyard, even though it says " click Lenny" I was inclined to fill in the details on the left hand section to search for rates. Which I've just done now with unreal results. I do think Premier Inn are wrong offering one price if you " click Lenny" and another if you don't. Here's my result for one night at Epsom on 30 December. "click Lenny" = rate £29.00 search rate = £79.00 If you do a search for Gatwick Airport you come up with 19 hotels with rates from £114 to £44 a night. But the " click Lenny" rate drops the rates of 16 out the 19 hotels to just £29 So YES the Premier Inn website is bordering on dishonesty.
  • Gadget 4.
    I think the point is that while the email raised valid points, the tone/reasoning behind it was somewhat disingenuous. But as has been said, it's good of them to let us know we can get cheaper hotels near theirs. In my experience every Travelodge I have stayed has been an absolute dive, while every Premier Inn has been terrific so why anyone would stay with Travelodge is beyond me.
  • Tenji
    I read this email and immediately thought "people in glass houses should not throw stones". If you book multiple dates on the Travelodge website that include their special offer dates, you do not get the special offer amount. I have had to re-enter consecutive individual dates on several occasions in order to successfully achieve the correct pricing! Shame I didn't keep screen dumps where I was overcharged earlier this year - I would love to see how they respond. I assume that Travelodge cannot afford a legal team, or a decent publicist, and want us to do the dirty work for them.
  • Lam
    depends what you use Travelodge for - worth it when it's only 9 bucks for a couple of hours. If you plan to actually sleep in one all night, good luck. The walls are paper thin.
  • Geoff
    Travelodge are owned by a Dubai investment company. So perhaps their marketing team ought to be considering whether they'll have a job this time next year, rather than dumb-ass pops at the competition.
  • magicbeans
    cool. i now know how to book cheaper premier inns! much prefer them to travelodge!
  • The B.
    I'm on a training course next week and am staying at a Premier Inn for 3 days, my choice, Travelodge are okay for one off drunken crashpads but sod long term, I would have gone for Holiday Inn but there's not a lot of difference betreen the 2 and the price was double (except the Wednesday which rocketed to £400 for the night).
  • Brian
    Lam: Not really, you are just an idiot.
  • Warwick H.
    Travel Lodge in the Conference League - Premier Lodge in the Premier league when it comes to a overnight stopover. for a sly leg over,luvverly beds.
  • scribbles
    I stayed at the Travelodge at Ringwood last year, and I felt like I was staying in a remand centre. At £69 per night, that didn't represent value for money to me. Horrible accomodation, i'd take Premier Inn everytime after my experience. PI accomodation is so much nicer.
  • adr0ck
    There is some truth to what travelodge are saying however i think premier inn should start a similar petition regarding travelodges £15 vouchers which i keep receiving which never ever work i contacted travelodge about their £15 vouchers - and they pointed me to the small print which states only available @ certain hotels on certain dates there is no way to actually find out which hotels and which dates they actually work for though
  • Brian
    Hi, Brian here. My mother thinks Lenny Henry is as funny as getting the thrush.
  • Phil
    I received one of these emails over the weekend. Within 20 seconds of reading it, I'd unsubscribed myself from the Travelodge mailing list.
  • Paul
    What a cheap tacky and nasty thing for Travelodge to do. It is extremely obvious how to book a £29 room, and I have done so myself for my family over Christmas. The thing about the £29 room offer is that is non refundable so does not offer the flexibility of the full rate bookable on the left of the website. How much easier could a huge CLICK ON LENNY TO BOOK be?? Travelodge have not done themselves any favour here! Premier Inn are a far, FAR superior hotel chain and Travelodge seem to be running scared with the dam right underhand scam. Do they underestimate their guests, stating this is NOT a marketing ploy? WOW – nice move. Let’s watch the backfire.
  • Lam
    # Posted by Brian | November 30th, 2009 at 2:53 pm Lam: Not really, you are just an idiot. well re: paper thin walls - of course they are not "really" that thin, that would be just stupid. And I do take back what I said about charging £79 for a room which you can get for just £29 if you click Lenny, bordering on dishonesty. My point being - why not be upfront about all the room rates you offer, listing them as Holiday Inns do, so you can pick if you want an cheaper rate that is non refundable or go for a standard rate, rather than hide the rate under a flash image which does not show up on a palm or iPhone.
  • Gary
    Just shows how desperate Travel lodge are for business. They need to get their own house in order and the rooms. Dive is what they are pay £9 , how do they pay to clean the rooms ?. Premier Inn 1000% better and value clean rooms and the website is simple to use
  • Ten B.
    [...] spite-filled mailshot from Travelodge that’s done them no favours at [...]
  • spencer
    You gotta be some sort of idiot to not work this out havent you? "for a much cheaper, promotional rate, click here"..... How much more obvious do you want it? that's a great deal of travelodge fail just there.
  • Lemon
    Travelodge? They are the most unwelcoming flee pits going, with mouth breathing Wendy's for staff. They're that bad i'd rather not get a deal and stay at PI, or stay in my car. Think of the other Stigs that have stayed in your bed before you. Euurgh.
  • Claire T.
    As I finished reading this email I got an email from Zavvi with the headline " is cheaper than". In this current climate it seems all morals are diminished...
  • whoknows
    i work for PI, its not hard, infact it is excellent value for money. Travelodge dont take care of their rooms, and do not clean properly. the only time i will ever stay at a travelodge will be on its opening night, and even then i will pay the extra 20£ and take my dog. I bet the shit in the carpet would still be there weeks after.....
  • Lyon H.
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  • Mike
    Another thing about Premier Inn that has really annoyed me lately is their Great Nights offer. They get you to stay in three of their hotels and then you can claim a free night at any one of their locations. However, they expect you to ring a phone number which has an automated voice telling you they are sorry to keep you waiting which goes on forever and ever and no one ever answers it. What a crock! Suffice to say they can stick it where the sun don't shine. I will be using the Holiday Inn Express from now on.
  • Richard L.
    Thx for information.
  • voyages v.
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