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Hotel Engine Consumer Shutdown
I wrote about Hotel Engine when it first launched last August. The site showed some promise with their unique “walking score” and 5-10% cash back on all bookings. At the time of their launch they were also giving $25 to new members with no minimum, but they eventually changed the terms of that offer.
Back when I wrote about it, several readers signed up with my link and a handful went on to complete stays earning me a modest credit. I have visited Hotel Engine several times in the past few months to see if it made sense to use my credit for upcoming trips, however nothing worked out.
The Consumer Site Is Gone
This morning I visited their site to search for an upcoming trip and noticed that their consumer site has been completely shutdown. They have shifted their business model to cater completely towards businesses. When I went to login to my account, I received the following message:
Trying to Get Answers
After receiving that message I began to email the former head of the company who I had a brief interaction with back in August. Before I sent the email, I decided to check LinkedIn and discovered he no longer works there. My next move was to go to their contact page where I emailed their press relations.
A Few Answers
While waiting to hear back from press relations, I noticed a chat option on their website and started asking questions. Fortunately Alex the concierge provided some answers. In an effort to be as accurate as possible, I have quoted his responses word for word.
1. What happened to credits that were on my account? – “We have shut down the consumer page as of recently. You are still able to use your points if they were earned through referral.”
2. How do I use my referral credits? – “In order to do so you must contact us via phone.”
3. How can I search for properties if my account is shut down? – “If you would like to search our properties we are able to create you a new business account however, you will still need to contact us via phone to apply your points.” “We can also do this over the phone if you have specific dates and an area to look at”
4. So I can search with my business account and call in to have my personal credits applied? – “That is correct. We will book your specific selection over the phone for you and apply your points.”
5. Did you send out notification of your shutdown to consumers? – “We are sending out a notification soon to all consumers. There is a notification set up on the consumer page that states all of the information about our discontinuation of the site.”
6. What happens to all non-referral credits? – “We are sending out a notification soon to all consumers. There is a notification set up on the consumer page that states all of the information about our discontinuation of the site.”
7. So cash back (points) earned through bookings are not being honored? – “Those are the only things [referral credits] being honored. In order to receive the $25 referral points, the person you referred must book a room and complete their stay.
Response from Public Relations
Just a few minutes before publishing this post, I heard back from William Porter, Hotel Engine’s VP of Communications. In his email he states, “Credit/points aren’t gone – consumers can use them by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and booking a hotel.”
I sent a follow up to clarify since Alex had told me differently in chat. “That is incorrect. Any earned credits are 100% being honored.” So according to this email, Hotel Engine will honor all credits earned on consumer accounts. Of course you will have to either get a business account to search or call them up to have them search for you.
Getting A Business Account
In an effort to be able to use my credits, I did sign-up for a business account. This will give me the opportunity to evaluate their service, but I plan to use my credits as soon as possible. The process of getting a business account was simple. I signed up with their form and was called within 30 minutes and asked a few questions.
Personally I am disappointed with Hotel Engine and how they have handled this. They shutdown people’s accounts without even sending an email. While I am glad they are honoring the credits (points), the fact that I have to open a business account to be able to search is very tedious.
In the end I will be redeeming my credits sooner rather than later just in case the company tries to switch their model again or goes completely out of business. While perhaps this shift on Hotel Engine’s part was unavoidable, it is clear they could have done a better job of conveying the changes to their customers.
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