Consumer Reports: It pays to call the hotels

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YONKERS, N.Y. -- Consumer Reports, which in its July issue offers strategies on finding the best hotel deal, found that it got a lower price about 75% of the time from the 100 hotels it contacted directly than it did when comparing their rates on five travel Web sites.

The hitch, however, is that it compared prices it negotiated on the phone with hotel reservations clerks to the rates it found for those properties on Expedia, Orbitz, Quikbook.com, Hotels.com and Travelocity.

A Consumer Reports researcher contacted the hotels and surfed the Web sites about three weeks in advance when looking for room rates on three-night getaways in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, New Orleans and Washington.

"We found that about three out of four times, hotels gave a better deal than the travel Web sites," according to Consumer Reports' "Guide to a great rate" in its July issue. "When hotels were cheaper, the difference was impressive -- averaging $83 per night. When travel sites were cheaper, the average difference was only $61."

As part of the article, Consumer Reports also surveyed 35,000 readers and found that while nearly 7 of 10 readers were "very or completely satisfied" with recent hotel stays, one-third had at least one complaint.

Among the top complaints were hotels' poor lighting, unattractive decor and excessive phone charges.

The survey participants picked Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons as the top "luxury" hotels; Walt Disney Resorts just edged out Embassy Suites among "upscale" properties; and SpringHill Suites by Marriott and Homewood Suites by Hilton took top honors in the "moderately priced" category.

To contact reporter Michael Milligan, send e-mail to [email protected].

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