This is the fourth post in our series about understanding BRGs. Now Club Carlson calls its version Club Carlson Best Online Rates but as we know it's just the same thing.
Club Carlson's BRG strength used to be it's flexible approach to the matching rules and forthcoming agents. I had done a number of BRGs with Club Carlson last year but it seems the rules have changed.
Here are the Terms & Conditions for the Best Online Rates Guarantee.
If your claim is approved you will receive a 25% discount on the lower rate you have found. This is similar to Marriott's LNF.
Here's how to file a Club Carlson.com BRG claim properly:
1) Identify the Club Carlson hotels in the location you'd like to stay
Club Carlson has a limited footprint and just a few few brands:
Country Inns & Suites
Park Inn by Radisson
You'll most likely look for a Radisson (Blu) and Park Plaza's. For the cheap Park Inns and Country Inns it often not really worth the effort.
For each brand there is a different website to file your claim but it works the same and is based on the same content management system. You are just required to log in all the time.
2) Compare prices between hotel booking sites and clubcarlson.com
I usually start out with kayak.com, wego.com and trivago.com and hotelscombined.com. These sites are all meta-search sites where you can browse multiple sites at once. I use up to 50 other sites if I can't find anything there.
3) Find matching room types
Once you have identified potential 'targets' narrow it down and make sure it's really the same room description. Club Carlson has become very picky with room descriptions. It needs to match perfectly.
4) The fine print
Club Carlson used to be a fantastic BRG and tons of people used BRG rates to drive down the costs of participating in the Club Carlson promotions in the last 2 years. Now it has become almost impossible to get a claim approved – the rules are just impossible are being enforced 100%.
– cancellation deadline must match 100%
Here's the reply I got recently:
Although we did find the rate you have mentioned, we have found the
cancellation policies are different.
Our cancellation policy states you can cancel by 4 PM (Hotel Time) on
the day of arrival, and there is no penalty.
The cancellation policy on www.kayak.com states: Free cancellation
before 6:00 pm local hotel time on Sat Mar 16.
Now almost all cancellation deadlines vary a bit and all other BRGs accept a flexible rate as such and not match it by the very last hour. Club Carlson does!
– comparison site needs to quote and charge in the same currency
This is similar to IHG's requirement. Again I think this is completely arbitrary and not consumer friendly. If a rate is provided for less and accessible to every internet user it should not matter in which currency. It's ok to account generously for currency fluctuations with a say 2-3% padding but rejecting a site that charges your credit card in another currency makes no sense in a global world.
– Club Carlson.com rarely provides 'package rates'
As you have seen in my installment about IHG this can greatly complicate the comparison – most Club Carlson.com rates are clean though.
5) Make your reservation at Club Carlson.com
Club Carlson requires you to have a completed reservation before filing a claim.
You do have 24hrs to make your claim after making the reservation.
6) File your claim
Club Carlson redirects you to the specific claim form for each brand.
The response can take a loooong time – a week is no exception. Given the stringent requirements they should be able to send out denial emails in seconds but boy they take their time.
Once approved your rate is changed immediately, no further processing or waiting needed.
The BRG teams sets the rates – the hotel is not involved in the process.
If you'd have asked me a couple of months ago – this would have been my favorite BRG program. Now I think it's one of the worst. Given the reports on Flyertalk and my own experience it's almost impossible to get any flexible rate approved for a BRG. Even Hilton came around recently and takes the BRG program a bit more seriously.
I would not be surprised if the Club Carlson BRG team has not given approval to a single claim in weeks.
Were you able to make it work for you?