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ExactSameRoom.com : Cancel and rebook cheaper on Booking.com

#1

Hi,

I’m Patrick and I’ve just launched ExactSameRoom.com which notifies you when you can rebook a hotel room for a lower price.
While preparing my next trip, I noticed that Booking.com’s prices can vary widely over time. Some of my bookings ended up being 20% cheaper than when I initially booked. The numbers on the landing page are real.

So I’ve decided to build a tool to notify me by mail when the price drops and I’m looking for feedback.

This is the first time for me to use some new technologies such as inbound email (I’m using mailgun) and browser automation (headless chrome). I’ve built this in about 1.5 month on nights and week-end.

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#2

Sweet. However, re: this:

Aren’t you violating Booking terms of service by scrapping their site? You may expect a Cease & Desist letter then once either Booking or the hotel owners catch the smell something is going on.

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#3

Yes I might. However, I’m not scrapping their website by loading hundreds or thousands of pages or re-using the content as mine.

And if it ever comes to this, it would mean that I’d have some traction :smiley:

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#4

The scrapping would only be a pretext for C&D. The real reason is the loss of revenue that you’re causing.

Think of it - a hotel got a reservation for say $150/night. Then - due to your actions - the reservation is cancelled and re-opened at $120/night. That is $30 loss right away. The hotel would be pissed off, and express their unhappiness to Booking. Booking would send you C&D - formally because you’re violating the Terms of Services, really - because you impact the revenues.

I believe you’re not taking it seriously.

You have spent 1.5 months building it. Then you’ll spend a year or so promoting it. Then - just when you “have some traction”, you’ll have to scrape it off and shut everything down - or be sued.

You do not value the time you’ve and will put into it?

I bet you’re not the only one trying to do arbitrage on hotel prices. I bet Booking has a watchdog looking for folks like you - because you cost their customers (and them) money. If you continue you activities, I bet you’ll be spotted and shut down.

Booking, however, has an API. If you try and use that, and if the API terms of service doesn’t prohibit the arbitrage (it may) - then you can run your service legally. A bit less profitably, but more safely in the long run.

I just read Using the API. They do not mention arbitration. I’m sure you can use the service in a different way - totally legally, IMHO (IANAL) - mark a room for a user, watch it and book it when the price gone down below N.

Anyway, good luck. I may use your service this summer - if they did not shutdown you yet.

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#5

I can’t load the site here. Surely not shut down already? :wink:

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#6

Thanks for the great feedback. I agree that there is a risk but most ideas do have some. I’m comfortable with the amount of risk in this project. The 1.5 month is elapsed time (I have a full-time job, a family and another side-project) so it’s more around 40 hours of work for now.

For the first point, hotels and Booking.com already offer free cancellation, price-matching programs, … They already deal with cancellation all the time and they’re the ones lowering the prices to being with. They know that it’s a possibility that some of their user will do this. Only Booking.com could know that it’s coming from ExactSameRoom.com and shutting down services like mine could just push their users to other platforms that allow such features.

For the second point, you look at it like as potential loss of revenue, but you can look at reducing friction for the booking. You’ll book earlier with a service like ExactSameRoom.com as you’ll have one less reason to post-pone your reservation. My bet is that over time my users will book sooner and maybe slightly more expansive rooms.

As for the API, ideally yes, I’d use it but you need a certain volume of reservation before being allowed to use it. I had to work around it.

And for the different way, that would leave the possibility of ending up with no room at all. I’ve built this looking at how me and my friend manage our travels and make the best solution for that.

If you end up using my service, don’t hesitate to send me a message with extra feedback if you’ve got some :smile:

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#7

:smile: I was doing some work on the server. It’s back up now

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#8

Or look at it this way: the hotel ripped off the customer by $30 initially. So I can understand why ExactSameRoom.com was made: to empower the customer against such immoral hotel practices.

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#9

Sure, but the automation of cancellation can change the quantity noticeably. People are lazy and irrational; they do not want to hang around waiting for the price to drop - it just doesn’t worth their time. If it only cost them one click, many more would do it.

Where’s now the dropped price is just a demand measuring test, an automatic cancellation service can turn it into a substantial revenue loss.

This is not correct. If I, as a hotel owner, run pricing tests, that means I’m tracking the numbers. I will notice the cancellation rate increase and the average revenue per night drop, and I’ll want to find out why. I’ll find out that it is Booking that sends the increased rate of cancellation and I will let them know this is not funny to me.

At the end of the day, Booking is paid by me. Enough hotel systems complain - they listen.

I’m not sure I’m buying this argument. The price drop is not guaranteed, so it is more of a lottery.

I’ve seen a similar marketing gimmick implemented by some other platform some time ago - “if the price of your flight drops, we return you the difference”. I do not see it widely adopted - either because it did not work as a friction reduction, or because the airlines resisted.

If it did work for the benefit of Booking and hotel, don’t you think Booking would have implement it already?

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#10

Why would Booking or hotel look at it this way?

The way they (and I) look at it is: the customer has enough money to pay $150, and they paid $150 initally. Therefore, this is a fair price.

If the customer values the price first and above all, there are hostels.

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#11

Nobody pays $150 when they make a reservation. They only promise they’ll pay $150 if/when they show up with the option to cancel before that. If the hotel wanted the customer to pay $150, he shouldn’t have a free cancellation option and/or should make the user pay upfront or have hefty penalty for cancelling (like for planes, trains, …)

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#12

Are you trying to say that the hotel, in fact, is not interested in customer paying $150? :no_mouth:

The free cancellation option is what you’ve called “reducing the friction”. The hotel, of course, expects that most customer do not cancel. Any increase in cancellation rate can throw their budgeting off.

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#13

The hotel is obviously interested in you paying a gazillion dollars. That’s not really up for debate. But that’s not what a reservation is and their wishes are not anybody’s command.

What you consider a “fair price” can be seen by others as price gouging. It’s just a matter of perspective.

With free cancellation and reducing their prices, they take the risk of people like me building something like ExactSameRoom.com and I’m taking the risk of pissing them off. In the end, the risk is on me, maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong. But it’s a bet I’m willing to take and clearly we have different views on the odds.

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#14

It it called “segmentation”. They have say 100 rooms. 80 of them are filled at $150. 20 are empty. They are interested - if we drop the price for the remaining 20, can we fill them up too? So they do a short-running experiment.

Obviously, they do not run this experiment to push their $150 customers into $120 prices; they want to attract more $120 customers for free rooms.

You’re playing against their goals. If you had a service which notified or booked rooms for $120 customers - you’d played along with their goals, and hotels would support you and help you.

Sure. It is your call.

Note tho that you’re placing yourself into a very precarious position:

  • You’re fully dependent on the platform (Booking.com)
  • You’re working against the platform’s main source of revenue (hotels)

The end is predictable, methinks.

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