As an up-front disclaimer here, I'll say I have absolutely no stock or other investment of any kind in hotels.com.
That said, I'm out of town for a friend's wedding right now and staying at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco, completely thanks to a promotion run by hotels.com, whereby any 10 nights that you stay ANYWHERE earn you 1 free night ANYWHERE else. So, let's say you travel for work a bit and you happen to stay at sub-one star hotels for $40 a pop. 10 of those gets you into the Ritz. Do it enought times and you can make it your home for your super-long weekend mini-vacation.
I've been looking forward to the trip for quite some time, and so far it's been great. One quick observation I'd share for anyone who cares to know, or is planning a trip just about anywhere, however, is that I would never in my right mind pay the market price for this hotel room.
If you're visiting San Francisco, there are tons of options right in the heart of things that have perfectly adequate beds, TVs, and bathrooms, but would cost you less than a hundred bucks. Add that up over the course of a multi-night stay, factor in the absurdly high hotel taxes you're going to incur as a percentage of your bill, and then consider that the sign of a great trip is probably how little time you spend cooped up inside your room, and it just seems crazy to drop the extra several hundy on a five star hotel.
I know there's no shortage of financial planning books out there that can give you sage advice about how your daily $5 latte habit is really costing you $482,281, when calculated as money that didn't make it into your Roth IRA, and therefore didn't earn magnificent returns with dividends over four decades of tax-free growth.
I also know you could get hit by a bus tomorrow, and you might really enjoy that latte today. It also might improve your productivity, or bring you utility for the here and now in some other way. If I were ever writing a personal finance book, I wouldn't be filling it with a lot of thou-shalt-nots about lattes and Chinese take-out.
But having seen the inside of some perfectly adequate $40 rooms, and now having seen the inside of a marginally more adequate $400 room, I'm not seeing a whole lot of difference.
I won't look a gift horse in the mouth and wouldn't pass up a free five-star opportunity in the future...but now I also know there's nothing about such a place that would justify dropping half a paycheck for a few nights' stay.