Starwood just offered luxury hotel rooms for $30, by mistake. So I booked one

By Christopher Goscinski , written on May 28, 2014

From The News Desk

I’m the first to gripe about the travel industry’s struggle with consumer technology: The apps are slow, the websites are terribly designed; Wi-Fi in transit centers- if present at all- is slow and expensive.

Sometimes, though, the awfulness works in my favor.

Last night, Starwood Hotels’ website began displaying rock-bottom rates for some of its nicest properties.

Looking at taking a trip to Boston? Rooms in the Westin just outside of town could be had for $10 a night. (Not a typo: Ten dollars a night for a weekend stay in Boston.) Perhaps the St. Regis in Washington D.C., which normally goes for around $400/night, was more your style. Those rooms were only $30/night. Other SPG properties in Florida, Cancun, and Dubai also saw absurdly low rates.

The dates were limited and far in the future - anything after November 3, 2015 was eligible, and the system only had dates available for booking through end of the month- but that didn’t stop people from taking advantage of the rates.

I booked a weekend in late 2015 at the St. Regis in D.C. It’s a year and a half away, but at 95% off, this was a deal not even Groupon could beat. On frequent travelers sites, others reported booking an entire month at various properties to help them secure premiere status in Starwood’s reward program for pennies on the dollar. This was clearly a failure of technology that customers didn’t mind.

Whether or not SPG actually honors these rates, or tries to cancel the bookings, remains to be seen. Hotels aren’t in the business of having entire months booked at a mistake rate, and the Starwood has the right and authority to cancel and refund reservations at will. For now, though, my booking still appears to be valid.  I'll see you in DC in 2015.