Starwood Living Social – Deal or No Deal?

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Yesterday I received an email from Living Social letting me know that they partnered with Starwood Hotels and are offering 7 hotels with up to a 57% savings. I immediately looked into thinking what a great deal! The hotels on “sale” include: Aloft Tulsa, The Equinox Resort and Spa (Southern Vermont), Hotel Ivy (Minneapolis), Sheraton Gunter Hotel San Antonio, Westin O’Hare, The Westin La Paloma Resort and Spa, and Sheraton Crescent Hotel.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 8.43.58 PMI selected two different hotels to experiment with and found totally opposite results. Sometimes this is a great deal, while other times it is no deal at all.

Successful experiment: I checked the Aloft Tulsa as it is a regular hotel (no resort fee, etc.). I checked a random date and found that through Living Social you could book a room for $64. Both the king and two queen rooms were showing the same price.

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Booking through Living Social will cost $64/night

Booking with Starwood is significantly more expensive! A king room is $103/night and a room with two queen rooms is $85/night. So even if you were going to go with the cheaper two queen bed room, you’ll still be spending $23.38 more by booking with Starwood directly. Those calculations include the total price after tax. There are no other fees listed in the terms and conditions, unlike the example I show below.

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The cheapest rate I could find is $85/night

Remember though, when you book through Living Social you will not earn points or nights/credits towards status (although there are times when they slip through).

Failed experiment: While I’ve never been to The Equinox, I know many people speak highly about it. I figured I’d take a look at that hotel specifically to see what type of “deal” I could get. I picked a random weekend and found that the listed rate on the Living Social site was in fact much cheaper than the best rate I could find with Starwood directly (which included AAA, corporate rates, etc.).

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With Living Social, a regular king room is only $199/night!

When booking through Starwood, the best rate I could find was $89 more expensive for the exact same room! This is actually the publicly available best rate listed on the site.

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With Starwood directly, the best rate I could find was $280/night!

Immediately I assumed this was a great deal until I got to the booking page and saw that Living Social tacks on $193.03 in taxes and fees! I thought maybe this included the 10% state tax and $35 resort fee, but the terms state “$35 per room/night resort fee and 10% tax are not included and will be collected at time of redemption.” So when all is said and done, the cost of the two nights booked with Living Social is $31.73 more expensive! Unless there is a possible over site with the sales tax and resort fee actually being included in the taxes and fees, but I am not quite sure.

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The total is $591.03 before 10% state tax and $35/night resort fee! With Starwood, the total is $559.30 for the two nights.

This is just a good reminder to not jump at these Living Social (or any other deal-a-day site) vacation deal until doing a full price comparison.

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