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A Conversation With Hotel Poachers

A travel agent called to tell me he was representing RFID Journal LIVE! and offered to help me get a room at a lower price than the organizer could deliver.
Posted By Mark Roberti, 01.13.2016

I received a call the other day from a company called National Travel Associates, asking if I was exhibiting at RFID Journal LIVE!, being held in Orlando, Fla., on May 3-5. I said I was. I knew immediately that this was one of the bottom-fishing companies that pretend to represent an event in an attempt to grab some easy commission business.

Sure enough, the person on the other end of the line told me, "I'm working with the event organizer and the convention center to arrange travel for exhibitors. Have you booked your rooms yet?"

I played along to see where this would go. "No," I said, "I have not gotten around to it." He asked how many rooms I need. I said "Around 50 rooms for the duration of the event," and asked, "Were you hired by the event organizer?"

He dodged the question. I asked if he had any relationship with RFID Journal, the company organizing the event. "We work with the convention center," he said.

"Are you an agent for the convention center?" I asked. He dodged my question again and, when pressed, finally admitted that no, he had no formal relationship with the convention center but could get me rooms at rates below what the show organizer was offering.

"Great," I said. "I'm interested."

The caller connected me to someone who could actually book the rooms for me. I told her I needed 50 rooms for four nights throughout the event dates. I said I wanted to stay at the Hilton, next to the convention center. She said she would see what she could do.

I waited on hold for a while. Finally, the woman came back and said she could book me 20 rooms at the Hilton during the early May dates I needed, and that the rate would be $389.

"You're kidding," I said. "The show organizer is offering those rooms at $220 per night."

She assured me that I would not get those rates during the four nights of the event, and that I might get them once. I asked if she was sure. She said "Yes, the shows post a low rate to get you interested, but you have to pay higher rate for most nights."

I replied: "That's interesting, because I am the show organizer and I signed the contract with the Hilton, so I know that rate will be offered for each night of the event, and we have plenty of rooms in our block available to exhibitors."

At that point, she hung up on me.

I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. The company simply responded that it did not misrepresent itself, which I hotly disputed.

It's unfortunate that companies like this—and there are certainly others out there—are trying to take advantage of unsuspecting exhibitors. I encourage you to avoid these third-party agents and book at one of the official event hotels, the Rosen Centre or the Hilton, directly with Connections Housing, our official housing bureau. They will secure you the rate posted on the event site's Hotel/Venue page if you book before Mar. 31, as long as rooms don't sell out before then. I promise.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.

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