I often see people online asking questions about using corporate rates because they feel that hotels ask for ID at check-in to confirm eligibility for corporate rate discounts. I find a lot of people asking these questions and many others answering on online forums that ID is required to use corporate rates. However, my experience is very different and I think it is purely an ethical issue if you are not eligible to use a particular rate. No one is likely to catch you (and no one wants to catch you). On the other hand, it’s a question of what ethical standards you pursue in your personal and professional life.
Throughout my career, I have enjoyed corporate rates at hotels in various capacities: sometimes I was an actual employee of the company negotiating discounted rates, so I had business cards and other forms of proof. However, for most of my career, I have used corporate rates as a consultant, contractor, supplier or customer of a company that contracts with a hotel chain. As a result, I do not have any proof of identity and sometimes the details of my relationship with the company that booked the room are supposed to be confidential. In any case, these details are not the business of the hotel receptionist.
Typically, less than 10% of people will ask me for proof of company identification when booking with a company rate. When I am an actual employee, I will usually show my business card, but when I am a contractor or vendor, that is all I will say. No further details are required. Usually my answer to a company ID request is, “Sorry, I’m a contractor/supplier/customer”. Not once have I been asked any additional questions or further challenges.
The truth is that the hotel chains themselves are not interested in investigating eligibility because their business and profitability is all about occupancy. Their main goal is to fill property vacancies. It’s an old pricing game. Let’s take an example. If we’re talking about a hotel that charges $300 per night, as long as the guests they’re paying $300 per night don’t know that, they’ll be happy to sell rooms to fill their properties for $150. Thus, the success of sites like Hotwire allows hotels to sell rooms at a big discount and increase occupancy without losing profit because price-insensitive customers are willing to pay the lowest price to stay somewhere anyway. Therefore, for the same reason, they are more than happy to accept guests who book at a discounted rate through corporate deals. In addition, corporate guests can book directly with the hotel over the phone or through the hotel’s website, so the hotel can save on the commissions they normally pay to travel sites like Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, Booking.com or any other. Commissions are very expensive, usually between 15-25%. Therefore, offering similar discounts to corporate customers makes perfect business sense for hotel chains.
The only situation where hotels get upset about booking guests at corporate discount rates is when they are pretty sure the entire hotel will be fully booked anyway, for example at certain locations during holidays or large conventions. You can immediately find out on the websites of hotels that don’t accept corporate codes that you will only be left with the rack rate.
So should you be worried about getting kicked out of your hotel? In my extensive experience, not really. Am I suggesting that you use corporate rates that you don’t qualify for? Not at all, purely because I don’t think it’s ethical. However, I am suggesting that you find out if you qualify for the corporate rate because you are not usually required to be an employee of a company that has a contract with the hotel. Contractors, consultants, suppliers and clients usually qualify as well.