Here are a few ESSENTIAL tips to make your hotel stays full of awesome:
1). Once your reservation or priceline bid is accepted, and you receive the confirmation email, ALWAYS call the property directly (not the 800 number). Speak to the manager, confirm your reservation, introduce yourself politely and tell them you are very much looking forward to visiting their "property" (use the "industry" lingo)-- you're a first time "guest" (again, industry lingo), but come back to town every year. Get their name and write it down. This way, if you have any trouble when you get there, you can reference your conversation with "Neil," one of the managers.
If you make your reservation far in advance, call again the day before you leave and repeat this procedure. And, at that time, confirm all your previously-requested preferences (see below). You are bound to get another manager's name, and that is always good to have. That also helps eliminate surprises at check-in (usually at 2AM, right?)
2). Make any requests you have at that time--especially things like bed preference, non-smoking floor (believe it or not, some hotels still allow smoking), ground floor room, fridge, microwave, roll-away, etc. Doing this with a manager will ensure it gets put in the system, and in the rare case it doesn't, you'll have a person to call on, when trying to resolve the issue.
I always ask for a king bed, on the main floor, close to the front entrance, or if it has to be above first floor, I like it near the elevator. Never had it happen where my request was not honored (though sometimes I am down the hall a bit more than I'd prefer, but that's a small issue).
3). Be sure to join the hotel chain's "rewards" program, as your nights will add up over a few seasons. Also good for late checkout and on-the-spot upgrades at some properties.
4). Different hotels have different ways of looking at their Priceline guests. Some love them and some merely "tolerate" us. I have had front desk personnel tell me straight-up "you got this room for $45, when it is usually $110, you should be happy with what you got." Needless to say I was sitting in the GM's office sipping a glass of their finest orange juice within 5 minutes--explaining that this is probably the wrong attitude for his staff to be taking--and getting the request I was making handled to my expectation. Your up-front convo with the manager will help with any problems in that regard.
5). If your stay was better-than-expected, ask to see that same manager on your way out--or call him/her the day you get back. Personally thank them for a great stay and tell him you'll be calling again to stay there next year (I normally try to include the names of a few front-desk, room attendant or other people who made my stay great--succeed by helping others succeed).
That personal touch tells them it is worth it to give good service, and that you are a class act. I have "relationships" with managers in Tulsa, Louisville, Guthrie, Chula Vista and growing with each trip. It can be good for a later-than-average checkout on Sunday next time around, or just make you feel good for brightening someone's day. Also, take time on the trip home to fill out the customer comment card, and tell the manager you are sending it in, with your praise. Those matter to a good manager. Don't feel compelled to add in a "But" to it. In otherwords, don't say "it was great, but we could have used more towels." That zeroes-out your good will, for something that is not fixable now (next time, ask for ample towels when you're staying there).
If your stay was below-expectations, you have to decide HOW much below expectations it was. If just a little below, note that on the comment card, and send it in--no phone call needed. If it was a disaster, call your contact and tell him about your problem. I have done this in the past, and was able to get some satisfaction out of it--and on one occasion, a comp stay next time we were in town (be sure to get that in writing--an email will suffice, as many times managers move on).
6). And, one "bonus" point. Not related to priceline, but BMX Travel, in general. School your posse on the trip down that it is not cool to do sprints and skids in the hallways, clean the bike with the room towels, leave a big, steaming BM in the tub on Sunday (true story), and other "BMXer" things that get us a bad name from Moscow to Monterrey. Show some class and manners, and BMX will keep a good rep in the towns we visit. Oh, and it is always good form to leave a tip of $1 per service-day on the top of the TV for the room attendants.
Total time invested: about 30 minutes total. And does much to guarantee a smooth and enjoyable stay.
Share your tips and tricks here!