Online, I’ve often read about people concerned about using a corporate rate because they feel the hotel will ask for identification at check-in to confirm eligibility for the discounted corporate rate. I found many people asking these types of questions and many other people answering in online forums that an ID is required to use a corporate rate. However, my experience is very different and I believe that it is purely an ethical issue in cases where you are not eligible to use a specific rate. Most likely no one will catch you (neither one of them is motivated to catch you). On the other hand, it is a question of what ethical standard you aim for in your personal and professional life.

Throughout my career, I have enjoyed corporate hotel rates in many different ways: sometimes I was an actual employee of the company negotiating the discounted rate, and therefore had a business card and other form of identification. However, most of my career I have been using corporate rates as a consultant, contractor, supplier or client of the company that had the contract with the hotel chain. Therefore, I did not have any type of identification and at some point, the details of my relationship with the company that booked me the room were of a confidential nature. In any case, the details are never the hotel receptionist’s business.

I’m typically asked for a form of corporate ID less than 10% of the time I’m booked at a corporate rate. When I’m an actual employee, I usually show my business card, but when I’m a contractor or vendor, I just say so. No further details needed. Typically, my response to a request for corporate ID to prove my relationship with the company that contracts with the hotel chain sounds like “Sorry, I’m a contractor/supplier/customer.” Not once did they ask me additional questions or challenge me further.

The truth is that the hotel chain itself has no interest in researching eligibility because its business and profitability is based on occupancy. Your number one goal is to complete the property. It’s the old pricing game. Let’s do an example. If we’re talking about a hotel that charges a standard rate of $300 a night, they’d be happy to sell rooms at $150 to complete their property, as long as their $300-a-night paying guest doesn’t know about it. For this reason, websites like Hotwire are successful. Hotwire allows hotels to sell rooms at a deep discount and increase their occupancy without losing margin to price-insensitive customers who are willing to pay full rate anyway to stay at that specific location. Therefore, for the same reason, they are happy to accept guests who have booked at a discounted rate through a corporate deal. In addition, corporate guests book directly with the hotel, either by phone or on the hotel’s website, and therefore the hotel can save on the commissions they normally pay to travel websites such as Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, or any other. Commissions are very expensive, typically in the 15-25% range. Therefore, providing a similar discount for a corporate client makes complete business sense for the hotel chain.

The only scenario where a hotel isn’t happy with a guest booking a discounted corporate rate is when they’re pretty sure the entire hotel will be full anyway, for example, in certain locations during the holidays or during big conventions. You will be able to tell immediately from the hotel website because the website will not accept the corporate code and you will only be left with the rack rate.

So should you worry about getting kicked out of the hotel? Not based on my fairly extensive experience. Am I suggesting you use corporate rates that you are not eligible for? Not at all, but simply because I don’t feel it’s ethical. However, I suggest you understand if you are eligible to take advantage of corporate rates because very often you do not need to be an employee of the company that has the contract with the hotel. Contractors, consultants, vendors, and customers are very often eligible as well.

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