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Are Pay-Your-Birth-Year Deals a Rip Off?

The Westin Aruba recently announced a special promotion featuring rates equal to guests’ birth years. The deal is valid for two- to three-night stays only. Pay $459 for your first night, get your second and third nights for rates equal to the last two digits of your birth year. (If you were born in, say, 1950, you’d pay 50 bucks for your second and third nights.)

This is by no means the first time we’ve seen age-based room rates. They typically take one of two forms. Some 20 years ago, the former Radisson SAS hotel group ran a promotion offering a discount equal to guests’ ages in years for its Scandinavian hotels. A spokesperson for the company told me, “Yes, a 90-year-old person would get 90 percent off the base rate.” This latest offer from Westin Aruba bases the rate on birth years, which today would mean a 90 year old (born in 1923) would pay $23.

      Both deals have about the same result: Really old seniors get big discounts; younger travelers … not so much.

      The Radisson deal was straightforward: Guests could pay the age-discounted rate for as many nights as they wanted. But the current Westin promotion has a big catch. The base rate for the first night is $459, compared with available rates as low as $178. Clearly, that makes a huge difference. At the regular rate, a traveler of any age would pay an advance purchase price of $178 per night, or $534 for three nights and $356 for two nights (these prices are for travel starting November 10). That means the promotion would provide a small discount only to travelers born on or before 1937 who stay for at least three nights. It would be worthless for anyone booking a two-night stay.

      Any deal with a required first-night payment—or that requires you to buy anything else, such as a bundled airfare—is suspect. Always do the math before you buy into such a deal. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

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