In late April, a consumer group stated that consumers searching for the best deal on hotel rooms on the Internet should shop around since no single travel site stands head and shoulders above rivals. Consumer WebWatch, a project of Consumers Union, said that while the Internet offers cheap fares compared with the system traditionally used by travel agents, travel Web sites do not handle mistakes well and fail to deliver lists of the cheapest hotels without extra clicks.
'We were surprised that the market is so confusing,' WebWatch Director Beau Brendler conceded.
Site Travelocity offered the best hotel rates more often than competitors Expedia, Hotels.com, Lodging.com and Orbitz, but not regularly enough to make it a one-stop-shopping destination.
'Simply put, Travelocity failed to return the lowest hotel rate more than 70 percent of the time. All the other sites performed even worse. If it's important to you to find the best rates and fares, you need to consult more than one site,' the report concluded.
Hotel companies' own Web sites also provided the cheapest rates one-third of the time, Consumer WebWatch found.
Travelocity is owned by Sabre Holdings Corp., Expedia and Hotels.com are controlled by USA Interactive, Lodging.com is owned by Cendant Corp. and Orbitz is owned by major airlines.
The non-profit Consumers Union is one of the most respected consumer advocacy groups and publisher of the magazine Consumer Reports.
Sites of the Month:
1. Freeality Reverse Lookup (www.freeality.com/findet.htm): Got a mysterious phone number or e-mail? Head on over to this site and find the person or business behind those digits with the help of plenty of search engines.
2. Ravinia Festival (http://www.ravinia.org): What do Aretha Franklin, Norah Jones, k.d. lang and The Neville Brothers all have in common? Besides probably being rich enough to buy you and me, they're headliners at this summer's Ravinia Festival. Get info on everything from tickets to directions to seating charts.
3. Steamworks - Chicago (www.steamworksonline.com/chicago/default.asp): Go on a virtual tour of the workout facility/recreational area, including the gym, rooms, 'wet areas' and more. You'll practically smell the sweat ... but is that necessarily a good thing?
4. Chicago Kings Drag Show and Party (www.chicagokings.com/): This site is chock full of information, including upcoming appearances, profiles, galleries of pictures and even frequently asked questions.
5. Thierrybear's Home Page (www.geocities.com/WestHollywood/2518/): Personal profile and adventures of a gay Puerto Rican man who lives in Chicago.
6. Gay Latin Men (www.hunglatinguys.com/): This site (which I would rate NC-35) is loaded with movie clips, photo personals, live chats and, of course, pictures of delicious guys. Enjoy the show!
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org .