Experient Championships Hotel Reservations

I wanted to create a thread discussing how ludicrous it is that halfway through the season there is not a single downtown hotel room available. It’s been discussed a little in the championship housing thread but I don’t feel to the point it should be.

I have a strong feeling that it isn’t because they’re all truly booked yet with champs qualified teams, just that teams were over generous when they blocked their rooms way back when. I can see the direction FIRST was trying to take when they did this in order to make it fair for teams competing at events late in the season to still get a fair shot at rooms, however the implementation has been awful.
How i feel it could have been handled much better:
Teams rooms should be reserved and as soon as their last event they are registered for ends, if they did not qualify, their reservations are automatically cancelled. Most teams probably forgot they even made these block requests or remember they have to cancel them after they don’t qualify. It definitely wouldn’t be something at the top of my priority list after not qualifying. Right now there is nothing encouraging teams to cancel their blocks if they aren’t going to use them until April 7th.
Experient said the deadline for ANY team with a reservation to cancel their blocks is APRIL 8th.

To deal with the waitlist, a “short list” should be compiled of waitlist teams and only X amount of teams (say first 50 teams on the waitlist) can hold their reservation blocks after their last qualifying event has ended.
Obviously a lot more has to be done and considered to address and fix each situation but this is just what I’ve thought of in the past few days while sitting on hold.
I’ve planned three prior trips to champs and have never been more frustrated with FIRST than I am this year. Qualify at a week 3 event and stay 25 miles away? Forced to create a priority list of hotels I don’t want, and literally can’t stay at? (our board of education has a set of requirements for lodging that must be satisfied for our students to be approved to stay at them). Put my real list in a notes section? How do I know if my real list has even been read? How is it even convenient to keep track of all these “notes” of teams real preferences and be fair when distributing cancelled rooms? There are just so many questionable things with this whole process that has me, and my school administrators trying to help us pay, very upset. I never thought I’d say I kind of miss steele meetings.

The three other champs I planned, our team qualified in either week 5 or 6. Even that late, each year we were able to easily find a few downtown hotels to stay at through FIRST/Steele and satisfied our BOE’s requirements. But somehow this year week 3 there is not one hotel? From, what I’ve read even teams who blocked reservations after week 1 or even after bag day were left with only the distant hotels. The question that is bugging me, who the heck has all these downtown rooms reserved? But more importantly, how is this system any better than what it was?

I also wanted to take this opportunity to offer a friendly reminder and ask teams who did block off rooms at the beginning of the season, and did not qualify for championships at their events, PLEASE, cancel your reservations with Experient.

I am sorry if this post seems ranty but I’ve just vented my past 3 days of frustration of endless phone calls with FIRST, Experient, and dozens of downtown hotels I’ve called individually that always end with a, sorry, thats how it is, and most of them admitting how silly it is.
Maybe it isn’t as bad for other teams who don’t have to deal with their board of educations bureaucracy, worrying if once you find a hotel if they will even accept your Purchase Order(the only way we are capable of paying), or just the general pressure from the administration to get the plans in place NOW.

Anyone else going through this or just have a general opinion on hotel reservations this year?

I’ve had to call Experiment probably 4 times this season just to figure out how to use their website, and I don’t consider myself an amateur computer user. They have been very helpful in the phone, but their website left something to be desired. Now that the cinfirmation date has passed, I can’t even see my reservation online anymore, and now I need to contact the hotel directly. I can only imagine what it must be like for championship.

Thank you for posting your frustrations. It gives the rest if us some useful insight to the process.

Our district also has strict guidelines where we can stay - cost as well as location. We qualified in a week 2 event and the only rooms available were single occupancy rooms, at least 25 miles from the venue. We have a large team, 48 students and 6 mentors. I cannot put 4 kids in a room with one double bed, nor double up our mentors and chaperones in the same situation. We would have needed over $20k in rooms from one of those Experient mandated hotels. My only choice to attend Championship event was to cut the team to bare minimum participation which was NOT an option for us.
The response I got from Experient was that the reservation system was opened on January 5 and we should have “booked our rooms at that time.” I am aware of several teams that booked that early and also got rooms FAR out of the city.

Ultimately, I booked outside of Experient and found availability where we needed - at a much lower rate than we were being charged through Experient.

This is only getting worse as we pass the halfway point of the season. More teams will begin to share our frustration. Hopefully the students and teams will remain focused on the positives of earning a spot at the Championships and the fantastic work they have done this season.

We haven’t stayed in the city once in the past five years, and while it can’t work for everyone, it works great for us. It might help if more people were to try it.

503 takes a bus. Meaning you guys have transport arranged already in and out of the city. For smaller teams/teams (If I recall you guys share the bus with 33? so that might help teams) more geographically distant that’s not really an option.

We do take a bus, we’ve picked people up from other teams, not 33 recently though. This wouldn’t work with many teams, maybe even most, but if the teams that could do it did it then it would reduce the amount of people in the city.

Its a bad system in general but every year hotels downtown are booked almost immediately. Remember there are jrFLL, FLL, FTC, and volunteers for the event/venues who also need rooms in addition to teams and most of them know before FRC teams if they are going. Our team qualified during Week 1 in 2011 and the downtown options there were very pricey since everything else had been picked through.

With the expanding Championship I’m sure more teams jumped on blocking off rooms if they had a good feeling they would continue with qualifying year after year. I know some teams in districts plan their travel well in advance with blocking off hotels and charter buses with the intent that if they don’t qualify they can pass it off to another team at the event (and DCMPs are in week 7 so if you think the options are limited it just keeps getting worse). Waiting until you are physically registered for the Championships in some cases is suicidal because you do run the risk of not being able to attend because travel just isn’t available.

I doubt FIRST would have blindly expanded the Championship without looking at the numbers of how many hotel rooms were in the St. Louis area but the circle of hotels must have gotten bigger. Even 20-30 minutes outside the city you’ll have completely booked hotels with FIRST teams.

1629 is in the same boat, qualified in week 3 and all the downtown rooms are booked. It is ok though, we usually end up in a pretty nice place close to the metro. Just do some research and you will find good places, right pricing, and great food close by.

I discovered today that the Experient website is literally the worst website I have ever used, in the entire world and the history of the Internet.

After getting an e-mail saying that our rooms would be released if we didn’t fill in the names by Monday, I just spent the last two hours doing that. Back in the Steele days this was a simple process – you were presented with a single form that showed all your rooms and had four name fields for each room. It took ten minutes, tops.

For Experient, you have to:

  1. Register every single person on the team going with a bunch of useless fields in addition to their name (I have no idea if a particular student has been to the Championship before or is interested in being an ambassador, and ain’t nobody got time to ask them)
  2. For each room that you want to populate
  3. Click through a search page where you have to re-enter the occupancy dates for the rooms you have already booked
  4. Click again once the hotel you already have booked comes up in the results
  5. Click through yet another acknowledgement of the cancellation policy
  6. Select whether you want the room to be smoking or non-smoking (is it even legal to house students in smoking rooms?)
  7. Click again to open a dialog box to add each student, and search for their names using a box in which if you mess up, the backspace key doesn’t work


FIRST has wasted thousands of mentor hours by switching to Experient, and probably hundreds of thousands of dollars in team funds due to (presumably) artificial scarcity and the resulting need for additional ground transportation.

Surely there must be a saner option for organizing hotel bookings on this scale?

I will second that. The processes are asinine and I was left feeling extremely frustrated.

For our regional, I got nearly 30 people assigned to 10 rooms, which took me about an hour, and then I lost all my work because you have to click some other button within an hour, otherwise it clears everything out.

At least you got I am assuming 3 people per room, we have 2 per room so far. We only needed about 9 Quads for the students but the way their “system is set up” they only have singles available so that means about 22 rooms :mad: Doubling our lodging cost… Experient ftw

We are smart people.
You need to find a work-around.
Experient is a business with limited resources to make a profit.

Check hotels in the area outside of downtown.
Koko Ed has great advice. Stay at the airport, ride the metro. Or, stay somewhere on the outskirts, and use your bus.

I agree you can save a lot of money staying by the airport and is an option for some teams. Then there are teams like ours who are just not allowed to. Trust me, going through all this trouble, We would if we were allowed to…

Isn’t it kind of a cop out to say they have limited resources and they’re just a business. Maybe they shouldn’t have agreed to take on the task of managing such a large organizations lodging system if they couldn’t handle it. Didn’t seem to be such a problem every year prior when Steele managed it. Then again their fatal mistake from the beginning was allowing any team to reserve any amount of rooms since January (whether it was FIRSTs idea or Experients they’re in it together.)

Complaints about Steele

I don’t mean to provide evidence that its a “cop out”. I was just suggesting that when you are a company aggregating hotel or airline data in this “modern” day of internet vetting, you are a business trying to make a profit out of the ether. Not an easy job, and there will be people who are unsatisfied with the process.

Supply and demand. Hope you don’t qualify in week 7. :eek:

Fortunately, your team won the New York City competition last week, so you know that you’re eligible.
Now the mentors have to find the time off from work, and you have to:
Find a decent airfare or commission a bus;
Raise additional funds from your generous sponsors;
Deal with a diminishing supply of accommodations with the increased scale of the CMP. oh my!

Not an easy task, but something the RoboTigers have pulled off 2 out of the last 3 years.

Maybe the GDC could use this as the basis for next years game.
And you thought a warehouse was boring. :slight_smile:

Why not just cut steele and experiant out entirely for champs?

I think you are on to something…:ahh:

Oh I agree completely, Steele almost didn’t allow us to go to champs in 2012 and then AGAIN in 2013 because they refused to accept our only form of payment that we are allowed to issue for weeks (purchase order). Neither company are perfect so maybe its just frustrating we went from something bad to seemingly worse.

And yes, i most definitely feel bad for teams qualifying week 7. I wouldn’t want to be in this situation then. It’s sad to think some students may not be able to experience championships after their hard work of qualifying for silly things like this.
By the way, best of luck at your event this coming weekend!

For those of you having difficulty getting hotel reservations through Experient, I would suggest that you watch the site closely for the next few days. Individual names are supposed to be assigned to all hotel rooms no later than tomorrow, Monday, March 23. If they are not, Experient says that the rooms will be automatically released. This is likely to hurt some teams that made reservations early, but are caught napping on this requirement. It will, however, benefit those of you who are looking hard for rooms right now. Also, I know that our team will be giving up at least a few rooms at the Doubletree Hotel at Union Station. There are bound to be other teams that are releasing rooms intentionally.

Having said all of that, the old system with Steele was awful. They contracted with a hotel last year that double-booked our rooms, then announced that they wouldn’t honor the reservations for our team and two others the day before we were scheduled to arrive. The new system with Experient is just as bad, but in a different way. Hopefully, the hotels at least won’t double-book our rooms…

Thank you for that insight…We will definitively be looking out…