There are two ways to reserve a room in Home Inns (Rujia) Or other China Economy Hotels: by phone (400 820 3333 or 800 820 3333) or use the web (or ask your friend as a 3rd way). For Home Inns, my experience is reserve 2 weeks in advance for some of the “hot” locations such as Xu Jia Hui or Century Park in Shanghai. Unfortunately the reservation page is only in Chinese, but I think they have English speaking representatives on the phone. Alternatively you can use Ctrip and search for Home Inns. I used to get RMB 10 off this way.
Recently I joined Rujia’s membership rewards program (it has 160,000 members as of Sept 30, 2006). I paid RMB 180 for a platium membership which gives me 12% off standard room rate, and some bonus points. Back to booking, when a customer calls, the confirmation will be sent by the SMS (text message) to the caller’s cell phone (nowadays almost every adult in China has a mobile phone). Because in China the credit card use is still not as wide as the US, a customer (like me) may not pay room deposit when he/she calls. The room will be hold until 6PM that day. One time I reserved a room in Hangzhou. Later I changed my plan and travelled to Shangai, in the train station I received a phone call from Rujia’s customer services asking my reservation. Couple other times, I called the hotel to hold the room for me because I can not get there by 6PM. Their operation and customer service are good compared to peers.
The IT and infrustructure is not the only factor in determining the success of an economy hotel chain, but it plays an important role. Home Inns (Rujia, HMIN) is a leader in this aspect. I think they got ahead because the founders of Home Inns founded the Ctrip, the China’s equivalent of Expedia. Ctrip has more than 2000 people in its Shanghai call center, and it’s the No.1 online travel consolidator in China. It appears other economy hotels are catching up fast as I read from this 7daysInn web page.