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Jul 162015
 
If you know - and stick up for - your rights, you'll have few problems with hotels refusing your confirmed bookings.

If you know – and stick up for – your rights, you’ll have few problems with hotels refusing your confirmed bookings.

I wrote recently about the law relating to airlines bumping passengers and the compensation you are due if that should happen.

Hotels sometimes overbook their rooms, the same as airlines oversell their flights, and occasionally they end up being caught short and having too many guests show up and too few rooms to accommodate them all (again, the same as airlines sometimes having oversold flights and having to bump passengers).

Hotels sometimes find themselves with a problem for another reason, too.  Maybe a room or rooms have to be taken out of inventory due to problems in the rooms.  If they suddenly have a fault with one of their services that makes several rooms unserviceable, they’ve got a problem, just the same as if they’d oversold their rooms.

But while we are given some rights and protection against airlines bumping us off flights, we have no such formal rights or protection if it happens to us with a hotel reservation.  And if we had to choose between being a few hours late to get to my final destination, or finding no room available at the hotel once we got there, most of us would probably prefer being late to not having a room for the night upon arrival.

Happily, that’s not entirely the end of it – the law of contract imposes duties on hotels, even if the government doesn’t.  And that leads to the first thing you should do any time you book a hotel.  Read the fine print of the reservation ‘confirmation’ you receive to make sure that there aren’t any escape clauses allowing the hotel to cancel at any time and for any (no) reason and with no obligations other than to refund any money received.  If there’s a ‘must checkin by’ time on your reservation or any other obligation on your part, be sure to conform with that requirement or else the hotel will be ‘off the hook’ and be able to cancel your reservation without incurring any obligation to you.

Although there are no federal obligations on hotels and how they handle bookings once accepted, there are also no federal blocks on bringing legal action against hotels locally in your friendly local district or small claims court, so as least you do have convenient accountability if it all becomes irretrievably bad.  Note that this assumes you can convince the court that the proper jurisdiction is where you live rather than where the hotel is located or where the hotel group’s head office is – this is usually something you can do in small claims court, but it is something you need to pay attention to.

Furthermore, although there are no federal rights, some states do impose obligations on hotels.  How do you find out?  You could ask the hotel manager ‘Can you tell me please what your obligations are under state law?’.  If he lies, or truly doesn’t know, and says ‘I don’t know’ or ‘You have no rights’ that will count against him if you subsequently find that there is a state obligation.

You could subsequently ask the state’s Attorney General or Consumer Affairs departments, if that becomes necessary.

Reading the Fine Print

I’m getting lots of questions from people who have suffered from having apparently confirmed bookings either cancelled or changed or in some other way varied by the hotels.  The question is always the same – ‘What can I do?’ and/or ‘Can the hotel do this?’

Sorry, but I can’t answer these types of questions, and neither could a high paid attorney, without seeing the exact and complete details of your booking confirmation and all correspondence exchanged between you and the hotel, plus any related contractual language on the website and booking page that the supplier (whether it be the hotel or a middle-man booking service) may seek to include into the actual and implied terms of the contract associated with the booking.

The answer to your question may well be lurking in the booking terms and conditions, but without seeing a guaranteed complete set of all such actual and implied terms, I can’t express an opinion.  Plus, I’m not an attorney, and so shouldn’t be expressing opinions in any case!

What Hotels Normally (and Should) Do

If a hotel knows about an overbooking problem in advance, they will probably ‘protect’ the overbooked guests by arranging alternate rooms at some other nearby hotel and then ‘walk’ them to a comparable hotel when they check in, and will have this all in place for when you arrive.  Such an arrangement might include providing a taxi fare to get to the next hotel, or maybe a free meal or something as well, and if you’re lucky, a room upgrade or a nicer hotel than the one that couldn’t accommodate you.

They’ll also traditionally allow you to make a free long distance call to tell someone that you’re not in the hotel you said you’d be in, but these days, we all have cell phones with effectively free and unlimited calling, so who cares about that any more.

Sometimes the hotel will not have alternative accomodation already arranged, particularly if it is late at night and they’ve decided you’re simply not going to turn up, and particularly if there is a shortage of other rooms at other hotels, making it hard for them to hold rooms elsewhere ‘just in case’ you do arrive.  But that is their problem, not yours, and if you’ve a guaranteed anytime-checkin reservation, then you absolutely should not feel apologetic at checking in ‘late’ because there’s no such thing as ‘late’ for that type of reservation.

You would not (should not) be charged extra for the alternate accommodation even if it costs more.  If it is less expensive than the room you booked at the original hotel, you could fairly ask for a refund of at least the difference in cost, and perhaps extra to compensate for not getting the room or comparable room to that promised and confirmed.

It is of course hard to establish exactly what the respective rates are – expect the hotels to play games with you on that point.  They might compare rack rates rather than real rates – ie, maybe the hotel you booked in has an official ‘rack’ rate of $200 a night and the hotel you ended up at has a rate of $250 a night, so in theory, you have been ‘upgraded’.

But what say you actually paid $150 for the room you didn’t get, and the alternative room you were moved to could be bought through a last minute discount website for only $125.  What might you be entitled to then?

There are many different scenarios depending on what rates the hotel chooses to use to ‘prove’ its calculation, and as a practical reality, as long as the rooms and hotels are of reasonably comparable standard, and the room rates more or less in line, it probably would become more trouble than it is worth to demand too much compensation.

The hotel also might, if they know sufficiently in advance, pick and choose who they’ll walk and who they’ll keep in-house.  It is probably true that they’d most want to look after their frequent guests and known VIPs, and they’d prefer to look after guests who paid more money and who booked directly, than to look after guests who bought discounted rooms through a wholesaler.  If the hotel had to choose between outright refusing/refunding a booking that was offering them $50 of revenue for the hotel room for the night, or a booking that would net them $100, it is obvious which one they’d rather accept.

But there’s almost certainly nothing in your booking terms and conditions that says ‘Hey, guy – you’ve got a second class low priority reservation and we might change our mind and bump you if we can sell the room for more’.  So no matter how the hotel picks and chooses its favorites, if you’re the one they refuse, you have equal and full entitlement to as much compensation as their most jewel-encrusted ultra-elite frequent guest program member.

It is not unheard of for hotels to try and ‘guilt’ their guests by saying something like ‘Oh, you should have booked direct’ or ‘Well, you’ve got a discounted room’ or something similar to suggest that their booking has a lower entitlement than other bookings.  That is nonsense.  Unless the reservation says on it ‘Because you didn’t book directly with us, we reserve the right to cancel your booking at any time for any reason’ or unless it says ‘You paid less for your room than some suckers did, so we might decide to cancel your booking if we think we can sell it for more money to another sucker, and tough luck to you if we do’, then your reservation has all the rights and entitlements of any and every other reservation.

If a hotel doesn’t like selling rooms at lower rates, and if the hotel doesn’t want to sell through third party websites and agents, then no-one is making them do so.  They are free to set their rates any way they wish, and to choose who they allow to resell their rooms.  But if they agree to accept your booking, then it is a confirmed booking with all the entitlements of any other confirmed booking, unless it has some special exceptions attached to a conditional confirmation.

Ask the hotel ‘So where on my reservation does it say that my reservation is inferior to other reservations?  Where does it say you might decide to cancel it, and if you do, it becomes my fault not your fault?’

The key issue to concentrate on is not the status/’quality’ of your booking, but how the hotel ‘makes you whole’.

Lastly in this section, here’s a fascinating article that managed to obtain an internal document that explains the Holiday Inn (IHG) official policy and internal procedures for overbooking.  It is very interesting to read through the document to the point, towards the end, where they list who they do and don’t ‘walk’ when full, and what their policies are for compensation.

First In, First Served

To a certain extent, it is a case of ‘first in, first served’.  If a hotel has, say, 200 rooms, and for tomorrow night has 100 guest rooms with the guests staying over, and another 110 guest rooms checking in, in theory this suggests they will be 10 rooms short.

However, they’ll probably not panic, and hope that some of the 100 rooms with guests already in them will have guests check out early, and some of the 110 new guest room arrivals will either cancel or simply fail to turn up.  These two factors mean it won’t be until late on the check-in day that they start to have a feeling for if they’ll have a problem or not – particularly with rooms that are merely held to 6pm rather than ‘guaranteed’ for late check-in.

So, if you have a choice as between checking in to your hotel earlier in the day or later in the day, and it is important to you that you’re in the hotel you expect to be in, you should of course check in earlier rather than later.

Here’s a useful tip :  If you’re going to be checking in late, call the hotel, before 6pm, and tell them ‘I want you to know that I am in town and I will be checking in, I just have wall-to-wall meetings (or whatever) and won’t be arriving until (whenever).  Please hold my room for me – do you want to take my credit card details now?’  And, after concluding the call, ask ‘And what is your name, please?’.

That way if the hotel knows it will be walking some guests, it is more likely to treat you as if you’d already checked in and hold a room for you, even if you arrive late.

It is also true that if you belong to the hotel’s loyalty program, you’ll be less likely to be walked.  Even ordinary rather than elite members still have a higher priority, so it pays to belong to the loyalty programs of all hotels you stay at, no matter how often you stay at them.

Not All Confirmations are Equal

Here’s something to be aware of.  If you are booking through an online travel service, maybe the confirmation number you get is not a confirmation number from the hotel, but rather from the online travel service.  If you wave the wrong confirmation number at the hotel, you’re giving them a huge excuse to turn you away.

‘Oh, that’s not our confirmation, we never confirmed the booking’ is what you’re inviting them to say.  They’ll mutter something about it being the booking service’s fault; maybe they’ll deny ever getting the booking from the booking service, or maybe they’ll say ‘you are their customer, and they are obliged to make other arrangements and compensation for you, not us’.

You know what – they might even be correct when they say that!  But good luck trying to get something sorted out with a customer service agent from your online travel agency (quite possibly located in a far away country) when you find yourself stranded late at night.  So make sure that your online booking includes a confirmation number direct from the hotel.

Then you can say ‘It is true I booked through another service, but this is your confirmation number, not theirs.  You confirmed my booking, through the other service, and so you are required to honor your confirmation.’

There are two more very important related things you need, in addition to a confirmation number.

First, you need a description of the room that has been confirmed, along with the rate payable and what is included/excluded.  If you booked a premium room or whatever, it should say so, to avoid you being downgraded to a standard room.  If you booked a room for three people, it should say so, again to avoid being charged extra or being told that your room is only for two not three people.

Second, you need details of the hotel you are booked/confirmed at.  I’ve seen examples in the past where a guest was indeed officially confirmed, but at the wrong hotel.  ‘I’m sorry sir, but that confirmation number is for the other Marriott, on the other side of town – you must have booked the wrong Marriott’.

Your Rights and What to Ask For

But what about your rights if the hotel turns you away?  What can you insist upon?  Here’s an interesting story of a Hilton that apparently simply unilaterally cancelled an otherwise confirmed reservation, albeit two days in advance of checkin.  (If you can’t open the link, search for the text “The Mystery of Vanishing Hotel Reservations’ on Google and open up the Wall St Journal article that will appear at or near the top.)

The amusing part of the WSJ story, and an angle it doesn’t explore, is that the Hilton cancelled the booking of an attorney.  We hope he chooses to use his own knowledge of recourses open to him to full effect.

Back to what you can do.  Assuming you have a confirmed reservation, and especially if you’ve made any sort of payment – full payment or deposit or anything – you’ve every right to be given the choice of either a full refund or a substitute hotel being found for you.

If accepting a substitute hotel, you shouldn’t be required to pay any extra, and it should be of at least as good a quality, in at least as convenient to you a location, and you can define what makes a location convenient.  If you’re attending a convention and the convention hotel turns you away, then you’re going to be up for hassle and transportation costs going to the convention each day – clearly all other hotels will be less convenient (unless they are directly over the road!).

As long as you are ‘made whole’ you can’t really claim any substantial ‘damages’ because what really are the damages or losses you’ve suffered?  In particular, most small claims courts will only rule on and award actual costs/losses, not on inconvenience or ‘pain and suffering and anguish and distress’ type factors.  You need to go to a district or superior court for those sorts of intangible claims.  That’s not to say you’d not perhaps be entitled to such intangible claims, and maybe you’d even win your case, but you’d now be needing an attorney and what could have been simple and easy and with very little downside risk if you lose has now become potentially more costly and complex.

Generally when seeking compensation, you need to keep two things in mind.  Firstly (and see our article series on How to Complain) you’ll get more compensation if you are positive and reasonable and show yourself as someone who can be ‘won back’ and made into a future loyal repeat guest.  Secondly, it is always easier to ask any supplier for non-cash compensation.  Ask for a free upgrade on your next stay, or for a completely free stay.

If the hotel is a franchise hotel, it will probably be easier for them to give you a free stay at their hotel rather than a free stay at any other member of the chain, but if you’re not expecting to return back to that location, you could ask for a transferable voucher to give to someone else or you could see if they can give you a voucher for any other member of the hotel group.

You could also ask for more points to be added to your frequent guest account, assuming you belong to their program.

Sometimes it is possible to ask for food and/or drink discounts/vouchers, but sometimes not.  Some hotels have a funny accounting system which makes it easier for them to give away free rooms than to give free food and drinks.

A basic rule of negotiating, anything, anytime :  The first person to name their price invariably loses the negotiation.  If you’re in such a situation, ask the hotel ‘what can you do for me to fairly compensate me?’.  Whatever they offer is almost certainly a starting point for a negotiation, not the final/best offer.  We know people who have managed to increase the number of frequent guest points they’ve been given as an apology by over 50% compared to the first offer made.  If you know in advance the value of the points, you will be able to say ‘Gosh, that’s not even enough to get a night at your property, I think you should at least increase it to xx points so as to give me the equivalent of a free night stay’.

One more thing.  Don’t get upset at the front desk agent.  It is not their personal fault, and you’d rather have them onside so they use their discretion in your favor rather than against you.  They have some flexibility as to how they will compensate you and which other hotel they’ll put you in.  Treat these people well.

But, having said that, sometimes you might find yourself confronted with an unhelpful front desk agent.  Maybe they are just having a bad day, or maybe they’re truly uncaring.  But possibly also they don’t have much personal authority and are limited with what they can do.  Whichever the reason, if you’re not being fairly/well treated, remain calm and cool but simply ask to speak to the Duty Manager.  That person will have more ability to be more generous, if you can so persuade them!

If the hotel is unhelpful (as was the case with the Hilton) then you should do the best you can on your own and seek compensation from the hotel for the inconvenience and any extra above-the-line costs you incurred.  If they don’t respond fully and fulsomely, then its off to your small claims court, plus complaints to the relevant State Attorney General and to any franchising company the hotel belongs to and the Better Business Bureau and, why not, to the Federal Trade Commission too.

I’ve either personally or had people I’ve done bookings for occasionally experience such events, and happily, I’ve never had a problem with the overbooked hotel not doing all it could and all it should, but that’s clearly not what happened with this Hilton.

Full Refund Cancellations

What say the hotel simply cancels your booking, a week or more in advance, and fully refunds you any money you’ve paid?  Is that the end of it?

The hotel might claim that by doing so, it has no further liability or obligation, and that’s what happened with the Hilton story mentioned above.  But we disagree, because it truly is ‘all about you’ in such a situation and maybe their simply cancelling the booking and refunding any money doesn’t actually ‘make you whole’.

First, maybe you want/need to be in the particular hotel that is now cancelling your booking.  Maybe there is a convention/meeting in the hotel, or maybe your office/client is close by and there are no other hotels for several miles, or maybe you are part of a group and the rest of your group is all staying at the same hotel.

Second, maybe there are no other hotels now with vacant rooms.  Or maybe the other hotels are now selling their rooms at higher rates than when you originally booked your preferred hotel – perhaps all hotels were discounting their rooms back then, but now, with the region’s hotels almost full, they are all raising their rates.

In both these scenarios, you’re the loser if the hotel simply cancels your reservation and says ‘you’re free to go anywhere else and book with anyone else, no harm, no foul’.  Don’t accept that claim.

Most of all, you need to understand the reality of things from the hotel perspective.  It has a choice of which bookings it cancels and which it honors.  If it is important to you that you stay at that particular hotel, don’t make it easy for them to cancel your booking, and help them to realize that everyone will be better off if they choose someone else to cancel.

Tell them ‘Look – I know you have 100 rooms (or whatever the number is) and so you have 100 different guests to choose from when deciding to bump guests.  I’m in a special situation, because I’m more dependent on the confirmed booking you have already issued to me than some of those other guests, because (and now come up with your story), so I’d really appreciate it, and you’d save me a lot of extra cost and hassle, if you could honor this confirmed reservation and choose one of your other guests to cancel instead’.

If that doesn’t work, you can then indicate that you will seek full reimbursement for the extra costs and a fair allowance for the time and inconvenience involved with the loss of the confirmed reservation.  Tell them ‘maybe some of your other guests don’t have these same issues I do, and frankly, it would be cheaper for you to cancel them rather than me’.

The law of contract is clear – once a contract has been entered into, if one party then reneges on the contract, the other party has the choice of what way fairly makes them whole.  The hotel might wish that all it has to do is refund any money received, but if you now incur other costs, then as long as the confirmation terms and conditions don’t include a provision allowing the hotel to cancel, you can fairly seek to recover your extra costs from the hotel.

Using Overbooking to Your Advantage

There’s a flipside to this as well.  Some hotels have relatively primitive inventory management systems, and you can use that to your advantage.  If you need a room in a particular hotel, and if when you call the hotel directly they tell you ‘I’m sorry, we’re full that night, all rooms are sold’, don’t despair.

If it is a larger hotel, and if it is sold through online travel agencies and perhaps other wholesalers too, then often what happens is they’ve given allocations of blocks of rooms to these other outlets, and while the hotel has sold all the remaining unallocated rooms, it doesn’t yet know if the companies with reserved blocks of rooms are going to sell all their rooms or not.

I’ve sometimes had hotels that were officially full, but which still showed discounted rooms available on, eg, Expedia, so I’ve happily booked on Expedia.

In other cases, hotels don’t so much block out inventory as have what are called ‘open sale’ or ‘free sale’ arrangements where they promise to accept bookings from places such as Expedia until such time as they advise Expedia they are sold out on the particular date being booked, and there’s often a day of delay between running out of rooms and officially ‘turning off the tap’ with resellers.

The net result is the same, whatever the inner machinations.  You might still be able to get a room validly confirmed at a hotel that is truly full.  Just make sure you check in early!

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  69 Responses to “Your Rights if a Hotel Refuses Your Confirmed Reservation”

  1. Feb. 15, 2016 booked through Expedia; Hampton Inn & Suites Indianapolis/Brownsburg; Dates: 5/27/16; 5/28/16; 5/29/16; 5/30/16. Booking No. 631426937; Itinerary No. 251147172; Confirmation No. 127751792027. Received phone call on 5/26/16 at 4:00p.m. CST from Expedia (spoke to Maria at 844-814-6704) stated that Hampton Inn & Suites did not have our reservation. I called Hampton Inn & Suites Indianapolis/Brownsburg was told that the booking number, itinerary number and confirmation number were not in their system AND they are sold out. Is Expedia a fraud? Is Hampton Inn & Suites a fraud? Our reservation is 1 day away for the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 and we found out today 5/26/16 that we do not have a reservation. Please help us.

    • Hi, Terry

      Ouch. That’s a nasty thing to happen, and for sure, there’ll be a desperate shortage of rooms at this time. Clearly something went wrong somewhere, and equally clearly, Expedia knows about it because they reached out to you to tell you about this. Don’t let Expedia off the hook. It made the booking for you, it gave you a confirmation number, it needs to make good on its promise to you of the accommodation you booked and they confirmed.

      The reality is stark and simple. You have no negotiating power with the Hampton Inn property at all. They could care less about you, and anyway, you weren’t dealing with them. You were dealing with Expedia. But they do care about their relationship with Expedia, and similarly, Expedia (should!) care about its relationship with you.

      Tell them simply “I have here your email to me saying ‘your booking is confirmed’. It doesn’t say ‘might be unconfirmed’, it is a promise to me that there will be a room at the Hampton Inn, as described, and on the dates that also appear on the confirmation. Please make good on your promise.”

      The low-level front-line person will tell you ‘I’m sorry, but we can’t; there hotel is full’. But the truth is that there’s no such thing as a full hotel, all hotels will always accept additional bookings and simply bump existing bookings in favor of higher priority bookings if there is sufficient inducement to do so. Escalate as far as you need to – call their corporate office if necessary – until you find someone who is willing to apply pressure to the hotel or who will in some other way find you comparable/better accommodation for the dates you require.

      They’ll do it, but only if you pressure them enough.

  2. Above makes interesting reading. I made a booking at a UK hotel six months ago for seven rooms, just 15 hours before check-in they emailed me to say they now only had six rooms for me. They did not offer any alternative accommodation. Because of the short notice, I wasn’t able to find another room at a rate I could afford, so I’ve had to cancel my holiday in order to allow the other six friends to go ahead with the rooms they did have. Is there anything I can do about it? Should my six friends expect to claim some of the money back on their rooms as the hotel did not complete the full order placed in good faith? Or should I be looking for some sort of compensation? I’ve not lost any money on the hotel room myself, but I’ve lost my entire holiday as a result of them taking my room away and not providing an alternative.

    • Hi, Ian

      That’s a terrible surprise, almost as you were rushing out the door to go to the hotel!

      A bit late now, but I’d have insisted on the hotel finding you alternate accommodation, and telling them you’d be turning up on their doorstep, with your confirmation clutched in your hand, and calling a press conference in their reception with you and your six friends if they didn’t sort something out.

      It is actually unusual that they reduced your booking from seven to six rooms. Usually, when overbooked, they look for individual one room bookings, not taking one room out of a block of seven.

      There are two issues at play. The first is that if the hotel is overbooked, you don’t want to be the unfortunate person who gets the short straw. Be selfish, and make the hotel realize that you’ll be a much bigger troublemaker than their other guests. They simply want to refuse the person who will be least bother – make it plain to them that person is not going to be you.

      Second, if you truly have a confirmed reservation and they cancel, don’t accept it lying down. Push for full compensation of everything you can get from them; while you have a duty to mitigate your loss/damages, you also have the right to be ‘made whole’ so find a nasty solicitor and get him to write an even nastier letter on your behalf.

  3. Awesome information and thank you for your wisdom. My brother booked a hotel for the 5 of us on June 3, 2016. The reservations are for July 1st – 4th 2016 at the Omni Royal Crescent hotel in New Orleans. They called him today and informed he they over booked. They’re willing to offer a $150 voucher, or a single room at a lower cost. He booked a suite on the hotel’s main site and was given a confirmation number. At the time of the booking the hotel’s website stated no free cancellation and that the credit card would be charged. It never was. We would like a suite or at least a double room. When my brother asked for a double room, they informed him a room was available but it would be at a higher cost. Any suggestions on what we can/should do? Thanks for your wisdom

    Ronnie

    • Hi – If you’ve got a confirmation number, and you booked over three weeks ago, I’d probably sit tight and insist the hotel either honor their reservation or ‘walk’ you to a nearby hotel of comparable or better standard and in a comparable or better location. Make it their problem, not yours.

      Good luck….. 🙂

  4. I had a room booked – guaranteed late arrival at Marriott Marquis Times Square – frequent traveler – flyng in from Europe – corporate account – booked direct – arrived quite late. They said no rooms and they had been unable to find another room for me. I was “on my own”. I burst into tears, said I would have to sleep in the lobby, and they managed to find me a room. Just who are they holding these secret rooms for?

    • You did exactly the right thing (self evidently) and your question is a very good one. I should add another section to the article, but might just leave it here in the comments to reward those who read all the way through.

      In reality, hotels are ‘infinitely expandable’, just like airplanes. Indeed, some hotels offer their higher level frequent stayer members guaranteed confirmations, no matter whether they be full or empty.

      But, of course, there isn’t a team of contractors, standing by, ready to instantly construct another room as and when required. Rather it is a case of simply deciding who to walk and who to allow to stay each night, and what to do with rooms that might be held back in case of ultra-VIPs arriving unexpectedly, for staff to sleep in overnight, for replacements in case a guest encounters a truly can’t be fixed problem in their current room, and so on. Plus, until every guest has checked in and physically has possession of their room, the decision for which reservations to honor and which to dishonor (if that is a word, in that sense) is very much an open judgement call.

      I remember one time when I had a similar problem, I said that if they didn’t find a room for me, I’d stand in the lobby all night long shouting out complaints as loudly as I could. I had already been told that the duty manager was unavailable. The front desk staff dared me to do so, whereupon I did. I forget exactly the phrases I was calling out, but they then told me they’d call the police if I didn’t shut up. I told them to go ahead, I had a guaranteed reservation at their hotel and if anyone were to be bringing charges against anyone else, when the police arrived, I’d be pressing charges against them for criminal theft of my guaranteed reservation!

      A bit more shouting and the duty manager hurriedly appeared, and a very few minutes later, I was comfortably settled in a lovely room.

      The trick, whether it be tears or ‘civil disobedience’ or whatever else, is to make it easier for the staff to give you one of the ’emergency’ rooms they have than it is for them to blow you off.

      Glad you got your room.

      • I still don’t understand how “guaranteed for late arrival” and they take 100% payment – is “legal”, if they aren’t obligated to give you a room, no matter what the challenges are in the travel business. Seems like fraud, the customer is really the only one with skin in the game. They can play all the games they want with the non-guaranteed rooms.

      • IANAL (I am not a lawyer) but based on the legal studies I have done, a lot rests on the terms and conditions of the transaction. If it says in big large type and you have to specifically say ‘I agree’, that “This booking is NOT GUARANTEED even though you have paid for it in full and is merely offered for the convenience of the hotel and promises you nothing at all” (and so on for several paragraphs of disclaimer – like the product ‘warranties’ that cover multiple pages and are all about what isn’t warranted/covered/guaranteed rather than what is) then probably there is little obligation on the part of the hotelier.

        But it is hard to reconcile zero liability with the use of the word ‘guaranteed’, isn’t it. About the only justification the hotel industry could advance there is “everyone knows that guaranteed rooms aren’t guaranteed, it is a meaningless ‘term of art’ that has a special meeting different from the plain language implication” – which is a bit circular, isn’t it – saying ‘we don’t have to guarantee rooms because we have broken our promises before’!

        Indeed, fraud is not a bad description. It is rare that inconvenienced guests actually suffer tangible losses, and most small claims courts don’t allow punitive damages or claims for ‘pain and suffering’; only factual claims for real losses, so how many people are going to bother taking a hotel in another state to court, possibly in that other state.

        But it might make a good class action claim, for everyone so inconvenienced. Or, although I hesitate to advocate for government interference in commercial contracts, it might be appropriate and consistent, the same way that now there is legislation specifying the obligations and liabilities of airlines when they bump a passenger off a flight, to have similar burdens fall on hotels too.

        I also have to say that if I had to choose between taking a later flight an hour or two later with an airline, or sleeping on the street with a hotel, I’d much prefer the later flight choice!

  5. What if you book a brand new property for example we book at the hi-lo Auograph collection in Portland it is suppose to open Sept 5th 2016 yet our reservation for 1 night in mid September what I am concerned is that a delay happens they need a permit or the electrician didn’t do the lights correctly things got pushed back a month. Since we booked our hotel and if we get the hotel that says sorry we don’t open until mid october… then what happens in this case?

    • Do you have a guaranteed reservation? If so, then a guarantee is a guarantee, isn’t it, and if the hotel doesn’t open, they would be required to ‘protect’ your booking by moving you elsewhere.

  6. I booked on March 3, 2016 through Hoteling.com for a room in Washington, DC. for January 18-22, 2017 the reservation was prepaid and charged to my credit card. I received a confirmation number from Marriott on March 23, 2016. Just today, when checking my reservation that I noticed it was cancelled. I was advised it was cancelled by the wholesaler. Marriott has yet to reconfirm my reservation. What is my recourse?

    • If it was cancelled by the wholesaler, then you need to take it up with them. Marriott can’t be blamed for what they perceive as a legitimate cancellation by the company arranging your travel for you.

      • Sounds like someone at the wholesaler was asleep at the switch for Inaugural blackout dates.

  7. In my case, I made my reservation through phone, the conversation I had with the front desk is I booked one day or two days then I’ll let them know if I’m going to extend or not.and ask them to let the dates open for me. I check-in the hotel but the problem starts when they didn’t confirmed or bother to ask me if I’m going to extend. They just knocked on the door to remind me about my check out time and I told them that I informed the front desk to leave the dates open for me as I’m not yet sure if I’ll extend or not, but they just told me that someone booked the room already. I had to leave the hotel and look for another one. I’m just frustrated that they didn’t even bother ask me or knock on my door to inform that I can only stay for one day. Do they have the right to do that?

    • In an ambiguous situation like this with no guarantee or confirmation, there is probably no legal obligation on the hotel to honor something that was never formally agreed to.

  8. Hi David, thank you for your article.

    I have a doubt. We booked a 5 star hotel using Google Maps for our honey moon. We paid it using Google Travel plataform and we could see the right address and photos of the hotel. We got a confirmation email from Google Travel with the right hotel, price and address. Then, we got a second confirmation e-mail from LastMinute.com, same price, but different hotel (3 star). We called last minute, but they said it was not their mistake and they offered to cancel the order, which we didn’t. They claimed they don’t evens deal with the 5 star hotel announced. We have printscreens of everything and all confirmation emails. Do we have the right to demand from Google the hotel announced and paid? This sounds like missold. Thank you.

    • Hi, Felipe – if this is an honest mistake and was advised to you in a timely manner, there’s probably not a lot you can do. It would be different if there wasn’t the correcting email from Lastminute.com and if you instead arrived at the wrong hotel with the Google Travel confirmation and nothing else.

      You say you paid for the reservation. What company name appeared as charging your card? That is probably the company you should be talking to. But, morally, you should speak to Google Travel and see if you can shame them into honoring the mistake.

      Good luck!

  9. Hi David, thank you for your prompt reply. You have a wonderful site here, I was exploring other articles, like the one about Uber and your interesting biography. I’ve written to Google Travel, they asked me to wait for 1-2 business days. I’ll come back here to tell you the result. I hope they’ll reply quickly, as we were put on hold and we can’t book a replacement now. The funny thing is that if you click on Google Travel policy, there’s none. The link for the disclaimer is invalid. Thank you very much. Cheers!

  10. Hello David,

    Is there any difference re ‘law of contract’ between Vacation condo rentals and Hotels? We booked through the Vacation rental site, We got our confirmation (And first night deposit paid), we also got the list of rules/regulations. They cancelled 2 days before our trip, saying there was a system glitch and not being in anyway contrite basically (Our bad, sorry, here is your money back).

    The problem is now, there are no rooms available with in 20 miles of the location (There is a football fest we were going to).

    Do we have any recourse? I notice you said that small claims won’t consider pain and suffering, but in another section you said you should try to get them to pay for travel costs etc of the other stay.

    Feeling frustrated. The Owner and the manager basically both shrugged their shoulders, Sorry, not our problem!

    While the cancellation charges for a Customer are extreme for vacation rentals (Lose deposit if you cancel within 14-21 days etc).

    Frustrated in Seattle

    • Hello Otto

      You raise a very good point about the lack of symmetry as between the cancellation provisions imposed on you, and those accepted by the condo renter in turn!

      You would definitely appear to have strong recourse open to you in this case. As you say, you received a confirmation and they received a payment. There has been an exchange of agreements and considerations, a binding contract was formed, subject to any clearly disclosed provisions within it to cancel the contract.

      You can claim through Small Claims Court for out of pocket expenses, but not for intangibles. If you want to add intangibles to your claim, you’d need to move to a ‘real’ District or Superior Court (assuming you’re in the US) and probably hire an attorney on a ‘share of the winnings’ contingency basis.

      Good luck!

  11. Case Description
    Family, reserved (3 nights stay) at Banned Bay Inn a week in advance directly with the property. When called to inform about a late arrival , we find out that the room was not available anymore. The owner offered another room, for less. Our credit card was charged right away. When we arrived- the room smelled badly like smoke. We refused to stay, because we wanted a non-smoking room. The owner seemed of being intoxicated and drunk. We asked for the refund right away and were refused. Another male came out (from the office) and started to throw fists at my husband. We left right away, as being afraid of physical encounter. We found another hotel a couple of miles away that had a room for us. When returning back to Bannet Bay the next morning in order to discuss the refund- the owner insulted us and discriminated my husband and chased us from his office. We filled a dispute of charge with the Credit Card. We asked the owner for showing us their cancellation/ refund policies and were refused. The owner stated that a “partial refund”might be possible only if he rents those rooms out for those 2 nights. However, the online searches showed “no availability” for those nights

  12. In some of these instances, it may be a good idea to book with a travel agent, next time. Not only can we book your trip, but we can also offer some assistance to you should this happen to you. Many travel agents have connections and may be able to you some resolution quicker.

    • Hi, Mary

      I’m sorry, but I totally disagree with this canard, and I note you’re totally vague and lacking in specifics.

      I’ve been a travel agent, and I know travel agents. If neither the guest directly, nor mega OTAs such as Expedia can get a hotel to budge, how do you think a small mom and pop retail travel agency will succeed? The only way you can add any value to the equation is if you belong to a mega-consortium or franchise group, and you can get one of the head office’s buying managers who contracts with that particular hotel for rates to intercede on behalf of you and your client, and in my experience, that seldom/never happens.

      If a hotel has a problem, it will dump on the least important guests and booking sources first. The most important guests are high level members of their loyalty club who book directly with the property. The least important guests – excuse my bluntness – are ones who don’t have any type of premium loyalty club membership and who book either through a hotel discounter or a no-name travel agency that gives them business once every two or three years, if they are lucky.

      But if you can cite specifics of what you can do and how you can do it, by all means do so. If you offer your clients some sort of guarantee or protection/failsafe service, please do tell us all about it.

  13. I made a reservation at a Washington area Marriott. I am a Silver Elite level member of their rewards program and supposedly they have an “Ultimate Reservation Guarantee” When I arrived I was told there were no rooms and I was walked to another Marriott hotel for a one night stay. What should I expect in the way of compensation? A free night stay? Free dinner/ drinks? Cash compensation for the inconvenience? My original reservation was for four nights and I am expected to check out and return to the hotel I originally booked with for the remaining three nights of my stay. Its a pain in the neck.

    • Hi – yes, it is definitely a pain in the neck, and you should speak to the hotel and/or the rewards program about the failure to make good on their ‘Ultimate Reservation Guarantee’ and seek maybe some extra points credited to your account to compensate you fairly for the extra hassle and failure to honor their guarantee.

  14. I made reservation via booking.com at the “ART HOTEL KÖLN” for january 2017, they had last room available discount, i entered all details, including my card -for the deposit, I received confirmation of my reservation with all the info (reservation number, adress, time when i can check-in and check-out, etc)
    One day later i was contacted by hotel that the price i booked hotel for was “mistake” and they ask for several times higher price instead. They are asking me if im willing to pay higher price otherwise they will cancel my reservation (they dont state if i will get my deposit back or not). Can i get some compensation and of course my deposit back, if i wont pay them the “new, bigger price”? Or they will consider it as”i canceled my reservation, thus its my fault”?

    • Hi

      Misquoted bookings are a nasty ‘grey’ area. Generally, there is no law obliging a hotel (or supplier in general) to honor an honest mistake that was quickly detected and advised to the intending guest. But if you made other commitments and decisions, relying on a mistake that was not obvious – for example, if you booked non-refundable airline tickets after relying on the hotel room and rate – then the obligation shifts toward the hotel. But if the mistake was obviously a mistake – a €500/night room selling for €5.00/night, for example, then again the hotel can say ‘it was obviously a mistake’.

      In your case, being told the very next day ‘I’m sorry, we made a mistake’ and with four months between now and your arrival, it is probably fair that they can simply dishonor the booking now; and as a practical matter, unless you live in Germany, what will you do about it?

      I do have to wonder about the asking for several times higher price. What price did you pay, and what price are they now offering, and what price does the room usually sell for – say a week before and a week after the night you are staying there? Is there a special event or convention or festival in town while you are there? Is the hotel just getting greedy due to being almost full?

      • I booked my flights and other things before booking this hotel, price was 10€ discounted from original 64€, now hotel asks me to pay 99€. I agree that being told 4Months before is better than being told at arrival. I have no information of some special events being held during my stay in the city. I know that there exists”error fares” with crazy prices, which are obviously human mistake, here i thought its really some extra discount – as booking.com stated this offer. Now hotel asking me to pay even more than was original price- i find that just an attempt to get maximum money from last room (if its their last empty room…). Anyway, i just hope that i will get my deposit back.

        Btw. Thanks for your fast reply.

  15. II am at a Hilton Hotel (I am a Hilton Honors member) I have been here for two nights and asked to extend for one night . I was told that was not possible because they were sold out. I told the front desk agent I would not leavew. What can they do and what are my options?

    Please reply ASAP

    • First, think about what you are demanding. You are demanding that someone else’s pre-existing confirmed reservation be now dishonored in favor of your last minute decision to stay longer.

      Well – and clearly this is news to you – the world doesn’t revolve around you.

      What can the hotel do? Hopefully have you forcibly ejected and thrown onto the street. Have you arrested for criminal trespass. Ban you for life. All of which sound like excellent actions to me, and which will be cheered on by the person who has a confirmed booking that you are now trying to steal.

  16. what if there was an error on a hotel bookings site. the price was showing 24 aed in-spite of 2400 aed & i just booked it for 24 aed and got the confirmation email. what action can i take if hotel refuses my stay?

    • It depends on how quickly the hotel seeks to correct the error. Generally ‘obvious errors’ are viewed as non-binding on the hotel, but if they don’t correct it in a timely manner, it starts to become more valid. Some suppliers will honor mistakes as a goodwill gesture, others see the people who rush to take advantage of obvious mistakes as shameless opportunists and are happy to risk upsetting them, realizing them to never be likely customers in real life.

  17. i have made reservation in one hotel through Booking.com and i receive a confirmation email , then after that by 3 days, i received an email that there was wrong price from hotel and hotel discuss it with them and they reach to agreement with hotel to make 50% discount from original price (which is higher than my total by 4 times)

    what can i do , can i saw them and refuse ?

    • It is impossible to adequately answer your question without knowing more information such as the mistaken rate, the ‘real’ rate and the offered compromise rate, or the dates as to when you made the booking and will travel.

      But, in general, this sounds fair. They made a mistake, have offered a compromise, or, presumably, a chance to cancel your booking without penalty.

  18. Very well done article.

    A lot to know – but this was not covered. Some people I know were at a Sheraton for an event and before leaving the hotel they were encouraged to book for this year and if they made the reservation and paid for it they would get a discount. So they made the reservation and paid for it and five months later they get an email telling them that the rate they were quoted and already paid in full for will not be honored because it is less than the rate they normally charge for that particular event.

    It needs to be stated here that in addition to them getting the discount for coming back this year, they were also giving the discount because their reservation for 2016 did not happen as it was supposed to either. They paid for two rooms and only got one and they were compensated one meal for their “inconvenience.” Now they want them to pay the additional monies per night or they will cancel the reservation. They were “nice” enough to say that they would waive the cancellation fee if they decided to cancel the reservation though.

  19. I really liked this article. As someone who has worked in the hotel business for 9 years now, I have only ever had to walk someone once. It was so stressful and I felt terrible. Luckily we found them very nice accommodations. Thankfully I have never worked at a hotel that would overbook on purpose (I don’t think I could take the stress of it lol).

    I do have one piece of advice for fellow travelers: pay close attention during the booking process. I’ve sometimes found that the people whose reservation suddenly goes “missing” have made an error in the booking process (or booked through a very flaky/shady 3rd party). I’ve had online bookings reserved for the wrong day/month/year, reserved for the wrong location, and reserved for the wrong room type. I also encountered a poor woman who was ripped off by a “travel agent” who guaranteed a top floor room for an extra $50 (paying for a higher floor is not a service that we offer). She was extremely angry. Although we did not receive that extra $50 that the agent must have pocketed, we gave her a $50 discount and a drink voucher to our lounge for the trouble. You can never be too careful in this process!

  20. Hi David, thank you for awesome article. Now i have a huge problem with booking.com and I don’t know what to do. We booked a hotel two months ago in Bora Bora and three days ago booking.com send us an email with cancellation of our booking, because the hotel is closed. The problem is that the accommodation there is now more than double price than the original hotel, but booking.com told us, that they don’t gonna cover the overcosts. But i am pretty sure that the have to cover them, because is their fold that they cancel our reservation.

    Do you have any advice what to do now, please?

    Thank you so much for your reply.

    Regards

    Clare

    • Hi

      I don’t think you can blame Booking.com for the hotel closing. Check this is true – look on the hotel website, of course. But if the hotel is closing, that is the hotel’s fault, not booking.com’s fault.

      If you have travel insurance, that might help.

      • Thank you so much for your answer David. Unfortunatelly, the hotel doesnt have website, so i cant check it. Thank you again. Have a great day

  21. Hello! I have a question regarding hotel reservation “guaranteed for late arrival”. I have prepaid hotel reservations for Tryp orly hotel in san sebastien for april via Expedia. Check in time ends at 12 midnight. My flight is due to arrive at 9:30 pm. If i have flight delays causing me to arrive past midnight what can i expect? Will my room be cancelled? I tried calling hotel to put a note on my acct but keep being given email address to which no one replies.i am fully prepared to pay for the night i showed up late but am wondering if they will just cancel at midnight the entire duration of stay. Does guarateed late arrival mean arrive anytime during reserved dates but you will be charged regardless? Help!

    • A guaranteed for late arrival room typically means it will be held for the entire first night of the reservation. If you have a multiple night reservation, probably if you don’t turn up prior to checkout time the next morning, and if you haven’t called the hotel to advise of your intentions, the remaining nights will be cancelled.

      But a late arrival guarantee doesn’t expire at midnight. It is for the entire night.

  22. Interesting article. As a hotel manager I have come across instances where honest mistakes occur. Just had one happen today where a reservation agent accidentally booked a room as part of a group that had reserved the entire hotel. Guest was called as soon as mistake was found (2 days later) and was advised that the hotel was sold out.

    We do have vacation rental product – we offered to waive the 4 night minimum and allow a 2 night stay but unfortunately would not be able to honor the lower rated hotel room rate. Still, we offered 50% off as the mistake was 100% our fault. This took the nightly rate from $115 to $230 so still twice as much.

    The reservation does not check-in for 5 months.

    What are your thoughts on how reasonable the offer was that was given? Allowed a 2 night stay when a 4 night minimum was in place, offered 50% the lowest available rate. Called within a few days of booking. Took full responsibility.

    • Hi, Richard

      Thanks for offering up the hotel perspective on this issue.

      We all make mistakes, and in this case, it seems that your reservation agent made an honest mistake that was corrected in a timely manner and you offered a goodwill adjustment. Sure, the original reservation has not been honored, but with still five months before check-in, an honest mistake and a quick response from your people, that is probably sufficient. Some might even think it generous, while others of course will try to trap you into making good on your mistake.

      Speaking as one who has made plenty of mistakes in the past (and, alas, as one who continues to make mistakes now too!) I think we all have to show a bit of understanding in such cases. But you sure should talk to the people that manage your allocations and availability display, it is very hard to understand how it was possible to accept a reservation if the entire hotel was blocked out.

      • Thanks for responding.

        As to the last paragraph the hotel was blocked out for a group which is a specific event in the area. The guest mentioned on the call that they were coming to the area for that event and the agent accidentally triggered that with “they must be coming as part of the group, I can book them into the block” when in actuality the guest was not coming as part of the group and the agent missed the note that mentioned the group was a rooming list and not a call in. Honest mistake by an agent who needed to be trained a little more on this situation that rarely occurs.

        So in summary (ha) – the hotel was blocked out for a group – guest was not part of the group but was accidentally booked into their block.

  23. Hello David,
    I came across this page after something like this happened to me. I’ve recently got a new job in London, and while things are settling in I have been staying at hotels during the week (several are cheaper than the 100 mile commute from home would be). I have been using Hotels.com to book these hotels, as they seem to generally find the best deals and offer perks. This week when I arrived at my “guaranteed” hotel, it was full and claims it has not got any reservations from me. Very unfamiliar with this I did possibly the wrong thing and booked another hotel to stay at (sadly more expensive). I am trying to resolve this with Hotels.com but at the moment they are not very helpful. They have just brushed this off with “The property says the payment did not go through”, however the hotel was full so I did not even attempt to make a payment. I imagine there could have been problems getting the payment from Hotels.com (although many other hotels I have used have had no issue) but I was never informed of this. I have been charged for a different hotel I am staying at in two weeks (booked at the same time as the other two) and this went through fine.

    I do have a few concerns. Firstly I have the same hotel “guaranteed” for next week. When there I mentioned this and they said they have no reservation for me then either.
    I’m not sure if I should be looking for something else, or wait until this is resolved. All the time I spend waiting and trying to resolve this, prices are likely to be going up.

    On my Hotels.com account both bookings are still showing the message:
    “We’ve guaranteed your booking with Visa ending in…”

    So I imagine they can still charge me for this (I can not cancel as they are not refundable). I was considering contacting my bank to prevent them accessing money but I’m not sure what to say. I don’t know the account name that will try to access money so I can not block that. I can’t block all hotels as I still have several to book and pay for. I can not block the specific amount as they may try again with a lower value (or I might have another with the same price). So at the moment I’m just watching my account with the intent to report any attempts at accessing the money as unauthorised.

    Do you have any advice for this situation?

    Thanks

    • A guarantee is a guarantee, and the whole concept of a guarantee is to fix things that go wrong.

      Hotels.com can not now walk away from their guarantee. You gave them a valid credit card number, they gave you a valid guarantee. If ‘the payment did not go through’ – whatever that actually means, as you say, there is no record of charges or attempted/declined charges on your card – then that is their problem and what the guarantee is for.

      Insist on speedy reimbursement of the other hotel you booked and compensation; if you don’t get it, file a small claim against them.

      We none of us should passively encourage such abusive misbehavior on the part of booking services offering guarantees that we rely upon but which are actually meaningless.

  24. We can unfortunately add to this with our recent experience with Hilton Homewood Suites Charleston, SC Mt Pleasant. We arrived around 8:30 pm. While in line, I witnessed a very distraught lady questioning why her pre-paid room was given away. She was assertive and very articulate in her argument. The front desk guy had an attitude and said Hilton gave the room away because they were not going to be unkind to someone who wanted to extend their stay?? The lady beautifully replied that it is against hotel occupancy laws for them to try to cram their party of 8 into one queen room and the guy said that is the best they could do. I dreaded my fate after hearing all that. He told the lady to step aside so he could check in other guests and proceeds to tell me they called me this morning (didn’t recognize the #) and they gave away the best/most expensive room type I reserved to yet again someone else who wanted to stay longer. I reserved a 2 bedroom/3 bed (1 king and 2 queens + sleeper sofa) accommodation for us and our 3 small kids. They instead tried to separate us and put us in 2 king STUDIOS not even next to each other. We refused this as our reservation was pre-paid, reserved over a month in advance with a printed copy of room type and “guaranteed, including late arrivals.” We were in such disbelief over this and the illogical response of wanting to be kind to those who did not have our room reserved but on a whim wanted to stay longer, we got a refund and printed copy.

    We call Hilton Honors on the road and to shorten this very long (hours that night and 2 different supervisors) not only did no one ever offer to comp our stay, but they tried to put us in a 1 room budget brand hotel. When asked to be put up in a room in one of their hotels within an hour (more than reasonable) that is comparable and pay for it they actually said we may have to pay more??! They had absolutely no compassion for 3 exhausted kids, including one with a significant medical condition nor the fact we had driven over 500 miles that day. All we were ever offered on the phone was some unspecific amount of points. When we finally on our own found a comparable room within their brands at midnight, we asked they pay for it. The supervisor said she was unable to do that and it was up to the hotel and they refused believing offering us 2 separate lesser rooms was sufficient. We ended up not being able to go to sleep until 3a after a very nice lady from Town Place by Marriott went out of her way to accommodate us. It is Spring Break so not a lot of options. Spoke to the GM today and he just made it worse by lying, saying the people in our suite could not be located and were unreachable at the beach?? I asked what time they realized this and he said 2p and I said then why was Hilton leaving me a message in the morning saying call about my reservation “right away?” Again, I didn’t hear this until later that night as I didn’t recognize the # and they never said why they were calling anyway. He fumbled and couldn’t come up with anything except of course to offer me points for a standard room. I did as this site suggests and asked for points equitable to my room category and he refused repeatedly. Wrote corporate and awaiting a response. I’m still quite baffled by this amount of repeated (maybe 5 Hilton employees now) awful customer service. They could have diffused this in 5 minutes. At least 3 hours have been spent talking to them with an inadequate response. We were offered 30,000 points as compensation for our suite that costs over 100,000 points.

    With respect to fine print, aside from it saying we are guaranteed, it cannot be cancelled for refund etc, all I could find is: We reserve the right to cancel or modify reservations where it appears that a customer has engaged in fraudulent or inappropriate activity or under other circumstances where it appears that the reservations contain or resulted from a mistake or error.

    I’m not sure if that gives them wiggle room.

    • Hi, L

      Thanks for your horror story. No, the fine print absolutely utterly and totally does not give them the wiggle room they seek.

      As for the clumsy lying, that should be reported up the chain to the hotel GM’s manager in the corporate headquarters. Despicable is the word that comes to mind….

  25. Thank you for your very informative article. Perhaps I shouldn’t have assumed I would get what I paid for. I really had no idea I was at risk for not getting my pre paid room. I could have stayed put in the hotel to argue more but the lady in front of me was doing more than an adequate job arguing the injustice of it all and getting no where. Meanwhile, I had hungry, exhausted kids in the car so we got them fed and attempted to rectify this by phone with Hilton. I’m floored at the run around and am now awaiting the Director of Guest Relation’s response from the corporate headquarters.

  26. I just made a reservation to stay at one of the Holiday Inn Express outside Oregon area 10 days ago through Citi Prestige Concierge for my visit in late June (4 nights). It should be a brand new hotel that will open in the middle of June, however, when I checked online this morning, I noticed the website states that the hotel will not accept any reservation until July 2017. Apparently the hotel will not be ready to open in June, but I do have a confirmation number from IHG, and this reservation still shows up on my upcoming trip in my account (Platinum Elite member). So far I did not receive any cancellation message from neither Citi Concierge nor IHG. What will you recommend me to do now? Thanks!

  27. Hi David,
    I had booked an apartment for 10 people in Paris thru TripAdvisor for 19 and 20 Jun, 2017 and made a full payment about 2500 EUR to TripAdvisor on May 15, 2017.

    Before arrival I had sent the owner 2 e-mails with my flight details and estimate time of my arrival. The owner wished me nice flight and promised to ask someone to contact me soon.

    When arriving at the airport I informed them again by phone and they told me to come to the given address and promised to meet me at the property in 1 hour. When we arrived at the address of that apartment no one showed up. I called them again and this time they said simply that my booking was canceled because of TripAdvisor system failure and the apartment is occupied by someone else already. They said that I should wait if they could find some alternative for me. After an hour they sent me a SMS saying that their system is fully booked, I should contact TripAdvisor for assistance.

    I contacted TripAdvisor by e-mail then phone and was informed that my booking was not honored by the owner. They would have informed me in advance if they have known it. TripAdvisor did send me some alternative apartments recommendation but because of already too late and too tired we have decided to pay 5000 EUR for 2 hotels accommodation for the group.

    Please advise me what to do now. Can we ask for some kind of compensation in this case?

    Thanks a lot for your support.

    Vu

    • Hi, Vu

      What a nightmarish experience, and what a terrible treatment at the hands of the apartment owner/managers.

      Because you refused to accept the TripAdvisor alternate offers, your case is somewhat weakened. Of course you should get a full refund of the €2500, but it would be difficult to argue that you should be reimbursed for the extra expenses now incurred.

      Generally you are expected to fairly give the travel arranger a chance to ‘make good’ on the problem; although the travel arranger in turn is obliged to solve the problem, to your reasonable satisfaction, and in a timely manner. If you pre-empt their response and make other arrangements unilaterally, then your entitlement for more than the amount you originally booked is greatly weakened.

  28. The hotel occupancy is 100 percent for tonight. A potential customer comes in and states that he has a reservation for this evening you look and see that he is not on your list of customers. He becomes outraged stating that he made his reservation three weeks ago..

    My question is what should I do as a front desk

    • Hi, Liezl

      Thanks for your question. If I were in your position, I’d ask for his confirmation number, and look it up in my reservation system. When the screen displays ‘invalid’ or ‘not found’ or whatever else it does, I’d show him what the computer says.

      Often this happens when people book through some third party booking system or service, and will give a confirmation number from that third party system/service. In such cases, explain that the confirmation number is not from your hotel, but is from another system or service. Tell the person that there is no booking in your system to match the other booking service’s confirmation, and suggest he contact the booking service he dealt with to resolve the matter.

      Of course, first do the usual checking that his booking isn’t ‘swapped around’ so his first name appears instead of his last name, or anything like that!

  29. I booked and pre-paid for a reservation. Due to circumstances I am no longer able to use, and have contacted the hotel (more than 4 weeks before the check in date) to cancel and get a refund. The hotel is refusing to both cancel and refund. What should I do?

    • It depends on the terms and conditions of your booking.

      If you want me to comment on this, you have to fairly phrase your question and your problem. I can’t answer a general question which provides no specifics, because it is the specifics that clearly and completely frame the answer.

  30. Is it legal for a hotel company to pay a $25 incentive to all front desk associates to sell out the hotel even if they have to oversell it? I informed my manager that I want no part of it. Do not pay me any incentive that can potentially put a innocent people in that position. I have to relocate people in the middle of the night and have empathy for them. I cannot empathize with these people if I will receive an extra financial incentive for making this happen. This makes me hate my job. The managers say all hotels do this. Take the money for it.

    • I don’t see any legal problem with this.

      Hotels don’t really want to have to walk people in the middle of the night, but they also know some people cancel at the last minute or fail to turn up, and of course, they want their hotel as full as possible. That helps their profitability, their ability to keep their regular room rate low, and of course, it helps them to be able to pay your salary, as well as possibly a bonus too!

  31. Hi David,

    A few months back I booked a hotel for a two night stay to attend a conference. There was a block of rooms reserved for this conference at a discounted GSA rate of $91.

    Upon arrival, myself and 2 coworkers were told that they had overbooked, but they were going to comp us 2 nights stay at a hotel a few miles down the road. I double checked with the front desk attendant that we would be comped 2 nights, and was told that was correct. So I took the “walk” letter down the road to the other hotel and checked in. I once again double checked with the front desk attendant that we were comped 2 nights and was told that was correct. Upon checkout, I once again asked if I owed anything for the room and was told no, there was a zero balance for my stay.

    Well 22 days later, the hotel we stayed at placed a charge on my credit card for $158.07. I contacted the manager for the hotel and was told the hotel I originally booked at refused to honor the comped 2 night stay, and said they were only responsible for 1 night stay plus taxes and fees. So I contacted the manager of the hotel we originally booked, and was informed that comping us 2 nights was a mistake and it should have only been one night.

    I now find myself in a predicament because this travel was business related and I have already submitted for and received travel reimbursement, not including lodging because I was originally not charged for my stay. Had this mistake been brought to my attention sooner, no big deal. Also, having booked the original room at $91 per night but now being charged $158 for one night stay, even if I can ask my company to allow me to revise my travel reimbursement submission, I know they will not pay the full $158 because they will only pay the approved GSA rate.

    What should I do?

    • Hi, Micah

      Sorry to hear of your problems.

      There are several issues here. First, it seems, if I understand your narrative, that you ended up paying $158 for one night and got the other night for free – so a total cost of $158 for two nights. You didn’t claim any accommodation cost originally because you thought it all free; now you have a total cost of $158 for one night free and one night not free; that strikes me as averaging $79 a night which surely would be accepted as being less than the $91 limit?

      If your employer refuses to now reimburse you for the hotel, that would be very regrettable. You very fairly didn’t claim a penny to start with, and now you are simply seeking to claim the extra delayed charge.

      That of course is a matter outside of travel issues, but it seems to me that, no matter what the circumstances, your employer is obliged to reimburse you. None of what is happened is your fault. Out of interest, what are your two fellow coworkers doing?

      The other issue is the hotel liability. It is unusual for a hotel to ever give you a free stay when they ‘walk’ you to an alternate hotel. Instead, they say they’ve given you a comparable or better quality room, and they might also offer a small sweetener as well, but it is rare to be offered the night totally for free, and astonishing that you’d be given two nights free. Getting a single night free is very generous.

      But if they volunteered and promised two nights, that is what you have now become entitled to. But – and it is a big but….. What record and proof do you have of this promise? What, in writing, can you now produce to affirm your claim? Do you have notes of who you spoke to and when and what they said about the two nights?

      Indeed, even the manager saying the two night comp was a mistake is good – it was their mistake, you relied on it, and now they should surely honor it.

      One more recourse. Dispute the charge with the credit card company. When you checked out, they presented you with a zero invoice showing nothing was charged, affirming the promise of two nights free. You never signed anything approving the $158 charge.

  32. Apparently this sort of thing is happening more and more often. Taking their cue from the airlines, hotels are squeezing customers ever more tightly in search of the very last penny.

    I came here because Hilton has done something similar with me: confirmed reservation for a top-level suite, made directly on the Hilton site. Comes time to check in (online) I discover I’ve been downgraded to one of the crappiest rooms in the building. Hilton never informed me of anything about it.

    Spent nearly 90 minutes on the phone with Hilton corporate and the staff at the particular hotel while they kept bouncing the ball back and forth. Was hung up on several times while waiting on hold. Nonetheless I kept my cool. Upshot: there aren’t any suites available at this hotel this weekend, despite the fact that I reserved one two months ago and have all of the confirmation emails saved.

    They don’t care–they want a full hotel and once they have that they don’t care who they screw–I’m a HHonors Silver member but apparently only the Gold members get decent service. I guess it’s time to try my luck with a different hotel chain.

    • Sorry to hear of your problem.

      The other thing the hotels share with the airlines is their knowledge that we have precious few choices, and so they can abuse us with way-too-little fear of consequences.

      Have you managed to obtain any sort of compensation? Clearly, you’ll not have to pay the contracted rate for a suite if you only get a regular room, but are they compensating over and above that?

  33. Thanks–despite the clerk insisting there was nothing she could do on her end, I raised a ruckus and my original suite somehow managed to re-appear on their screens. There’s an overcharging situation that I’m going to address at the end of my stay if necessary.

    But it was very ‘good information’ thanks to your site to learn that room guarantees aren’t really guarantees. That’s knowledge that’ll come in handy in future so at least I won’t be so surprised.

    I’ll let you know how it all turns out next week. Thanks again for your attention. Conrad

    • Bravo. Well done.

      Raising a ruckus, while the last resort, is always a good idea when you’ve exhausted all your ‘Mr Nice Guy’ approaches, if used with caution (you don’t want to end up with the police being called, and for sure, make sure you’ve not been drinking prior to creating a high-stakes confrontation).

      Refuse to leave the desk, demand to see a manager, and if he is not helpful, demand to see the Sales Manager or General Manager. There is no such thing as ‘unavailable’ – everyone has a cell phone these days.

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