“The hotel manager hung up on us”

Gary Benedik was driving through Memphis recently when he decided to stop for the night. He made a reservation at a Holiday Inn, but discovered a short while later that the hotel was too far out of the way. But by then it was too late: he’d already been charged for the room.

Shouldn’t Holiday Inn cut him a little slack?

Here’s what happened:

At 5:57 p.m., I called the 800-number for Holiday Inn, and was told told of a Southaven Holiday Inn Express with “plenty of availability.”

I punched in the address on my GPS. By that time our GPS indicated we were well beyond this location. I called the 800-number to then find out one must call the exact location directly to cancel a reservation.

The Southaven Holiday Inn Express desk clerk said if a reservation is canceled after 6 p.m., there are no refunds. The phone calls/cancellation time frame totaled 30 to 40 minutes.

Subsequent requests to both the hotel and Holiday Inn proved equally frustrating. The general manager indicated he had the authority to refund $106 but held to their rigid cancellation policy.

This is an interesting case. Benedik made his reservation just before the cut-off time for refunds, yet there is no evidence he was advised that he’d be billed, regardless. A Holiday Inn reservations agent should have disclosed that. However, Benedik should have also advised the agent that he was enroute, that he was unsure of the hotel’s location, and that he’d need to double-check with his GPS before confirming.

In other words, plenty of blame to go around.

Related story:   These anti-consumer laws should be repealed now

Benedik sent a brief, polite email to Holiday Inn. Here’s how it responded:

I have reconsidered all of the information available regarding the situation, including the details of your booking. In addition, I have contacted the hotel management on your behalf for consideration of a goodwill credit. Unfortunately, as your reservation was cancelled past the 6 pm deadline, the hotel has advised that the charge will stand. If you need further information or have any questions, please contact the hotel management directly. The telephone number to the hotel is 662-393-2881.

He tried to phone the hotel to plead his case, but “the hotel manager hung up on us,” he says.

I thought I’d give it a try, so I contacted InterContinental Hotels, Holiday Inn’s parent company.

I discussed with our executive guest relations team, and after further review, they still agree with the decision made by the hotel. The credit card is placed on PCR profiles to guarantee the reservations. The guest tried to cancel outside of the cancellation deadline and so the hotel declined to issue credit. If he was lost or needed directions, our agents could have assisted at anytime and would have been more than happy to do so, to ensure he made it to his destination for the evening. Unfortunately, there really is no criteria here to offer a goodwill credit in this particular case.

Sorry to not have better news, but please let me know if you have any additional questions in the meantime.

That’s too bad. If Holiday Inn had taken the time to review Benedik’s file, it would have noticed that he was a frequent guest with the hotel chain. Why risk a lifetime of business over $106? That doesn’t make any sense.

Are hotels stealing a page from the airline playbook, when it comes to rules? I hope not.

Update (1/20): Holiday Inn has responded to this post and some of the comments.

Our guest relations department always checks the records of our guests prior to finalizing any decision. According to our records which are accessible back through 2006, the PCR member below has only 2 stays on record, one of them being the actual HIEX in question where they were charged but did not wind up staying.

The other interesting thing to note is Mr. Benedik did not book under his information, but rather another person’s (his significant other according to his email below), so this information applies to Ms. Will’s PCR membership and credit card, not Mr. Benedik. We also researched our records on Mr. Benedik specifically and there are no stays listed for him in our records.

Thought this information might be interesting to add on to the story just based on some of things I have been reading in the comments section and because it provides more accurate details behind the whole story then originally provided by Mr. Benedik.

(Photo: jenniferrt66/Flickr Creative Commons)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.