Tied up in a chain: hotel denies transfer, pockets guest’s money

daysCharles McGovern clicked on the wrong Days Inn property when he booked a room to attend his grandson’s high school graduation in Richmond, Va. He assumed the hotel chain would transfer his reservation to the right hotel.

He assumed wrong.

Instead, the company kept his money for the first nonrefundable reservation and made him pay for a second stay, only a few miles away. Can Days Inn keep McGovern’s money?

Before I finished reading his email, I knew what Days Inn’s answer would be. Yes, it would keep the money because his room rate was nonrefundable. And no, he couldn’t transfer the reservation because each hotel is “independently owned and operated.”

I hate it when I’m right.

Let me hand the mic to McGovern.

I would appreciate any assistance you would provide in my attempt to recoup a $220 loss due to a mistake I made in booking a motel room on the Internet.

Our grandson was graduating from high school in Richmond on June 6th, and I went on line to make a reservation for three nights: June 4th, 5th and 6th at the Days Inn in Richmond.

I made a mistake by booking the Days Inn at 6910 Midlothian Turnpike when I had intended to reserve rooms at the Richmond Chesterfield Days Inn at the Town Center Mall.

My travels happened to take me to the Richmond area on June 1st and I stopped by the Midlothian Days Inn to explain my mistake and that I had meant to have the rooms at the Town Center Days Inn. The Midlothian motel was almost 8 miles from our daughter’s house and the Town Center motel was only 3 miles distance.

I informed the Days Inn Customer Service staff, at an 800 number, that I wasn’t canceling our reservation but simply transferring to another Days Inn that would better meet our needs.

Another important factor in desiring to transfer was the very negative reviews given the Midlothian Days Inn: infested with bugs, room was shabby, putrid, disgusting, dangerous crime in the parking lot, water damaged furniture, absolutely filthy and the hotel is a dump. I also had friends in the area who advised us against staying at the Midlothian Days Inn for similar reasons. The place wasn’t up to the standards I have experienced in other Days Inn motels.

The first weekday after we returned, from Richmond, I went to the local Bank of America and explained my problem. They suggested I dispute the charge and the $220 was deleted from my account. Five weeks later I discarded all of my notes because I thought the matter had been settled in my favor. On July 28th I received a notice from the bank informing me the charge had been reinstated.

When I log onto the Internet looking for motel accommodations I consider the location, price and amenities but, in this case, I failed to read the fine print.

I feel the Midlothian Days Inn should fully reimburse our $220 because I gave them more than sufficient time to rebook the room that we never used.

As I review McGovern’s case, I notice a few things are missing. The Midlothian Days Inn never officially denied his request for a transfer, although based on my previous experience with Days Inn, it almost certainly told McGovern that his room was nonrefundable and couldn’t be moved to another Days Inn. Like this case with Ramada (both Ramada and Days Inn are owned by the same parent company).

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Rather than appeal Days’ decision in writing, McGovern went straight to a credit card dispute. I might have tried appealing this to Days Inn corporate first.

During a card dispute, the amount in question is credited to you pending the outcome of the investigation. That means you’re still not out of the woods.

Discarding the paperwork? Bad idea.

Still, I felt McGovern’s request to transfer his reservation was reasonable. From a hotel guest’s perspective, one of the reasons you do business with a chain is that you know the standards are consistent and that you can count on other benefits, like loyalty points.

I contacted Days Inn on McGovern’s behalf. Late last week, I heard back from him.

I just received a call from Days Inn and they said they were sorry about my experience in Richmond and would be sending me a check in the amount of $220. Thanks for your help.

Hotel chains like Days Inn have been aggressively imposing non-refundability terms on their rooms in an effort to raise revenue during these difficult economic times.

Next time you book a hotel online, pay close attention to the terms.

(Photo: Bravo Six Niner Delta/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.

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