Here he is: the latest $500 target of the hotel damage swindle!

A surprise hotel damage fee!

Mirko Dulic just got blindsided by a surprise $500 post-stay hotel damage fee from a Canadian Super 8. This franchise helped itself to the hefty sum without even a shred of documentation to support its actions. When pressed to provide some concrete justification for the $500 charge, the management went silent.

And Dulic went straight to the Elliott Advocacy team for help.

This case should serve as a warning for travelers who patronize franchise hotels. As our case roster shows, some unscrupulous owners seem to have adopted a consumer-unfriendly business model. Under the guise of a hotel damage fee, the unchecked post-stay pilfering of guests’ debit and credit cards is an alarming problem. The Elliott Advocacy team is on a mission to put an end to these unsubstantiated charges.

And we’re doing it one case at a time. Here’s the latest troubling tale.

Blindsided by a $500 charge from the Super 8

Dulic booked a one night stay at the Super 8 Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada. His visit was uneventful. The problem came two days after he and his boys checked out. He received an alert from his bank. The Super 8 had processed an additional $500 through his bank card.

I immediately called the Super 8. The lady accused me of damaging the TV.

I couldn’t believe it. We never even touched the TV! I tried to speak to the manager. Every time I called the receptionist, she gave me a different answer about his whereabouts.

I left a message with my contact number, but he didn’t return my call.

Dulic said that the next day when he continued to call the hotel, he spoke to someone he believed to be a supervisor. This woman told him that the hotel charged his card as a result of a broken door lock. Dulic pointed out that it was the TV that he had been accused of damaging. She said that both items were damaged.

Then the “supervisor” asked if Dulic had been at the local football game. Dulic explained that the entire purpose of the trip was to take his boys (8 and 17) to the event. In reply, she said ‘Oh well, you know what that means,’ Dulic recalled. He believed that she was insinuating that football fans are all out of control and would easily cause hotel damage.

Dulic again asked to speak to the manager or owner, but he was still unavailable.

Can the police get this hotel damage fee refunded?

Realizing the hotel staff had already convicted him of causing the room damage, Dulic abandoned his conversation with the supervisor.

He then called the police and reported what he believed amounted to theft.

After this, I called the local police and explained the problem. The police contacted the hotel and spoke with the manager. He told the police that the TV has a crack in the corner.

Then the manager called me. He was laughing when I said that we did not break the TV. Then I asked him why did the supervisor say that the door lock is broken. And I asked him why didn’t he mention that to the police. After a pause, he told me that it was probably someone else who broke the door lock.

What can I do? We have three different stories in two days!

Dulic said that the manager also brought up the football game. He mentioned that Dulic’s team lost — insinuating that he might have damaged the TV in anger. Dulic said he continued to tell the manager that his family had not touched the TV at all during their stay.

And then the manager gave Dulic some new information. Now he said the damaged TV had a diagonal crack across the screen. Frustrated, Dulic requested a photo of the TV and an incident report.

He’s still waiting.

What’s going on with all of these hotel damage accusations?

Regular readers of our site know that these surprise hotel damage fee cases are on the rise.

Even as I write this article, there are several new cases in progress here at Elliott Advocacy.

And although the hotel damage fees involve a variety of outlandish (Pillow thievery at a two-star hotel), ridiculous (Here is the most ridiculous hotel damage fee ever!) and mundane (How do I get this hotel smoking fee reversed?) accusations, they have similarities.

1. They all involve a franchise hotel

Looks really can be deceiving when it comes to the franchise hotel industry. Travelers need to be wary. The friendly banner of a familiar hotel brand that you have come to trust may entice you to book. But the reality is that “Independently owned and operated” means that the owner may not share the same values and expectations of customer care that the parent company holds.

And in all of our hotel damage fee cases so far, we’ve seen a growing level of apathy from the managers involved. With emails and phone calls being wholly ignored, the professionalism has been lacking.

This situation leaves a consumer advocate to wonder: Who is holding these franchise owners accountable to a standardized business model that includes basic training in customer service and care?

2. Most used a debit card (or used their bank card as a credit card)

Another similarity these surprise hotel damage fee cases share is that most of these travelers used a debit card.

In the United States, the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) protects credit card using consumers against merchants who initiate unauthorized transactions.

Merchants are not permitted to make unauthorized charges to a consumer’s credit card. If they do, the consumer has the muscle of their bank behind them to reverse the charge. The credit card company will then conduct an investigation. And the merchant must provide documentation that supports the charge. Otherwise, the reversal becomes permanent.

Unfortunately, the FCBA does not protect consumers who use a debit card. And so in the case of a post-stay hotel damage fee, it is quite difficult for the consumer to fight the charge.

It’s also important to note that a bank card with the symbol of Visa or MasterCard (as was the case here) may not necessarily qualify for the protection of the FCBA. So before plunking down a debit card to use as a credit card, consumers should check with the issuing bank for the terms and conditions of that card.

But in this case, things are little murkier since Dulic and the merchant are both Canadian. In Canada, the protections afforded to credit and debit card using consumers are less concrete. The Principles for Consumer Protection: A Canadian Framework uses subjective terms to describe a consumer’s rights:

Principle 6 covers unauthorized or inadvertent sales transactions. The Framework provides that consumers should not be liable for amounts billed to them for unauthorized transactions and should be given a reasonable time in which to cancel a transaction that was inadvertent. Furthermore, it invokes credit card issuers to make reasonable efforts to help consumers resolve complaints with vendors in the event of non-delivery or unauthorized transactions.

Although this hotel damage fee was undoubtedly an unauthorized transaction, Dulic’s bank ultimately told him it could not directly help. The bank recommended that he file a small claims lawsuit against the Super 8.

Turning to the Elliott Advocacy team for help

I had just finished writing about another of these troubling cases when Dulic’s plea for help arrived.

Understandably, he was quite upset. $500 is a lot of money to have removed from your account with no prior warning. His paper trail showed that he had emailed the hotel multiple times asking for evidence of this damage. But he received no response.

“I had promised to take my children to a football game one day,” Dulic explained. “This was it. I don’t want to pay for something that I am not responsible for. We have never experienced such a terrible situation where we were robbed by the hotel that we stayed in. Can you help me?”

Of course, every hotel owner should have the right to charge a guest who causes damage to their property. That fact isn’t in dispute. However, extracting $500 from a guest without an incident report or photo of the damage can’t be an acceptable business practice.

In today’s world, almost everyone has a cell phone that takes pictures. There is no reasonable explanation for a hotel being unable to provide a single photo of a damaged TV. And an incident report signed by a responsible employee would lend credibility to these hotel damage claims. So why was this hotel resistant to showing Dulic any proof of the damaged tv?

Where’s the proof of this $500 hotel damage, Super 8?

To see what might be going on here, I called the Super 8 and asked to speak to the owner. He wasn’t available to speak to me either. So I asked for his email address. The lady who answered the phone had great difficulty finding an email address for the owner. She finally gave me a general Super 8 email for the hotel.

I composed my email to the owner and hit send. Here’s an excerpt:

Our team has been investigating a disturbing trend in which franchise owners are charging their customers for a variety of things, post-stay with no incident reports, proof or documentation to support these charges. This practice is not customer-friendly. $500 is a significant amount of money for your hotel to take from a guest without even a receipt for the damage or an incident report.

If you have documentation of this guest causing damage in your hotel, please forward it. Without proof to substantiate your charge of $500, this should be reversed immediately.

My email came right back to me. Whether on purpose or mistake, the employee had given me an incorrect email address. But it is interesting to note that Dulic also was given incorrect email addresses for the owner.

Back at the Super 8, I spoke to the same front desk lady. Now she gave me a different email address which I soon discovered was also invalid. On the third go-round with this employee, she finally gave me an address that stuck. But I never heard back from the owner.

Asking Wyndham for help

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts is the parent company of Super 8. And since it was clear this owner didn’t intend to give me the courtesy of a response, I took the case to our executive contact at Wyndham.

The executive resolution team at Wyndham looked over Dulic’s complaint and soon had good news.

Hi Michelle,

After reviewing internally, we’ll be refunding the charge for the TV as a goodwill gesture on behalf of the brand. I’ve spoken with my colleagues on our corporate customer care team and they’ll be reaching out to the guest this afternoon to initiate that process.

And so, in the end, it would appear that the owner may not have responded to the Wyndham executive team either. But for Dulic this damage fee will be refunded and his $500 will soon be back in his account. And he’s happy to have this frustrating experience behind him.

What can you do to protect yourself against a surprise hotel damage fee?

Before booking an unfamiliar hotel, make sure to visit some review sites. By cross-referencing a few of these sites, you should be able to get a general idea of the hotel’s reputation. I head straight to the poor and terrible reviews which usually tell me more about a hotel than the shiny ones.

Do not use a debit card as a form of payment. When you use a debit card, you’re giving the merchant access to your bank account. We receive many pleas for help from consumers who find their accounts overdrawn after a merchant charges a surprise fee.  And remember, you don’t have the FCBA protection when you use a debit card. The safest option is always a credit card.

Finally, based on the recent surge of complaints we’ve seen, you might consider taking a photo or video of your room before you leave. Your cell phone can easily capture the state of your room at check-out. You might need that photo later.

And don’t forget, if all else fails and you get hit with an unexplained and unsubstantiated hotel damage fee, you can contact our team. We’re always here to help.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at Cavalrytravelinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend